I.D. Rigs Its Own Trial

John Rennie at the Scientific American blog has a pretty good post up explaining the dubious value of the upcoming wannabe “ID on trial” event, Intelligent Design Under Fire: Experts Cross-Examine the Top Proponents of Intelligent Design Theory. It is to be held at Biola University, the apparent academic home of ID (many ID conferences, and the only graduate program that studies ID as far as I know).

I gather that (1) the 1000+ seats for the event are sold out, (2) one of the “critics” is going to be Antony Flew, soon to be the proud recipient of the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth (first winner: Phillip E. Johnson) – he should be good for sidetracking the discussion in useless directions; and (3) the critics are going to get a whole 15 minutes each! I wish them luck, and they (except for Flew) know full well the dubious usefulness of the event they are getting into (see the comments on Rennie’s blog), but I just have to point out that it took months of preparation and a full day of trial, with a lawyer going one-on-one with Behe, and with scientific articles and exhibits ready-to-go up on a big color screen in the courtroom, to really deconstruct the ID arguments in a thorough fashion (thus producing this great New Yorker cartoon). Fifteen minutes is enough time to ask approximately one question and get five meandering answers/excuses in my estimation.

As Rennie notes, the ID movement already had its day in court, and these were the results. Of the eight named experts:

* DI fellows Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell dropped out before their depositions (although Dembski, in his recent talk at Berkeley, described himself as a “witness in the Dover case” without mentioning the minor fact that he backed out!) * Two other ID expert witnesses were deposed but never testified (Carpenter and Nord) * And the three that did testify, Behe, Fuller, and Minnich, ended up hurting their case more than helping.

The other two usual suspects, Jonathan Wells and Paul Nelson, probably were never listed as experts because they are so clearly on record stating that fundamentalist religion came first, then the science PhD (Wells), or that Bible interpretation trumps the evidence for an old earth, no matter how strong the evidence (Nelson). Nelson even has the chutzpah to call this an “open” philosophy of science.

Even the creation scientists did better back in McLean v. Arkansas: they only had two dropouts. See this post-trial wrapup in Science in 1982:

The week was drawing to an end and the defense had time to field one witness, Norman Geisler, from Dallas Theological Seminary. “It is possible to believe that God exists without necessarily believing in God,” he argued. This was the defense’s principal thrust for being able to teach about the product of a creator without necessarily being religious. Judge Overton was clearly interested in this line of reasoning, until, under cross examination, Geisler tarnished his credibility somewhat by declaring that UFO’s were agents of Satan.

The attorney general [defending the 1981 Arkansas creation science bill] presented six science witnesses, two more than had testified for the ACLU, presumably on the grounds that quantity made up for evident lack of quality. There would have been more had not a serious case of disappearing witnesses set in as the second week wore on. Dean Kenyon, a biologist from San Francisco State University, fled town after watching the demolition of four of the state’s witnesses on day 1 of the second week. And Henry Voss, a computer scientist from California, was rapidly withdrawn at the last minute when, in pretrial deposition, he too began to expound on things satanic and demonical.

(p. 34 of: Roger Lewin, 1982, “Creationism on the Defensive in Arkansas.” Science, 215(4528), pp. 33-34, January 1, 1982.)

So apparently, the creation scientists scored 6/8, while the IDists only 3/8. But at least they didn’t talk about demons (although maybe someone should ask Stephen Meyer about that, since in his recent official non-debate until the IDists declared victory debate with Peter Ward he more or less said that the type III secretion system of the bubonic plague bacterium was a corrupted flagellum design, a view which I’m sure bears no resemblance to the original explanations for the bubonic plague).

PS: In that McLean writeup, you may recognize the name of Dean Kenyon. He went on to author the lead expert affidavit in the Supreme Court’s Edwards case on the Louisiana “creation science” bill, was cited a dozen times in Scalia’s dissent, and then by 1989 had helped switch out the creationist terminology in the textbook he was working on, and morphed into an “intelligent design” advocate as one of the (listed) authors of Of Pandas and People, thus bringing us to the present day. History is fun, no?