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Monday, July 31, 2006


The "Vise Strategy" Undone

The “Vise Strategy” Undone: Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District
By Barbara Forrest

In a May 6, 2005, post on his Uncommon Descent (UD) blog, intelligent design creationist William Dembski was talking tough. He offered a lesson for “Darwinists” drawn from the then-ongoing hearings held before the Kansas Board of Education on May 5-7 to discuss the Kansas science standards. The creationist-dominated board had hoped that pro-evolution scientists and ID creationists would debate revisions proposed by the creationist minority on the board’s Science Curriculum Writing Committee. These revisions included re-defining science to allow the supernatural as a scientific explanation. Refusing to lend legitimacy to this “Kansas kangaroo court,” scientists boycotted the hearings [1]. The only pro-evolution participant, representing pro-science groups, was attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who cross-examined many of the twenty-three creationists who were brought in to testify at taxpayer expense [2]. These twenty-three are supporters of Dembski and his associates who have promoted ID for a decade from the Center for Science and Culture (CSC), the creationist arm of the Discovery Institute (DI), a conservative Seattle think tank.

Grousing that “only the evolution critics are being interrogated,” Dembski was “waiting for the day when the hearings are not voluntary but involve subpoenas in which evolutionists are deposed at length.” When “that happy day” came, Dembski predicted, the Darwinists “won’t come off looking well.” [3] On May 11, Dembski portrayed “evolutionists” as too chicken to participate: “[E]volutionists escaped critical scrutiny by not having to undergo cross-examination . . . by boycotting the hearings.” He proposed a “vise strategy” for “interrogating the Darwinists to, as it were, squeeze the truth out of them,” childishly illustrated with a photograph of a Darwin doll with its head compressed in a bench vise [4]. On May 16, he outlined his strategy: “interrogating Darwinists” about “five terms: science, nature, creation, design, and evolution.” [5] Under subpoena, they would be compelled to answer, hence the “vise” metaphor.

Dembski already knew that such a day of legal reckoning was approaching. Exactly one month later, on June 6, he sat across from me when I was deposed as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the first ID legal case, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. He attended my deposition as the adviser to the lead defense attorney, Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, and was scheduled to be deposed himself on June 13 as a defense witness. Besides being on opposite sides, there was another big difference between us: I showed up for my deposition. Dembski “escaped critical scrutiny by not having to undergo cross-examination” when he withdrew from the case on June 10 [6].

Not only did I show up for my deposition, but I also testified at the trial despite being delayed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Moreover, I had the distinction of being the only witness whom the defense tried to exclude from the case. When they failed, the Discovery Institute tried to discredit me with ridicule.

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