Monday, August 10, 2009

"Google waits in watch of dishonesty..."

I don't read the Huffington Post, but Barrett Brown's takedown of William Dembski is one of the best:

* In conjunction with his friends at the pro-ID Discovery Institute, Dembski decided to commission a Flash animation ridiculing Judge John Jones, the Bush-appointed churchgoer who, despite being a Bush-appointed churchgoer, ruled in the 2005 Dover Trial (known more formerly as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and even more formally as something longer and more formal) that intelligent design could not be taught in public school science classes. The animation consisted of Judge Jones represented as a puppet with his strings being held by various proponents of evolution; aside from being depicted as unusually flatulent, poor Judge Jones was also shown to be reading aloud from his court opinion in a high-pitched voice (Dembski's, it turned out, but sped up to make it sound sillier). The point of all of this, as The Discovery Institute explained, was that Jones had supposedly cribbed some 90 percent of his decision from findings presented by the ACLU, and that this was a very unusual and terrible thing for Jones to have done. On the contrary, judges commonly incorporate the findings of the winning party into their final opinion, either in whole or in part, and Jones' own written opinion actually incorporated far less than 90 percent of the findings in question. For his part, Dembski agreed to reduce the number of fart noises in the animation if Jones would agree to contribute his own voice. Jones does not appear to have accepted the offer.

* One of Dembski's hand-picked blog co-moderators, Dave Springer, once received an e-mail to the effect that the ACLU was about to sue the Marine Corps in order to stop Marines from praying; outraged, Springer posted it on his blog in order that his readers could join him in being affronted. After all, the e-mail had told him to. "Please send this to people you know so everyone will know how stupid the ACLU is Getting [sic] in trying to remove GOD from everything and every place in America," the bright-red text exhorted, above pictures of praying Marines. "Right on!" Dembski added in the comments. It was then pointed out by other readers that the e-mail was a three-year-old hoax; the ACLU spokesperson named therein did not actually exist, and neither did the ACLU's complaint. Springer was unfazed by the revelation. "To everyone who's pointed out that the ACLU story is a fabrication according to snopes.com -- that's hardly the point," he explained. "The pictures of Marines praying are real." Dembski himself had no further comment.

* Dembski has spent much time and energy pointing out that Charles Darwin made several racist statements back in the 19th century, even going so far as to call for a boycott of the British ten-pound note due to Darwin's picture being displayed thereupon. Incidentally, Dembski has spent most of the past decade working at universities within the fold of the Southern Baptist Convention, which was founded in the 19th century for the sole purpose of defending slavery.

4 comments:

Ian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deuce said...

Man oh man, he's absolutely right on Dave Springer (called DaveScot on Dembski's blog). That guy was a total disaster. He (and Dembski's awful judgement in keeping him around) was the main reason I stopped reading that blog, along with all the other stupid antics. And the thing is, nearly everybody hated him and knew he was making a circus out of the place - well, everyone except Dembski.

The ACLU thing wasn't his only absurd stunt in the least. Just off the top of my head:

- Before he was an administrator, he regaled people in his comments section with a crude story of how he liked to sleep with married women, and how they were so turned on by his manliness, that they would beg him to get them pregnant. Yes, Dembski made him chief moderator *after* this.

- One time, when Dembski was out of town, DaveScot went on a megalomaniacal rampage and declared that anybody who didn't personally profess a belief in common descent would be banned from commenting, and then actually started deleting comments accordingly. Dembski changed the policy back when he returned, but didn't remove him over it.

- He got into a bizarre, high profile fight with other UD admins in a series of posts over the morality of eating meat (this was long after I had stopped reading, but I was told about it, and had to go see the train wreck)

- There was a period of time that DaveScot got in a fight with other people at UD, and was temporarily booted as a result. He found solace in and hung out at the blog of an aggressive atheist claiming to be an underage girl, but who was actually a tranvestite man who was also an moderator at Wesley Elsberry's After The Bar Closes and who had set him up. Yeah, don't even bother trying to make sense of this.

Basically, he's a mentally unbalanced nutcase who turned UD into the Jerry Springer Show of ID. And despite all of that, it somehow didn't occur to Dembski that this guy was a serious enough problem to let go for good until earlier this year.

John Farrell said...

Yikes! Sounds like DS could've filled out the subplot of a Woody Allen movie.

Deuce said...

I guess that for the record, I should add, though, that contra Barrett Brown, what the Discovery Institute said about Judge Jones' decision was true.

To say that he incorporated findings from the ACLU's brief is an understatement. It's more accurate to say that his decision WAS the ACLU brief (or a subset of it).

I read them both side by side for myself to see if it was true, and it was really quite astonishing.

All he did was write a short bit of his own stuff, then copied and pasted the ACLU's brief wholesale with some minuscule changes, and turned it in as his decision.

He didn't quote the ACLU brief either. He changed a few things here and there so that it wouldn't be a direct quote, and then released it as if it were his own work.

And by "changed a few things", I mean really minimal stuff, like replacing abbreviations with their spelled-out versions and vice-versa, replacing the occasional word with a synonym, and a bit of very minimal grammatical rearrangement, with no content changes at all. It looked very much like a 13-year-old's attempt at plagiarism.

I think, most likely, that he did that because he simply didn't understand the scientific and philosophical arguments being made by the two sides well enough to articulate them himself, and he figured that the ACLU and the media wouldn't call him on it since he was ruling in their favor. The fact that he went on a speaking tour and accepted honorary academic awards for his "work" afterward just made the whole thing surreal in its absurdity.

I know judges routinely cite the winning party's findings, but I have a hard time believing that poorly done plagiarism jobs are normally accepted practice. If so, they're overpaid.

One thing that becomes really apparent when you look into the Dover case is that the most of the people involved in it were dishonest.