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

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 hearings1. 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 expense2. 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 vise4. 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 106.

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.

A Brief History of the Kitzmiller Case

In October 2004, the Dover [PA] Area School District Board of Directors decided that “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.” In November they announced that Dover High School’s ninth-grade biology teachers would read a statement informing students that “Darwin’s Theory . . . is not a fact” and that “intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view.” The statement referred students to the creationist textbook Of Pandas and People to learn “what intelligent design actually involves.” On December 14, eleven parents filed suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, represented by attorneys from the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Pepper Hamilton, a Philadelphia law firm7. The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a Michigan Religious Right legal organization, represented the board. Judge John E. Jones III was assigned to hear the case.

Dover’s problems actually started in 2002. Bertha Spahr, chair of Dover High School’s science department, began to encounter animosity from Dover residents toward the teaching of evolution. In January 2002, board member Alan Bonsell began pressing for the teaching of creationism. In August, a mural depicting human evolution, painted by a 1998 graduating senior and donated to the science department, disappeared from a science classroom. The four-by-sixteen-foot painting had been propped on a chalkboard tray because custodians refused to mount it on the wall. Spahr learned that the building and grounds supervisor had ordered it burned. In June 2004, board member William Buckingham, Bonsell’s co-instigator of the ID policy, told Spahr that he “gleefully watched it burn” because he disliked its portrayal of evolution. He also blocked purchase of a new science textbook that included evolution, forcing teachers to accept Pandas as a reference book in exchange for new textbooks8. In January 2005, science teachers refused to read the ID statement; administrators read it themselves9. The situation worsened. When the next school year began in September 2005, the board’s policy and ID itself were on trial in Harrisburg, PA.

Trouble Behind the Scenes

Besides myself, the other expert witnesses for the plaintiffs were scientists Kevin Padian and Kenneth Miller, theologian John Haught, science education expert Brian Alters, and philosopher of science Robert Pennock10. Our combined work addressed all relevant aspects of ID creationism. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) staff were consultants for the plaintiffs’ team. Everyone on the plaintiffs’ team, including the attorneys, served pro bono11. Our pre-trial preparations went smoothly, but things weren’t going smoothly for the defense.

Dembski’s CSC associates Stephen C. Meyer, John Angus Campbell, Scott Minnich and Michael Behe were also to be witnesses for the defense, along with ID supporters Warren Nord, Steve William Fuller, and Dick M. Carpenter II. When TMLC rejected Meyer, Dembski, and Campbell’s demand for legal representation independent of TMLC, the three withdrew from the case by refusing to continue without their own attorneys12. In the case of Campbell, Pepper Hamilton attorney Thomas Schmidt had flown to Memphis with a legal assistant and had hired a court reporter to take Campbell’s long-scheduled deposition. Everything was proceeding on schedule until only minutes before the deposition was to begin, when defense attorney Patrick Gillen announced that TMLC would “no longer retain” Campbell as a witness because Campbell had “retained counsel through Discovery Institute” and had “discussed matters [with DI] to which I am not privy.” Gillen learned of “these developments” only the night before13. Behe and Minnich, already deposed, remained as witnesses along with Nord, Fuller, and Carpenter.

Why would three of the most important ID experts withdraw? They had already submitted expert witness reports and scheduled depositions. Moreover, DI had hoped for years to precipitate a test case and had even prepared legal arguments14. The problem, however, was that DI did not want this case because the Dover board, urged on by TMLC15, had explicitly crafted its policy to promote “intelligent design.” Having come to view that term as a legal liability after encountering opposition in Ohio, Kansas, and elsewhere, DI tried unsuccessfully to persuade the board to either restate the ID policy in sanitized language or withdraw it16. They were scared to death of a case they had not initiated and could not control.

Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell’s exodus is explained by their fear of cross-examination. The public shredding that Irigonegaray had given ID creationists in Kansas one month earlier was still fresh17. Moreover, Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell knew what the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses would say in court because they had our reports. DI must have known that our case would be devastating to the defense —and thus to ID— if it was argued before a judge who respected the truth and the Constitution.

My Role in the Kitzmiller Trial

I was called as a witness because of my co-authorship with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004) and other publications about ID18. In CTH, we analyze a document entitled “The Wedge Strategy,” CSC’s tactical plan, showing how CSC creationists are executing every phase except producing scientific data to support ID19. We show that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, using the best evidence available: the words of ID leaders such as Phillip E. Johnson, William Dembski, and their ID colleagues. We also show ID’s continuity with earlier creationism (CTH, ch. 9)20. My job was to present this evidence to the judge.

It probably wasn’t difficult for DI and TMLC to figure out that, armed with my work and that of the other witnesses for the plaintiffs, halfway decent attorneys would make legal mincemeat of them. And the plaintiffs’ attorneys were more than decent —they were superb. Pepper Hamilton’s Eric Rothschild, one of the lead attorneys, prepared me well21. Dembski had seen a preview of my testimony at my deposition. DI also knew I was inspecting documents related to Of Pandas and People that our attorneys had subpoenaed from the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), which holds the Pandas copyright. Consequently, although DI and TMLC were squabbling behind the scenes, they shared a common goal: to either forestall or discredit my testimony.

On September 6, 2005, the defense filed a motion in limine requesting my exclusion from the case. DI and TMLC had apparently overcome their differences long enough to collaborate on the accompanying brief because it contained clear evidence of DI’s input. Although I was not called as a scientific expert, the defense argued that I should be excluded because I had no scientific expertise and because I am, in their words, “little more than a conspiracy theorist and a web-surfing, ‘cyber-stalker’ of the Discovery Institute . . . and its supporters and allies.”22 Five years earlier, Dembski had accused two of his critics, Wesley Elsberry and Richard Wein, of being “Internet stalkers who seem to monitor my every move.”23 DI had responded to Creationism’s Trojan Horse by labeling me as a conspiracy theorist24. Judge Jones denied the motion on September 22.

Scheduled to testify the following week but delayed by Hurricane Rita, I used the extra time to prepare for my testimony and to stay current on ID activities by visiting DI’s website. On September 29, I noticed that DI had posted a transcript of an interview I had done— except that I hadn’t done it. The transcript was fake. Apparently meant (though not marked) as a parody, the organization whose self-described goal is “to support high quality scholarship . . . relevant to the question of evidence for intelligent design in nature” ridiculed me by, among other things, having fictitious radio host “Marvin Waldburger” refer to me as “Dr. Barking Forrest Ph.D.”25 If DI thought this would unsettle me, they were ignoring the fact that I had just been through two killer hurricanes. I could only shake my head at their doing something so jaw-droppingly stupid. If they were hoping Judge Jones would see and be influenced by this silliness, it was just another sign of the disrespect for his intelligence and integrity that began before the trial and continues today (see below).

On the Witness Stand

When I was sworn in on October 5, the defense spent the entire morning presenting arguments as to why I should not be qualified as an expert witness26. Judge Jones again denied the motion, meaning that he —and the whole world— would hear what both DI and TMLC had hoped they could bar from the record: the truth about ID.

I had two tasks: to demonstrate to Judge Jones (1) that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, and (2) that Of Pandas and People is a creationist textbook. As part of the evidence for my first task I included the words of two leading ID proponents, Phillip E. Johnson and William Dembski. Under direct examination by Eric Rothschild, I related Johnson’s definition of ID as “theistic realism” or “mere creation,” by which he means “that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology.”27 To that I added Dembski’s definition: “Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.”28 If the judge had heard nothing except these two quotes, he would have had all the evidence he needed that ID’s own leaders regard it as not only creationism but also as a sectarian Christian belief. But I had much more, such as CSC fellow Mark Hartwig’s 1995 Moody Magazine article in which he referred to a 1992 ID conference at Southern Methodist University as a meeting of “creationists and evolutionists,” calling Dembski and Stephen Meyer “evangelical scholars.”29 During these early years, when they needed money and supporters, ID proponents openly advertised both their religiosity and their creationism.

However, none of the evidence for ID’s religious, creationist identity was more important than “The Wedge Strategy,” probably written in 1996 when the CSC was established but revised in 1998. Known informally as the “Wedge Document,” it was leaked from a Seattle office and posted on the Internet in early 199930. DI did not acknowledge ownership of it until 2002, after I independently authenticated it and wrote about it in 200131. The technical team hired by Pepper Hamilton to create computer “demonstratives” projected the Wedge Document onto a screen in court, and I walked Judge Jones through it, explaining the most important parts. My first slide made its significance clear: “[C]ould I have the first slide, please? This is the first page of the Wedge Strategy, and this is the opening paragraph of it. Quote, ‘The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which western civilization was built.’ This . . . states very well the foundational belief behind the intelligent design movement and the reason that they have rejected the theory of evolution.”32 As I continued, the judge heard the strategy’s explicitly Christian goals: “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic worldview and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”33 The folks at DI probably never imagined that an “obscure philosopher in Louisiana,” as they once called me, would be using their strategy document in a trial— or that it would be so effective in their legal undoing. (Actually, they probably did suspect its legal significance, which explains their taking three years to acknowledge it.)

To counter the defense’s predictable denials that ID is creationism, I also explained, using an account by ID proponent and CSC fellow Paul Nelson, how Phillip Johnson had master-minded creationism’s transformation into “intelligent design” after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed creationism in public schools in its 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling. According to Nelson, creationists believed that Edwards meant the death of the “two-model approach to origins,” in which creationists recognize only two alternatives, either evolution or creation, hoping to win by default after undermining evolution. But Nelson explained that “a revolution from an unexpected quarter . . . was about to occur.”34 The revolutionary was Johnson, who decided that, for creationism to survive Edwards, creationists had to redefine science: “Definitions of science, [Johnson] argued, could be contrived to exclude any conclusion we dislike or to include any we favor.” Not only was Johnson’s deliberate but nominal transformation of creationism into ID important for demonstrating ID’s true identity, but it also provided important support for my testimony about Pandas: to survive after Edwards, Pandas would require a similar transformation. (When the book was first published in 1989, Johnson was already allied with chemist Charles Thaxton, author of the creationist book The Mystery of Life’s Origin and “academic editor” of Pandas.35) The subpoenaed FTE documents, which contained several earlier Pandas drafts, revealed that precisely such a transformation had been effected.

A Pandas co-author, CSC fellow Dean H. Kenyon, had been a creationist witness in the Edwards case and had submitted a sworn affidavit testifying that “creation-science is as scientific as evolution.”36 I discovered a letter Kenyon wrote to FTE president Jon Buell showing that he was working on the 1986 draft of Pandas, then called Biology and Creation, while also assisting in the Edwards case!37 All pre-Edwards drafts of Pandas (there were at least five) were written using creationist terminology. The earliest drafts had overtly creationist titles. In 1987 the title was changed to Of Pandas and People, and there were two 1987 drafts. One was written in creationist language. In the other, creationist terminology had been replaced by “intelligent design” and other design-related terms, suggesting that the Edwards decision prompted this change. The clincher was a new footnote in the latter draft explicitly referencing Edwards, indicating that this draft was produced after the June 19, 1987, decision in an effort to evade the ruling.38 I also found a letter from Buell to a prospective publisher in which Buell made profit projections for Pandas contingent upon the Court’s decision: “The enclosed projection showing revenues of over 6.5 million in five years are based upon modest expectations for the market, provided the U.S. Supreme Court does not uphold the Louisiana Balanced Treatment acts. If by chance it should uphold it, then you can throw out these projections. The nationwide market would be explosive.”39

These excerpts reflect the general content of the evidence I produced during my day and a half of testimony. When Richard Thompson cross-examined me, he did what we anticipated: avoiding the substance of my testimony and my published work, he attacked my credibility. He apparently hoped the judge would consider my association with civil liberties and humanist organizations unsavory enough to discredit me: “[Thompson] When did you become a card-carrying member of the ACLU?”40

The Defense

The combined testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses presented a formidable obstacle for the defense—as did the testimony of defense witnesses themselves. Nord and Carpenter were withdrawn without testifying, leaving only Behe, Fuller, and Minnich41. Behe and TMLC attorney Robert Muise escorted the judge through a long explanation of irreducible complexity using Behe’s stock example, the bacterial flagellum. During Rothschild’s cross-examination, however, Behe admitted that under his own definition of a scientific theory (which he has conveniently loosened in order to classify ID as science), astrology also qualifies42. Most unhelpfully, Fuller had affirmed in his deposition— under oath— that ID is creationism. Presented by ACLU attorney Vic Walczak with the relevant statements, he had no choice but to admit this: “[Walczak] And then your answer beginning on Line 24, It [ID] is a kind of creationism, it is a kind of creationism. I didn’t read the same passage twice. It’s actually twice on there. Did I read that accurately? [Fuller] Well, it looks like that is what the sentences say.”43 Fuller also described his role in the trial as that of an advocate for “disadvantaged theories” needing an “affirmative action strategy.”44 By the time Minnich, the last witness, was asked to offer still more testimony about bacterial flagella, he understood fully the position in which he found himself: “I kind of feel like Zsa Zsa’s fifth husband, you know? . . . I know what to do but I just can’t make it exciting. I’ll try.”45

The Verdict on ID

On December 20, 2005, Judge Jones delivered a powerful opinion —a marvel of clarity and forthrightness— giving no quarter to either the school board or ID. He was not fooled by ID proponents’ denials that they are creationists: “ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents” (136)46. He was especially displeased that board members Buckingham and Bonsell had lied under oath during their depositions: “[T]he inescapable truth is that both Bonsell and Buckingham lied at their January 3, 2005 depositions about their knowledge of the source of the donation for Pandas. . . . This mendacity was a clear and deliberate attempt to hide the source of the donations . . . to further ensure that Dover students received a creationist alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution” (115). Presented with the truth about the board’s policy and the ID creationism it promoted, Jones ruled accordingly: “A declaratory judgment is hereby issued in favor of Plaintiffs . . . such that Defendants’ ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and . . . the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” (139).

Judging the Judge

Reflecting the ID movement’s status as an integral part of the Religious Right, their mean-spirited attacks on Judge Jones have amplified right-wing screeching about federal judges, revealing their contempt for the judicial system they have long wished to exploit on their own behalf. As Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke wrote in a commentary for NCSE, “DI immediately tried to ‘swift-boat’ the judge.”47 (ID sympathizers were similarly enraged: harsh e-mails sent to Jones’s office led federal marshals to place him and his family under guard for a short period.48) Given the warmed-over creationism that was the only thing Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell could have offered in court, they would have needed either a political partisan or a fool on the bench. Antics such as the “Barking Forrest” interview suggest that DI regarded Judge Jones as the latter. One of Dembski’s regular Uncommon Descent bloggers apparently regarded him as both.

Dembski declined to comment on his blog when the opinion was filed: “I have little to add to what I wrote in September, so I’ll just leave it there.”49 On September 30, he had calculated probabilities for various outcomes: (1) 20% that Jones would uphold the ID policy; (2) 70% that he would overturn it but leave the “scientific status of ID” unchallenged; and (3) less than 10% that he would both overturn the policy and rule ID unscientific. He hedged his bets by appealing for intelligent assistance: “I trust that Providence will bring about the outcome that will best foster ID’s ultimate success.”50 Blogger “DaveScot” urged optimism: “Have more faith, Bill! This is all about Judge Jones. If it were about the merits of the case we know we’d win. It’s about politics. . . . Judge John E. Jones . . . is a good old boy brought up through the conservative ranks . . . appointed by GW hisself. . . . Unless Judge Jones wants to cut his career off at the knees he isn’t going to rule against the wishes of his political allies.”51 Post-verdict, however, Scot shifted from cocksure confidence in the “good old boy” to insults. When Time magazine named Judge Jones one of 100 “people who shape our world,” he offered some unflattering comparisons: “The magazine who made these men ‘Man of the Year’— 1938 – Adolf Hitler; 1939 – Joseph Stalin; 1942 – Joseph Stalin; 1957 – Nikita Krushchev; [and] 1979 – Ayatullah Khomeini— now brings you Judge John Jones as a 2006 Honorable (pun intended) Mention.” Dembski responded appreciatively: “Thanks, Dave, for contextualizing this milestone in our proper appreciation of important personages. . . . What a crock.”52

In a December 20, 2005, post on DI’s Evolution News & Views blog, CSC associate director John West sniped, “Judge Jones . . . wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur.”53 DI then hastily self-published a book, Traipsing into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision, charging that Jones “repeatedly misrepresented both the facts and the law in his opinion, sometimes egregiously.”54 The nastiness of DI’s attacks on the judge can be seen as directly proportionate to his opinion’s power and accuracy.

The Aftermath

Probably anticipating a future legal case, for which Jones’s opinion would serve as a strong precedent and for which I might be called as an expert witness, ID creationists continue their efforts to discredit both Judge Jones and me. They employ their usual m.o.: lacking scientific evidence for ID, they make things up and/or slander their opposition. DI’s attacks on Judge Jones stem partly from his reliance on my testimony and pre-trial reports, as he indicated in his opinion: “Dr. Barbara Forrest . . . has thoroughly and exhaustively chronicled the history of ID in her book and other writings for her testimony in this case. Her testimony, and the exhibits . . . admitted with it, provide a wealth of statements by ID leaders that reveal ID’s religious, philosophical, and cultural content.”55 Consequently, CSC fellow Jonathan Witt has interwoven attacks on the judge with attacks on me: “Several newspapers . . . are highlighting Judge John Jones’ spurious determination that intelligent design is creationism in disguise. They’re accurately reporting the judge’s opinion here, for his decision reads like a condensation of atheist-activist Barbara Forrest’s mythological history of intelligent design. . . . He followed the thinking of . . . Barbara Forrest to a t. . . . In following Barbara Forrest’s fallacious reasoning and mythological history of intelligent design, Judge Jones has erred badly.”56

On April 12, 2006, presenting long-discredited pro-ID arguments at the University of Montana School of Law, CSC fellow and law professor David DeWolf complained that Jones “thought it was his job to declare what was orthodox in science [and] . . . to decide theological questions.”57 Asserting that Jones’s opinion “effectively targeted” DI as “the author of this Wedge Document,” DeWolf lobbed a double ad hominem: “Judge Jones’s reliance on the Barbara Forrest testimony in the trial makes the John Birch Society look rational.” He also told the audience —falsely —that “there is a letter from Barbara Forrest, one of the witnesses in the Dover trial, a letter to an editor of a journal saying basically don’t publish things from people who are advocates of intelligent design.”58 At a May 5, 2006, luncheon we both attended at the Massachusetts School of Law, I asked him publicly whether he had seen this letter. He admitted —before an audience of his legal peers —that he had not.59 This time he was telling the truth: I never wrote such a letter. However, DeWolf continues to promote ID using the same debunked arguments that he and his ID associates used before the trial. In an article with former DI attorney Seth Cooper, he complains that Jones’s ruling was “based upon evidence and characterizations of intelligent design that have been sharply contested by leading proponents of intelligent design.”60 Yet, like Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell, neither DeWolf nor Cooper was anywhere in sight when they had a chance to defend ID in court.

The legal defeat of ID is forcing Wedge strategists to seek new markets for their creationism and to work their conservative Christian market more thoroughly. They are peddling ID abroad: DI has added international signatories to “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.”61 Even during the trial, they held an ID conference in Prague.62 Domestically, Dembski has been reduced to riding the coattails of conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who devoted four chapters of her latest book, Godless, to attacking evolution. These chapters contain the standard creationist canards, but with Coulter’s recognizable stylistic stamp: “Imagine a giant raccoon passed gas and perhaps the resulting gas might have created the vast variety of life we see on Earth. And if you don’t accept the giant raccoon flatulence theory for the origin of life, you must be a fundamentalist Christian nut who believes the Earth is flat. That’s basically how the argument for evolution goes.”63 Coulter credits her ability to write these chapters to “the generous tutoring of Michael Behe, David Berlinski, and William Dembski, all of whom are fabulous at translating complex ideas.”64 Dembski acknowledges his assistance: “I’m happy to report that I was in constant correspondence with Ann regarding her chapters on Darwinism —indeed, I take all responsibility for any errors in those chapters.”65 He has dubbed Coulter “the Wedge for the masses.”66

These tactics by DeWolf and Dembski highlight the bankruptcy of ID and the blustering cowardice of its leaders, who must capture support with brazen deceit and sarcastic punditry. The trial was Dembski’s moment to shine, to explain on the legal record why ID is a “full scale scientific revolution,” as he wrote in The Design Revolution (InterVarsity Press, 2004, p. 19). Instead, plaintiffs’ witness Robert Pennock read to Judge Jones Dembski’s statement regarding ID’s revolutionary status— and then dismantled it67. Ironically, Dembski had his arch-critics right where he wanted us —on the witness stand and under oath. He could have been there, implementing his strategy, helping to “squeeze the truth” out of us, “as it were.” In November 2005, after the trial ended, Dembski posted on his “Design Inference” website a pdf made from his May 11 and 16, 2005, “vise strategy” blog pages, labeled as a “Document prepared to assist the Thomas More Law Center in interrogating the ACLU’s expert witnesses in the Dover case.” He appended a list of “Suggested Questions,” which, he wrote, “will constitute a steel trap that leave the Darwinists no room to escape.”68 But when he had an opportunity to witness firsthand how his trap would operate, he was nowhere to be found. He “escaped critical scrutiny” by quitting rather than face cross-examination. He is apparently $20,000 richer for it, however, marking yet another difference between us: whereas I served pro bono, Dembski charged $200 per hour and threatened to sue TMLC for payment for 100 hours of work he claims to have done prior to quitting. In late June 2005, he told Canadian ID supporter Denyse O’Leary that TMLC had agreed to pay him.69

After ID’s dramatic, unequivocal defeat in Kitzmiller, Dembski’s priorities remained remarkably consistent: “This galvanizes the Christian community. . . . People I’m talking to say we’re going to be raising a whole lot more funds now.”70 If failure is that lucrative, one can only imagine how well-remunerated he and his ID colleagues would be if they could tell the truth and back up their claims about “intelligent design theory.”


I would like to thank Glenn Branch and Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education for their comments and suggestions.


  1. Nick Matzke, “Biologists Snub ‘Kangaroo Court’ for Darwin,” National Center for Science Education, March 30, 2005, here. See also “External Links” at the end of this article.
  2. National Center for Science Education, “All Over but the Shouting in Kansas,” May 13, 2005, here.
  3. William Dembski, “Kansas Hearings: Scopes in Reverse? — Yes and No,” Uncommon Descent, May 6, 2005, here.
  4. William Dembski, “The Vise Strategy: Squeezing the Truth Out of Darwinists,” Uncommon Descent, May 11, 2005, here.
  5. William Dembski, “The Vise Strategy II: Essence of the Strategy,” Uncommon Descent, May 16, 2005, here.
  6. Wesley Elsberry, personal communication, May 23, 2006. Elsberry was to be the adviser to the attorney who would depose Dembski.
  7. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Complaint (December 14, 2004), here. (pdf)
  8. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Plaintiffs’ Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, November 23, 2005, here.
  9. Plaintiffs’ Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law here.
  10. See the roster of witnesses for both sides here.
  11. None of the defense’s expert witnesses participated pro bono. All listed their fees— typically $100/hour, $200/hour in Dembski’s case— in their expert witness reports.
  12. According to Richard Thompson, TMLC had agreed to allow Stephen Meyer, as “an officer of the Discovery Institute,” to have his attorney present but would not allow Dembski and Campbell “to have attorneys, that they were going to consult with . . . and not with us.” See National Center for Science Education, “Discovery Institute and Thomas More Law Center Squabble in AEI Forum,” Oct. 23, 2005, here. DI corroborates Thompson’s statement about the offer to Meyer but says that Meyer “declined the offer because the previous actions of Thomas More had undermined his confidence in their legal judgment.” See “Setting the Record Straight About Discovery Institute’s Role in the Dover School District Case,’ Discovery Institute News, Nov. 10, 2005, here. See Dembski’s slant on the situation, “York Daily Record Reports on Dover,” Uncommon Descent, June 19, 2005, here.
  13. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Statement of Withdrawal of John Angus Campbell, Ph.D. (June 2, 2005), 5-6.
  14. DI’s legal strategy is detailed in David K. DeWolf, Stephen C. Meyer, and Mark E. DeForrest, “Teaching the Origins Controversy: Science, Or Religion, Or Speech?” Utah Law Review (July 2000) here. (pdf) But see also Matthew Brauer, Barbara Forrest, and Steven Gey, “Is It Science Yet? Intelligent Design Creationism and the Constitution,” Washington University Law Quarterly, Spring 2005, here. (pdf)
  15. Laurie Goodstein, “In Intelligent Design Case, a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit,” New York Times, Nov. 4, 2005, here.
  16. “Discovery Institute Calls Dover Evolution Policy Misguided, Calls for Its Withdrawal,” Discovery Institute News, Dec. 14, 2004, here. DI now strategically sanitizes its terminology, using euphemisms and code words in appeals for the teaching of ID. See Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross, “Intelligent Design Has Distinctly Evolutionary Nature,” Science & Theology News, Dec. 1, 2004, here. See a more detailed version, “The Evolution of ‘Intelligent Design,’” here. (pdf)
  17. Pat Hayes gives an example in “The Kansas Science Hearings Metastory,” May 9, 2005, here: “The knockout punch came when . . . Pedro Irigonegaray compelled the intelligent design witnesses to confess, during a series of withering cross-examinations, that they hadn’t bothered to read the science standards draft . . . before coming to Kansas at taxpayer expense.”
  18. For information about the book and our other ID publications, see here. See also ch. 10 of the paperback of CTH (forthcoming early 2007) for more about the trial and DI’s associated shenanigans.
  19. See “The Wedge Strategy,” here.
  20. For a chart showing continuities between ID and earlier creationism, see Barbara Forrest, “From ‘Creation Science’ to ‘Intelligent Design’: Tracing ID’s Creationist Ancestry,” 2005, here. (pdf) This chart was the source of some of my Kitzmiller “demonstratives.” See these demonstratives, my expert witness report, and other documents, including my testimony transcripts, here.
  21. In addition to Rothschild, the primary attorneys were Stephen Harvey, Thomas Schmidt, and Alfred Wilcox of Pepper Hamilton; Witold “Vic” Walczak of the Pennsylvania ACLU; and Richard Katskee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Other attorneys who were not in court helped in pre-trial preparations.
  22. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Defendants’ Brief in Support of Motion in Limine to Exclude the Testimony of Barbara Forrest, Ph.D.,” (September 6, 2005), 1, here. (pdf) The motion is here. (pdf)
  23. William A. Dembski, “Intelligent Design Coming Clean,” November 17, 2000, here.
  24. See Discovery Institute, “The ‘Wedge Document’: ‘So What?’” here. The DI website falsely claims that this document was “originally published in 2003” (see here). But it was written in response to my book, which was published in January 2004. The document’s properties show that CSC associate director John West created it on January 8, 2004. The Internet Archive shows no such document on the DI website at the end of 2003 (see here). It does show a page with a link entitled “What Is the Wedge Document?” dated February 10, 2004, here, indicating that the document was on the website at that time.
  25. DI later added a note that the piece is a parody. See “Dover Trial Preview to Witness Testimony,” Discovery Institute News, Sept. 29, 2005, here.
  26. See these arguments in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), AM Session, Part 1, here.
  27. See Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), AM Session, Part 2, here. The quote is from Phillip E. Johnson, “Starting a Conversation About Evolution,” Access Research Network, Aug. 31, 1996, here.
  28. See Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), PM Session, Part 1, here. The quote is from William A. Dembski, “Signs of Intelligence: A Primer on Intelligent Design,” Touchstone (July/August 1999), 84.
  29. See Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), AM Session, Part 2, here. The Moody Magazine article, “Challenging Darwin’s Myths,” is here.
  30. The document was posted by Tim Rhodes after being leaked by Matt Duss, both of Seattle. See Roger Downey, “Discovery’s Creation,” Seattle Weekly, Feb. 1, 2006, here.
  31. I first wrote about the document’s authenticity in “The Wedge at Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism Is Wedging Its Way into the Cultural and Academic Mainstream,” in Robert Pennock, Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, MIT Press, 2001. See Creationism’s Trojan Horse, ch. 2, for a more detailed discussion. For Stephen Meyer’s admission of DI’s ownership of the document, see Chris Mooney, “Survival of the Slickest,” American Prospect, Dec. 2, 2002, here.
  32. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), PM Session, Part 1, here.
  33. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), PM Session, Part 1, here.
  34. See Paul Nelson, “Life in the Big Tent: Traditional Creationism and the Intelligent Design Community,” Christian Research Journal 24:4 (2002), here. For this part of my testimony, see Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), PM Session, Part 1, here.
  35. Thomas Woodward, Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design, Baker Books, 2003, 89.
  36. See “Edwards v. Aguillard: Affidavit of Creationist Dean Kenyon,” here.
  37. Dean Kenyon to Jon Buell, February 19, 1986. Submitted into evidence for plaintiffs as Exhibit P-559.
  38. See my “Supplemental Report” on Pandas here. See also the demonstratives I used to show these changes graphically to the judge here and here. (pdf)
  39. See Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), AM Session, Part 2, here.
  40. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 6 (October 5), PM Session, Part 2, here.
  41. Despite the fact that Carpenter played no real role in the trial, he wrote an article for the February 2006 American School Board Journal entitled “Deconstructing Dover: An Expert Witness for the District Shares Lessons from ‘Scopes 2005’,” here. (pdf) In this article, he implements DI’s deceptive strategy of trying to disconnect teaching ID from “teaching the controversy about evolutionary theory” (code talk for teaching ID) and offers “lessons” for school boards: “For school board members interested in ‘teaching the controversy’ about evolutionary theory, the lessons here are clear: Conduct the public’s business in and with the public. Make sure your policies are justified with a clear and secular purpose. Neither officially advocate nor prohibit intelligent design. Seek out and pay attention to expert advice” (21-22). School boards would be well advised to ignore Carpenter’s article and steer clear of teaching this non-existent controversy in any form. As an “Education Correspondent” for Focus on the Family, Carpenter also wrote what appear to be variants of the ASBJ article for FOF’s Citizen magazine. See Dick Carpenter, “Media Hype Distorted Evolution Case,” Focus on Education, Citizen, Feb. 2006, here. See also Dick Carpenter, “Dover Lesson: Get Smart About ID,” Citizen, March 2006, here.
  42. See Behe’s testimony in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 10 (October 17), AM Session, Part 1, here.
  43. See Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 15 (October 24), PM Session, Part 2, here.
  44. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 15 (October 24), AM Session, Part 2, here.
  45. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 20 (November 3), PM Session, Part 1, here.
  46. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Memorandum Opinion (Dec. 20. 2005), here. (pdf)
  47. Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke, “Discovery Institute Tries to ‘Swift-boat’ Judge Jones,” National Center for Science Education, Jan. 4, 2006, here.
  48. Lauri Lebo, “Judge in Dover Case Reports Hostile E-mails,” York Daily Record, Mar. 24, 2006, here.
  49. William A. Dembski, “The Significance of the Dover Decision,” Uncommon Descent, Dec. 20, 2005, here.
  50. William A. Dembski, “Life After Dover,” Uncommon Descent, Sept. 30, 2005, here.
  51. DaveScot, comment on “Life After Dover,” Uncommon Descent, Sept. 30, 2005, here.
  52. DaveScot, “Time Magazine and Judge John Jones,” Uncommon Descent, May 4, 2006, here. William Dembski, comment on “Time Magazine and Judge John Jones,” May 4, 2006, here. Time’s Person of the Year designation is not an honorific title, but an assessment of the designee’s influence on current events.
  53. Discovery Institute, “Dover Intelligent Design Decision Criticized as a Futile Attempt to Censor Science Education,” Evolution News & Views, Dec. 20, 2005, here. See all relevant DI blog postings here.
  54. David DeWolf, John West, Casey Luskin, and Jonathan Witt, Traipsing into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision (Discovery Institute Press, 2006), 9.
  55. Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, Memorandum Opinion (Dec. 20. 2005), 26.
  56. Center for Science and Culture, “Dover Judge Regurgitates Mythological History of Intelligent Design,” Evolution News & Views, posted by Jonathan Witt, Dec. 20, 2005, here.
  57. David DeWolf, “Darwinian Orthodoxy: Was Justice Jackson Wrong?” University of Montana School of Law, April 12, 2006, here.
  58. DeWolf, “Darwinian Orthodoxy: Was Justice Jackson Wrong?”
  59. The luncheon was prior to a taping for MSL’s TV program, Educational Forum, and was attended by law school faculty and administrators.
  60. See David K. DeWolf and Seth L. Cooper, “Teaching About Evolution in the Public Schools: A Short Summary of the Law,” Discovery Institute News, June 20, 2006, here. DeWolf is also the primary speaker in a pro-ID video, “How to Teach the Controversy Legally,” in which ID is never mentioned by name. Available here, this video is an example of the strategy Dick Carpenter II recommends in his advice to school boards (see ASBJ article at note 41).
  61. See “Dissent From Darwinism ‘Goes Global’ as Over 600 Scientists Around the World Express Their Doubts About Darwinian Evolution,” Discovery Institute News, June 21, 2006, here.
  62. See the conference website, “Darwin and Design: A Challenge for 21st Century Science,” here. Michael Behe was unable to attend because of the trial.
  63. Ann Coulter, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum 2006), 214. For a detailed analysis of these chapters, see “Ann Coulter’s Flatulent Raccoon Theory,”, July 7, 2006, here.
  64. Coulter, acknowledgments, Godless, 303.
  65. William Dembski, “Ann Coulter Weighs in on Darwinism,” Uncommon Descent, April 26, 2006, here.
  66. William Dembski, “Ann Coulter: The Wedge for the Masses,” Uncommon Descent, June 12, 2006, here.
  67. Testimony of Robert T. Pennock, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Trial Transcript: Day 3 (September 28, 2005), AM Session, Part 1, here.
  68. See William Dembski, “The Vise Strategy: Squeezing the Truth Out of Darwinists,” Design Inference, (posted Nov. 8, 2005), 4, here. (pdf) It is worth noting that after his last question, Dembski conveniently noted that “with these questions, we don’t need to get into the positive ID program — i.e., what ID is doing specifically to advance ou[r] understanding of biology. That will come out under cross-examination of our side” (13).
  69. See Dembski’s statement of his fee in his expert witness report, “Disclosure of Expert Testimony of William A. Dembski,” p. 12, here. (pdf) See also Denyse O’Leary, “Key ID Theorist Threatens to Sue Intelligent Design Supporters in Dover, Pennsylvania Case,” June 25, 2005, here.
  70. Rachel Zoll, “Case Seen as Setback to Intelligent Design,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 21, 2005, here. See Robert Pennock’s commentary on the trial, “Swords and Smoking Guns,” Science & Theology News, March 6, 2006, here.

Barbara Forrest

Barbara Forrest is the co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004), which details the political and religious aims of the intelligent design creationist movement. She served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the first legal case involving intelligent design, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, which was decided in favor of the plaintiffs in December 2005. She is a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Science Education and the National Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. She has appeared on Larry King Live, ABC’s Nightline, and a documentary on intelligent design for the BBC Horizon series. Her radio interviews include NPR’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow and Americans United’s Culture Shocks with Barry Lynn. She is a Professor of Philosophy in the Department of History and Political Science at Southeastern Louisiana University.