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Dembski as the David Seville of Information Theory: Now, That's a Video to Look Forward To

By Wesley R. Elsberry

Posted December 19, 2006

Mathematician, theologian, and philosopher William A. Dembski branches out, now lending his vocal talents to a Flash animation taking a low-humor poke at federal district court judge John E. Jones III. Jones is represented as a pull-to-speak doll spouting snippets of his decision in a high-pitched voice with added farting noises, and various pro-science advocates (myself included) are represented as pulling the string. Dembski read aloud various portions of the 2005 decision of the court in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, and then pitch-shifted up the result. Pitch-shifting in pop culture is most famously associated with David Seville, the stage name of Ross Bagdasarian, whose single, "Witch Doctor", went to the top of the charts in 1958. Seville's other pop culture contribution with pitch-shifting was The Chipmunks, the musical phenomenon that later became a cartoon franchise, with characters Alvin, Simon, and Theodore as the chipmunks and Seville as songwriter/manager/father figure.

The uncredited appearance of Dembski's voice in the production was worked out by "After the Bar Closes" commenter "keiths" in this comment. Once his role in the production was out in public, Dembski posted a notice to his "Uncommon Descent" blog and also sent out an email to various "intelligent design" creationism critics saying that he'd like them to pass on his request to Judge Jones so that Jones could provide his own voice for their animation project. Dembski generously offered to reduce the frequency of farting noises if Jones agreed to participate. One of the email recipients was University of California at Berkeley professor and NCSE president Kevin Padian, the paleontologist whom Dembski compared to Archie Bunker based on inaccurate hearsay from someone who, it turned out, hadn't even correctly identified whose lecture he had been listening to. Dembski offered Padian the opportunity to be included in the animated fart-fest if Padian would provide a clear photograph of himself.

This latest foray into "street theater"[*] by Dembski should have people asking the hard question: Is Dembski "the David Seville of Information Theory" or is he "the Isaac Newton of Street Theater"? Enquiring minds want to know.

Kenneth Miller, professor at Brown University and expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, replied to William A. 'Divine Wind' Dembski this morning with some suggestions for good video. I know I'd like to see it. Fortunately, he used "reply all" in responding to Dembski, so I got it in my inbox. I thought that the PT community would like to see it, too, so I asked Prof. Miller if I could get his permission to post his email, and he kindly agreed. It is appended below the fold.

Dear Bill,

Thanks for the e-mail. It's great to see what sort of research the Intelligent Design movement is up to these days!

I'd like to help you with the Judge's e-mail, but since I have never had any contact with him outside the courtroom, I have no idea what his e-mail might be. I'm sure he'd be thrilled by the offer to remove "less flattering" sound effects, of course.

I do believe that I can help you with the video, though. As much as I enjoyed it, I was disappointed that it didn't include some of the more amusing events from the trial. Since you've clearly got a little extra time on your hands, why not punch it up a bit with a few more highlights?

For example, how about Bill Buckingham claiming that he never mentioned the word "creationism," and then the video clip showing him doing exactly that? (I can send you the clip if you need it). Or Mike Behe peeking out from behind a stack of 58 papers, 9 books, and a couple of textbooks saying that even this isn't enough to convince him that the immune system evolved? Or, even better, your own DC spokesman for the Discovery Institute (Mark Ryland) claiming that the DI had "never" advocated the teaching of ID in schools, followed by Richard Thompson, in his own voice, waving a copy of Steve Meyer's book which advocated exactly that? I've got that last one on a DVD if you like. You'd love it, Bill - Richard brought down the house at the American Enterprise Institute with that one.

Or, even better, how about the stuff before the trial?

Why not show the pictures of the 8 ID experts who promised the Dover Board that they would be there in court to defend them? ... and then you can show 5 of the 8 running away at deposition time. I've even got a sound effects file I can send you of galloping horses, and maybe a scream or two in the background as the dreaded experts from the ACLU-friendly plaintiffs arrive?

Now that would be one heckuva animation!

Best Wishes for a Wonderful Christmas,


At 10:25 AM -0600 12/16/06, William A. Dembski wrote:

[Dembski's email snipped. -- WRE]

Kenneth R. Miller
Professor of Biology
Box G-B5
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912



I'll offer a trivial correction to Prof. Miller, in that while 5 ID experts dropped out before testifying, only 3 of those did so at deposition time: John Angus Campbell, William A. 'Divine Wind' Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer. Bruce Chapman apparently told the Discovery Institute affiliated experts that they shouldn't get involved in KvD, and those three appear to have complied with Chapman's wishes. Warren Nord and Dick M. Carpenter II saved their running away for during the trial itself -- we have the depositions here and here, respectively. One may speculate upon why the Thomas More Law Center decided to do without their testimony. In Nord's case, perhaps his insistence that religion should be a part of the educational curriculum despite what the Constitution and courts have said about that was recognized by the TMLC as shooting themselves in the foot, which would have been close to a first for them. (Recognizing it ahead of time, that is.) In Carpenter's case, apparently TMLC figured out how dispensable Carpenter's testimony was -- several months after I had surmised as much.

[*] See Ed Brayton's exposition on Dembski's premiere "street theater" event.

Originally published at Dembski as the David Seville of Information Theory and Now, That's a Video to Look Forward To