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
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.
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
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
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