Monday, April 30, 2007

Mr. Chapman and "40 Days and 40 Nights"

A new book out on the Dover "Pandas" trial is "40 Days and 40 Nights" by Matthew Chapman. In addition to many other attributes, Mr. Chapman is also a great-great- grandson of Charles Darwin. Chapman insisted that this was not all that relevant to his life, and I would be willing to believe him if he hadn't made such a fuss.

I did enjoy reading Chapman's book. It brought a number of chuckles and a few out-right laughs. The strongest feature of the book was his apparent concern and even fondness for nearly all involved. His quick character sketches humanized the participants in ways that I had not perceived from reading, and even meeting some of the principals.

That said, there were some features that I found odd. My biggest surprise was that Chapman made no mention at all of the famous "Of Pandas and People" "cdesign_proponentsists" gaff exposed in Barbara Forrest's testimony. I had been anticipating that his reaction to such a blatant con-job would be particularly amusing. But there was no mention- none. I reread the chapter to see if I had missed it, and then I even checked the page numbers to be sure nothing mechanical had failed. But there was no "cdesign proponentsists" to be found.

Michael Behe's cross examination by Eric Rothschild had similar omissions where I wished Chapman's talent for observation had been given play. For example, Chapman spends some time on Rothschild and Behe going back and forth over the question of the evolution of the adaptive immune system (190-193). A portion of this was a bit of "theater" where Rothschild stacks piles and piles of published research on the evolution of the immune system in front of Behe, who has claimed in testimony that no such research exists. Chapman seemed to have missed that while doing so Rothschild handed Behe several massive textbooks relevant to just this question, and after a time, Behe asked, "Mr. Rothschild, would you like your books back? They're heavy."

Chapman incorrectly called the immune system exchange "Rothschild's last attack on Behe" (190). This lead to the glaring omission of Rothschild's cross examination of the analogy of "intelligent design detection al la the ID creationists, and the real science of archaeology. This followed the lunch break on Day 12 of the trial, and perhaps Chapman never made it back into the courtroom that afternoon. Few would blame him, and fewer notice but me! This is because his omission also stepped all over my 2.5 seconds of Dover fame. Rothschild used as a portion of his challenge my chapter on archaeology and forensics from "Why Intelligent Design Fails" (Young and Edis 2004). The end of Behe's cross examination was Rothschild's observation that, "Science fiction movies are not science, are they, Professor Behe?" Behe's answer was irrelevant and this exchange found its way into the Judge's decision.

The real quality of Chapman's writing, observation, and humanity is in a last scene set at the end of the trial (250-251). On one side of the street the plaintiffs, their lawyers, their families, the support crew (including Nick Matzke), and others meet in celebration and good cheer. On the other side of the street, the defence attorneys sat alone.

I could almost feel sorry for the bastards.

OPPS, I was corrected this afternoon re: “cdesign proponentists.” For those not close followers of the creationists and their program, the book "Of Pandas and People" was the original "intelligent design" textbook. It was targeted on highschools in the USA. The work on the book began in the early 1980s and it was solidly a "special creationism" text. Following the US Supreme Court decision in Edwards v Aguillard (1987) outlawing "special creationism" or "creation science," the book's authors simply used a word processor to delete "creationists" and replace with "design proponents." In one preserved draft copy, there was the telltale error where an incomplete deletion resulted in “cdesign proponentists.”

This was not actually used in the Dover trial by Barbara Forrest as I had incorrectly recalled because, as explained to me today by expert Nick Matzke, “It was like pouring salt in the wound, when the wound was decapitation.”

Since this was posted at Panda's Thumb, and as a review at, I have left the original of my comments and added the corection.

My appologies to Mr. Chapman.

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