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Paul Myers on Barbara Forrest

Paul Myers, in a recent post at the Panda’s Thumb, notes Chris Comer’s firing for publicizing a talk by Barbara Forrest. I’m still not clear about the details of the case, but if Comer’s firing were solely for supporting Forrest, this ought not to be. The ID community is committed to a culture of rational discourse, and that means freedom of expression for all parties to a debate.

The point of interest in Myers’s piece, however, is this: he goes on to describe Forrest as “one of their critics the creationists most fear, so it’s not surprising that her name would elicit knee-jerk panic.” Since Myers sees ID proponents as creationists, presumably he means to include us here as well. I find this description of Barbara Forrest remarkable, especially given how studiously she has avoided mixing it up with people on our side. [ADDENDUM: Given some of the comments below, it appears I've overstated matters. --WmAD]

Ironically, last year around this time she published an essay in which she called me a coward. I replied to her charges and offered to debate her. For the details, go here. Someone at this blog even offered to put up some money for the debate to happen. DaveScot repeatedly emailed her to try to arrange the debate. Never a response from Forrest.

Has Forrest ever debated or had a substantive exchange with any ID proponent?

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25 Responses to Paul Myers on Barbara Forrest

  1. No one should be fired for just pointing out a talk. What should be done is to have an IDist also speak at the same venue.

    The only thing IDists “fear” is not given a fair voice- that is anti-IDists are allowed to misreprent ID at will without repercussions.

    And that is why the anti-IDists canNOT allow ID in public schools- in ANY classroom. Once people understand ID the anti-IDists will not get away with their lies.

    And once the theory of evolution is laid bare- one new protein-to-protein binding site* found since its inception- people will see it for the sham that it is.

    (in HIV, which is not classified as a living organism)

  2. You know the darwinists are jumping up and down with excitement right now, thinking everyone supporting ID would be in support for this firing, that is clearly not the case. In fact with the Gonzalez issue if they were honest people they would step back and say “hey if we are mad at this, then we must be mad about what happend to Gonzalez”. I doubt that will ever happen. It is nice to see Bill post this standing against what has happend. Good post!

  3. This firing/resignation of Comer does seem murky. Forwarding a notice of an anti-ID talk doesn’t in itself break neutrality. Forwarding only notices of anti-ID talks would break neutrality, but should not by itself be grounds for dismissal. Was this part of an ongoing pattern of breaking neutrality guidelines (“insubordination”), about which Comer had already been warned?

    The most potentially troubling part of this incident is the appearance (though we don’t know many details yet) that the reasons for Comer’s being pressured to resign (if she was) have not been made transparent. And therefore they may not have been in accordance with legal guidelines to which they should have been accountable. Just as with Gonzalez.

    So let’s call for Texas officials to be forthcoming with full and frank disclosure… so far we’ve mostly heard her side of the story. And we should call for Comer to be appropriately vindicated and reinstated, if she has been wronged. As we would want to see happen with Gonzalez.

  4. I find this description of Barbara Forrest remarkable, especially given how studiously she has avoided mixing it up with people on our side.

    She was on a radio show with John Calvert and Casey Luskin, and she was a witness for the Dover trial. I think I read somewhere that you actually went to her deposition?

    The ID community is committed to a culture of rational discourse, and that means freedom of expression for all parties to a debate.

    That’s an admirable statement. Why did defense team at the Dover trial try to repeatedly have her dismissed as witness? I understand why you couldn’t attend the trial, but what was the point of trying to have her silenced?

  5. That’s an admirable statement. Why did defense team at the Dover trial try to repeatedly have her dismissed as witness? I understand why you couldn’t attend the trial, but what was the point of trying to have her silenced?

    How would the defense team get the authority to dismiss a plaintiff witness? How could they silence a witness for the other side?

  6. For gore:

    Hey I think this is wrong, and I also think what happened to Gonzalez was wrong.

    I won’t go so far as to say I’m mad about either case.

  7. Maybe Forrest was opposed for this reason:

    The purported expert testimony is unfairly prejudicial and its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger that this unfair prejudice will unduly influence the trier of fact;

    http://www.criminaldefense.hom.....perts.html

  8. 8

    In June, before the trial began, Thompson flew to New Orleans to take Forrest’s deposition. As attorneys, witness, and stenographer met in the offices of a local law firm for the deposition, Forrest was surprised to find that Thompson had intelligent design activist William Dembski in tow.

    Dembski, who was himself to have been an expert witness for the defense, sat in on the early stages of her deposition. He was brooding presence, Forrest recalls, and extremely hostile.

    So, in answer to your question, it certainly seems there was an opportunity to debate her.

  9. Umm you don’t debate during a deposition.

    Also Babs called Wm a coward AFTER the trial.

    Also she lied during the Dover trial and the judge bought it.

    Go figure the real ID experts say one thing- the anti-IDists say another and the judge buys what the anti-IDists said.

  10. Barbara Forrest, John Haught and I participated in a two-day seminar on ID and evolution at Loyola University New Orleans in November 2006. The event was sponsored by the university president.

  11. Forrest was surprised to find that Thompson had intelligent design activist William Dembski in tow.

    Dembski, who was himself to have been an expert witness for the defense, sat in on the early stages of her deposition. He was brooding presence, Forrest recalls, and extremely hostile.

    “So, in answer to your question, it certainly seems there was an opportunity to debate her”

    The ID hostile crowd is too funny. Did you expect Bill to approach her during the deposition and debate? Or only during breaks?

  12. My question “Has Forrest ever debated or had a substantive exchange with any ID proponent?” was meant honestly, not rhetorically. I’m glad to see that she has interacted with our side (perhaps I was apprised at the time, but offhand I couldn’t remember any substantive interaction).

    To suggest that I could engage with Forrest at her deposition is ludicrous — I was simply there to assist Dick Thompson. As for she and I debating, I’m still up for it.

  13. But Dr. Dembski, you were such a brooding and hostile presence! SCARY!

    ;-D

    It’s funny to me how the “females are weak little fragile things” card gets played with no qualms when it’s one side, but on the other side it’s “get a backbone, you wimp”.

    I’m sure there’s a Darwinian explanation… there always is…

  14. I agree Leo, my claim was “if they were mad”. I didn’t expect everyone to go crazy over this!

  15. The Lyola U. event was:
    October 4, 2006 Loyola University New Orleans Presents Programs on Intelligent Design

    Anyone know if it was transcribed or taped?

  16. Presents Programs on Intelligent Design

    Anyone know if it was transcribed or taped?

    Intelligent design programs are transcribed and then translated. In the process three different codes are used: genetic, histone and ribosomal. It’s a neat trick for blind forces of nature.

  17. 17

    William Dembski said,

    I’m still not clear about the details of the case, but if Comer’s firing were solely for supporting Forrest, this ought not to be.

    Also, the anit-Darwinist chairman of the Texas Board of Education, Don McLeroy, said,

    “As far as I’m concerned, (agency employees) can say what they want. They’ve got freedom of speech.”

    – from http://www.statesman.com/news/.....ience.html

    I originally thought that the Texas Education Agency’s gag rule was OK. Other public officials and employees work under gag rules — for example, California’s Brown Act prohibits members of a legislative body from privately communicating with each other to try to develop a consensus on something that they may later vote on. However, I have changed my mind about the TEA gag rule because of widespread opposition to the rule, even among anti-Darwinists.

    Did Comer ever send out announcements of anti-Darwinist lectures? Am I the first person to ask that question? IMO there should be a new rule for TEA employees — if you want to send out announcements of lectures and debates on issues, either send out all announcements or send out none.

    The point of interest in Myers’s piece, however, is this: he goes on to describe Forrest as “one of their critics the creationists most fear, so it’s not surprising that her name would elicit knee-jerk panic.”

    It’s not that “creationists” fear Forrest — it’s that Forrest is promoting a ridiculous theory that intelligent design is part of a fundy conspiracy to take over the USA. Forrest is trying to shut down the debate on scientific issues.

  18. Barbara Forrest, John Haught and I participated in a two-day seminar on ID and evolution at Loyola University New Orleans in November 2006. The event was sponsored by the university president.-Paul Nelson

    I take it Barbara wasn’t buying what you were selling.

    She really doesn’t have to because she already knew more about ID than you ever will. Ask Judge Jones, he will verify that.

    But anyway did you manage to reach any of the students?

  19. Good take, Larry. Clearly Comer’s marching orders from her employer were to remain neutral on the subject of evolution. That can be acheived by giving equal promotion to both pro and con positions or by giving no promotion to either. She evidently didn’t take the second option so the question boils down to whether or not she gave both sides equal billing. Given that she resigned under pressure it’s reasonable to assume that she knew she did not give equal billing to both sides.

    Clearly Comer has a right to a personal opinion that doesn’t necessarily agree with her employer’s position and a right to express her opinion. What one doesn’t have a right to do is use an employer’s resources to express personal opinions. Had Comer used an email address not associated with the state of Texas and used a computer and internet connection not provided by the state of Texas to send the emails in question, and not represented herself as an employee of the state of Texas in the emails she should not have been subject to any disciplinary actions over it. It appears she did not do any of those things to dissociate her opinions from those of her employer. If that is true then the loss of employment was well deserved.

    I’m reminded of the old usenet days when most people didn’t have private internet connections and participated in electronic forums via their employer’s computers and networks. Since the originating address shown on the correspondence would be their employer’s domain ([email protected] for instance) it was customary to hang a disclaimer at the bottom of each correspondence such as “These are my personal opinions and do not represent the opinions of my employer.” It appears Comer didn’t do that either.

  20. Ellazim-

    Any statement saying ID requires the supernatural is a lie. Also saying that ID is Creationism, is a lie.

    Barbara Forrest made both claims during her testimony. Therefore she lied.

  21. 21

    DaveScot wrote,

    Given that she resigned under pressure it’s reasonable to assume that she knew she did not give equal billing to both sides.

    You may be right, Dave. Earlier this year there was a “Darwin v. Design” conference at Southern Methodist University in Dallas — that conference got a lot of publicity because some Darwinist faculty members asked the administration not to hold it. If Chris Comer knew in advance about that conference — and there is a fair chance that she did — did she send out an “FYI” notice about it?

    She may be entitled to express her own biased opinions, but when sending out notices of public lectures, conferences, and debates, she should be even-handed.

  22. From Dr Forrest’s perspective (considering the replacement of “creationists” with “design proponents” in the drafts of Of Pandas and People) I’m sure she felt those statements were accurate. I’m not saying she was correct but surely it’s derogatory to accuse her of lying.

    It is inexcusable for someone in her position for someone in her position to make such ergregious mistakes.

    After all she was called on as an ID expert. Yet there isn’t anything in ID that says anything about the supernatural and it is also very clear that Creation and ID are disticntly different.

    I agree that ID leaves the door open for non-supernatural designers but that viewpoint is not widely touted by ID supporters.

    EVERY position- even that of the anti-ID materialists- comes down to something beyond nature. After all natural processes cannot account for the origin of nature because natural processes only exist in nature.

    That said, just because it is beyond nature doesn’t make it supernatural.

    And if the anti-ID materialists can get away with “we don’t know”, then the same standard has to apply to all competing alternatives.

  23. BTW if someone is relying on drafts as opposed to the released product, you know they are up to something sneaky.

    It is the released version that was to be in the high school library

    BTW both FTE and the chief authors explained the use of the word “creation” in the early drafts.

    To ignore those explanations in favor of what you want, because you think it will score points, is pretty much the same thing as lying.

    At the next trial it will be interesting to see what the anti-IDists do when Creationists (from AiG & ICR) testify that ID and Creation are not the same. It would be even better if we get anti-IDists who know the difference to come up and testify to that effect (affect?).

  24. I think the evolutionists would say that they are trying to find out about the stuff they don’t know about.- ellazimm

    Nonsense! How can they be when they have already excluded telic processes?

    That’s why they accuse ID of being a science stopper;

    And by their “logic” archaeology is a science stopper. SETI is a science stopper.

    they can’t understand why, especially if it’s possible that the designer is within nature, that some effort isn’t being done to find out about it.

    LoL!! First they deny anyoine the oppoertunity to reach a design inference and then they can’t understand why no one is looking for the designer!

    Page 112 of “No Free Lunch”:

    A design inference therefore does not avoid the problem of how a designing intelligence might have produced an object. It simply makes it a separate question.

    The same goes for the designer.

    As reality dictates the ONLY possible way to make ANY determination about the designer(s) or the specific process(es) used, in the absence of direct observation or designer input, is by studying the design in question.

    IOW first things first. And when ID gets the resources that the anti-ID position has I am sure someone will pusue those questions. And that there are unanswwered questions (unanswered by ID) that proves that it is not a science-stopper. Rather it just opens up more doors that require investigation.

    BTW it is inexcusable for Forrest to rumage through unreleased drafts from the 1980s when there is a wealth of current information available pertaining to ID.

  25. One more thing- If Paul Myers is on Barbara Forrest, is that considered sexual harassment?

    (sorry couldn’t resist)

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