This weekend I received the following letter (reprinted here in its entirety) as a pdf file from Kevin Padian:
The May 10 posting on your weblog makes a vicious, false, and defamatory accusation against
me based on factual errors and a thorough distortion of my actual statements. Your smear of my
character demands an immediate retraction and apology.
In the first place, you completely distorted what I said by quoting out of context. The contrast
that I drew between the demographics of your audience and mine made a point completely
different than your insinuation. What I said (in toto, not simply in the isolated snippets that you
distorted) is that your audience Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which I described accurately and did not criticize in any way
Ã¢â‚¬â€œ comes from a very different worldview than the one I addressed, and if scientists and
educators want to reach that audience, they had better understand it and respect it, and not
dismiss it. That meaning, which I made very clear to my audience, is diametrically opposed to
the implications that you drew.
Your statement that I recently lectured in Kansas is a fabrication; I have not been in Kansas in
years. Yet you stated confidently that I gave a recent talk there and made statements that you
I did not “single out an Asian-American church” in my talk for Defend Science at Berkeley. In
fact, I had never heard of it before the vicious allegation that you placed on your blog was
brought to my attention. If you have access to a recording of my talk, you will not find the
words “Berkland Baptist Church,” “Asian-American church,” or anything of the sort. That is
because I never referred to them in any form.
I did not refer to the Berkeley IDEA club in my talk; I do not know any of its members, nor did I
know that any of its members might belong to the Berkland Baptist Church.
Your defamatory accusation was made in haste, on false premises, without complete
knowledge, without checking your sources, and with the motive of damaging my reputation. I
take these offenses seriously.
So here is where we stand. You were factually wrong in the statements that formed the basis
for your vicious and untrue accusation, which was therefore false in all respects. Your
obligation is to take immediate steps to post this statement prominently on your weblog, post a
retraction and an apology at the same place, and remove your previous offensive postings.
Now we will learn something about your character.
Earlier last week I received an email from a Cal Berkeley student that included a letter from him along with two forwarded emails in the body. One of these forwarded messages described a talk by a Berkeley paleontologist at Kansas University that singled out Berkland Baptist Church (a church that had invited me to speak on the Berkeley campus two months ago) for promoting ID and indicated that this church’s membership was changing the classroom dynamics with regard to the teaching of evolution on the Berkeley campus. The Cal Berkeley student who forwarded this email then assumed this paleontologist was Kevin Padian. As it turns out, this was not the case.
In my criticisms of Padian on this blog, I therefore conflated the account of the Kansas incident with Padian’s own remarks at a Defend Science talk he gave in Berkeley. I subsequently attempted to update and correct this blog entry (noting that Padian was not in Kansas), but in looking back I see the Berkeley and Kansas incidents were still entangled in this updated entry and did not accurately portray Padian’s Defend Science talk at Berkeley. I therefore retract the entry as well as two other entries connected with the story (they have been removed from this blog) and issue this public apology for posting it.
In addition to getting certain facts wrong (not all of them: Padian in his letter above does not dispute that he singled out “young” “Asian” “fundamentalists” as supporters of ID), I also wish to apologize for engaging in an ad hominem against him (I called him a “bigot” and compared him to Archie Bunker). I’m not sure that “bigot” is any worse than “fundamentalist” (he apparently thinks “fundamentalist” is an appropriate designation for Christians who hold to ID). Moreover, Padian himself has not been averse to the ad hominem, comparing (see here) my good friend and colleague Jonathan Wells to “the talented Mr. Ripley” (a pathological murderer and impersonator portrayed by Matt Damon in the film by that name).
In any case, I should not have engaged in ad hominems against Kevin Padian and apologize to him for doing so. Perhaps this incident will help persuade both sides in this debate to stay on topic and focus on the issues.