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John Angus Campbell and the North Mason School board Part II

Several weeks ago I blogged about the fact that Discovery Institute Fellow and intelligent design advocate John Angus Campbell was running for a seat on the school board in North Mason County, Washington. Not just that, but Campbell was running as “John Campbell”, and appeared to be hiding his connection with intelligent design and the Discovery Institute. A new blog, the Belfair Report, has started up to address this issue.

It turns out that there is more to this story. In response to a letter to the editor of the Belfair Herald, which said:

In response to expressed concerns Dr Campbell states he has not used his full name in his run for school board as his name is too big to fit on his signs. However, he had not listed his professional name on his Web site of his political fliers either. His doctorate in rhetoric serves him well.

As a candidate who is running on the platform of “restoring trust” and creating “open and clear communication,” I would expect Dr. Campbell to reveal these critical issues himself, not wait for them to be discovered. As a voter, it seems imperative that Dr, Campbell be candid and explain his agenda in running for the school board prior to voters receiving their ballots.

Campbell wrote a letter of his own. He opens with:

In both Belfair Herald stories about the seminars (8/6/06; 10/26/06) under my photo my name is listed as John Campbell and in the course of the story all three of my names appear…. The people of North Mason know perfectly well who I am and what I stand for.

Ok. It’s interesting that someone who has been known professionally as “John Angus Campbell” would drop the “Angus” on his campaign literature, but you never know, it’s possible that he always went by “John” and just included the middle name to distinguish him professionally.

For my website I had to condense an 18 page resume in higher education down to a one page snapshot. I make no mention of my academic specialties, list no professional organizations with the exception of a current presidency. Only through my various awards do any of my affiliations as a scholar appear.

Hmm. It seems odd that someone who has written about what should be taught in classrooms should “condense” out the achievements that would be relevant to his job, but not conclusive. He might just be a really bad resume writer.

I am not an advocate of intelligent design, but instead a Darwin scholar who believes in traditional education

Ok. Jaw drops to the floor. Not an advocate of intelligent design? So was he taking the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture‘s money under false pretenses? Do you really want someone who would take money from a non-profit under false pretenses on your school board? Oh, wait:

In my experience students learn best when teachers have the freedom to expose them to competing ideas and arguments even about science. That is why I am a fellow of Discovery Institute–the scientists and scholars there share my commitment to liberal-arts education even if many disagree with me about the status of Darwin’s theory. [Emphasis added]

Really? Commitment to liberal arts education? So, no matter how dishonest their output, that’s ok, because they share a commitment to liberal arts education? You’d think that using lies and misinformation to obfuscate would be incompatible with an interest in liberal arts education.

In the Dover case I wrote my expert witness report on the understanding that what was at risk was freedom of inquiry. When it became clear that the board was mandating a statement to be read by teachers (a violation of their academic freedom) and then by administrators (an equal violation of the integrity of their position) I strongly dissented and was fired by the Thomas Moore Law Center (TMLC).

In his sworn affidavit submitted to Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller trial, Stephen Meyer (Senior Fellow of the CSC) said that

5. The Thomas More Law Center told me on May 31st and then again on June 1st, 2005 (the day before John Angus Campbell’s deposition) that fellows of the Discovery Institute would not be permitted by Thomas More to have private counsel in our depositions and that we would not be allowed to participate as experts if we insisted on having such counsel

7. The next morning the Thomas More Law Center fired John Angus Campbell in response to our decision to insist on private counsel.

Does this mean that Campbell is saying that Meyer perjured himself in his affidavit? Barbara Forrest agrees broadly with Meyer, and disagrees with Campbell:

Dembski’s CSC associates Stephen C. Meyer, John Angus Campbell, Scott Minnich and Michael Behe were also to be witnesses for the defense, along with ID supporters Warren Nord, Steve William Fuller, and Dick M. Carpenter II. When TMLC rejected Meyer, Dembski, and Campbell’s demand for legal representation independent of TMLC, the three withdrew from the case by refusing to continue without their own attorneys [12]. In the case of Campbell, Pepper Hamilton attorney Thomas Schmidt had flown to Memphis with a legal assistant and had hired a court reporter to take Campbell’s long-scheduled deposition. Everything was proceeding on schedule until only minutes before the deposition was to begin, when defense attorney Patrick Gillen announced that TMLC would “no longer retain” Campbell as a witness because Campbell had “retained counsel through Discovery Institute” and had “discussed matters [with DI] to which I am not privy.” Gillen learned of “these developments” only the night before [13]. Behe and Minnich, already deposed, remained as witnesses along with Nord, Fuller, and Carpenter.

It is clear from Campbell’s “Disclosure of Expert Testimony” submitted as part of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, that he is a proponent of “Teach the Controversy” which the Wikipedia article calls “a Discovery Institute intelligent design campaign to promote intelligent design, a variant of traditional creationism, while discrediting evolution in United States public high school science courses.


  1. Forrest, Barbara (May,2007), Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals. A Position Paper from the Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy, Washington, D.C.: Center for Inquiry, Inc.
  2. Does Seattle group “teach controversy” or contribute to it? Linda Shaw. The Seattle Times, March 31, 2005.
  3. Small Group Wields Major Influence in Intelligent Design Debate ABC News, November 9 2005
  4. “ID’s home base is the Center for Science and Culture at Seattle’s conservative Discovery Institute. Meyer directs the center; former Reagan adviser Bruce Chapman heads the larger institute, with input from the Christian supply-sider and former American Spectator owner George Gilder (also a Discovery senior fellow). From this perch, the ID crowd has pushed a “teach the controversy” approach to evolution that closely influenced the Ohio State Board of Education’s recently proposed science standards, which would require students to learn how scientists “continue to investigate and critically analyze” aspects of Darwin’s theory.” Chris Mooney. The American Prospect. December 2, 2002 Survival of the Slickest: How anti-evolutionists are mutating their message
  5. Teaching Intelligent Design: What Happened When? by William A. Dembski“The clarion call of the intelligent design movement is to “teach the controversy.” There is a very real controversy centering on how properly to account for biological complexity (cf. the ongoing events in Kansas), and it is a scientific controversy.”
  6. Nick Matzke’s analysis shows how teaching the controversy using the Critical Analysis of Evolution model lesson plan is a means of teaching all the intelligent design arguments without using the intelligent design label.No one here but us Critical Analysis-ists… Nick Matzke. The Panda’s Thumb, July 11 2006
  7. “ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard.” Ruling, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, page 89
  8. “That this controversy is one largely manufactured by the proponents of creationism and intelligent design may not matter, and as long as the controversy is taught in classes on current affairs, politics, or religion, and not in science classes, neither scientists nor citizens should be concerned.” Intelligent Judging — Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom George J. Annas, New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2277-2281 May 25, 2006
  9. “Some bills seek to discredit evolution by emphasizing so-called “flaws” in the theory of evolution or “disagreements” within the scientific community. Others insist that teachers have absolute freedom within their classrooms and cannot be disciplined for teaching non-scientific “alternatives” to evolution. A number of bills require that students be taught to “critically analyze” evolution or to understand “the controversy.” But there is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution. The current controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution is not a scientific one.” AAAS Statement on the Teaching of Evolution American Association for the Advancement of Science. February 16, 2006

7 Responses

  1. Sadly, the Kitsap Sun has endorsed John Campbell, without mentioning his ties to the Discovery Institute.

  2. That’s rather unfortunate.

  3. […] more good stuff in Ian Ramjohn’s article on the topic, pointing out that Campbell has offered an explanation for his withdrawal from the […]

  4. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  5. Identical comments here and at another of my blogs. Ok…

  6. Hello, I am from Hungary, from Budapest.

  7. I just happened to stumble across this site on a search about one of our (North Mason School District’s) school board members, and I have to say you reinforce my thought that, “just because you’re learned doesn’t mean you’re not an idiot.”

    I don’t know what sort of personal issue you have with the man John Angus Campbell…perhaps you didn’t grade high enough in one of his classes or somehow you feel that he is conspiring to (fill in here), but you assertions and assumptions, regardless of how many quotes and references and footnotes you cite, are quite lacking in reality.

    From my perspective as a North Mason resident, John has been an inspiration to our kids and a great teacher to the parents and our community about how constructive thought and debate can engender a better society and social narrative among all of the different factions and beliefs that do make up a community.

    His involvement as a school board member has, in my view, helped our broader community shed its invective approach to problem solving and has brought about more open, constructive debate that has, even as recently as this past school year, helped our struggling middle school achieve first place in Project Citizen at our state level its first time out. I can’t tell you how that has helped the kids at Hawkins Middle School turn around their beliefs about success and personal empowerment.

    John is not an “intelligent designer” as you seem to be trying to paint. He is an “intelligent thinker” and I personally enjoy engaging in conversation with him on all topics. He is truly a fan of Darwin, and any mention of the man or his work is certain to extend a conversation with John for quite some time 🙂

    I just want to close in saying that you spend a great deal of effort (it appears to me) to attempt to discredit or call into question the morals, intentions, or character of a man that I find to be a great human being and inspiration to myself and those in my community, and I could not let it stand unchallenged. John Angus Campbell is a great human, regardless of how you think such humans evolved.

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