The new PBS documentary on the Dover trial, Judgment Day (optimistically reviewed by NCSE! The Discovery Institute in frantic denial!) starts here in the midwest in about a half hour. I’ve got my diet coke, I think I’ll pop some popcorn, and maybe I’ll take a stab at liveblogging the show. Let’s hope it’s lively!
Feel free to chime in with comments as we go.
7:10: The premise is clear: the creationists are trying to claim it’s about science, while the scientists like Scott and Miller and Padian are pointing out that it’s about religion. This is the “civil war” that’s going to tear up the community.
WIliam Bonsell claims this affair was all about giving something to the community — but he makes no bones about being a creationist and claims the world is only a few thousand years old.
7:20: Bill Buckingham (a retired policeman) gets asked to review the school’s textbooks by the school board … and finds the books “laced with Darwinism.” This triggers a summary of Darwin’s theory, using finches as an example, showing that species aren’t fixed.
Cool. Neil Shubin gets some air time.
Back to Buckngham, who finds evolution “personally offensive.” Tough cookies, Bill.
7:30: One of the incidents that started the conflict was that a mural portraying evolution was burned…Buckingham admits to have seen it burned. Buckingham also admits that he is looking for textbooks that combine evolution and creationism.
Lauri Lebo! She’s a reporter in Dover who was writing up the case and was also wrestling with personal concerns about creationism.
The Thomas More Law Center (which takes credit for introducing Buckingham to ID) and the Discovery Institute, via Of Pandas and People, get into the act.
Bleh. Steve Fuller explains the premise of ID with words written on a beach — life is too complex to have arisen by chance, it needed a designer. Buckingham thinks it’s god, Of Pandas and People refers to an “intelligent agent”.
Squirrely old Phillip E. Johnson claims there is no evidence for evolution, and says that an intelligent cause was required. Lebo says that the school board saw this as an intermediate position that would allow them to get the concept into the schools— but the teachers saw through it all and any purchase of “Pandas” was shelved.
Surprise! 60 copies show up anyway, the board passes a requirement that a disclaimer/ID-friendly statement be read. People resign over the mess.
7:45: Parents (including Kitzmiller) respond by filing suit. Hooray for concerned parents! Science teachers refuse to read the statement. Hooray for teachers!
We get a reenactment of the administrator reading the statement. Boy, those guys sound goofy.
A digression into the national support for ID: Santorum and Bush, and the many magazine articles on the topic. We meet Judge John Jones, who’d been appointed on the recommendation of Santorum by Bush.
The TMLC lawyer claims that all they had to do was show that ID was a credible scientific theory — the bar was set low. Ha ha, they failed.
Nick Matzke and the NCSE gets credit; the scientific team is introduced and we get a reenactment of Miller’s testimony. Judge Jones gets schooled on the basics of evolutionary theory.
‘ID teaches a history of life in which organism appear abruptly linked only by their common designer.’ This is rebutted by the discovery of transitional fossils — so Neil Shubin (this is why he’s in the show!) describes Tiktaalik, which was discovered in a timely way when the trial was in progress. Cool! Science! Show more of this!
7:50: This is the highlight of the show so far — nice discussion of why Tiktaalik is such a good example of a transitional fossil. Kevin Padian gives a summary; I really have to say that Padian’s explanation was amazingly good.
Ugh. After that good stuff, we get morons Bonsell and Buckingham saying that “evolution is just a theory”. Padian (in a reenactment) explains why that is wrong.
Hey, PBS really ought to pull out this 15 minute chunk and expand it into a full NOVA program.
8:00: OK, a little explanation of genetics. I object to the claim that it was founded on an understanding of DNA — pure genetics and genetics as originally understood as nothing to do with DNA. Otherwise, though, it’s a decent short summary of how novelties arise as mutations in a population.
Miller’s explanation of how the relationship between humans and other apes is revealed by the fusion apparent in human chromosome 2 (the story that Casey Luskin so foolishly mangled) is shown. More good stuff. I’m liking the parts in this documentary that explain the evolutionary story best. It’s making a good case for the power of evolutionary biology.
What about Intelligent Design? Does it play by the same rules, is it productive? Miller says no, so does Eugenie Scott. Now we’re just waiting for the defense to provide support for the claim that they have a scientific theory.
8:10: Tammy Kitzmiller gets hate mail, the teachers are called atheists. Buckingham can’t understand how teachers can be Christians and teach evolution — poor Bill Buckingham, he’s coming off as a contemptible cretin. He resigns, and a school board election is coming up. The bad guys have a sign that bills them as the “intelligent choice”. The Rehms (two teachers in the school) are examples of the problem: they run a sunday school, and are being accused of atheism.
The initial slate of defense witnesses changes fast: 5 of the 8 (including Dembski) bails out. They’re left with Fuller, Minnich, and Behe…and everything is resting on Behe’s testimony (we know what’s going to happen there.) We get a reenactment, since Behe refused to cooperate with the documentary.
Behe’s testimony is pretty flat after those strong examples of real science from Miller and Padian. The show has some nice animations of the bacterial flagellum and a discussion of its “irreducible complexity”… but is Steve Fuller, that clown, really the best defender of the ID the show could find?
8:20: Cool. Behe goes on about a paper by DeRosier that he says shows that the flagellum could not have evolved…and then the documentary brings on DeRosier, who says the structure shows all the signs of being a product of natural evolution. DeRosier discusses the homology between the flagellum and secretory structures. It looks like the show isn’t going to just present the IDists case — it’s going to refute them as it goes along! Oooh, that’s going to make the DI mad.
We get a discussion of the mousetrap analogy; I suppose it’s nice for people who are unfamiliar with it, but I’ve been hearing this stuff for about 15 years now.
Oooh, oooh: a recreation of Behe’s claim that there is no evidence for the evolution of the immune system, followed by the lawyers piling up the papers and books showing exactly what Behe claimed was not there.
The final day of testimony: Minnich brings out the flagellum again. He recites Behe’s claim that evolution of the flagellum could be recreated in the lab, and therefore ID is testable. The defense points out that neither Behe nor Minnich have even tried to do the experiment.
8:30: We get a personal note: Lauri Lebo’s struggle with her fundamentalist father. Ugh. Ray Mummert claims evolution is a slap in his face. Miller argues that religion and evolution are fully compatible (no, they aren’t).
So now we get a summary of the evidence that the school board’s actions were motivated by religion, in violation of the separation clause. The NCSE investigates Of Pandas and People. The link is made to Charles Thaxton in a 1981 article that discusses the planned book; they subpoena early drafts to see if there is a smoking gun of creationism.
Yay, Barbara Forrest, the real hero of the trial. She took apart the drafts, and found in the 1987 draft, that it was clearly discussing creationism. The next draft, after the Edwards court decision that slapped down creationism, simply changed the word “creation” into “design”. “Creationists” got changed to “cdesign proponentsists” — a transitional fossil in the texts. Forrest also uses Paul Nelson’s words to show that the IDists themselves knew that what they were doing was not science.
Oh, boy, another reenactment of Behe’s shining moment in which he admitted astrology would fit under his definition of science.
8:40: What? Steve Fuller claims that the genetic factors behind heredity, before the discovery of genes and DNA, were regarded as “supernatural”? Fuller is such an ignorant whackjob.
The Wedge Document is discussed. Johnson claims it is all quite innocent — he just wants to use his legal expertise as the thin edge of the wedge. Sure. Read it. He’s either delusional or lying.
Chapman summarizes: all this evidence is presented, and it’s clear that the whole intent of the DI gang is to simply deny.
Another great moment: Buckingham on local TV admitting that he thought Darwinism had to be balanced with “creationism”. It’s an outright admission that their motives were to introduce a religious idea into the school. He’s also found to have lied about the source of the Pandas book donation — he knew, he’d gotten the money from church donations, and the businessman who’d bought the books was Bonsell’s father. Both Buckingham and Bonsell are exposed as liars.
8:50: Bonsell and Buckingham try to defend themselves, but good grief, their credibility is nonexistent by this point.
Excerpts from the closing arguments; the school board election dumps the creationists; Alan Bonsell gets repudiated; Pat Robertson condemns Dover; all while Judge Jones labors to put together his decision.
People get the 139 page opinion by email — much rejoicing ensues. ID is not science, it is unconstitutional to teach ID, the proponents on the school board lied. Judge Jones himself reads part of it. Boom. Its a solid knockout.
Bill Buckingham calls Jones “disgustng” and an “ass”. Bonsell still claims he was trying to do best for the community. The TMLC is unhappy. The Discovery Institute distances itself from the case. Jones gets death threats.
9:00: Oh, go ahead and end on a sour note. Everyone agrees that the struggle will continue for a long, long time.
It was a very good program, and I can see why the DI is going to be unhappy about it. It presents the scientific case for evolution, and every mention of the design case is quickly countered in the documentary with a strong rebuttal and discussion of the science. It’s one solid smackdown of the creationists.
Still…the strengths were in the nice presentations of the science. There are pieces of ths show I’d like to extract and show in my intro class in the future — but it’s too long for a lecture supplement, and all the creationist crap, while socioculturally relevant, are distractions from the science.
I think they ought to make a new show with just Kevin Padian and Barbara Forrest discussing the science and philosophy of evolution. That would be perfect.