Wednesday, November 14, 2007

PBS Documentary Exposes "Intelligent Design" Fraud

PBS has aired an important documentary in its NOVA series, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial". The program, NOVA describes the controversy that emerged from the 2004 decision by the Dover, Pennsylvania school board indicating science teachers must tell their students that "intelligent design" was an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution (or natural selection). This led to a teacher revolt, and parent's filing a lawsuit alleging violation of the separation of church and state.

Featuring trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, including expert scientists and Dover parents, teachers, and town officials, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" follows the celebrated federal case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District. This two-hour special was coproduced with Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Productions, Inc....

"There was a blow-up like you couldn't believe," Bill Buckingham, head of the school board's curriculum committee, tells NOVA. Buckingham helped formulate the intelligent-design policy when he noticed that the biology textbook chosen by teachers for classroom use was, in his words, "laced with Darwinism."

NOVA presents the arguments by lawyers and expert witnesses in riveting detail and provides an eye-opening crash course on questions such as "What is evolution?" and "Is intelligent design a scientifically valid alternative?" Kitzmiller v. Dover was the first legal test of intelligent design as a scientific theory, with the plaintiffs arguing that it is a thinly veiled form of creationism, the view that a literal interpretation of the Bible accounts for all observed facts about nature....

During the trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs showed that evolution is one of the best-tested and most thoroughly confirmed theories in the history of science, and that its unresolved questions are normal research problems—the type that arise in any flourishing scientific field.

U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III ultimately decided for the plaintiffs, writing in his decision that intelligent design "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents." As part of his decision, Judge Jones ordered the Dover school board to pay legal fees and damages, which were eventually set at $1 million.

"Judgment Day captures on film a landmark court case with a powerful scientific message at its core," says Paula Apsell, NOVA's Senior Executive Producer. "Evolution is one of the most essential yet, for many people, least understood of all scientific theories, the foundation of biological science. We felt it was important for NOVA to do this program to heighten the public understanding of what constitutes science and what does not, and therefore, what is acceptable for inclusion in the science curriculum in our public schools."

The NOVA website should be visited, not just to check your local broadcast times (though do that, too!), but because it also has a lot of interactive features related to the documentary, including audio of the judge and various scientific experts, an interview with Philip Johnson (the "father of intelligent design"), and an interactive documentary on Darwin's theories. (And a tip of the hat to U.J. for forwarding me information about the show.)

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