Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Intelligent Design on trial

Transcript of today's show:

The PBS program NOVA brings the historic Dover trial to light in a two-hour documentary, titled "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial". The Dover trial exploded in a tiny Pennsylvania town in 2005 when parents sued their school board for introducing intelligent design into the science curriculum. To see the show online, visit And see our stories about the Dover trial at
[source: NOVA/PBS]

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excerpt from Judge Jones' verdict:
TThe evidence at trial demonstrates that intelligent design is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. What is likely the strongest evidence supporting the finding of intelligent design's creationist nature is the history and historical pedigree of the book to which students in Dover's ninth-grade biology class are referred, Of Pandas and People. Pandas is published by an organization called FTE, as noted, whose articles of incorporation and filings with the Internal Revenue Service describe it as a religious, Christian organization. Pandas was written by Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis, both acknowledged creationists, and Nancy Pearcey, a Young Earth Creationist, contributed to the work.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of intelligent design make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

It is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution. We do not question that many of the leading advocates of intelligent design have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that intelligent design should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.... [more]

from an interview with Phillip Johnson, a key proponent of intelligent design:
What if the Darwinian mechanism doesn't have the creative power claimed for it? Then something else has to be true. It's two sides of the same coin as I look at it, and that's why I've always devoted my energies to making the skeptical case about Darwinism. Others have evidence of a positive nature—irreducible complexity and complex specified information are part of that.

To understand the positive evidence I think we have to realize that Darwin was writing a long time ago. He didn't understand anything about complex specified information or the irreducible complexity of the cell. In Darwin's day it was thought that cells were simply globs of a kind of jelly-like substance, a protoplasm. So it didn't seem to be very difficult to imagine how you could get a blob of some substance like mud at the bottom of a prehistoric pond, lake, or ocean. But since Darwin's day an enormous amount has been learned about the cell.

This is why my colleague Michael Behe's famous book is titled Darwin's Black Box. The point there is that to Darwin the cell was a black box. It did something, but you didn't know how it did it. So the cell was a black box in Darwin's day, and now it's been opened. Thanks to the work of biochemists and molecular biologists since that time, we know that the cell is so enormously complex that it makes a spaceship or a supercomputer look rather low-tech in comparison. So I think the cell is perhaps the biggest hurdle of all for the Darwinists to get over. How do you get the first cell?

It's not just that if they get the cell then everything else will be easy. But it was thought in Darwin's day that the cell was no problem at all. The only problems came after that. How do you get from cells to complex animals and then to apes, and from apes to human beings? That's the story that he told. Now, I don't think that story will hold water when you look for proof rather than just accept it as an inevitable, logical consequence of a naturalistic philosophy that you're starting out with.... [more]

from an interview with Dr. Kenneth Miller, professor of Biology at Brown University:

Evolution is tested every day in the laboratory, and it's tested every day in the field. I can't think of a single scientific theory that has been more controversial than evolution, and when theories are controversial, people devise tests to see if they're right. Evolution has been tested continuously for almost 150 years and not a single observation, not a single experimental result, has ever emerged in 150 years that contradicts the general outlines of the theory of evolution.

Any theory that can stand up to 150 years of continuous testing is a pretty darn good theory. We use evolution to develop drugs. We use evolution to develop vaccines. We use evolution to manage wildlife. We use evolution to interpret our own genome. Every one of these uses of evolution is a test, because if the use turns out to be inadequate, we would then go back and question the very idea of evolution itself. But evolution has turned out to be such a powerful, productive, and hardworking theory that it's survived that test of time.

Evolution has great strengths in that it unifies biology and gives us a coherent explanation. Its only weakness is that it hasn't explained everything yet. Evolutionary theory has never been more active in terms of an area of inquiry and an area of scholarship than it is right now. Evolution as an idea has never been more useful than it is right now, because we use evolution everyday to interpret genomes, to develop drugs, to prolong the useful lifetime of antibiotics, to grow genetically modified crops—all these things have components of evolution in them.

If you look at the major scientific societies in the United States and around the world, not a single scientific society has made a statement or claim in support of intelligent design, in support of scientific creationism. In fact, quite the contrary. Every major scientific organization that I'm aware of that has taken a position on this issue has taken their position four-square in favor of evolution. So the notion that evolution is in some sort of crisis is just not true.... [more]

from a news release issued by Discovery Institute:

More than 50 years ago two playwrights penned a fictionalized account of the 1920s Scopes Trial called "Inherit the Wind" that is now universally regarded by historians as inaccurate propaganda. Last night PBS aired its "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design" documentary, which similarly promotes propaganda about the 2005 Kitzmiller trial and intelligent design (ID). Most of the misinformation in "Judgment Day" was corrected by ID proponents long ago.... [more]