By Michael Getler
November 20, 2007
Last week's Ombudsman's Column dealt with the presentation on PBS of "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" and included comments from viewers in the immediate aftermath of the Nov. 13 broadcast. The program generated a lot of reaction and mail, much of which was critical of the program and PBS, an opinion I did not share. In recent days, the mail to me has been even more intense and it has substantially reversed course, with a sizeable number of viewers praising the show and criticizing the negative views expressed in several of the e-mails published in last week's column. There are also some more letters critical of the program.
What follows is a representative sample of the letters newly arrived in our inbox. This is a very, very long Mailbag (even though several letters had to be shortened and it only includes mail received through Monday), but it is also a testimonial to the interest in this issue.
Meanwhile, have a fine Thanksgiving holiday.
Here are the Letters
I did not write earlier to comment on the excellent NOVA program on evolution and intelligent design. Reading the letters in your column reminds me that you need to hear from those of us who believe that the science of this issue was presented clearly and persuasively. The letters from those who feel that there was no balance are unimpressive. They remind me of my favorite bumper sticker "The facts, although interesting, are irrelevant." Thanks for the program.
Jenise Porter, Tucson, AZ
I attended the trial on "ID" in federal Court in Harrisburg and I found the PBS program, "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial," was an excellent show that accurately portrayed the trial proceedings. The trial clearly demonstrated a small portion of a mountain of evidence supporting evolution and the scientific untenability of ID as science. This trial was far more than Evolution vs ID. The heart of the trial was a conspiracy of religious fundamentalists and their efforts to dominate a public school board and introduce their religious beliefs into the science classroom. As a biology teacher I experienced the pressure of a School Board and administration to make biology compatible with Genesis. This court case and your program provide strong support for competent biology teaching. I strongly advise that PBS have a series of programs on evolution, from the inferential evidence of Darwin, to paleontological evidence, especially man, and on to the biochemical evidence, including origin of life chemistry. Keep up the good work PBS.
Lewis Brown, Wrightsville, PA
I have just finished reading the comments posted by various viewers in regards to the Nova program "Judgment Day" and one thing becomes clear immediately. All who were dismayed or unhappy with the program appeared to have missed the point completely. The point being that the trial was ultimately about the separation of church and state — the preaching of a religion wrapped up within the cloak of an alternative "scientific" view. Judging by the numerous references to God, it would appear that Judge Jones's legal opinion was spot-on!
Cecilia Ho, High Point, NC
The judge in the Intelligent Design case came to the conclusion that the ID case had not been convincing. This judge was appointed by George Bush and was known as a conservative. Presumably he did not have an inherent bias against ID and for evolution. Nevertheless, he was convinced by the evidence he heard that ID was not science and that it was clearly indicated by the facts of the case that it was merely a way to get creationism into science classrooms. The documentary presented the case in such a way that reasonable viewers would come to the same conclusion as the judge. I just don't understand the claim of bias. By the way, I am a conservative Christian who believes the Bible and works as a scientist who accepts the evidence that evolution is a reasonably good theory on the natural aspects of development of living organisms. Yes, it is possible to believe both of those things without contradiction. Also, I have noticed distinct bias in many other PBS broadcasts, just not this one.
Stephen Pruett, Starkville, MS
I also want to express my disappointment in "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." Not only did it display a PBS bias and fail to meet objectivity tests, there are some integrity issues that have come to light with the development of the program. According to WORLD magazine, "Paula Apsell, NOVA's executive producer, claims Michael Behe, Scott Minich, and other institute fellows declined to participate in the project. But Behe, Minich, and Stephen Meyer say they were excited for the chance to share their views when NOVA first approached them early last year. But negotiations over interview procedures broke down when Apsell refused to allow a Discovery Institute representative to record the exchanges for public release should NOVA use any statements out of context. Apsell instead offered to provide Discovery officials with complete footage of the interviews provided they signed away any right to make it public. Rob Crowther, the institute's communications director, told WORLD that arrangement defeated the purpose of holding NOVA accountable."
Charles Cain, Arlington, TX
Thanks for your commentary on Judgment Day. It is scary when the supposed followers of the gospels throw stones, becoming what they profess to abhor. Lying to advance one's beliefs is not a solution to anything, except to short term power. The ousted school board knew that to get power, one must take it, it is not given. Fortunately the plaintiffs also knew, acted on that, and prevailed. I really admire the judge for preventing, in his words, "the tyranny of the majority."
Wib Smith, Bell Buckle, TN
Disappointed in the Critics
I would like to thank Nova for their program "Judgment Day" about the attempt to get intelligent design into the classroom. I am very disappointed that those who criticized the program for being biased toward science were not following the case when it happened. If they had been, they would have seen that that propaganda was only coming from the ID (Creationist) side and that your show bent over backward to try to make this look like there were two legitimate sides when the evidence was overwhelmingly against ID. I thank Judge Jones for his excellent work on this case and his commitment to doing what is right. It is very sad that there are supposed Christians who would make threats against him.
Might I take this time to say thank you for the fine treatment of the non-controversy between creationism and evolution in your special Judgment Day. As a European with little if any access to PBS' excellent Nova program whenever I have been able to catch one of said shows I've always been pleased by the fact that Nova tends to act as the voice of reason in this world where political sensitivities or concerns about backlash from the religious majority would otherwise tend to discourage major news networks from doing a factual show like Judgment Day.
I expect you'll be getting a lot of angry mail from creationists and so I figured I would be one to say that your efforts were not unnoticed nor unappreciated by the science community and those laymen of us who love science and reason. We are seldom given a chance to present evidence for our case as the sums we can manage to present good science is limited and frankly the science community's abilities to communicate well with the public is close to non-existent — in the case of creationism we are thus fighting people with near endless funding and excellent PR not to mention that they can play on people's religious ideas to gain favor. In such a situation I am pleased that PBS is here to cut through with facts and evidence, the only unbiased source there is, and present it to the public.
David Nielsen, Arhus, Denmark
I'm not surprised at the complaints of bias from creationist or ID viewers but the Dover trial transcripts are online and if anything Nova was too kind to them. As far as the creationist complaints, they obviously let their emotions get in the way of understanding what was going on. Scientists presented only a tiny bit of the vast amounts of evidence for evolution at the trial and Nova only showed a small bit of that tiny amount. Thank you for showing the information on an exciting and interesting trial.
New York City, NY
I came online to praise you for the excellent program on ID aired this week. Having read all the comments, I feel I was rather naive, and I feel disappointed. I have come to rely on NET, PBS, WGBH over the past 30 years, during which time I have made multiple donations, and have volunteered my time. I have relied on in-depth reporting and exposure to thought-provoking material. I have thought of it as an opportunity to see and listen to presentations you rarely (if ever) see or hear on commercial TV. I, by the way, lament the day you decided to run commercials. But I agree with those who propose a less biased presentation of the facts as we know them. A central purpose in NE(ducational)T is to educate people, I would think, to use critical thinking. This can only be done with full exposure to whatever is known about the subject presented. I will not repeat what has been mentioned in the previous comments, but would encourage your less biased presentation of material, and a real opportunity for those with opposing views to present their positions.
Wow. I count 2 letters that recycle the old "if man came from monkeys why are there still monkeys" thing. This level of ignorance saddens me. Not only is it a straw man argument since evolution proposes that man and apes are distant cousins, not direct descendant, but it is also profoundly illogical. I came from Italians, yet there are, strangely still many Italians over in Italy. They didn't all "evolve" into Americans.
Steven Rigatti, Haddam, CT
Let me add another on the "pro" side of the email you have received. I, too, am an evolution "believer," though I hate that term. It makes it sound religious when it isn't. The evidence is overwhelming, and the successfully verified predictions are extremely compelling. I have no choice but to "believe" in the same way I have no choice but to believe in gravity. Rationality and reason give a person no choice here. I do not expect the fundamentalists to ever acknowledge this. God Himself could come down and tell them Darwin was right and they'd probably argue with Him. Irrational beliefs are the hardest to overcome.
Terry W., Gilbert, AZ
People Write to an Ombudsman Mostly to Complain
I was surprised by the 3:1 ratio. On the discussion forums, I would guess the responses were about 10:1 favorable; and most of the negative responses were from a small fraction who e-mailed many times. I did not know that I could write you directly until now. When we fought NM State battles in science education, the fundamentalists organized their congregations and flooded the State Board with their letters. I know. I was on the State Board. Please don't dismay. The program was truly outstanding and factual. Would the complainers ask that Nazis be treated "fairly" on World War II programs? Evidence is evidence. You presented the science and the courtroom evidence exactly as they occurred. That's good journalism. Pretending that both sides of the "case" were equal would be the same as broadcasting the Charles Manson case — without bias!!! That's a joke.
Marshall Berman, Albuquerque, NM
The NOVA episode "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" was fantastic. It did a great job of presenting the Dover trial, as well as the broader political controversy surrounding evolution. It raised the point that the public has been largely ignorant about evolution, and providing a simple explanation of evolution goes a long way toward combating the fallacies presented by creationism/ID proponents. After watching the documentary, it didn't occur to me that I should write a letter praising it. Sadly, many evolution-deniers are vociferous letter-writers, and have flooded the PBS inbox with complaints. Meanwhile, most of us who were enlightened by the program felt satisfied, and saw no need to fire off letters of praise. In retrospect, I'm sorry that I didn't write this earlier. I read many of the complaint letters that were posted. I want to praise PBS for posting those complaints; most of the organizations that attack evolution don't have the integrity to display or even acknowledge opposing viewpoints.
Dave P., Minneapolis, MN
After reading the emails you got from people regarding the NOVA program "Judgment Day" I want you to know that my family liked the program and was impressed by the detail. I followed the trial as it went to court and my mother and I have both read most the judge's decision. We thought you presented both the science and the politics of the situation very well. My parents, with little biology background, didn't find the science over their heads. Thank you and the producers of NOVA for having the courage to put on such a wonderful program, despite the obvious controversy it has caused.
Elizabeth K., Saint Paul, MN
Nova program on Dover, PA school board trial (some of which were caught knowingly attempting to subvert the Constitution) most excellent program. I read comments about a perceived bias on how the trial was presented, I only see the bias of the negative comments. Please keep up the good work on similar programs. Consider the number and content of negative comments as an indication the program covered the material well.
I find it interesting from reading the comments of viewers who watched "Intelligent Design on Trial" to learn that they apparently missed the central point of the trial, and the excellent summary of that trial which the program presented.
Most of the letters complaining of "lack of balance," and "bias" in the program seem to ignore or fail to comprehend that the trial was not ultimately on the merits of evolutionary theory and the idea of "intelligent design;" rather, on trial was whether or not ID is a "scientific theory," or idea, amenable to the conventions of the scientific process, and thus appropriate for inclusion in the curriculum of the science classroom.
Whatever the deficits or lacunas in the theory of evolution, it is solidly a scientific enterprise. Indeed, in today's world, as the program noted "nothing in biology makes sense" without its fundamental principles.
Conversely, ID fails to meet that epistemic standard. Certainly "picking holes in evolutionary theory" can well be a scientific undertaking, by the rules of science which we attempt to teach our students. But that criticism does not rise to a coherent materialistic, naturalistic theory, which is what ID purports to be. This conclusion is not a subjective one. Rather, it's the product of the very rules and principles which guided Judge Jones's decision, and the very rules and principles which we attempt to teach our young students as "good science." The trial didn't attempt a "balance" between evolutionary theory and ID. Rather, it was all about whether or not ID can even be weighed on the same scales. It can not, as the program convincingly showed.
After reading many of the comments over, "Judgment Day," on your site I must say I am dismayed of the general lack of knowledge of science and of our legal system of these respondents. Many forget that it was an actual trial with both sides given time for discovery and both sides submitting evidence to be presented to the other side. There were no surprises. I surmise your episode discussed evolution first for the plaintiffs in a trial do go first. The bias others see is merely the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence. This shows a monumental failure of science education in this country, partially and deliberately brought about by religious fundamentalists who have a feeling of, "righteous entitlement," to obscure and eliminate anything that goes against their religious beliefs.
Mitch Weitz, Hatfield, PA
One cannot give ID "fair treatment" when it hasn't earned such. We don't tell our students, "Alright, children. Let's put our chemistry books aside and let's look over Alchemy." We don't say, "Put your Astronomy books away, because it's time for Astrology." Neuro-science versus Phrenology? To learn something is, by definition, to displace a pre-existing belief. If learning about evolution threatens your pre-existing belief, discard that pre-existing belief and accept the education. To discard information for fear of its implications is willful ignorance.
Chris Chandler, Bowling Green, KY
Inbreeding at Harvard?
I am a Ph.D. Physical Chemist. I agree with the main points of the evolution broadcast but I also think the program showed the typical inbreeding one encounters at Harvard. Of course religion should not be taught in science classes, nevertheless, evolution leaves much to be desired. From everything that I know or pretend to know about the ways of the universe, it appears to be a case of evolution AND universal design, that stemming from the very structure of the universe itself. Sometimes, I think, NOVA goes too far in the method of educating the general public to the leftist, Harvard point of view which in my mind leaves a lot to be desired. I am mainly liberal left myself in case you think I am of the right.
Lawrence Gier, Grand Island, NE
I am honestly tired of hearing uninformed Bible-thumpers complain about "bias" in reporting stories involving intelligent design. They wouldn't defend the teaching of astrology in astronomy classes, they wouldn't argue that a Holocaust denier should be given equal time or that their "theories" are equally valid to the cold hard facts of history. But in this case, where their faith overrides their reason, they scream "Bias!"
The theory of evolution is arguably the strongest scientific theory known to man. There is more evidence to support it than there is evidence for the theory of gravity. It has been challenged for 150 years, efforts to suppress and destroy it have been incessant, yet every year new evidence is found to ever broaden and strengthen the foundation of the theory. I hate to break it to creationists, but the evidence is there, the science is there, the fossils are there, the "transitional forms" are there. Before attempting to disprove evolution, you're going to actually need to read the research material produced, it's obvious by the letters written here that most of the supporters of Intelligent Design, haven't read anything associated with actual evolution research in 40 years or more.
Finally, the desperate need to point to "scientists" who don't support evolutionary theory is truly pathetic. You don't go to your pediatrician for cancer treatment, you don't go to a neurosurgeon to treat your broken leg. Experts outside their field of expertise are no more experts than "Bob the roofing guy." The number of people who disagree with the evidence supporting evolutionary theory within the actual fields of research is infinitesimally small.
John M., Tucson, AZ
This battle between "Intelligent Design" and "Evolution" will never cease as long as the perspective remains narrowed to a fine point of discussion where partisan positions [the religious] maintain a posture of wishing to control and manipulate others. This is more a philosophical issue whose fulcrum of epistemology is based on either empiricism or matters of faith. Religious institutions wish to make it known that religion and science are mutually exclusive. Science, not really concerned with the overt tenets of religion, doesn't feel threatened as does religion. It is my contention that neither science nor religion are mutually exclusive. I say this for one significant enterprise...the realm of quantum physics where Newtonian Mechanics is incapable of expressing quantitatively the events of the small. Quantifying such events may be beyond our [mankind's] ability to comprehend — a physical constraint based on a biological matrix of our brain capacity. Our tools for measuring, gathering data, and expressing hypotheses may never exist for analysis. So are we doomed? No. There is a realm called "metaphysics" where all the unexplained phenomena lie. Maybe so with theology. It is a legitimate form of epistemology thus denying the claim to mutual exclusion of science and theology. And understand that no where is it written that empiricism [science] is the only repository of knowledge.
David Petersen, Kansas City, MO
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design: almost all of those people that took umbrage with this programs excellent factual coverage of a real event missed the point entirely. The point is that the Christian right wing group has practiced with unbridled deceit and mendacity a fraud of epic proportions; the repackaging of the discredited and factually incorrect creationism with a new name, Intelligent Design. It offends me and should offend all Christians that your religion is hijacked by deceitful con artists hell bent on propagating an unproven (un-provable) theory. All in the name of God — no where in the Bible that I own can I find that it is OK to lie to advance a moral cause. The program was excellent and covered the event. The one place that this program may have been deficient was in making the morally bankrupt liars that foisted this sham on Dover, PA answer more pointed questions. The Discovery Institute should have been interviewed and if you have a policy that denies both parties in an interview from having recordings of the interviews then you are WRONG!! I have been in broadcast television for over 40 years and NEVER would this occur on my watch. All parties are given window code copies of all interviews ALWAYS!!
Mike Knight, Tampa, FL
PBS is to be highly commended for the Judgment Day episode on Nova about the Dover trial on intelligent design. Thank you for having the courage to explore this issue and present such a fantastic program. I do astronomy education and public outreach both professionally and as a volunteer. The gaps between science and the public understanding of it can only be bridged with hard work, discussion, and excellent educational works such as those on PBS: Nova, Nature, and all your fantastic programs.
PBS is a national treasure, and future historians studying this period will see it as such, as humanity struggles to move forward in its intellectual coming of age.
Loretta McKibben, Tucson, AZ
I, too, watched Nova presentation re: ID & evolution as well as read a major portion of the mail you received. It seems to me that an awful lot of self-identified Christians missed a major point i.e. ID is based on religious principles & as such must be kept out of governmental institutions. I too believe in a form of ID & am not nor could I be a Christian. However, I do believe in a supreme being who certainly does not wear a grey beard nor does such a being dabble constantly in the affairs on this planet. We are each responsible for our own lives (I believe) & as such will some day be accountable. I enjoyed the Nova presentation & thank you.
Phyllis Koch, Portland, OR
Nope, I'm Not a Believer in Censorship of 'Responsible Science'
I read your column regarding the feedback on the intelligent design program. You stated in your column that you are a believer in evolution. Fine. I respect your opinion. But are you equally favorable toward censorship of responsible science that points toward ideas that differ from yours? It would appear so.
I can't say much more than the many letters have already said so accurately and eloquently, except to say that responsible and unbiased journalism is supposed to be about presenting ALL the facts, and it seems obvious to me that your understanding of the facts is apparently so limited that you believe that the Intelligent Design on Trial show WAS a fair treatment of the facts. I can tell you from 20 years of study that it was not. Not even close. And your apparent fear of the facts is evident in how you misrepresented one organization as declining to be interviewed who really only wanted the rights to record the interview so that they could present it without censorship and without your editorial liberties. They must know you well!
If you really wanted to know the facts, there is no shortage of ways to find them. But I suspect you are not interested in that. You mentioned, for example, that Darwinism was upheld in the court decision and that Darwinism is still valid today. Yet, Darwin himself said in his memoirs that if it could someday be proven that there are complex systems in the body that are dependant upon one another for their function, then his theory, in his words, "would completely break down." Well, thanks to the electron microscope that has revealed a microscopic world that Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined, that day has come. There ARE complex systems in the body that are interdependent, and so by the very laws of Natural Selection, they could NOT have evolved.
Even Dr. Dean Kenyon, PhD, a highly regarded professor at the University of San Francisco who co-authored the highly acclaimed book, Biochemical Predestination, which supports the idea of evolution, has now recanted the conclusions drawn in his book and now supports the concept of intelligent design based upon his continued and unbiased study. In other words, Dr. Kenyon didn't have an agenda in mind. He just went with where the facts were leading him, and the evidence is pointing in a different direction. He has the integrity to admit that his previous conclusions were wrong, even though dogmatic supporters of evolution are still using his book to support their dogma.
The common sense arguments against evolution are just too numerous to ignore: The huge gaps in the fossil record (i.e. no transitional species); fraud in constructing ape-man skeletons; ape-man skeletons that have now been denounced as scientific mistakes (i.e. "Lucy" at the Smithsonian, Neanderthal Man, etc); and this question: Did the first fish that crawled up on land have gills, or did it have lungs? If it had lungs, how did it survive under the water? If it had gills, how did it breathe up on the land? If it had both, how did it know that it needed lungs to breathe up on the land? And if it did somehow have both, how did it reproduce to pass on these traits without a mate that evolved exactly the same way at the same time in the same primordial pool? Even a child can understand the flaw in the thinking that one day — voila — two little fishys sprouted legs and lungs so they could crawl around on land and make more little fish/lizards. Talk about faith!
Andrew G. Robbins, Edinburgh, IN
I really did enjoy your program "Judgment Day." I was hoping that it would be even-handed in presentation. I was disappointed, but not greatly. Every time (it seems) I felt a hope of real questioning of the plaintiff's opinion — a solid discourse was put forth explaining their side. I didn't get that satisfaction for the defense side. I do understand this may be my personal myopia getting in the way. Bottom line — I think it could have been more objective. Thanks.
R. Jake Jacobson, Brooklyn, NY
The Nova documentary on the Kitzmiller v Dover trial was actually quite accurate in its presentation. At the time of the trial, I read the transcript for each trial day as they were made available on the Internet. Anyone who believes that the defendants or the defense expert witnesses were misrepresented by Nova should read the trial transcripts. I commend Nova and PBS for bringing quality and honesty to the public airwaves.
Charles Pruett, Jourdanton, TX
This was by far the best and most factual representation of the "controversy" between those who would void the Constitution and those who believe in it. Belief, Hope, and Faith, are not the same thing, and the definitions that were portrayed in this program were so incredibly rich and apprehend-able in their elegance and simplicity, that even a myopic creationist could understand them. This is must-see TV if there ever was any, to use an idiom from 5th Avenue. Darwin and Religion are not mutually exclusive, unlike ID and Darwin, and this show portrayed the facts, from factual court testimony.
James Mearns, Carmel, CA
ID is not science. The fact of evolution is supported by overwhelming evidence, and the scientific theory of evolution has been upheld by its predictive nature countless times. Endogenous retroviral insertions, human chromosome 2, tiktalik, just to name a few very recent predictions proven true. To deny the fact of evolution, in the face of all the evidence, is to enter a profound delusional state. You may as well dismiss the theory of gravity, the germ theory of disease, the atomic theory of chemistry, the theory of relativity, and the kinetic theory of matter (particle physics) while you are at it!
This NOVA was an accurate depiction of events. ID has been clearly shown as an inherently religious proposition. Draft editions of the book "Of Pandas and People" are blatant creationist teachings. The comparison of the ID version of the book to the draft editions leaves no room for doubt, as "intelligent design" is blatantly substituted for "creationism" throughout the entire text.
Bryan W., St. Petersburg, FL
The Missing Link
Those of you who have posted on here that PBS was horribly one sided have missed something. The very people who support ID refused to be interviewed. Add to that fact that they dropped like flies from testifying. Interesting! That should tell you something about the DI and ID itself. Also, when the star DI talking head gets pasted by STUDENTS, you know the time has come to give up the great joke and admit that DI and ID are just plain wrong.
Daytona Beach, FL
I just have to say thanks! I've been looking at the whole ID debate, but the explanations brought the details into focus. It shows that PBS/Nova put a lot of effort into the production. The definition of what is science should have been useful to a lot of people. Thanks again!
Michael Beavington, Ottawa, Ontario
I just viewed "Judgment Day" and found it very well done. It explained the evolution theory where I have a better grasp of it, and explained that in the scientific world, a "theory" has to be repeatedly tested in order to become a "theory." It is not JUST a theory as perceived by lay people; at least not in the world of science. But no matter; if people want to believe in the "Tooth Fairy," "Elvis sightings," "Santa," whatever . . . they will. It IS a free country that we live in, after all. However, these same people do NOT have the right to force me or my child to AS GOOD a theory as Darwin's, and I, for one, do NOT believe that "Intelligent Design," which is merely "Creationism," under a new marketing guise, qualifies as anything more than a BELIEF. And just because one BELIEVES in something does NOT make it TRUE!!! If the fundamentalists and believers in Intelligent Design want to teach it in their churches, that's fine, but don't try to stuff your religious BELIEFS down others' throats by masquerading said BELIEFS as SCIENCE!!! ESPECIALLY not in our tax funded public schools which are having enough trouble trying to teach our kids literacy as it is!!
S. Hill, Springtown, TX
I would like to thank PBS for some responsible journalism in the form of the documentary about the Kitzmiller trial in Pennsylvania. Too often, even our best news organizations attempt to present a false "balance" to controversial stories. But there is no equivalence between scientific theory (such as evolution) and cynical or wishful speculation (such as intelligent design). While I think the sociological and psychological study of pseudoscience is enlightening, and while I think that people deserve respect, I do not think that all ideas deserve respect. I think "Judgment Day" went a little way toward demonstrating that while everyone is entitled to their own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.
The theory of evolution by natural selection is remarkably robust, and the more we learn, the more tightly the web of facts shows that. That some folks take reality as personal insult only shows that we have evolved with a tendency to animism, to thinking that unconscious things and processes are, like us, deliberate agents. The more we learn about the world, the more we can be humbled and exalted by our very natural place in it. Perhaps as a side effect of traits that we have (via evolution), we have been able to create amazing artifacts and civilizations. Intelligent design is lazy thinking masquerading as humility, invariably wedded to ossified bias. At best it is a hijacking of the awe which drives science, at worst, it is the refuge of scoundrels who would denigrate hard-won human knowledge, and do so in service of unproven and wildly unlikely theism.
Jeanne Hand-Boniakowski, Wells, VT
Now that's the NOVA I grew up with! Thank you for objectively illustrating the current state of the battle. I can't believe the Christians I grew up with so profoundly support the Godless monster created by the Discovery Institute. No matter how ineptly they did so, the Discovery Institute has removed God from creation in ongoing efforts that have evolved into a fight against the scientific method, rather than some perceived defense of a specific religion. God is sacrificed by His followers, in a bid to wound a chosen enemy in the capricious political field. How can anyone who calls oneself "Christian" justify this sacrilege?
Having watched the documentary and read the feedback received I am dismayed but not surprised. Always it is cries of bias. True there is bias there but not of the type they claim. The bias is the bias of the truth against falsity. Surely the same complaints would be received if PBS produced a documentary on the Cottingley fairies similar complaints would be received from druidic pagans and new agers. However your level of conviction regarding a certain belief has no impact on its plausibility, truth, or correlation with the facts. Having followed ID for several years I can say the representation was accurate. As ID is a nebulous group of religiously driven contrivances, the proponents of ID have little to do other than complain while perpetually evading questions about why they do not publish, do no research, etc. Let us see your data. Where are your experiments? Where are they?
Jeremy Christian, Schwenksville, PA
The Issue Was 'One Sided'
I would like to applaud PBS for airing the "Judgment Day" NOVA special. I notice that a lot of the comments posted about this program have been about the pro-evolution bias of its content, equal airtime and such. As all viewers recognized, Intelligent Design is not a science whether they like it or not, thus the issue was one-sided, the trial was one-sided, and the judgment was one-sided. How could the reality of that issue be broadcast any other way? Bravo to PBS and to all seekers of true knowledge.
Chris Dankmeyer, Dillingham, AK
I would like to make some comments in regards to the PBS Nova presentation on intelligent design and evolutionary concepts. Is it true that there is linkage between creationist ideas and the idea of intelligent design? The presentation clearly pointed out that this is indeed the case. But are the scientists who are evolutionists on safe ground when they insist that their ideas are scientifically sound?
To judicially force scientists who are evolutionists to teach intelligent design in the public schools is not right, anymore than it is to force creationist scientists to teach evolutionary theory. But those scientists who are not evolutionists and wish to present the kind of information that supports intelligent design should be allowed to do so as freely as their evolutionary counterparts present evolutionary theory now. After all, the argument given by the ACLU during the Scopes trial was that not just one idea of origins should be taught in the public schools. Somehow, though, I question whether they ever really believed that. It may have been just a ruse to get into the lifeboat, so that once in, they could kick everybody else out. As to the so-called separation of church and state issue, let's face it. Evolutionary theory is also a religion. It just has a different set of gods. The creed? Father Time and Lady Luck created Mother Nature.
David Gracely, Pitman, NJ
I am a Christian with a master's degree from a leading seminary. And I am utterly appalled by the ignorance of science and the scientific method expressed by people who claim to be my co-religionists! Is science education in this country so poor that they would believe in the non-reproducible and insupportable "hypothesis" called Intelligent Design? Please keep producing shows like this one. It is clear that there is a crying need for *one* network to work against the forces of ignorance.
L.J. Evans, Easthampton, MA
God I love it when the pigs squeal. That makes it controversial, of course. Credit to PBS for producing and showing the program. Now if you can do the same for your news programs PBS will become once again a news source you can trust. And watch for news and information.
Tom Felt, Tucson, AZ
The debate between creationism and science is about faith and the lack of natural evidence in the universe to support that faith. The solution to this paradox is in faith alone. If God is omnipotent and responsible for having created all, then God created the evidence that the universe is much older than 4000 years as well.
One point touched on in Nova's presentation was the label "theory" as it is applied to Darwin's work. A scientific theory remains a theory rather than a fact because as new evidence is revealed about the way the universe works, it is tested again and again. If it loses validity with new evidence, another theory may very well become accepted in its place. One crucial test of the validity of a theory is its ability to make predictions about nature. Darwin's theory is a tool for scientists, not a faith. It gives scientists the basis for postulating more detailed theories about the way we get sick, reproduce, and develop so that we can hopefully develop science that will help us get well, reproduce without defects, and develop with health. Even if we accept that God created the universe in 7 days and 7 nights, our science requires that we accept that Darwin's reading of God's and Nature's evidence as the best science.
David Lay, Cumberland Center, ME
Shame on PBS and the CPB. I just watched your program Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Then, I reviewed your Editorial Standards and Policies. I am convinced that this program failed to meet some important principles and standards which you have set out to seek. Specifically, your Guiding Principles, under the Quality section, state that you "seek . . . accuracy, balance, fairness . . . credibility." These you failed to meet. You presented a one-sided editorial about the issues in this trial, commonly dismissing the other side of the argument by stating that "so and so (someone opposed to your arguments) declined to be interviewed for this program." This is the same technique that programs that you do not carry, like The "O'Reilly Factor," are criticized for employing. What I saw was propaganda portrayed as an honest presentation of the two sides of a lawsuit.
Jim, Draper, UT
On the State of Science Literacy
To the extent the case made appeared "biased" in favor of evolution, is not the fault of PBS nor a mere accident. It simply represents the reality of the debate and weight of evidence in favor of evolutionary arguments and science itself — which is why Judge Jones decided as he did in the Dover case. The letters received by PBS, I am sorry to say, represent the sad state of science literacy in America and the inability of many religious believers to think critically and honestly about anything that might challenge their faith.
Some basic notions often overlooked are the differences between evolution as an historical fact versus theories to explain how it works; and the origin of life versus the origin of species. Evolution has occurred and continues. This is a fact. The evidence is overwhelming. Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection explains one of the key drivers of evolution — why species arise, change or become extinct over long stretches of time. Scientists are still investigating all the factors involved — so the theories are still a work-in-progress. But this on-going work does not change the fact that evolution has occurred. The fossil record alone shows life has changed — and changed dramatically — over billions of years. And there are many other observable facts confirming the evolution of life. Given the evidence available today, any reasonable person must conclude that evolution is a real process in nature. To deny this is intellectually dishonest.
Secondly, Darwin's theory speaks to the origin of species (as well as their demise) and not the origin of life. The origin of life is still being investigated but it's clear from the fossil record it began long ago with simple life forms — not the complex life forms we see today. Humans are part of this larger story of life and appear very late in the story. The implications of evolution that religious believers cannot accept is that the special creation of man by God clearly did not happen. At best, some "creator" set life on its course billions of years ago. This is a far cry from the Genesis story we are supposed to swallow without any evidence. To say evolution is not true because it does not explain the origin of life is a red herring. However life began, evolution picks up the story from there. It does not have to explain the origin of life to be true.
Chris Rauch, Seattle, WA
Belief in a creator or intelligent designer does not automatically equate to religion. Religion is belief in a controlling power, a need to worship, a need to practice certain rites or observances, etc. Creation and Intelligent Design, by themselves, do not require religion. The Judge's equation of Intelligent Design to Religion is presumptuous.
Intelligent Design implies an event or events that will never be supported or explained by science, yet Evolution ultimately depends on at least one event that also will never be supported or explained by science; that being the origin of matter or energy. According to science, matter is neither created nor destroyed, so where did it come from in the first place? It is at that point where Evolution and Intelligent Design must come together. Thus Evolution and science take over where Creation or Intelligent Design leaves off, regardless of how far back in time science may need to go to discover that point.
Intelligent Design and Evolution can be compatible and the science class will not be harmed by the common sense recognition of the possibility of Intelligent Design at some point in the past. In fact, that would be the right thing to do. Nevertheless, there is a very valid concern that the strong link between Intelligent Design and religion would enable those with a religious agenda to introduce religion into the science classroom and that would be wrong.
Joe Brafford, Dayton, OH
It's 1:30 a.m. here in Edmonton and I have just finished watching "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial." Being a Ph.D. student in psychology who has a loooot of work waiting for him tomorrow, you might expect that I'd have some mixed emotions about being up so late. I will excitedly state here that this is not the case! I think that watching your documentary may prove to be two of THE most WELL-SPENT hours of my life. Absolutely brilliant.
Christopher Armstrong, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
An American Controversy
First of all, congratulations to your work! Your documentary "Judgment Day" was a very enjoyable and entertaining piece of unbiased journalism (something exceedingly hard to find in America's "free" press). It was very courageous for PBS to take on this topic. However, make no mistake, this "controversy" only exists in the USA, in most other industrialized countries (I am from Europe), this topic is of little interest, since the debate has long ago been decided in favor of evolution.
The weakness of the argument from design (what Creationism/ID essentially is) has been exposed centuries ago, the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and keeps coming in, especially from the field of genetics. Modern biology and medicine are unthinkable without this theory. The underlying ideas of evolution have been successfully applied to other fields of science (like engineering and computer science), one of the hallmarks of a truly successful scientific theory. Evolution is a fact, as hard a fact as they get in science (where in principle everything can be overturned when new evidence comes in, but the likelihood for this to happen in this case is nil).
I am always amazed by the tenacity & futility on display when this topic is discussed in America. It is usually also characterized by a rather obvious lack of understanding of the theory of evolution in particular and the epistemological and methodological foundations of science in general on the part of the Creationism/ID proponents. The call for "balanced" representation of the issue (which according to quite a few commenters PBS failed to deliver) is so blatant an appeal to the sense of justice of the reader in a desperate effort to win him over in the face of an utter lack of supporting evidence for ID. PBS represented the issue in a one-sided way, because this is simply how it is. Just having a different opinion does not mean that it deserves to be heard, especially if it is as uninformed as ID (By the way, PBS tried to interview ID "experts" but they refused. Unfortunately, PBS did not provide more details which most likely would have been very interesting and enlightening, not to say amusing.) Positing ID as a viable alternative to evolution is a dishonest misrepresentation of the facts. It deserves as much serious consideration as the idea that the earth is flat. The battle is over, it long was, and the truth often has a liberal elite bias.
Dierk B., Minneapolis, MN
PBS gleefully produces the prosecution's case, successfully winning a ban on Intelligent Design information in public schools. PBS uses the action as a shield for involvement in an anti Intelligent Design documentary (carefully) accomplishing their objective, selling it as "objective" documentary.
The prosecutor in this case effectively used his skills to manipulate an overly honest, forthcoming scientist for the "ID" defense, to include "astrology" as a science. (Using the "testability" definition where science is a process testing a theory by gathering information and attempting to refute or prove the theory.
How childish and moronic can a court case become? Observe the attorney for the prosecution's questioning: "Can 'astrology' be science by your definition?" Answer: "Yes." The attorney follows, "In your opinion, is Intelligent Design also a science?" Unaware of the trap, the compliant scientist answers, "yes." The attorney makes his move: "So you believe Astrology and Intelligent Design are science?" The scientist, intimidated and frozen replies: "Yes." The trap slams shut, and the Judge becomes aroused at the prosecutor's courtroom skills. The prosecutor overwhelms the judge on an unsound logical progression.
Alan Avery, Ft. Myers, FL
Let me put it as simply as possible: Intelligent Design/Creationism and Evolution cannot be scientifically proven and therefore is about faith and should not be taught in a science class. They both should be taught in a Philosophy class. For those who disagree with me on whether science has proven Evolution to be fact, let them scientifically prove to me that something can be made from nothing (which proves our existence). Until then, I'm with the Faith folks.
Duane Steil, Reno, NV
Was waiting for a program concerning evolution on PBS to finally show fairly both sides of the creation/evolution debate. I am still waiting. Native Americans are light years beyond us as they knew there was a "great spirit." They just didn't know his name. Creationists are not attempting to fit the Bible in science, educated creationism simply says that real science fits what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years. The team that "discovered" the "dino fish" could have saved a lot of money in travel and research. A fisherman netted a coelacanth off the coast of Madagascar in 1938. A couple of years ago, this "find" was big news even though these "extinct" fish are alive and well in other parts of the world.
Tom M., Evansville, IN
Upon watching Nova's "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" I was deeply disturbed by the heavy-handed, one-sided and dogmatic approach PBS/Nova took. I found it somewhat amusing to see the scientific community taking a dogmatic stand in support of the evolutionary origin of life much like the catholic church did in the middle centuries against anyone that dared to go against the predominate doctrines of the previous centuries. The reason this topic is so contentious is that neither side wants to admit that the origin of life comes down to faith. Evolutionary science has no viable scientific explanation of the origin of life just like intelligent design has no viable scientific evidence as to the origin of life. The scientific processes that came after the origin of life are clearly up for discussion and should be investigated rigorously. Nova's proclamation that Darwinian evolution answers how LIFE came about is simply unsubstantiated in scientific literature. We simply don't know . . .
Jeremy Calkins, Seattle, WA
"Judgment Day" was brilliant. Though I see it in the news more and more, I find it amazing that evolution v. creationism is still an issue in our public schools. I want to thank PBS for airing this documentary. We absolutely need to keep abreast of situations in which our Constitutional rights are being infringed upon by religious fanatics so that we may stand up to protect ourselves. It is the only way we as a nation can still call itself The Land of the Free.
Meredith E., Chicago, IL
I have been watching the episode on your website, and it is very well done. I have also read through the transcripts of the case prior. I think PBS could've done themselves a big favor in explaining in this particular episode of NOVA that the Theory of Evolution does not specifically answer the question of the origins of life on this planet, rather how life changes over time from less complex organisms into more complex organisms. I would point them to the theory of abiogenesis. Bravo PBS for having the courage to stand up for what science is, what is right, in the face of the religious right. It's about time someone refused to pander to them.
D. Henderson, Lexington, KY