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Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Program Overview

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Charles Darwin Through courtroom scene recreations and interviews, NOVA explores in detail one of the latest battles in the war over evolution, the historic 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case that paralyzed a community and determined what is acceptable to teach in a science classroom.

The program:

  • traces how the issue started in the small, rural community of Dover, Pennsylvania, and progressed to become a federal court test case for science education.

  • defines intelligent design (ID) and explains how the Dover School Board was the first in the nation to require science teachers to offer ID as an alternative.

  • chronicles the history of legal efforts involving the teaching of evolution, beginning with the Scopes Trial in 1925 and culminating in 1987 when the Supreme Court ruled against teaching creationism.

  • summarizes Charles Darwin's original theory of evolution, as presented in his seminal 1859 work, The Origin of Species.

  • recreates portions of the trial from court records, noting that parents who initiated the lawsuit set out to show that the board had religious motivations for teaching ID.

  • presents evidence for the prosecution, including transitional fossils and genetic confirmation of Darwin's theory.

  • reports testimony about the nature of science, including what a scientific theory is, how science is done, and why ID is not science.

  • presents evidence for the defense, including the idea of irreducible complexity in structures like the bacterial flagellum, a system that provides propulsion for some bacteria.

  • shows a structure similar to the flagellum, but less complex, that functions in bacteria as an apparatus for transmitting disease.

  • recounts how the prosecution found evidence showing that the text referred to as a resource for ID, Of Pandas and People, had originally been a creationist text.

  • presents closing arguments and the judge's decision finding both that members of the school board had religious motivations for introducing intelligent design into the classroom and that ID was not a scientific theory.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after program is recorded off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial
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