Intelligent Design on Trial
Science is "Exhibit A" in a landmark trial on the teaching of evolution. Airing November 13, 2007 at 9 pm on PBS Aired November 13, 2007 on PBS
(This program is no longer available for online streaming.) In this two-hour special, NOVA captures the turmoil that tore apart the community of Dover, Pennsylvania in one of the latest battles over teaching evolution in public schools. 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 program was coproduced with Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Productions, Inc.
In 2004, the Dover school board ordered science teachers to read a statement to high school biology students suggesting that there is an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution called intelligent design–the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore must have been designed by an intelligent agent. The teachers refused to comply. Later, parents opposed to intelligent design filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the constitutional separation of church and state.
"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."
For years to come, the lessons from Dover will continue to have a profound impact on how science is viewed in our society and how it is taught in the classroom.
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial
PBS Airdate: November 13, 2007
NARRATOR: Dover, Pennsylvania: like much of the United States, Dover has become a town divided.
ALAN BONSELL (Dover School Board Member): I personally don't believe in Darwin's theory of evolution.
ROBERT ESHBACH (Dover Science Teacher): Saying that you don't believe in evolution is almost saying, for us, well, "We don't believe that the Civil War ever took place in the United States."
NARRATOR: Dover is split between those who accept Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and those who reject it. And that rift between science and scripture nearly destroyed the community.
Signs of trouble first appeared after a Dover High School student painted a mural showing the evolution of humans from ape-like ancestors.
BERTHA SPAHR (Dover Science Teacher): It was a lovely piece of artwork, very well done artistically, and it did not offend me in any way.
NARRATOR: But some in Dover were offended by the idea that humans and apes are related, and that mural was removed from the classroom and destroyed.
Flames soon spread to the local school board. Angry that only Darwin's theory of evolution was being taught, the board required students hear about a controversial idea, at odds with Darwin, called "intelligent design."
BILL BUCKINGHAM (Dover School Board Member): To just talk about Darwin to the exclusion of anything else perpetrates a fraud.
NARRATOR: But many say intelligent design is the fraud.
KENNETH R. MILLER (Brown University): Intelligent design is a science stopper.
KEVIN PADIAN (University of California, Berkeley): It makes people stupid.
NARRATOR: Eleven Dover residents sued their school board to keep intelligent design out of the classroom. And almost overnight, Dover was catapulted to the front pages of the nation's newspapers and the front lines in the war on evolution.
EUGENIE C. SCOTT (National Center for Science Education): Trials tear communities apart. They set neighbor against neighbor. Nobody wants to do this; you do it when you have to.
NARRATOR: With Dover split down the middle, a federal court would decide if intelligent design is legitimate science or religion in disguise. And the verdict would have consequences that reach far beyond the classrooms of Dover.
BARBARA FORREST (Southeastern Louisiana University): It's about religion, politics and power.
NARRATOR: Up next on NOVA: Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.
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NARRATOR: In October, 2004, a war broke out in the small town of Dover, Pennsylvania.
PETER JENNINGS (ABC NEWSCAST): Today, the teachers in a rural Pennsylvania town became the first in the country required to tell students that evolution is not the only theory.
NARRATOR: It started when the Dover Area School Board passed a policy requiring that its high school science classes include a controversial subject called intelligent design.
Proponents of intelligent design claim that many features of living organisms are too complex to have evolved entirely through the natural process of evolution, as Charles Darwin proposed. Instead, they claim, some aspects of those organisms must have been created, fully-formed, by a so-called "intelligent designer." And advocates contend intelligent design is a bold, new scientific theory, with the power to overthrow the theory of evolution.
ROBERT MUISE (Thomas More Law Center): It's scientists debating science based on the evidence–not any religious text or authority–and it's clearly properly the subject of a science class.
STEVE FULLER (University of Warwick): It's, in fact, opening the path of inquiry to new ways of thinking about things.
PHILLIP JOHNSON (University of California, Berkeley School of Law): If evolution by natural selection is a scientific doctrine, then a critique of that doctrine is a legitimate part of science as well.
NARRATOR: The Dover school board demanded that science teachers read their students a one minute statement claiming that gaps in the theory of evolution exist, and putting forward intelligent design as an alternative. The statement also directed students to an intelligent design textbook called Of Pandas and People that would be made available.
But many Dover residents and an overwhelming number of scientists throughout the country were outraged. They say intelligent design is nothing but religion in disguise, the latest front in the war on evolution.
EUGENIE C. SCOTT: The goal of intelligent design is to try to re-Christianize American society.
KEVIN PADIAN: Intelligent design is not, anywhere, a scientific concept. It's not a field of science. It's not being actively researched by anyone.
KEN MILLER: It's a violation of everything we mean and everything we understand by "science."
NARRATOR: The stage was set for a battle that would pit friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: It was like we shot somebody's dog. I mean, there was a blowup like you couldn't believe.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III (U.S. District Judge): It was like a civil war within the community, there's no question.
NARRATOR: Before it was over, this battle would land the school board in federal court.
No cameras were allowed in the courtroom, so to bring this historic showdown between evolution and intelligent design to light, NOVA has dramatized key scenes from court transcripts.
It was a six-week trial in which modern biology was Exhibit A, and hanging in the balance was not just the Dover biology curriculum. The future of science education in America, the separation of church and state, and the very nature of scientific inquiry were all on trial.
In Dover, Pennsylvania, the debate over religion and evolution has long been personal.
BERTHA SPAHR: We live in a community that has a great many fundamentalist churches.
RAY MUMMERT (Dover Pastor): I've never appreciated the fact that my children are being taught to believe in evolution as opposed to creationism.
MALINDA FORREY: "In the beginning, God created..." To me, that's all I need to know.
NARRATOR: Located in the southeastern part of the state, about 20 miles from the capital, it's a quiet, rural place, home to about 20,000 people, more than a dozen churches, and one high school.
One of the first people in Dover to sense that trouble was brewing was Bertha Spahr. She had been teaching science at Dover High School for almost 40 years. In the spring of 2003, she received some disturbing news from the school district's assistant superintendent.
BERTHA SPAHR: He actually came to my classroom one evening after school and said, "Bert, I think I need to give you a heads up. There is a school board member who is talking about equal time...whether it be 50 percent...but certainly equal time for creationism. And I think you need to be aware of this." That's when the red flag went up.
Another science teacher, Bryan Rehm, heard this too.
BRYAN REHM (Dover Science Teacher): I had actually laughed at him because I thought that was the funniest thing I'd heard. I mean, creationism was ruled out in public education and science when I was in junior high school.
NARRATOR: When Bertha Spahr asked which school board member was interested in creationism being taught alongside evolution, she was told it was a local businessman named Alan Bonsell, who had recently joined the school board.
ALAN BONSELL: My family and I have been very blessed here, and I've had family that have lived in the Dover area for 100 years. So it was something that...to give back. And I thought that I could help to try to make Dover, you know, the school district, a better place.
NARRATOR: When Bonsell had questions about how evolution was taught at Dover High School, Bertha Spahr and her biology teachers agreed to meet with him.
ALAN BONSELL: I had a meeting with some of the science teachers in the high school just to see what they taught or didn't teach in the high school science class.
JENNIFER MILLER (Dover Science Teacher): And creationism really didn't come up at that meeting, it was more, "how do we teach evolution?" And he seemed very satisfied. He was okay with how we taught, and we thought everything was good, and we went on our merry way.
ROBERT ESHBACH: If you'll recall, he did enlighten us, at that time, that he did not...wasn't his belief that evolution is how things came about.
JENNIFER MILLER: Right. That's correct.
ROBERT ESHBACH: He felt the Earth was not much more than 4,000 years old.
ALAN BONSELL: I personally don't believe in Darwin's theory of evolution. I'm a creationist. I make no bones about that.
NARRATOR: Creationists like Bonsell reject much of modern science in favor a literal reading of the Bible. They believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that God created everything fully-formed, including humans, in just six days.
Although most mainstream religions made peace with evolution decades ago, many creationists still see evolution as incompatible with their faith. And both creationism and evolution are no strangers to the court. Their legal battles stretch back to the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.
Dick York As Bertram T. Cates/Clip from Inherit the Wind): As I told you yesterday, Darwin's theory tells us that man evolved from a lower order of animals.
NARRATOR: In that case, a high school science teacher in Tennessee, named John Scopes, was accused of violating state law by teaching evolution.
(Frederic March as Matthew Harrison Brady ): I hereby place you under arrest.
NARRATOR: Loosely portrayed in the classic film Inherit the Wind, the trial turned into a courtroom showdown between legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow...
SPENCER TRACY As HENRY DRUMMOND Clip from Inherit the Wind): The defense wishes to place Dr. Keller on the stand so that he can explain to the gentlemen of the jury the exact meaning of the theory of evolution.
NARRATOR: ...and three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan.
ELLIOT REED As PROSECUTER TOM DAVENPORT/Clip from Inherit the Wind): If you had a son, Mr. Sillers, what would you think if that sweet child came home from school and told you that a godless teacher...
SPENCER TRACY As HENRY DRUMMOND Clip from Inherit the Wind): Objection!
NARRATOR: Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution, and slapped with a mere hundred-dollar fine. But the verdict would have a chilling effect on science education throughout the country for the next three decades.
EUGENIE C. SCOTT: After the Scopes trial, textbook publishers decided that evolution was just too controversial a subject, and so they just quietly removed it from the textbooks. And for most of that time, the textbook was the curriculum, and, so, if it wasn't in the textbook, it didn't get taught.
NARRATOR: The chilling effect of the Scopes trial did not thaw until the 1960s. But as publishers slipped evolution back into their textbooks, creationists fought to teach their views in science class as well.
Over the next 30 years, the two sides battled it out in court. The fight culminated in 1987, when the Supreme Court decided that teaching creationism in public school science classes violated the separation of church and state mandated by the constitution in the Establishment Clause, which prevents the government from promoting or prohibiting any form of religion. To this day, teaching creationism in public school science classes anywhere in the United States remains a violation of students' constitutional rights.
Another Dover school board member, Bill Buckingham, a retired policeman, was appointed by Alan Bonsell to head the curriculum committee. It was his job to review all requests for new textbooks.
The 9th grade biology teachers had asked for a widely used book, co-authored by biologists Ken Miller and Joe Levine. But Buckingham did not like what he saw.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: In looking at the biology book the teachers wanted, I noticed that it was laced with Darwinism. I think I listed somewhere between 12 and 15 instances where it talked about Darwin's theory of evolution. It wasn't on every page of the book, but, like, every couple of chapters, there was Darwin, in your face again. And it was to the exclusion of any other theory.
NARRATOR: And at a school board meeting in the summer of 2004, Buckingham made it clear he wasn't comfortable approving that book. The school board put the purchase on hold.
So what was it about Charles Darwin's theory that Buckingham objected to?
Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859, in a book called On the Origin of Species, and it has been sparking controversy ever since. It was the culmination of work Darwin started more than two decades earlier, after sailing around the world on a ship called the Beagle.
On that expedition, Darwin collected thousands of plants and animals that were unlike any he had ever seen before. And when he returned home to England, he became particularly fascinated by the many different birds he had found on a remote chain of islands off the coast of South America called the Galapagos.
KENNETH R. MILLER: There was a bird that looked to him like a warbler, and another one that looked to him like a woodpecker, and another one that looked like a finch, and so forth. And he wasn't sure what these birds were. But they were all clearly adapted for very different ways of life. Some ate insects. Some, for example, picked up small seeds. Some could crush the large seeds of certain plants which were found on the Galapagos. So they had different appearances, different beaks, different styles of life
NARRATOR: When Darwin asked for help identifying these birds, he was in for a surprise.
KENNETH R. MILLER: He was floored. He was stunned to discover that the expert ornithologists in Great Britain told him, "They're all finches. That's not a woodpecker, it's a finch. That's not a warbler, it's a finch."
NARRATOR: But why, in this small chain of islands, had he found finches with such different characteristics?
Darwin reasoned: in nature, individual organisms compete for limited resources like food. If, for example, a bird is born with a slightly larger beak than the other members of the population, that might give it an advantage on an island where large seeds are more common.
Over many generations, birds with large beaks would be more likely to survive and reproduce, handing down this advantageous beak shape to greater numbers of offspring than those with smaller beaks.
Darwin called this process "natural selection," because the forces of nature, such as the environment of an individual island in the Galapagos, select those organisms best suited to that environment. And he believed that, over time, this could give rise to new species.
KENNETH R. MILLER: What Darwin pointed out was a general principle, which is easily observed in nature: species are not fixed, that with natural selection pushing or pulling or splitting, species can change over time.
NARRATOR: Darwin thought all the different kinds of plants and animals we see around us today, including humans, could have arisen by this process.
He called the gradual evolution of new species from old "descent with modification," and he pictured the relatedness of all living things as a great tree of life, with each twig a different species ultimately springing from a common ancestor.
NEIL SHUBIN (University of Chicago/The Field Museum): As you follow the family tree farther and farther back, say, from our twig, which–we're just one twig on this vast tree–what you see our similarities with apes; and going further down, our similarities with other mammals; further down, our similarities with reptiles; further down, our similarities with amphibians, fish, all the way down to worms, and jellyfish and so forth. What you see is a continuity of life on the planet, because we're not exceptional in any great degree, we're just a twig on a giant evolutionary tree that includes everything.
NARRATOR: The common ancestry of all forms of life was one of Darwin's great insights. But he recognized disturbing implications in the idea that humans had evolved from ape-like ancestors.
KENNETH R. MILLER: In the eyes of a lot of people, once Charles Darwin had proposed that natural processes could have produced every species on this planet, including us, they felt that took God out of the picture.
NARRATOR: And about a century and a half later, many people in Dover, like the United States as a whole, agree. To this day, somewhere between a third and half the U.S. population does not accept evolution.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: I find it personally offensive, because I'm a Christian. I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and that the Book of Genesis tells it like it is as to how we came into being. God didn't create monkey and then take man from a monkey. He created man.
NARRATOR: In Dover, hostility to the theory of evolution had already erupted in vandalism after a student at the high school painted a 16-foot mural depicting the evolution of humans from ape-like ancestors. The mural was on display in a science classroom, when someone removed it from the school and burned it.
Now, as Bill Buckingham continued fighting the purchase of the biology book at school board meetings, the science teachers began to suspect that he had been involved.
BERTHA SPAHR: This idea of man and monkey came into the conversation, and I immediately remember saying to him "Does this have anything to do with that mural that disappeared?"
ROBERT ESHBACH: And that's when he made the remark that he gleefully watched it burn.
JENNIFER MILLER: Right, sort of under his breath, though we heard what he said.
NARRATOR: Though Buckingham denied any involvement in the incident, when he reportedly announced he was searching for a biology book that included evolution and creationism, the school board meeting erupted in chaos.
CHRISTY REHM (Dover English Teacher): Typically, a school board meeting is a very dry thing, couple of people show up because they have a certain issue they want to discuss. But these meetings would be hundreds of people, and it would be hot, and people would be upset, and it was a zoo. It was just an absolute madhouse.
TAMMY KITZMILLER (Dover Parent): Ludicrous, bizarre...there's many adjectives I could use. They were disrespectful to the public, disrespectful to the teachers. They didn't want to listen to anybody. They were just on their own agenda.
ALAN BONSELL: Sometimes in a democracy, and when you have nine different personalities together, and you have a controversial issue, in the heat of the moment, somebody might say something they wish, 10 minutes from now, they wouldn't have said.
NARRATOR: The controversy engulfing the school board caught the attention of local newspaper reporters, including Lauri Lebo, who grew up in the area.
LAURI LEBO (Journalist): From the first time I heard school board members were talking about creationism, I thought this could become a big issue. I didn't realize how big, but I certainly knew I was intrigued by it.
NARRATOR: Lebo began reporting on the controversy. But her interest in the issue was not just professional, it was also personal. Lauri's father had been the owner of a local radio station, but the oldies format wasn't paying the bills, and the electric company was about to put him off the air.
LAURI LEBO: The next day a gentleman came in who belonged to a local church...wanted to lease programming on the radio station and offered to pay a decent sum of money. And overnight the radio station became Christian radio station. My father became born again.
NARRATOR: In her articles, Lebo would write about the 1987 Supreme Court ruling that would keep Buckingham from introducing any creationist text into biology class. In the meantime, Buckingham was in touch with two organizations known for questioning Darwin.
One was a public interest law firm in Michigan called the Thomas More Law Center. Headed by former public prosecutor Richard Thompson, famous for his efforts to convict assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, the firm bills itself as "the sword and shield for people of faith."
RICHARD THOMPSON (Thomas More Law Center): Bill Buckingham contacted me as a private citizen, and also as someone who was concerned that the biology textbook presented only one side. And he thought there should be other alternative theories involved. And that's when I introduced him to the theory of intelligent design and indicated that I thought that that theory could be taught alongside the theory of evolution and pass constitutional muster.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: I asked, you know, if there were any reference books out there, and they gave me the title of the book Of Pandas and People.
NARRATOR: He also found a conservative think tank in Seattle, named the Discovery Institute, which calls itself "the nation's leading intelligent design proponent."
They sent Buckingham a DVD and other material on intelligent design. In these materials, Buckingham found a view that did not seem to conflict with his own. For example, according to the book Of Pandas and People, "Intelligent Design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera."
And in the DVD he got from the Discovery Institute, Buckingham found more support for intelligent design.
NARRATOR, DISCOVERY INSTITUTE DVD: One hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin transformed science with his theory of natural selection. Today, that theory faces a formidable challenge. Intelligent design has sparked both discovery and intense debate over the origin of life on Earth. And, for a growing number of scientists, it represents a paradigm, an idea with the power to once again redefine the foundations of scientific thought.
NARRATOR: Both the DVD and book use the same example to illustrate intelligent design's central tenet, explained here by proponent Steve Fuller.
STEVE FULLER: One way to get into the concept of intelligent design is by imagining what it would be like to run across something like this on the beach: "John Loves Mary." I mean, this is the sort of design that's very unlikely just to have assembled itself just from sand blowing randomly over even a very long period of time. Rather, it shows a sign of some sort of intelligence that's behind it.
NARRATOR: And just as those words on the beach are clearly the product of an intelligent being, the claim is that some aspects of life itself must be the product of a designer.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: Intelligent design, in my way of thinking, states that life is too complex to happened at random, that there had to be a designer, something to shape how things went, so to speak. In the Book of Genesis, the designer would be God.
NARRATOR: But in the materials Buckingham received, God is never mentioned. The mysterious designer is called an "intelligent cause" or "intelligent agent."
Championed by a law professor named Phillip Johnson, intelligent design began to emerge in the 1980s.
PHILLIP JOHNSON: This whole Darwinian story, it seems to me, has been very much oversold. Everybody is told that it's absolutely certain and certainly true. And because it's called science, it has been proved again and again by absolutely unquestionable procedures. But this is not true. It's an imaginative story that has been spun on the basis of very little evidence.
NARRATOR: An emeritus professor at the U.C. Berkeley law school, Johnson wrote a book called Darwin on Trial, in which he laid the groundwork for the intelligent design movement.
For years, he's been making the claim that evolution may produce small-scale changes–like the different finch beaks Darwin observed–but for humans to come about requires the intervention of some kind of intelligence.
PHILLIP JOHNSON: That is the basic intelligent design proposition: that the unintelligent causes, by themselves, can't do the whole job. An intelligent cause had to be involved.
NARRATOR: Armed with information on intelligent design, Bill Buckingham returned to the school board.
LAURI LEBO: He had been told that intelligent design was a good compromise between his religious beliefs, is what he told me. And Alan Bonsell told me that, too–and what the courts will allow. They were both very clear on that, that this is their compromise even though they believe in creationism. This would, this would, sort of, bridge the gap for them.
NARRATOR: But the science teachers were not convinced.
BRYAN REHM: The first reading of it, "an intelligent agent created life." That's creationism. It's Biblical creationism, you know? All I have to do is take out "intelligent agent" and put in "God," and, voila! We have the story of Genesis. So there is no question in my mind what intelligent design was.
NARRATOR: Now Buckingham was ready to take a stand.
ROBERT ESHBACH: He came up with the ultimatum that the only way that they would vote for the textbooks was that we adopted the book Of Pandas and People as a sister or companion textbook.
NARRATOR: But when he put it before the school board, he came up two votes short. The board chose to purchase only the standard biology book co-authored by Ken Miller. Pandas was shelved.
That might have been the end of the story, but a few weeks later, 60 copies of Pandas turned up in Bertha's Spahr's department, a gift to the school from an anonymous donor.
Then, without consulting the teachers, members of Buckingham's curriculum committee drafted the outlines of what became a bold new policy for the science department. It was brought before the full school board for a vote, and after a heated debate, it passed, six to three.
In its final form, the policy mandated that all students in ninth grade biology be read a one minute statement telling them that Darwin's theory is not a fact and that it contains gaps. Suggesting intelligent design as an alternative, it directed students to the 60 copies of Pandas that would be available as a reference.
The school board members who voted against Buckingham's proposal resigned in protest.
Tammy Kitzmiller is the mother of a 9th grade student who would be read the one minute statement at Dover High. She called the A.C.L.U. to see what could be done.
TAMMY KITZMILLER: I just didn't agree with what they were doing. I did not like how they were trying to mix religion and science.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK (American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania): We had parents, we had students, we had teachers, all calling us and saying "Hey, there's a problem here. Can you help us?" And we said, "Sure, we'll help you."
NARRATOR: On December 14, 2004, 11 parents of Dover school students, including Tammy Kitzmiller and Bryan and Christy Rehm, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania, alleging the Dover school board was violating their constitutional rights by introducing religion into science class. They would be represented by the A.C.L.U., which had joined forces with the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton.
STEPHEN HARVEY (Pepper Hamilton, LLP): Eric said at the time, "This is the case I been waiting for my entire career."
NARRATOR: The School Board would be represented by the Thomas More Law Center, the firm that had told Bill Buckingham about the Pandas book.
A court date was set. And as depositions were being taken, the science teachers took a stand of their own against reading the intelligent design statement.
JENNIFER MILLER: We stepped up and said, "We're not going to read it."
BERTHA SPAHR: We met together and agreed that as a unit we would stand together.
ROBERT ESHBACH: I mean, I have principles and standards of my own, and there was no way that I was going to go into a science classroom of mine and make a statement about this so-called intelligent design, knowing full well that it was not science.
NARRATOR: They notified the board of their refusal in a memo that proclaimed, "Intelligent design is not science. Intelligent design is not biology. Intelligent design is not an accepted scientific theory."
With the teachers refusing to read the one minute statement, Dover's assistant superintendent walked into ninth grade biology class on January 18, 2005 and read:
Assistant Superintendent, Dover, Pennsylvania School District: The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence.
NARRATOR: On September 26, 2005, almost exactly a year after the school board devised the intelligent design policy, six weeks of testimony in the case of Kitzmiller versus Dover Area School District got underway in federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III (Dramatization): Good morning to all of you. Are you prepared to open?
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Pepper Hamilton, LLP/Dramatization): Yes, I am.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III (Dramatization): You may do so.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): My co-counsel and I represent 11 parents who are challenging the Dover Area School District's change to its biology curriculum.
Dover School Board members announced their interest in the topic of evolution in starkly religious terms. They looked for a book that could provide a religious alternative to evolution, and they found one here in Of Pandas and People.
They did everything you would do if you wanted to incorporate a religious topic in a science class and cared nothing about its scientific validity.
PATRICK T. GILLEN (Thomas More Law Center/Dramatization): Patrick Gillen, your Honor, on behalf of the defendants in this action, the Dover Area School District and its board of directors. The board believed that intelligent design was not creationism. They knew what that was, the Book of Genesis. They believed it was a legitimate educational goal to make students aware of the existence of another scientific theory.
Defendants' experts will show this Court that intelligent design theory is science, it is not religion. This expert testimony will also demonstrate that making students aware of gaps and problems in evolutionary theory is good science education. It's good liberal education.
NARRATOR: By the time the trial started, challenges to the teaching of evolution had cropped up in dozens of other states. And intelligent design was attracting some heavy hitters.
Rick Santorum, then Pennsylvania senator, had commended the school district for its intelligent design policy. And President Bush had thrown his support behind intelligent design, saying, "Both sides ought to be properly taught so people can understand what the debate is about."
Now, the eyes of the nation were on Dover, the latest battleground in the war on evolution.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK: I don't want to sound melodramatic, but I actually think very important things were at stake. One is the future of science education in this country.
STEPHEN HARVEY: If the school board can do this, what would prevent them from doing more things like this in other classes? Presenting pseudo-science or pseudo-math or pseudo-history in promotion of one particular religious view? It's wrong.
PATRICK T. GILLEN: Does science education have to be so narrow, so technical, so deferential to the existing paradigm that we can't even introduce students to what may be the next great theory?
NARRATOR: Presiding over the case would be Judge John E. Jones, III.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III: I could never have imagined, in August of 2002, when I took my seat, that I would be presiding over a case that would attract, literally, worldwide attention.
NARRATOR: Jones had been recommended for his position on the bench by Senator Santorum and appointed by George W. Bush. Before becoming a judge, Jones was head of Pennsylvania's liquor control board, where he banned the sale of Bad Frog beer because it showed a cartoon frog making an offensive gesture.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD: Initially, you find out you've got a judge that's been appointed by President Bush, who has come out himself in favor of intelligent design, and that makes you a little nervous.
NARRATOR: Members of the defense, however, were optimistic about their chances in Jones's courtroom.
STEVE FULLER: What the Dover school board had done...they weren't requiring that intelligent design be taught, and they weren't removing evolution from the classroom. So, it seemed to me this was pretty modest. And so I did think it had a pretty good chance, if it was presented properly, of being accepted.
RICHARD THOMPSON: We didn't have to show that, you know, one theory was better than the other, merely that it was a credible theory, and that the students would gain something by understanding the controversy surrounding the theory of evolution and the origin of species.
NARRATOR: The parents who opposed intelligent design, or plaintiffs, had launched the lawsuit, so the burden of proof was on them.
And because the parents were asking for the teaching of intelligent design to be halted, an order that only a judge can render, there would be no jury. Instead, the jury box was packed with reporters and writers from around the globe, including one with a surprising connection to the case.
MATTHEW CHAPMAN (Charles Darwin's Great-Great-Grandson): I think of myself as being a sort of living disproof of evolution, because my great-great-grandfather was Charles Darwin, who obviously wrote one of the most important books of the last 2,000 years, and I'm a screenwriter. This is not evolution in the right direction.
NARRATOR: To win, the plaintiffs' lawyers would have to show the judge that the Dover School Board's one minute statement promoted religion or that board members had religious motivation.
In addition, both sides asked the judge to rule on a fundamental question: "Is intelligent design science or not?"
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK: In order to show that intelligent design is not science we had to talk about, well, "What is science?"
NARRATOR: For help, the plaintiffs turned to researcher Nick Matzke and his colleagues at an organization called the National Center for Science Education, which tracks challenges to evolution in public schools.
NICK MATZKE (National Center for Science Education): The last time any lawyer took biology was probably in 9th grade. And I spent months and months on e-mail, at meetings, explaining science, explaining evolution to the lawyers.
NARRATOR: To make their case before a judge who had no particular scientific training, the lawyers for the parents assembled a team of expert witnesses.
And as their first witness they called biologist Ken Miller, co-author of the textbook that Bill Buckingham had called "laced with Darwinism."
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK (Dramatization): Dr. Miller, what is evolution?
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): Most biologists would describe evolution as "the process of change over time that characterizes the natural history of life on this planet."
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK (Dramatization): And what was Darwin's contribution to evolution?
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): Darwin pointed out there's a struggle for existence, whether we like to admit it or not. He realized that those organisms that had the characteristics that suited them best in that struggle, those were the ones that would hand those characteristics down to the next generation, and that, therefore, the average characteristics of a population could change in one direction or another and they could change quite dramatically. And that's the essential idea of natural selection.
NARRATOR: Starting with Ken Miller, the plaintiffs walked Judge Jones through the conflict at the heart of this case.
Miller testified how Darwin's theory pictures the history of life as a tree, with species gradually evolving into others over millions of years, producing new branches and twigs, a process that gives rise to all the variety of life, from bacteria to Darwin's finches to ourselves.
But intelligent design takes a different view, as the movement's own literature shows. Intelligent design teaches a history of life in which organisms appear abruptly, are unrelated, and linked only by their designer.
NICK MATZKE: What's really being advocated is the idea that organisms poofed into existence through the miraculous act of an intelligent designer, i.e., God. That's the view that intelligent design promotes.
NARRATOR: So how can scientists be so sure Darwin's tree accurately represents the history of life on Earth?
As it turned out, the latest in a large body of evidence to refute intelligent design and support evolution was coming to light just as this case was unfolding.
NEIL SHUBIN: I remember thinking to myself, when all this was going on, "Wait'll they get a look at this, because it's just so beautiful."
NARRATOR: Darwin believed that evidence for his idea of common ancestry would be unearthed in the form of transitional fossils. For example, if, over millions of years, fish gave rise to land animals, as evolutionary theory predicts, we should find fossils of extinct creatures that are part fish and part land animal.
In 1999, paleontologist Neil Shubin and his colleagues set out to find just such a creature.
NEIL SHUBIN: What evolution enables us to do is to make specific predictions about what we should find in the fossil record. The prediction in this case is clear-cut. That is, if we go to rocks of the right age, and the rocks of the right type, we should find transitions between two great forms of life, between fish and amphibian.
NARRATOR: Many scientists think life began in the water, at least three and a half billion years ago. More recently, about 375 million years ago, the tree of life branched as primitive fish evolved into amphibians, such as today's frogs and salamanders, which live part of their lives on land.
Armed with this prediction, Shubin and his colleagues organized an expedition to one of the most desolate places on Earth, the Canadian Arctic, about 500 miles from the North Pole, where rocks of just the right age are exposed. Here, they hoped to fill a gap in the branch of the evolutionary tree that leads from primitive fish to animals with four limbs, or "tetrapods," by finding a fossil of an animal that shared characteristics of both.
But after three summers of digging through hundreds of tons of rock in this harsh environment, they had found little of interest. They returned the next year for one last try.
NEIL SHUBIN: Money was running out. This was it. We were told this was our last year up there. And then, in 2004, in the third day of the season, a colleague of mine was removing rock and discovered a little snout sticking out the side of the cliff, just exactly like this. And he removed more rock and more rock and more rock, and it became clear this was a snout of a flat-headed animal. And that's when we knew. Flat-headed animal at 375-million years old? This is going to be something interesting.
NARRATOR: They called it Tiktaalik, which means "large, fresh water fish," in the language of the local Inuit people. And it's one of the most vivid transitional fossils ever discovered, showing how land animals evolved from primitive fish.
NEIL SHUBIN: Over here you have a fish of about 380-million years old. And, just like any good fish, it has scales on its back and fins. You compare that to an amphibian, and you find a creature that doesn't have scales, and it's modified the fins to become limbs, arms and legs. And the head's very different. It has a flat head with eyes on top and a neck.
What we see when we look at the fossil record, at rocks of just the right age, is a creature like Tiktaalik. Just like a fish, it has scales on its back, and fins. You can see the fin webbing here. Yet when we look at the head, you see something very different. You see a very amphibian-like thing, with a flat head, with eyes on top. It gets even better when we take the fin apart. When we look inside the fin, as in this cast here, what you'll see is bones that compare to our shoulder, elbow, even parts of the wrist–bone for bone. So you have a fish, at just the right time in the history of life, that has characteristics of amphibians and primitive fish. It's a mix.
NARRATOR: And just as evolutionary theory predicts, Tiktaalik suggests a tree of life, with one species giving rise to another over millions of years.
The discovery of Tiktaalik was still being written up at the time of the trial, so it couldn't be used as evidence. But Shubin's colleague, paleontologist Kevin Padian, showed the judge examples of other fossils with transitional features that support Darwin's tree of life.
KEVIN PADIAN: My testimony in the trial was basically taking a day and showing the judge how we do our work and what the evidence is.
NARRATOR: How dinosaurs evolved into birds, as seen in creatures like Archaeopteryx which has a long tail and teeth like a dinosaur, but feathers just like a modern bird. How ancestors of modern reptiles evolved into creatures now extinct that share a common ancestor with mammals. And, how, surprisingly, whales evolved from large land animals that returned to the water.
KEVIN PADIAN: And where the Pandas book says we can't go from A to B, there are no fossils and we don't know how to study them, actually, we've gone from A to B and to C, D, E, F and G. We have the fossils; we have the transitional features; we have the ways of analyzing them with many different lines of evidence. And we're looking for the picture that accounts for the most lines of objective evidence.
NARRATOR: With each fossil, Padian refuted Pandas claim that different life forms appear suddenly, by showing how fossils of extinct organisms bridge the gaps between species, resulting in a picture of gradual evolution, just as Darwin proposed.
KEVIN PADIAN: The reporters in the courtroom were just amazed that we knew all this stuff. And how come they hadn't learned about this stuff before? And the reason is it's not in textbooks because the creationists fight so hard to keep it out. That's been a big influence.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD: The court took a break. And I remember the judge saying something like, you know, "biology class adjourned," you know, "for lunch." And he was, you know, smiling. And it was clear that we had the judge interested in science.
NARRATOR: Lawyers for the parents may have impressed the judge and reporters. But many in Dover wondered, "Why is evolution taught as fact if it's 'just a theory?'"
ALAN BONSELL: Maybe Darwinism is the prevalent theory out there today, but it is a theory. It isn't a law of science. It isn't, you know, a fact. It is a theory.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: We just wanted alternative views talked about, too. We weren't, we weren't saying, "Don't talk about Darwin." Talk about Darwin, it's a theory. But that's what it is, it's not Darwin's law, it's not Darwin's fact, it's Darwin's theory.
ROBERT ESHBACH: To say it's just a theory is really a bit insulting to science because in science, a theory holds more weight than just a fact does.
KEVIN PADIAN (Dramatization): And here I think the term "theory" needs to be looked at the way scientists consider it. A theory is not just something that we think of in the middle of the night after too much coffee and not enough sleep. That's an idea. A theory, in science, means a large body of information that's withstood a lot of testing. It probably consists of a number of different hypotheses and many different lines of evidence. Gravitation is a theory that's unlikely to be falsified, even if we saw something fall up. It might make us wonder, but we'd try to figure out what was happening rather than immediately just dismiss gravitation.
KEVIN PADIAN: Facts are just the minutiae of science. By themselves, they can be right or wrong. But a theory is something that has been tested and tested over and over again, built on, revised. It continues to be reworked and revised.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Dr. Miller, would you agree that Darwin's theory of evolution is not an absolute truth?
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): Well, I certainly would, for the very simple reason that no theory in science, no theory, is ever regarded as absolute truth. We don't regard atomic theory as truth. We don't regard the germ theory of disease as truth. We don't regard the theory of friction as truth. We regard all of these theories as well-supported, testable explanations that provide natural explanations for natural phenomena.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Should we regard Darwin's theory of evolution as tentative?
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): We should regard all scientific explanations as being tentative, and that includes the theory of evolution.
NEIL SHUBIN: Science is about discovering the unknown, what we don't know. I don't focus on what we know as a scientist. I want to find new things that tell me about what I don't know.
NARRATOR: As the plaintiffs testified, that quest to investigate the unknown has led to the discovery of some of the strongest evidence for evolution.
Darwin was convinced that species evolve over time, through natural selection acting on inherited traits. But he had no idea how those traits arose or how they were passed from generation to generation.
When 20th century scientists discovered the role DNA plays in heredity, they founded a new science, called "genetics," that put Darwin's theory to the test.
Virtually every cell in every living thing contains chromosomes, which are made of densely packed strands of DNA that function as a blueprint of the individual organism's characteristics. During reproduction, chromosomes from each parent replicate and shuffle their parts to produce new chromosomes. Then, each parent passes chromosomes to offspring. But the process is imperfect. Along the way, DNA is subject to random mutations, or mistakes, giving each offspring its own unique blueprint. Sometimes this produces characteristics in offspring that are benign. Other times it produces harmful characteristics, like a misshapen wing. But occasionally, the process gives rise to a beneficial trait. For example, a butterfly whose coloration mimics another species of butterfly that tastes bad to birds.
About a hundred years after Darwin proposed that natural selection acts on new traits appearing in a population, genetics revealed the biological mechanism that gives rise to those traits in the first place.
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): And therefore you could say that when modern genetics came into being, everything in Darwin's theory was at risk, could have been overturned if it turned out to contradict the essential elements of evolutionary theory, but it didn't contradict them, it confirmed them in great detail.
NARRATOR: And, as Miller would testify, a genetics paper published less than a year before the trial had confirmed what has long been the most inflammatory part of Darwin's theory, the common ancestry of humans and apes.
That paper explored a curious discrepancy in our chromosomes. The cells of all great apes, like chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, contain 24 pairs of chromosomes. If humans share a common ancestor with apes, you'd expect us to have the same number. But surprisingly, human cells contain only 23 pairs.
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): The question is, if evolution is right about this common ancestry idea, where did the chromosome go? Well, evolution makes a testable prediction, and that is that somewhere in the human genome, we ought to be able to find a piece of Scotch tape holding together two chromosomes, so that our 24 pairs...two of them were pasted together to form just 23. And if we can't find that, then the hypothesis of common ancestry is wrong and evolution is mistaken. Next slide.
NARRATOR: To solve this riddle for the court, Miller would show how scientists discovered traces of our evolutionary past buried in the very structure of a chromosome carried by all humans.
Typically, on the ends of every chromosome, you should find special genetic markers, or sequences of DNA called "telomeres." And in their middles, you should find different genetic markers called "centromeres." But if a mutation occurred in the past, causing two pairs of chromosomes to fuse, we should find evidence in those genetic markers: telomeres not only at the ends of the new chromosome, but also at their middles, and not one, but two centromeres. Finding a structure like this in our chromosomes would explain why humans have one pair fewer than the great apes.
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): And if we can't find that, then evolution is in trouble. Next slide.
Lo and behold, the answer is in Chromosome Number 2. All of the marks of the fusion of those chromosomes predicted by common descent and evolution, all those marks are present on human Chromosome Number 2.
So the case is closed in a most beautiful way. And that is the prediction of evolution of common ancestry is fulfilled by that lead pipe evidence that you see here, in terms of tying everything together, that our chromosome formed by the fusion from our common ancestor is Chromosome Number 2. Evolution has made a testable prediction and it has passed.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK (Dramatization): So modern genetics and molecular biology actually support evolutionary theory?
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): They support it in great detail. And the closer we can get to looking at the details of the human genome, the more powerful the evidence has become.
NEIL SHUBIN: Darwin didn't even know about molecular biology and DNA, yet that's where some of the most profound evidence is being uncovered today. Think about that. That somebody in the 1800s made predictions that are being confirmed in molecular biology labs today. That's a very profound statement of a very successful theory.
KENNETH R. MILLER: 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 contentious testing is a pretty darn good theory, and that's what evolution is.
NARRATOR: And the deep understanding of evolution as proposed by Darwin has, with genetics, unlocked many of the secrets of life.
ROBERT PENNOCK (Michigan State University): It's an explanatory framework within which all the rest of biology fits. It's something that we use in practical biological applications: medicine, agriculture, industry. When you're getting a flu vaccine–that really depended upon evolutionary knowledge. In many, many specific ways, evolution makes a practical difference. It's not just something that happened in the past, evolution's happening now.
NARRATOR: So if evolution has stood up to all this scrutiny, what about intelligent design? Does it play by the same rules?
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): If you invoke a non-natural cause, a spirit force or something like that, in your research, I have no way to test it.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK (Dramatization): So supernatural causation is not considered part of science?
KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): Yeah. I hesitate to beg the patience of the Court with this, but being a Boston Red Sox fan, I can't resist it. One might say, for example, that the reason the Boston Red Sox were able to come back from three games down against the New York Yankees was because God was tired of George Steinbrenner and wanted to see the Red Sox win. In my part of the country, you'd be surprised how many people think that's a perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened last year. And you know what? It could be true, but it certainly wouldn't be science. It's not scientific, and it's certainly not something we can test.
EUGENIE C. SCOTT: The fundamental problem with intelligent design is that you can't use it to explain the natural world. It's essentially a negative argument. It says, "Evolution doesn't work, therefore the designer did it. Evolution doesn't work, therefore we win by default."
But when you ask them, "What does intelligent design tell you about nature? Does it tell you what the designer did? Does it tell you what the designer used to design something with? Does it tell you what purpose the designer had for designing something? Does it tell you when the designer did it? Why the designer did it?" It doesn't tell you anything like that. Basically, it's a negative argument. And you can't build a science on a negative argument.
NARRATOR: After three weeks of testimony on the nature of science, the evidence for evolution and the failings of intelligent design, the plaintiffs had presented their case.
MATTHEW CHAPMAN: To watch the whole thing, you got an education in what evolution was, where evolution stands as a theory now in the 21st century. If you concentrated, you would get sucked into this thing, and the day would go by. And you'd come out, and you'd think, "That was amazing, what I heard here. These eloquent people," you know, "with these incredible educations." And it was fantastic.
LAURI LEBO: The plaintiffs' attorneys had put on an amazing case. But there was this idea, especially among those who weren't sitting in the trial every day, that when the defense started, you know, then we'll see some pretty interesting stuff, too, on the other side.
NARRATOR: The question now was, "Could the defense prove that intelligent design is a scientific theory? What evidence could they muster to support this claim?"
While the battle in federal court heated up, the atmosphere in Dover had gone from divisive to dangerous. Tammy Kitzmiller, the lead plaintiff in the case, who had a daughter in ninth grade biology class at Dover High School, had been receiving hate mail since the start of the trial.
TAMMY KITZMILLER: One letter was pretty disturbing. I think this was the one with the passage that...the last sentence especially: "Madeline Murray was found murdered for taking prayer and Bible reading out of schools, so watch out for a bullet." This was a letter that I made sure my lawyers got a copy of, and it was forwarded to the FBI.
ROBERT ESHBACH: Anywhere you turned we were getting attacked. I mean, the people in the community were attacking us in the newspapers, people in our own profession were attacking us saying, you know, "What are you guys doing in Dover? Why are you letting this happen?" People in the community were calling us atheists, which was a bit offensive to two of us in the department, because two of us happened to be sons and daughters of ministers.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: I fail to understand how teachers can call themselves Christians, go to church, talk about God, talk about Christ, and then go to ch...school five days a week and talk about Darwin, and teach it as if it's fact, not a theory, but that's how it happened. I don't understand it. To me that's talking out of both sides of your mouth.
NARRATOR: Having ignited much of the controversy that resulted in the lawsuit, Bill Buckingham had made a surprise announcement. Citing poor health and struggles with Oxycontin as a result of surgery, he resigned from the school board and moved out of state.
A school board election was only months away, and now eight of the nine seats would be up for grabs, putting intelligent design on trial in the voting booth as well as the courtroom.
Dover science teacher Bryan Rehm, who had already moved on to another school system, had thrown his hat in the ring.
BRYAN REHM: I couldn't work for a board that was going to mandate we teach religious ideas in the science classroom. I've got kids in the district, and that's not the kind of district I want my kids going to school in. So the choice was either move the whole family or try and fix the district that we live in. And we chose to fix it.
NARRATOR: But when he hit the campaign trail, Bryan found himself again in the line of fire in the war on evolution.
BRYAN REHM: The problems that I ran into in the campaign, being out door to door, where people just wouldn't listen to you and just automatically judged you in advance that, "You're this kind of person, and we're good Christians. We'd never vote for you." And they'd slam the door in your face, forgetting their windows were open, and call you an f-ing a-hole or tell you you're just a damned atheist.
NARRATOR: For the Rehms, this was particularly hurtful. Both are active in their church and run a summer Bible school program.
CHRISTY REHM: We have a neighbor, actually, who was appointed to the school board and was in support of intelligent design, and he was out campaigning and saying very negative things about our family, how we're atheists, and, "if you vote for those atheists, well, then, God is not going to be happy with you."
NARRATOR: To make the case for intelligent design, the defense had lined up eight expert witnesses, including several members of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle organization that promotes intelligent design. But of those eight witnesses, five never testified.
EUGENIE C. SCOTT: Witnesses started dropping like flies.
NICK MATZKE: We still haven't heard a complete explanation of why this happened, but there was some dispute going on between the Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center over how the case would be run.
NARRATOR: NOVA made repeated requests to interview members of the Discovery Institute to talk about this and other issues, but the institute set conditions that were inconsistent with normal journalistic practice.
For the defense to win, however, did not require a large number of witnesses.
RICHARD THOMPSON: Our aim was not really to disprove Darwin's theory of evolution. Our aim was to merely show that there are credible scientists who believed that the empirical data was supportive of intelligent design. That's all we had to show.
STEPHEN HARVEY: It was our thinking, if they could prove that there was a scientific basis for intelligent design, that it would be possible that the court could conclude that there was a valid secular purpose for teaching intelligent design.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK: I think everybody was waiting to see whether or not the intelligent design folks had a case, but by the time we finished presenting our case, I think it was pretty clear that everything rested on Michael Behe's testimony.
NARRATOR: A scientist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, Michael Behe is the author of the popular intelligent design book, Darwin's Black Box and dozens of papers, unrelated to intelligent design, published in peer-reviewed science journals.
Behe refused multiple invitations from NOVA to be interviewed for this program, though he went on record in the trial.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Dr. Behe, what is your profession?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): I am a professor in the department of biological sciences at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): And you're a biochemist?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): That's correct, yes.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): How long have you taught at the college level?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): For 23 years.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Sir, what is intelligent design?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Intelligent design is a scientific theory that proposes that some aspects of life are best explained as the result of design, and that the strong appearance of design in life is real and not just apparent.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Is intelligent design based on any religious beliefs or convictions?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): No, it isn't.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): What is it based on?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): It is based entirely on observable, empirical, physical evidence from nature, plus logical inferences.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Now when you use the term design, what do you mean?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Well, I discussed this in my book, Darwin's Black Box, and a short description of design is shown in this quotation from Chapter 9: "What is design? Design is simply the purposeful arrangement of parts. When we perceive that parts have been arranged to fulfill a purpose, that's when we infer design."
NARRATOR: Part of the defense strategy would be to show the judge examples of biological systems they claimed were too complex to have evolved by natural selection and therefore must have been the product of a designer.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Can you give us a biochemical example of design, Dr. Behe?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Yes, that's on the next slide. I think the best, well, the most visually striking example of design is something called the bacterial flagellum. Now, this is a figure of a bacterial flagellum taken from a textbook, which is widely used in colleges and universities around the country. The bacterial flagellum is, quite literally, an outboard motor that bacteria use to swim. And in order to accomplish that function, it has a number of parts which are ordered to that effect. Now, this part here, which is labeled the filament, is actually the propeller of the bacterial flagellum. The motor is actually a rotary motor.
Most people who see this and have the function explained to them quickly realize that these parts are ordered for a purpose and, therefore, bespeak design.
NARRATOR: Under the microscope, bacteria powered by flagella seem almost acrobatic. They tumble, corkscrew and pirouette, thanks to that whip-like filament.
Driving this propeller is a tiny motor, part of a complex structure made of about 40 different kinds of proteins.
MATTHEW CHAPMAN: The bacterial flagellum looks like a, sort of a Jules Verne notion of what the future looks like. It has a strange sort of mechanical quality to it, these sort of cogs and waving tails and stuff.
NARRATOR: And according to Behe, if any one of these parts is missing from the system, the motor can't function. Behe calls systems like this "irreducibly complex," a term he coined. And he argues such systems could not have evolved naturally.
STEVE FULLER: The idea is that there are certain aspects of life, perhaps organisms or organs or even cells that, in a sense, could only have come about as a whole. In other words, it was very unlikely they could have come about through just a kind of contingent combination of parts over even millions or billions of years, but, rather, in a sense, has to be created whole cloth, all together, at once, because everything fits together so well that to remove one part, the thing wouldn't function.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Have other scientists acknowledged these design features of the flagellum?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Yes, they have. And if you advance to the next slide...
In 1998, a man named David DeRosier wrote an article in the journal Cell, which is a very prestigious scientific journal, entitled "The Turn of the Screw, The Bacterial Flagellar Motor." David DeRosier is a professor of biology at Brandeis University, in Massachusetts, and has worked on the bacterial flagellar motor for most of his career. In that article, he makes the statement, "More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human." So David DeRosier also recognizes that the structure of the flagellum appears designed.
DAVID DEROSIER (Brandeis University): What I wrote was, "This is a machine that looks like it was designed by a human." But that doesn't mean that it was designed, that is the product of intelligent design. Indeed, this, more, has all the earmarks of something that arose by evolution.
NARRATOR: Using an electron microscope, DeRosier produces ghostly pictures like this one, revealing the inner workings of what's been called the world's most efficient motor.
DAVID DEROSIER: This is the drive shaft. This transmits this torque generated by the motor that would then turn the propeller, which would push the bacterial cell through the fluid.
NARRATOR: Michael Behe has argued that the flagellum could not have evolved, since its parts have no function for natural selection to act on until they are fully assembled.
But evidence that refutes Behe's claim of irreducible complexity comes from a tiny syringe that injects poison, found in some of the nastiest of all bacteria.
DAVID DEROSIER: This is a structure found, for example, in Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the Bubonic plague. Look at the similarities. Now, this structure doesn't rotate, but it still has to extend this structure, which is equivalent to the rod, the driveshaft here. It has to extend that, because it needs this little channel. It's like, sort of like a syringe. So the virulence factors that are made inside the cell, which is down here, can be exported, pushed up into this hole and exported out through this long, kind of, needle, perhaps into a cell in your body or mine, and thereby create misery.
NARRATOR: And it turns out the two structures look similar for a reason. The syringe on the right is made of a subset of the very same protein types found in the base of the flagellum on the left, though the syringe is missing proteins found in the motor and, therefore, can't produce rotary motion. It functions perfectly as an apparatus for transmitting disease.
DAVID DEROSIER: So if we think about what it means to be irreducibly complex, the argument is that if you take away even one of these proteins, that the structure cannot function. And yet here is a structure that functions, that is missing several of the proteins, and yet here it is, a working, viable organelle of the bacterium. So indeed, the structure is not, in that sense, irreducibly complex.
NARRATOR: To emphasize DeRosier's point, Miller arrived at court making an unusual fashion statement.
KENNETH R. MILLER: As an example of what irreducible complexity means, advocates of intelligent design like to point to a very common machine: the mousetrap. And the mousetrap is composed of five parts. It has a base plate, the catch, a spring, a little hammer that actually does the dirty work, and a bait holder.
The mousetrap will not work if any one of these five parts are taken away. That's absolutely true. But remember the key notion of irreducible complexity, and that is that this whole machine is completely useless until all the parts are in place. Well, that, that turns out not to be true.
And I'll give you an example. What I have right here is a mousetrap from which I've removed two of the five parts. I still have the base plate, the spring, and the hammer. Now you can't catch any mice with this, so it's not a very good mousetrap. But it turns out that, despite the missing parts, it makes a perfectly good, if somewhat inelegant, tie clip.
And when we look at the favorite examples for irreducible complexity, and the bacterial flagellum is a perfect example, we find the molecular equivalent of my tie clip, which is we see parts of the machine missing–two, three, four, maybe even 20–parts, but still fulfilling a perfectly good purpose that could be favored by evolution. And that's why the irreducible complexity argument falls apart.
NARRATOR: But Behe testified, it's not just microscopic organisms that are irreducibly complex. Evolution, he says, fails to account for the network of organs and cells that defends us from disease.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Has the theory of evolution, in particular natural selection, explained the existence of the defensive apparatus, such as the immune system?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): No.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Do you consider it a problem?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): I certainly consider it to be a problem. But other scientists who think that Darwinian evolution simply is true don't consider much of anything to be a problem with their theory.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): If you could highlight the second full paragraph from Darwin's Black Box, page 138? What you say is, "We can look high or we can look low in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers on the question of the origin of the immune system."
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): And in the context that means that the scientific literature has no detailed testable answers to the question of how the immune system could have arisen by random mutation and natural selection.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): May I approach, your Honor?
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III (Dramatization): You may.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD: What I did was to pile on the witness stand articles all having very sophisticated explanations for how the immune system evolved, and basically challenged him to respond, given the claims that he'd made.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): Now, Dr. Behe, these articles rebut your assertion that scientific literature has no answers on the origin of the vertebrate immune system.
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): No, they certainly do not. My argument is that these articles have no detailed rigorous explanations for how complex biochemical systems could arise by a random mutation and natural selection. And these articles do not address that.
NICK MATZKE: And then he starts to say, "Well, have you read this book, Dr. Behe?" And he starts to pile these up on Behe's witness stand. Eventually, Behe was almost dwarfed by the stack of scientific literature on the evolutionary origin of the immune system.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): All these hard-working scientists publish article after article over years and years, chapters and books, full books, addressing the question of how the vertebrate immune system evolved, but none of them are satisfactory to you?
RICHARD THOMPSON: That's a lawyer's trick, purely a lawyer's trick. Now, you know, was Michael Behe going to read every one of those books before he responded? You know, it was totally theatrics.
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Mr. Rothschild, would you like your books back? They're heavy.
NARRATOR: The defense case included three expert witnesses. And on the last day of testimony, the final defense witness told the court about a creature that, by now, was familiar to everyone.
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): I am Dr. Scott A. Minnich. I am an associate professor, at the University of Idaho, in microbiology.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Dr. Minnich, can you give us an example of design at the molecular level?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): This is a bacterial flagellum. This is a system I work with.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III (Dramatization): We've seen that.
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): I know.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): You're going to see a little more of it, your Honor.
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): I kind of feel like Zsa Zsa's fifth husband, you know? As the old adage goes, "You know I know what to do, but I just can't make it exciting." But I'll try.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Now, you specialized your focus and research on the flagellum, is that correct?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): That's correct.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): And you've done experiments on flagellum?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): I have.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): And you've written peer-reviewed articles on it?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): Yes.
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Now, Dr. Minnich, a complaint that's often brought up–and plaintiffs' experts have brought it up in this case–is that intelligent design is not testable. It's not falsifiable. Would you agree with that claim?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): No, I don't. I have a quote from Mike Behe: "In fact, intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure, for motility, say, grow it for 10,000 generations and see if a flagellum or any equally complex system was produced. If that happened my claims would be neatly disproven."
ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Is that an experiment that you would do?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): You know, I think about it. I'd be intrigued to do it. I wouldn't expect it to work. But that's my bias.
STEPHEN HARVEY (Dramatization): Now you claim that intelligent design can be tested, correct?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): Correct.
STEPHEN HARVEY (Dramatization): Intelligent design, according to you, is not tested at all, because neither you nor Dr. Behe have run the test that you, yourself, advocate for testing intelligent design, right?
SCOTT A. MINNICH (Dramatization): Well, turn it around in terms of these major attributes of evolution. Have they been tested? You see what I'm saying, Steve? It's a problem for both sides.
NARRATOR: As the legal teams battled it out in court, the clash between intelligent design and evolution was taking a toll on Dover.
Local newspaper reporter Lauri Lebo sat through every day of testimony, and the conflict began to drive a wedge between Lauri and her father.
LAURI LEBO: He believed that God really should be in science class. He did not believe in science, and he was all worried about me and...because I believed in evolution. And he said, you know, "Well, do you really believe that we came from monkeys?" At that point, I was pretty burned out from the trial, and I didn't really have the patience that I probably should have had with him, and I just said yeah, I mean, you know? "Yeah, I do believe in evolution, Dad," you know? And so we'd fight every morning.
If you believe in heaven and hell, and you believe you have to be saved, nothing else could possibly matter. Not the First Amendment, not science, not rational debate. All that matters is that you're going to be rejoined with the people you love most on this Earth.
RAY MUMMERT: Teaching the traditional evolutionary Darwinian concept that man evolved from lower forms of life, that's almost a slap in my face. That takes the dignity away from humanity, as far as I'm concerned. What gives dignity to man is that every one of us are made in the image of God. He is the creator, and he created the world with intention and with design. It upsets me deeply that now, in our educational system, we are indoctrinating our young people to think differently about humanity.
KENNETH R. MILLER: I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm a Roman Catholic, and a long tradition of scholarship in the Catholic Church has argued that truth is one, that science and religion should ultimately be in harmony. But that doesn't make faith a scientific proposition. I think, as many religious people do, that faith and reason are both gifts from God. And if God is real, then faith and reason should complement each other rather than being in conflict.
NARRATOR: Throughout the trial, Judge Jones would never tip his hand about which way he was leaning on whether intelligent design is science. But science was not the only issue before the court.
The climax of the trial would be the judge's ruling on a question stemming from a different line of evidence: "When they introduced intelligent design into the classroom, were members of the Dover School Board motivated by religion?" If so, that would amount to a violation of part of the First Amendment to the Constitution, the establishment clause, which mandates the separation of church and state.
STEPHEN HARVEY: In order to prevail, we needed to prove either that the school board acted for the purpose of promoting religion or that its policy has the effect of promoting religion. It's either purpose or effect, either one.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III: The establishment clause says that Congress cannot pass a law which promotes one religion over another. And that trickles all the way down to any state action, and in this case, the actions of a school board.
NARRATOR: But what evidence was there that the school board was motivated by religion? Months before the trial, when Bertha Spahr had unpacked the boxes containing the 60 copies of Pandas given by an anonymous donor, she found a clue.
BERTHA SPAHR: I was directed by the administration to unpack the boxes, count the books, stamp and number them. In the bottom of the box I found a catalogue. I opened the catalogue to see what they had to say about the book in question. And at the very top of the catalogue page...it was listed under "Creation Science." This'd certainly be a smoking gun and would be a benefit to us somewhere down the road.
NARRATOR: This information was handed off to The National Center for Science Education. The N.C.S.E. was helping the lawyers who were arguing to keep intelligent design out of Dover High School.
Knowing Of Pandas and People would be central to the case, Nick Matzke investigated the book.
NICK MATZKE: When the court case was filed and Pandas was adopted in the policy, it became clear that Pandas was going to be the representative of intelligent design for the purposes of this case. And so the history of that book became important, the arguments it made became important. And we undertook to dissect these various aspects in preparation for the case.
NARRATOR: Matzke dug into Pandas, examining it page by page and scouring the Internet to see what he could unearth about its history.
Rummaging through the N.C.S.E. archives one day, Matzke came across a creationist student newspaper from 1981. At the bottom of the front page, he noticed a tiny article with a headline announcing, "Unbiased Biology Textbook Planned." And that article mentioned that a man named Charles Thaxton, now a fellow at the Discovery Institute, was working on a book that would present "both evolution and creation."
NICK MATZKE: The academic editor was Charles Thaxton, who was the editor of the Pandas book, so it was clear that that ad was referring to the Pandas project. What was interesting is that it talked about the book being about "creation and evolution" instead of the later terms, "intelligent design and evolution."
NARRATOR: If they could show Pandas started out as a creationist book, that would suggest intelligent design is simply creationism repackaged and therefore inherently religious.
Matzke emailed this information to Eric Rothschild, who immediately issued a subpoena to the publisher of Pandas for any drafts the book went through before printing. In a few months, they received two boxes of material. The lawyers sent them to Barbara Forrest. A philosophy professor and author who has been tracking intelligent design for years, she was scheduled to testify in the trial.
BARBARA FORREST: Oh, my goodness, those two boxes contained about 7,000 pieces of paper. I had to sit down with those documents and just start flipping through them, which is what I did day and night.
NARRATOR: After much digging, she hit pay dirt. Buried in these documents were two drafts of Pandas straddling the 1987 case of Edwards versus Aguillard, in which the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to teach creationism in public school science class. One draft was written before the case and the other revised just after.
BARBARA FORREST: In the first 1987 draft, which is the pre-Edwards draft, the definition of creation reads this way "Creation means that various forms of life began abruptly, through the agency of an intelligent creator, with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera." The same definition in this draft, after the Edwards decision, reads this way: "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, et cetera." Same definition, just one is worded in terms of creationism, the other one worded in terms of intelligent design.
NICK MATZKE: Everyone said intelligent design is creationism re-labeled. Never in our wildest dreams, though, did we think that this would actually be recorded in paper in a way that could be documented in a court case.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD: And that became probably our best single piece of evidence at trial.
NARRATOR: Barbara Forrest's testimony would make a strong case that the Dover school board was thrusting religion into the classroom. And in comparing the Of Pandas and People drafts, Forrest discovered that the authors had apparently made their revisions in haste.
BARBARA FORREST: In cleansing this manuscript, they failed to replace every word properly. I found the word "creationists." And instead of replacing the entire word, they just kind of did this, and got "design proponents" with the "c" in front and the "ists" in the back from the original word.
NICK MATZKE: So the correct term for this transitional form is "Cdesign proponentsists." And everyone now refers to this as the "missing link" between creationism and intelligent design. You've got the direct physical evidence there of a transitional fossil.
NARRATOR: Barbara Forrest's testimony not only traced the creationist lineage of Pandas. Citing a Christian magazine's interview, Forrest let one of the intelligent design movement's own leaders, Paul Nelson, speak for himself.
BARBARA FORREST: The question he was asked was, "Is intelligent design just a critique of evolutionary theory or does it offer something more? Does it offer something that humankind needs to know?" This is his answer: "Easily, the biggest challenge facing the I.D. community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a real problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions and a handful of notions, such as irreducible complexity, but as yet, no general theory of biological design."
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK: The evidence she bought into that courtroom really exposed the hypocrisy of the intelligent design movement in a way that's irrefutable. You know, she used their own language, things that they had written and said, to show that they themselves knew that this isn't science.
NARRATOR: And on the stand, Michael Behe was asked how he would define science.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): Dr. Behe, using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Yes.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): Under the same definition, astrology is a scientific theory, using your definition, correct?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Using my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to observable physical data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect, which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is, in fact, one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other, many other theories as well.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): The ether theory of light has been discarded?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): That is correct.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory?
MICHAEL BEHE (Dramatization): Yes, that's correct.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK: You know, when you loosen the rules around what is science and permit the supernatural, permit deities, you are really destroying what makes science so vitally important to the progress that our civilization has witnessed over the last four or five hundred years. You're going back before the scientific revolution. And, you know, that's a pretty scary thing.
NARRATOR: With the scientific revolution, the work of Galileo, Newton and others banished supernatural explanations from science. But some think the supernatural still has its place.
STEVE FULLER: At the very beginning of genetics, the idea of there being a hereditary factor that somehow was responsible for the traits that we have, but one couldn't quite identify what the factor was, that was also initially regarded as supernatural, as well. So, it's not that supernaturalism hasn't been part of science. In fact, it has been. And it's often led to very fruitful results. And it seems the evolutionists want to, in a way, ignore or marginalize that very important part of the history.
NARRATOR: But Barbara Forrest testified that the intelligent design movement's goals are not entirely scientific and are spelled out in a secret Discovery Institute document that had surfaced on the Internet.
BARBARA FORREST: Their goals are listed quite clearly in the "wedge" document. It's their strategy document that they drew up about nine years ago, in 1998. Their goal was to completely overthrow all of the effects of evolution on society, which they think are uniformly negative. This document states that they want to completely change American culture back to what they believe is its properly religious foundation. They want every area of life to be governed by their particular religious preferences. And they're very clear about that in this document.
NARRATOR: According to the wedge document, Darwin "portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals," leading people to abandon "objective moral standards."
The document lays out an ambitious agenda to overthrow this legacy, "to see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in Science," and "to see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life."
Though not written by Phillip Johnson, the wedge document is an outgrowth of a broader policy he conceived called the wedge strategy.
PHILLIP JOHNSON: I know it can be made to sound like something sinister and conspiratorial. But the wedge strategy, as I have explained it, is quite simple and innocent. When you use a wedge to split a log, you start with the sharp edge of the wedge. My job is to be the sharp edge of the wedge, to use my academic credentials and legal abilities to get some hearing for the proposition that there really is something fundamentally wrong with the Darwinian story. But I can't answer all the questions that arise, so we need other people to form the thick edge of the wedge to take on the questions that do require a scientific expertise.
NARRATOR: With Michael Behe and others forming the wide end of the wedge, Johnson hopes the wedge strategy will overturn what he sees as the negative effects of a century and a half of Darwin's theory.
PHILLIP JOHNSON: The Darwinian story, when it became accepted, had a huge cultural impact, and if that story were discredited, then the cultural impact would be reversed, and there would be cultural changes in the other direction as well.
MATTHEW CHAPMAN: There is something outrageous about such a huge body of evidence being put together, then being confirmed in all kinds of other scientific disciplines, particularly genetics, and having other people just sort of deny it for reasons that have nothing to do with truth. And this became apparent during the trial.
And then you began to look towards the judge and think, "How is this guy going to get out of this?" Because here he is, he's been a...he is a Republican, he's been appointed by George W. Bush, who has said that he thinks the jury is out on evolution, both theories should be taught. And you began to think, "What is this poor guy going to do?"
NARRATOR: Whatever the motivations of the Discovery Institute, the intelligent design movement, or the authors of the book Of Pandas and People, Judge Jones would need to focus on the motivation of the Dover Area School Board.
STEPHEN HARVEY (Dramatization): Mr. Buckingham, I'd like to show you what has been identified as Exhibit P-145. You'll need to look at the monitor.
BILL BUCKINGHAM (NEWSCLIP): The book that was presented to me for biology was laced with Darwinism from the beginning to the end.
NEWSCASTER: William Buckingham is head of the Curriculum Committee for the Dover School District. He is also a Board Member. He strongly believes creationism needs to be taught in the classroom.
BILL BUCKINGHAM (NEWSCLIP): My opinion that it's okay to teach Darwin, but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: This was back in the very early days of the intelligent design thing, and don't you know, I could not think of the words "intelligent design." I just couldn't. The camera's rolling, so I say "creationism." In hindsight, I should have said nothing at all, but I said "creationism."
BILL BUCKINGHAM (Dramatization): I was like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. And I misspoke, pure and simple. I made a human mistake.
STEPHEN HARVEY (Dramatization): Freudian slip, right, Mr. Buckingham?
BILL BUCKINGHAM (Dramatization): I wouldn't say a Freudian slip. I would say a human mistake.
NARRATOR: And it was not Buckingham's only mistake. Both Buckingham and Bonsell had sworn in their depositions that they did not know who donated the 60 copies of Pandas to the high school. But by the time Buckingham took the witness stand, a different story emerged.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: I stood up in front of our church one Sunday morning, we had to come up with, I think it was, like, $1,100 to buy these books. I said, "I'm not asking anybody for a dime. I'm not telling you I want anything." But we believe in the power of prayer in that church, and I said, "Just pray that the money comes in."
NARRATOR: Buckingham's prayers were answered with donations from members of the church.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: So I deposited the money in our personal checking account my wife and I have, and I wrote a check to be passed on to whoever's going to buy the books. It was my understanding, at that time, that a businessman in the community had agreed to take the money and buy the books and donate them to the school. At that time I didn't know who it was.
NARRATOR: But at the trial, Buckingham admitted he had given that check to Alan Bonsell, and that the unknown businessman who bought the books had been Alan Bonsell's father. This contradicted statements Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell had originally made in their sworn depositions.
STEPHEN HARVEY: Lying under oath is a serious crime. We impeached a president about it. And people go to jail for it all the time. It seemed to us that there was testimony that demonstrated clear inconsistency. I can't see into their hearts and know, you know, the extent of the falsehood but I do know that we asked questions that should have elicited that information, and they didn't provide that information.
LAURI LEBO: It was almost like this weird feeling that, you know when you've watched a nature show and you know that the gazelle's about to get it from the lion? You know, I remember actually thinking, "Oh, god, Judge Jones is going to kill Alan Bonsell. I don't...I can't look."
And then Judge Jones, his face had gotten bright red at this point, and he goes, "You tell me why you didn't say where that money came from to buy Of Pandas and People?"
And Alan Bonsell finally, under Judge Jones's grilling, started to get a little nervous. And he started flapping his hands, and he started stammering, and he completely had lost this self-assured composure that he had earlier. And finally he just said, "Well, I misspoke."
ALAN BONSELL: Never in a million years did I ever think that we'd...you know, I'd be in a federal lawsuit when I was on the school board or have the school district in something like that, over a one minute statement, a one minute statement.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: We weren't asking the teachers to become priests or protest...pastors of some sort of...or lay ministers or anything like that, just let the kids know the theory's there. Let the kids do their own research and find answers for themselves.
NARRATOR: After six weeks, the trial concluded with closing arguments that were as divided as the town of Dover itself had become.
ERIC ROTHSCHILD (Dramatization): "What? Am I supposed to tolerate a small encroachment on my First Amendment rights? Well, I'm not going to. I think this is clear what these people have done, and it outrages me." That's a statement of one citizen of Dover, Fred Callahan, standing up to the wedge that has been driven into his community and his daughter's high school by the Dover School Board's anti-evolution, pro-intelligent-design policy.
This trial has established that intelligent design is unconstitutional because it is an inherently religious proposition, a modern form of creationism. It is not just a product of religious people, it does not just have religious implications. It is, in its essence, religious. The shell game has to stop.
PATRICK T. GILLEN: In sum, your Honor, I respectfully submit that the evidence of record shows that the plaintiffs have failed to prove that the primary purpose or primary effect of the reading of a four-paragraph statement on intelligent design, explaining that it's an explanation for the origins of life different from Darwin's theory, letting the students know there are books in the library on this subject, does not, by any reasonable measure, threaten the harm which the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits. But instead, the evidence shows that the defendants' policy has the primary purpose and primary effect of advancing science education by making the students aware of a new scientific theory, one which may well open a fascinating prospect to a new scientific paradigm.
NARRATOR: Judge Jones said he would return a verdict promptly.
Four days after the trial ended, Dover residents rendered their own verdict on intelligent design, with a huge turnout for the school board election. By a narrow margin the people of Dover cleaned house. All eight of the nine seats up for election went to anti-intelligent-design candidates, including plaintiff and former Dover science teacher Bryan Rehm. Among the candidates who got the fewest votes was Alan Bonsell.
With the judge still deliberating, Dover's local school board election was national news and even provoked the ire of televangelist Pat Robertson.
PAT ROBERTSON (Founder and Chairman, The Christian Broadcasting Network - Clip from the 700 Club): I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city.
NARRATOR: Though Robertson had already passed judgment, Dover and the nation would have to wait another month for Judge Jones to render his verdict.
On December 20, 2005, Jones sent out his opinion by e-mail.
TAMMY KITZMILLER: I went to work that day. We pretty much knew it was going to be out by noon, so I waited at work for a phone call.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK: The decision came across the computer; I think it was 10:37.
LAURI LEBO: The columnist behind me...I was reading it from the beginning, and he's standing over my shoulder, and he yells at me, "Go to the end! Go to the end!"
JENNIFER MILLER: I remember Mrs. Spahr, Bertha Spahr knocking on my door and interrupting my class.
NARRATOR: The 139-page opinion ruled that intelligent design is not science. Finding it had been introduced for religious reasons, Judge Jones decided it was "unconstitutional to teach intelligent design" in Dover science classes.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III: 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.
To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis, grounded in religion, into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the intelligent design policy.
NARRATOR: Citing what he called the "breathtaking inanity" of the school board's decision, he found that several members had lied "to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the intelligent design policy."
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III: The crushing weight of the evidence indicates that the board set out to get creationism into science classrooms, and intelligent design was simply the vehicle that they utilized to do that.
NARRATOR: Jones recommended to the U.S. Attorney that he investigate bringing perjury charges against Buckingham and Bonsell for lying under oath. And "the overwhelming evidence at trial," he said, "established that intelligent design is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III: In an era where we're trying to cure cancer, where we're trying to prevent pandemics, where were trying to keep science and math education on the cutting edge in the United States, to introduce and teach bad science to ninth-grade students makes very little sense to me. You know, garbage in garbage out. And it doesn't benefit any of us who benefit daily from scientific discoveries.
NARRATOR: The school district was permanently forbidden to teach intelligent design in its science curriculum. The administration was ordered to pay the plaintiff's legal fees, totaling more than a million dollars. And the election of a new school board, opposed to intelligent design, meant no appeal of the ruling would be mounted.
In the wake of the trial, TIME Magazine named Judge Jones one of the 100 most influential people of the year, but not everyone was so pleased with the Judge's decision.
BILL BUCKINGHAM: To put it bluntly, I think he's a jackass. I think he went to clown college instead of law school or else he went to law school and slept during the Constitution classes, because his decision doesn't jive with the law. I think he should be on a bench, but it ought to be in a center ring of Ringling Brothers Circus. He...it's disgusting.
ALAN BONSELL: It makes me feel sad. We, as a board, were trying to make Dover the best school district it could be. That was our goal. At least mine was. I was trying to...we were trying to take it up to make it the best.
RICHARD THOMPSON: I think, first of all you, you have to say we had a fair trial. I'm just disturbed about the extent of his opinion, that it went way beyond what, what he should have gone into deciding matters of science.
NARRATOR: The Discovery Institute also was displeased. Soon after the decision, the institute published a 123-page book distancing itself from the case and criticizing the ruling as "judicial activism with a vengeance."
The verdict turned out to be more controversial than Judge Jones had imagined. Following the trial, he received death threats. Jones and his family had to be placed under round-the-clock protection.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III: I could never have imagined that I would receive threats to my person in an establishment clause case. But that's what happened in the Dover case.
NARRATOR: For newspaper reporter Lauri Lebo, the verdict was bittersweet. Her father passed away just nine days after the judge's decision. They had never reconciled their differences, though Lauri remains a strong supporter of evolution. Recently, her family took over management of her father's radio station, and Lauri began hosting a weekly show.
LAURI LEBO: Evening, folks. We're going to listen to some Johnny Cash now: "I Talk to Jesus Every Day."
NARRATOR: In the end, though, there is probably one thing everyone in the case can agree on.
WITOLD "VIC" WALCZAK: The issue is certainly not over. One of the things that we've learned is that the opponents of evolution are persistent and resilient. And they're still out there.
PHILLIP JOHNSON: I had thought, at one point, that we would make a breakthrough on this issue and change the scientific community in my lifetime. Now I'm somewhat sobered by the force of the counter-attack that we have received. And I see that it's going to be a longer process than that.
JUDGE JOHN E. JONES, III: I think history tells us that there is an enduring disagreement and dispute in the United States as it relates to evolution. By no means did my decision put a capstone on that. And that will proceed for generations, I suspect.
On the Intelligent Design Web site, hear NOVA's Senior Executive Producer explain why NOVA took on this controversial topic, watch any part of this program again and much more. Find it on PBS.org.
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- Edited by
- Jonathan Sahula
- Produced by
- Written by
- Joseph McMaster
- Directed by
- Associate Producer
- Anna Lee Strachan
- Senior Producer
- Susanne Simpson
- Research and Development
- Barbara Moran
- Narrated by
- Jay O. Sanders
- Directors of Photography
Christopher Titus King
- Sound Recordists
- Rob Morsberger
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- Science Advisor
- Kenneth R. Miller
- Production/Costume/Make-Up Designer
- Erika Okvist
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- Natasha Greenberg
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- Kate Bone
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- Archival Material
The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia
Indiana State Museum
Ian Bradshaw Photography
Natural History Museum, University of Oslo
Claudio Calligaris, McGill University
Wesley R. Elsberry
- Special Thanks
Keiichi Namba, Osaka University
The Trustees of Reservations
The Field Museum
The York Daily Record
The York Dispatch
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- Coordinating Producer
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A Production by NOVA and Vulcan Productions, Inc. in association with The Big Table Film Company
© 2007 WGBH Educational Foundation and Vulcan Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved
- Image credit: (DNA) Â© Digital Art/Corbis; (courthouse) Â© Rudy Sulgan/Corbis
- Alan Bonsell
- Dover School Board Member
- Bill Buckingham
- Dover School Board Member
- Matthew Chapman
- Darwin's Great-Great-Grandson matthewchapman.us/
- David Derosier
- Brandeis University www.bio.brandeis.edu/faculty01/derosier.html
- Robert Eshbach
- Dover Science Teacher
- Barbara Forrest
- Southeastern Lousiana University www2.selu.edu/Academics/Faculty/bforrest/
- Steve Fuller
- University of Warwick www.warwick.ac.uk/~sysdt/Index.html
- Patrick T. Gillen
- Thomas More Law Center www.thomasmore.org/
- Stephen Harvey
- Pepper Hamilton, LLP www.pepperlaw.com/LegalStaff_Preview.aspx?LegalStaffKey=116
- Phillip Johnson
- UC Berkeley School of Law www.law.berkeley.edu/faculty/profiles/facultyProfile.php?facID=57
- John E. Jones III
- U.S. District Judge www.pamd.uscourts.gov/bios/jones.htm
- Tammy Kitzmiller
- Dover Parent
- Lauri Lebo
- Nick Matzke
- National Center for Science Education www.natcenscied.org/
- Jennifer Miller
- Dover Science Teacher
- Kenneth R. Miller
- Brown University www.millerandlevine.com/km/
- Robert Muise
- Thomas More Law Center www.thomasmore.org/
- Ray Mummert
- Dover Pastor
- Kevin Padian
- UC Berkeley www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/people/padian/home.php
- Robert Pennock
- Michigan State University www.msu.edu/~pennock5/
- Bryan Rehm
- Dover Science Teacher
- Christy Rehm
- Dover English Teacher
- Eric Rothschild
- Pepper Hamilton, LLP www.pepperlaw.com/LegalStaff_Preview.aspx?LegalStaffKey=148
- Eugenie C. Scott
- National Center for Science Education www.natcenscied.org/ourstaff.asp
- Neil Shubin
- University of Chicago/The Field Museum pondside.uchicago.edu/oba/faculty/shubin_n.html
- Bertha Spahr
- Dover Science Teacher
- Robert Spicer
- Paleobotanist, Open University, UK cepsar.open.ac.uk/pers/r.a.spicer/p5.shtml
- Richard Thompson
- Thomas More Law Center www.thomasmore.org/qry/page.taf?id=25
- Witold "Vic" Walczak
- ACLU of Pennsylvania www.aclupa.org/home/staff.htm
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