Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Liveblogging the PBS Dover trial special

I've never tried something like this before. Martin asked me if I would post a review of the Nova Special, "Judgment Day," since he wouldn't get to watch it. So I thought I'd take some live notes during the show, either as an aid to or in place of this review. I'll update this post periodically throughout the two hour show. Paul Wilson is here, we're having a couple of beers and kibitzing. Feel free to join the comments, whether you're watching or not.

7:09 - Still on background material. They showed shots of the town, had clips from various people (Kenneth Miller, Phillip Johnson) on the conflict. Had some people talking about how they should teach that God did the creation. As usual, these people are blissfully aware that ID isn't really religion. (Wink wink.)

7:12 - clips of the Spencer Tracy classic "Inherit the Wind". Great movie, good artistic choice. Mentions that teaching creationism is today considered a violation of church /state separation.

7:14 - Dover school board member is whining that the textbook they were initially going to approve was "laced with Darwinism." OMG! It's like complaining that a physics book is laced with Newtonism.

7:15 - they talk about Darwin's finches, with background provided by Ken Miller.

7:18 - nice 3d animated rendering of a "tree of life." Well, actually kind of cheesy. :) Also, there's that awkward mixed metaphor of going UP the tree while talking about "descent."

7:20 - They show the mural drawn by a Dover HS student depicting evolution. It was thrown out and burned without asking anyone.

7:22 - Tammy Kitzmiller (bringer of the suit) makes an appearance, talking about the heated school board meetings.

7:24 - So it was the lawyer from the "Thomas More Law Center" who had the bright idea to bring "Intelligent Design" to Dover. Buckingham, the school board lackey, just wanted a book that had evolution AND creation. This lawyer advised him to try Pandas and People, and the rest is history.

7:27 - Buckingham is still trying to talk about Genesis, and is in fact frustrated by the failure of P&P to mention God. Oh goody, here's that blowhard, Phillip Johnson.

7:28 - Buckingham sees ID as "A good compromise" even though it's not religious-y enough. Science teachers come on one by one to say that the book is crap and they see right through it as creationism. Ultimately, the board rejects Pandas and approves the Miller textbook. But "an anonymous donor" generously supplies a crate full of P&P, and the same school board slips through a 6-3 mandate to use the "free" books. WTF? The three resign in protest.

7:31 - The lawsuit is introduced. The science teachers collectively agree as a unit that "we have standards, we're not reading this stupid disclaimer about alternative theories." This is clearly not a case of big bad government oppressing poor innocent teachers who want to teach the controversy; it's a bunch of school board creeps with an agenda trying to order teachers to read this disclaimer.

7:34 - Re-enactment of the Dover trial starts. This is a minimalist set with dim lighting I can't tell if this the real Rothschild talking to the real Judge Jones. They look like the real people, but I don't know them that well. Now the real Jones is being interviewed. Hey, did you know he was not only approved by Bush, but recommended by Rick Santorum? I guess they're establishing his "true conservative" cred before he tears ID to shreds.

7:39 - Fundamental questions of the trial: 1. Prove that the one minute statement is a promotion of religion. 2. Show that ID is not science.

7:41 - Here's that cheesy tree animation again. Paul makes the excellent point that for all the work they did on panning the camera, it's still a STATIC TREE. To be a really good analogy, they should show a tree that's actively sprouting in the animation, while elsewhere it would show branches falling off where species go extinct. Paul's right, I think that would be way cool.

7:49 - Alan Bosnell and other Dover school board members predictably make a horrible botch of the word "theory." The courtroom re-enactors correct the public understanding of the word. I think this is the real Judge Jones in the fake courtroom, but this guy playing Ken Miller is definitely not him. Not-Miller agrees with the ID lawyer that "evolution is tentative," but correctly adds that ALL science is tentative. Pretty well played.

7:52 - An excellent point made by the show: genetics provided a genuine test for evolution. It's not just an ad hoc theory. There were major missing pieces from Darwin's theory, and genetics filled them in. As Paul points out, it's an important counter to the idea that evolution makes no predictions: evolution predicted genetics.

7:58 - Yaaaaay Robert Pennock! (I am such a geeked out fan.)

8:00 - The plaintiffs rest, and the show fades to black. This seems like a good time for a page break. This commentary continues in the next post.

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