Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Liveblogging the PBS Dover trial special, hour 2

Continued from previous post...

8:02 - The Kitzmiller family is getting scary mail and, I assume, death threats. They now mention that eight of the nine school board members (!!!) resigned.

8:05 - Enter the villains! Eight members of the Discovery Institute are shown, all of whom originally wanted to testify. For unknown reasons, five dropped out. (Or not so unknown. See Martin's comment below for more information.)

8:06 - ACLU guy says "It was pretty clear that everything [for the defense side] rested on Michael Behe's testimony."

8:07 - Dramatization of Behe's testimony. That's definitely an actor. Now I am not so sure that's really Jones either. He's mugging too much. I think they're all actors.

8:08 - Flagellum bullshit, with Behe's favorite diagram. Now they show animations illustrating the flagellum up close.

8:14 - Now they're also showing a similar genetic thing to the flagellum, which does not spin but serves a completely different purpose. It is made up of many of the same components as a flagellum. This is a great illustration of adapting pieces that may have evolved for different reasons.

8:15 - Ken Miller picks apart the irreducible mousetrap analogy.

8:16 - This actor who plays Behe is pretty good. He's portraying exactly the right amount of smugness and condescension.

8:17 - Rothschild-actor enacts the amusing stunt of stacking up a pile of books which refute his claim that there are no publications about evolution of flagellum. Behe-actor sits there opening and shutting his mouth, fishlike. Okay, that's probably a bit over the top.

8:24 - Now Judge Jones (the real one) is talking about first amendment, establishment clause issues. We're getting into the "smoking gun" evidence that Pandas & People was once explicitly billed as a creationism book. Lots of shots of Eric Rothschild googling things with an intense look in his eye.

8:27 - Barbara Forrest uncovers the famous typo. One of the lawyers pronounces the words "cdesign proponentsists." Hilarity ensues, in my house anyway.

8:31 - ACLU guy gives Forrest major props as the hero of the trial. Then they re-enact the scene where Behe admits that his definition of "science" applies to astrology. They've now hit both of the high points of Behe's testimony, IMO. And, again with the fish-mouth. In my house, Paul says: "And the Discovery Institute didn't take him home and lynch him, after that performance?"

8:34 - A nice image of the wedge document. Then Barbara Forrest explains its significance. Then an announcer explains its significance some more, with close-ups on significant phrases. Phil Johnson bloviates on camera: "I know it SOUNDS conspiratorial and sinister. But it's really very simple. I just want to chop the theory of evolution into little pieces. And I'm just a humble lawyer, but surely SOMEBODY must know more than me and still support my position. The wide end of the wedge would be smart sciency sounding people like Michael Behe and, um... well, pretty much just Michael Behe." (That's a paraphrase, if it wasn't obvious.)

8:38 - Scenes of Buckingham replay on video footage, where the dumbass says "creationism" many many times, thereby completely tipping his hand about promoting religion. In the courtroom enactment, Buckingham pleads that he "just couldn't think of the words Intelligent Design at the time." This is, of course, contrary to how he was portrayed earlier, where he just wanted to stick in creationism and had never heard of ID before.

8:39 - Buckingham apparently lies under oath, saying he doesn't know where the money came from to buy the Pandas & People copies, or who donated them. Turns out he collected the money from his church personally. Then gave that money to a businessman. Who gave it to Buckingham's dad. Who bought the books. Asshat.

8:43 - Rothschild-actor gives a theatrical summation. Defense attorney-actor also gives quite a stirring summation himself, doing a passable imitation of Alan Shore as he makes an impassioned plea to think of the children and please just let them decide for themselves on the validity of Intelligent Design.

8:45 - Clip of Pat Robertson is shown, threatening Dover with the wrath of God for rejecting Him from their city. And here I am without any popcorn to throw.

8:46 - Fourteen minutes left, and they're just now getting to Judge Jones' lovely ruling on the case. But at least they have him reading it out loud. Actually that's not so great; he's kind of an awkward and slow reader. Soon an announcer takes over to explain the ruling instead of listening to Jones tell it. Speaking freestyle and not reading, Jones then expounds on the ruling and sounds much better. They replay highlights including showing the term "cdesign proponentsists" again.

8:49 - Bill Buckingham: "To put it bluntly, I think he's a jackass. I think he went to clown college instead of law school." He does not add: "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!"

8:50 - Other members of DI fall all over themselves to alternately bad-mouth Judge Jones and distance themselves from the rotten performance of their colleagues. Jones talks about receiving death threats.

8:52 - You know, Phillip Johnson really looks a lot like Skeletor on camera these days. "I'll get you next time, evolution! Next time!" No wait, that's Dr. Claw.

Final verdict on this show: It was not bad, but I wouldn't call it riveting television. For people who didn't follow the trial closely, it's a decent academic introduction to the events. For those of us who did, it's mostly a retread that didn't offer a lot of new stuff. The re-enactments were a bit distracting in their amateurishness. The interviews were the most interesting part, and I would have liked to see more of that. Plus, as I said before, much more creative computer animations.


  1. According to Barbara Forrest, Dembski and the other IDiots who dropped out of Dover did so because they wanted their own attorneys present. The Thomas More Law Center said no way, this is our baby. Dembski still demanded, and got, his $200/hour fee (while Forrest and all the scientists the NCSE corralled did their work pro bono), eventually pocketing 20 grand for not even showing up. Nice "work" if you can get it.

  2. The "cdesign proponentsists" blunder got a huge laugh at Forrest's talk too. She suggested they might be a transitional form...

  3. I just watched it on it's 1am replay, since I wasn't able to catch the original broadcast. I followed the trial off and on, so there wasn't a whole lot of surprises, but I found the show to actually be really good. I was a bit worried it might try to give equal weight to both sides and let the viewer decide, but it didn't. When an IDiot would make a claim, I noticed a lot of times the program would cut away to a counter point.

    ie, they show Behe talking about the flagellum and he quotes a scientist (name escapes me at the moment) who's made the flagellum a major part of his career, saying that this scientists quote (yay, quote-mining!) shows that somebody who's put so much work and effort through the years on this subject agrees with Behe's assertion that the flagellum looks like something man-made, designed. As soon as actor-Behe says that, the program introduces the very scientist that Behe was talking about, and this scientist not only explains that is not what he said, but then goes on to rip the whole idea of irreducible complexity a new one.

    Also, I liked how Nova mentioned that they made multiple attempts to interview Behe (and others who didn't show up to testify), but he "had requirements that aren't part of normal journalistic methods", or something to that effect. They didn't elaborate, but I think adding that in not only showed Nova was trying to get all the information (this goes a long way for most viewers), but it made a subtle (not so subtle) comment on Behe's character.

    All in all, good show.

  4. You know I would have loved to have seen this if our local PBS station WKNO hadn't deemed it "too controversial" and refused to show it.

    Here's the link to the letters to the editor which was the only place that covered the incident.(You'll find it half way down the page)


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