Here’s a fascinating documentary revisiting the Dover Panda Trial (Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District) that sparked controversy back in 2004 when it was learned students would have an opportunity to learn about Intelligent Design in public schools. It boiled over into the courtroom in 2005, and the judge sided with the plaintiffs, arguing that the book, Of Pandas and People, couldn’t be used as a reference. This judicial decision was a bad decision on many levels.
The Dover school wanted science teachers to read a simple statement in class, and it’s that statement- as harmless as it was- that began the controversy; this trial shows that when worldviews collide, political tensions mount, and science takes a backseat. It didn’t matter that every word of the statement was true, or that it was up to the students to decide if they wanted to pursue Intelligent Design on their own.
Unfortunately, intelligent design has many ideological enemies and is so fiercely opposed that its mere mention- or any criticism of evolution- is unacceptable and must be stomped out so that students are protected from any controversial ideas they may be exposed to, as if they either don’t have the cognitive ability, or shouldn’t have the freedom, to ascertain the truth for themselves. The statement read:
“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. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, “Of Pandas and People,” is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.”
That this innocuous statement was so fiercely opposed by evolutionists is very telling about how fragile the scientific evidence for evolution is. Students were given the freedom to pursue further education and encouraged to keep an open mind. Instead they were met with censorship and an imposing secular worldview, dictating that only one point of view would be heard in the classroom. To me, that’s a clear form of brainwashing. Secular scientists like to claim there’s no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution, but that’s a false premise. Even if we assumed there were any truth to that claim, it would only be true because opposing points of view have been effectively censored. If that were not the case, then opposition would be more apparent.
Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer once said, “The scientist… must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.” However, when it comes to religion and politics in the classroom, this is not the case. There’s no room for discussion, open debate, alternative views and ideas, or academic freedom.
This one-hour documentary takes a closer look at the case and considers Biologist Dr. Michael Behe a revolutionary. In his book, Darwin on Trial, he coined the term ‘irreducible complexity’ to explain biological systems filled with staggering complexity at the molecular level. He defined the term to mean “a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” The iconic example he used is the flagellum, a whip-like structure that extends from certain types of cells used for propulsion, similar to an outboard motor with a drive shaft, motor, clamps, and dozens of pieces. Such a system couldn’t be produced by Darwinian evolution through random mutations and a step-by-step process.
There are several takeaways from the documentary, and the first is how certain scientific information was suppressed during the trial, and in what followed.
During the trial, evolutionary biologists argued that the flagellum had evolved from something called the Type III secretion system, a molecular syringe that injects toxins into a host organism. Therefore, the flagellum was a product of natural selection and evolution, not Intelligent Design. Further, it was argued that the flagellum could have evolved by co-opting preexisting, simpler systems. This evidence was considered a complete refutation of Behe.
However, near the end of the trial, Scott Minnich, a microbiology professor at the University of Idaho, testified that the Type III secretion system didn’t exist until after the flagellum, and, therefore, it couldn’t have evolved into the flagellum. Further, he rejected the idea of co-option as highly speculative and biologically implausible.
Minnich’s testimony isn’t widely known because it was suppressed by the media and contradicts the testimony of Judge Jones, who declared ID unconstitutional, and claimed it’s not science.
But it turns out that the judge had been influenced by the 1960’s movie, Inherit the Wind, which made a mockery of creation. In addition, Judge Jones anticipated a movie of the Dover trial and hoped Tom Hanks would play his role. He was reveling in the spotlight, and began with a biased opinion.
Judge Jones was soundly criticized for going way beyond the legality of Intelligent Design being taught in schools; the decision is considered dangerous to science and freedom of religion. Science shouldn’t be decided by judges. Further, over 90 percent of Judge Jones response was cut-and-pasted from legal documents presented to him by the ACLU, including errors and misquotes. That’s pure bias.
As anticipated, it was also found that, after Dr. Minnich testified, opponents of ID complained to the University of Idaho and University of Washington about him, trying to get him fired for incompetence. He was effectively being censored.
Another highlight from the documentary is when Dr. Gunter Bechly, curator at Germany’s museum of natural history, did the unthinkable. In 2009 during the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth, Dr. Bechly, who described himself as secular and agnostic, was building exhibits intended to demonstrate that there was no debate about Darwinian evolution among scientists. The display was intended to dramatize the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting evolution. One of the displays was a scale with many books about intelligent design on one end, and on the other end was one book- Darwin’s Origin of Species, and the scale tipped in favor of Darwin, showing that this was the heavy evidence for evolution.
But Dr. Bechly made one serious mistake… he actually read the books on intelligent design, and he found they were different from what he had been told by his colleagues, and from what he was led to believe. He found ID to be misrepresented, and realized it actually had merit. After more research, he found that the evolutionary depiction of the flagellum didn’t make sense and was ridiculous once he understood that the Type III secretion system wasn’t a precursor to the flagellum. He then contacted supporters of ID and found them to be open minded and interested in scientific reason. Finally, he came to the conclusion that there were scientific reasons to doubt Darwinian evolution and, in 2015, he publicly endorsed Intelligent Design.
As a creationist, I take issue with certain aspects of Intelligent Design. The two are not one in the same, which is another mistake Judge Jones made. Jones ruled that Intelligent Design is a form of creationism, and since creationism has been outlawed in public schools, then so is ID.
Intelligent Design, while it does have merit, doesn’t identify the designer. It also doesn’t rule out theological evolution, and doesn’t take a stance on the age of the earth or universe. I’ve read a number of books on ID, and while I hold some criticism, I also admit that Darwin’s Black Box has been a favorite of mine since it was first published in 1996.
The documentary does a fine job of shedding light on the ruling of the case, judicial activism, and how it was a tool for evolutionists. It also refutes charges against ID, the claims supporting evolution, and highlights the blatant censorship. The movie even provides spectacular graphics at the molecular level and reveals the marvelous, complex design found within cells, like kinesin walking motor proteins- watch for them and be amazed!
I contend that the original statement by Dover was perfectly legal and Constitutional. Firstly, students should always have the freedom to learn about truth, regardless of religious connections. Second, public schools often claim they exist to provide academic freedom, but this ruling shows that they do not follow that when their ideological beliefs are challenged.
If one truly values education, then schools shouldn’t censor or reject scientific truths just because they’re consistent with religious beliefs or found to be objectionable on some ideological reason. That’s bias, discrimination and prejudice.