Kitzmiller v. Dover (pt. 2 of 2)

And now for the part everyone thinks of when Kitzmiller v. Dover is mentioned: the legal maelstrom following the events described in Kitzmiller v. Dover (Pt. 1 of 2).  The legal battle that would ensue as a result of the school board’s attempt to challenge the teaching of evolution in Dover, PA included some key players in the evolution-creation struggle, including Kenneth Miller, Kevin Padian, Barbara Forrest, Nick Matske, the NCSE, Steve Fuller, and Michael Behe.  Notably absent from this trial was the Discovery Institute, who had saught to distance themselves from the school board once the board began to stray from legal techniques suggested to Buckingham in a phone conversation (Humes 77, 101). 

There were a few notable aspects of this trial.  First, it offered the first true legal test of Intelligent Design in a classroom setting.  However, perhaps more notable is the Creationist heritage of the textbook supplement Of Pandas to People that came to light during the trial.  As described by Barbara Forrest and discovered by Nick Matzke, Of Pandas and People is nothing less than a creationist book with all references to “creationism” changed to “intelligent design” after McLean v. Arkansas declared the teaching of “Creation Science” unConstitutional (see here).  The transitional form “Cdesign Proponentsists”, a failed edit in an unpublished draft of Of Pandas and People helps to confirm this linaeage (although this transitional fossil was not used in the trial; Forrest and Gross 329). It is worth noting that on September 6th, 2005, the defense in Kitzmiller v. Dover attempted to have Forrest barred as a witness.  However, this move failed (Forrest and Gross 327), and would go on to establish a religious basis for Intelligent Design.  In reference to Of Pandas and People:

“Forrest used charts [here] showing the continuity between creation science and ID.  Her Pandas analysis centered on early drafts that FTE [the book’s publisher) had amazingly kept.  There were at least five: (1) Creation Biology Textbook Supplement (1983); (2) Biology and Creation (1986); (3) Biology and Origins, (1987), and (4) two 1987  drafts entitled Of Pandas and People. Pandas was published in 1989, followed by the current 1993 edition” (Forrest and Gross 329)

Forrest’s testimony, combined with that of Kevin Padian and Kenneth Miller, established both the religious undertones of Intelligent Design and also the strength of evolutionary theory (Padian’s powerpoint slidesand testimony, available here,  offer a detailed analysis of the strength of evolutionary theory, and the weaknesses of ID). It is worth noting Kevin Padian’s blunt yet honest assessment of the disclaimer leading to Kitzmiller v. Dover, namely that “Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students ‘stupid”  (quoted from Memorandum Opinion in previous link).

Perhaps as striking as the testimony of Padian and Forrest is that of Michael Behe. As acknowledged by Behe, if the definition of science were altered to include Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, then astrology would become a scientific theory as well:

Q In fact, your definition of scientific theory is synonymous with hypothesis, correct?

A Partly — it can be synonymous with hypothesis, it can also include the National Academy’s definition. But in fact, the scientific community uses the word “theory” in many times as synonymous with the word “hypothesis,” other times it uses the word as a synonym for the definition reached by the National Academy, and at other times it uses it in other ways.

Q But the way you are using it is synonymous with the definition of hypothesis?

A No, I would disagree. It can be used to cover hypotheses, but it can also include ideas that are in fact well substantiated and so on. So while it does include ideas that are synonymous or in fact are hypotheses, it also includes stronger senses of that term.

Q And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?

A Yes.

Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?

A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that — 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.” (from cross-examination of Behe, available here)

As a result of the information presented here, legal precedent, and the rest of the data presented during the trial, Judge John E. Jones III had enough information to strike down the motion to read a disclaimer questioning the strength of evolutionary theory and referring students to copies of Of Pandas and People.  As exposed during the trial, the text has a distinctly Creationist heritage.  As accepted by Behe, to alter science to include Intelligent Design as a scientific theory would also deem astrology a valid scientific theory.  While testimony illustrating the religious motives of board members such as Alan Bonsell and Bill Buckingham exposed the religious nature of Dover’s anti-evolution movement, expert testimony also illustrated weaknesses with Intelligent Design as a whole.  Thus, while Judge John E. Jones III struck down the school board’s attempt to challenge evolution in Dover, expert testimony within the trial can provide some framework for future attempts to incorporate Intelligent Design into the American science classroom.

Works cited:

Forrest, B. & Gross, PR.  Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007

Humes, E. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul. HarperCollins.  New York. 2007

Explore posts in the same categories: 1900s, evolution, history of science, legal battles

4 Comments on “Kitzmiller v. Dover (pt. 2 of 2)”

  1. johnG Says:

    “although this transitional fossil was not used in the trial” — hilarious


    • darwinaia Says:

      Apparently they had a field day with that one; it was even discussed in a documentary on the trial released after the fact(the PBS Nova one if I’m not mistaken). Some of the stuff from this subject area is extremely entertaining. The Wedge Document (a Discovery Institute 5 year funding plan) could have easily been dismissed as some sort of conspiracy-theory fueled hoax if a copy of the document itself wasn’t released online; essentially, a couple of guys were given some papers to move at the Discovery Institute. One of them had “top secret” marked on it, so they looked. Thinking it was important, they copied the thing and leaked it. A later statement by the Discovery Institute (titled “the Wedge Document: So What?”) begrudgingly accepted that the document was real, but worked to downplay its significance. Interesting stuff.

      • johnG Says:

        It is interesting stuff, and I won’t tire hearing of the details. I didn’t realize that the release of the wedge document was an accident. If I wrote such a document, I’d keep it to myself. I wonder what else they have stamped “top secret”.


      • darwinaia Says:

        It seems tough to keep stuff like that hidden; Watergate, Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute, Cold Fusion, if there’s something problematic behind the scenes, it’s likely to surface eventually. But you’ve got to wonder why the Discovery Institute allow some basic staffer to handle something as potentially devasting to the Institute rather than one of the Discovery Institute big-wigs. If you’re interested in a bit more on it, PZ Myers has perhaps the most entertaining description I’ve read, including a link to images of the original photocopies, where “you too can see it in it’s original cheap-ass photocopied glory,” in his words. Ironically enough, the guy went to see Expelled with Richard Dawkins, at some special showing. They wouldn’t allow PZ into the filming, but apparently not recognizing Dawkins (who was also quoted out of context in the film), allowed Dawkins in to see it.

        <a href="“>Dawkins and PZ Myers aboud being expelled from Expelled

        <a href="“>PZ Myers on the incident

        Also, travelling to Washington DC (and the Smithsonian for part of the trip) tomorrow , through Sunday, for a vacation; I plan on working out some stuff on cladistics while I’m there, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some good images to work into a post on the topic.

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