Judgement Day

Watched “Judgement Day – Intelligent Design On Trial” last night on PBS. It was interesting to see the people I’ve heard described in numerous news reports defending their positions, and see a re-enactment of the court proceedings.

In case you don’t know, it documented the court case surrounding the Dover School Board’s attempt to place intelligent design into a high school science class with the help of the Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center. Two board members, William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell had originally tried to withhold funding for a biology text book that science teachers were requesting citing concerns over “Darwinism”, and tried to make funding for the book contingent on also using another book, “Of Pandas and People” as part of classroom curriculum. The board ultimately decided to fund the biology textbook without the inclusion of Pandas.

So Buckingham and Bonsell bought sixty copies of Pandas and sent them to the school under the cover of anonymity. They then got the board to agree that when teaching evolution, there needed to be a disclaimer read to the class about “other theories”.

The teachers threw a fit, and the ACLU was all over it.

The case was a pretty interesting thing to see, and a powerhouse demonstration of science. Intelligent Design was pretty completely thrashed, and exposed as a thin re-imagining of creationism, and therefore in violation of the establishment clause. Buckinham and Bonsell both lied under oath, and were recommended to the attorney general for perjury charges. The judge issued a scathing 139 page ruling, which is worth reading all the way through.

It should be noted that the judge was 1. Republican, 2. Appointed to his post by George Bush. This was no liberal activist judge. But soon after his judgement, he was receiving death threats and being lambasted by the right wing media as an activist judge. Strangely enough, Judge Jones seems to take this all in stride, though his family had to go under 24 hour protection for a time. Which is by the way, a good backup to my previous post about how religious belief absolutely motivates bad behavior in and of itself. Judge Jones on activism:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.

It should be noted that the Board’s breathtaking inanity cost taxpayers a cool $1 million in legal fees.

Call it a trick of the film makers, but it’s amazing seeing the patient, reasonable concern of the science teachers and scientists and the ACLU contrasted by the extremely poor behavior of the religious elements in Dover. Most of those fighting against the boards decisions are themselves christian, and were baffled by the venom issuing forth from people they thought were their friends. A great comment from the judge in his decision:

It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

The interviews with Buckingham and Bonsell are also telling. Bonsell comes off as simple and confused, someone who was trying to act in what he felt was the public’s interest by promoting religion in schools and doesn’t see why it’s a big deal.

Buckingham on the other hand seemed much more purposeful in his efforts to promote religion, and seemed to be the main source of trouble in the board. He was clearly deceitful about his religious motivations for buying Pandas (He gathered the money for the purchase from his church) in court, and he was the one who originally contacted both the Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center for the express purpose of interfering with the teaching of “darwinism”. Watching him talk honestly made my blood boil. Near the end of the documentary, when asked about the decision he states:

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, uh, his decision doesn’t jive with the law. Uh, I think he should be on a bench, but it ought to be in a centre ring of Ringling Brothers Circus. He, it, it, it’s disgusting.

In another article he says:

I’m still waiting for a judge or anyone to show me anywhere in the Constitution where there’s a separation of church and state,” he said. “We didn’t lose; we were robbed.”

This was a hallmark of the thinking behind intelligent design by the way. Setting the burden of proof so high that you can always dismiss the conclusions of others based on evidence. Who cares that there’s a boatload of jurisprudence around the establishment clause that supports the separation of church and state? If it doesn’t exactly say what I would expect it to say, it can’t possibly mean what you’re proposing! And if it’s not directly in the constitution it’s not law! Show me in the constitution where it imposes speed limits!

And another Buckingham quote from an article documenting his desire to keep “one nation under god” in the pledge of allegiance:

America was founded as a Christian country. While we welcome people from other countries, that doesn’t give them the right to change things. If they don’t want to say it our way, they can go back to the country they came from.

Clearly this is a level-headed individual who isn’t motivated by religion. Uh huh.

All in all it was a very interesting documentary, and I’d recommend that anyone with an interest in the battle between ID and evolution check it out.

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