Monday, October 31, 2005

Judge Jones: "I'm confused"

Friday morning began with the appearances of York Dispatch reporter
Heidi Bernhard-Bubband and Joe Maldonado of the York Daily Record. Both
reporters attended the June 2004 Dover school board meeting, and both
wrote articles that stated board members there used the word
"creationism" repeatedly. Several of the Dover School Board members
dispute that the word was used, including Thursday's witness, Bill
Buckingham, and Heather Geesey.

Ms. Geesey followed the reporters on the stand. Parts of her testimony
bore a strikingly similarity to that of Supt. Nilsen the previous week.
Both admitted that their sole sources of knowledge about intelligent
design - including their belief that it is "scientific" - were board
members William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell. They also chose to believe
these board members - who both witnesses admit have "no science
background" - over the school district's own biology teachers. Neither
found it necessary to do any research on their own about the proposed
addition to the curriculum.

Ms. Geesey also recounted her rather rocky relationship with one of her
fellow board members, Casey Brown. When Ms. Geesey first joined the
board in December of 2003, Ms. Brown had been her mentor. However, the
two had a disagreement, and according to Ms. Geesey, Ms. Brown stopped
returning her calls and refused to give her advice. (Bear with me - I
promise this ties in later.)

Ms. Geesey defended her decision to vote in favor of the intelligent
design textbook Of Panda and People - which she said never read - by
stating she was merely relying on the decision of the Curriculum
Committee. The Curriculum Committee was made up of board members William
Buckingham, Alan Bonsell, and... Casey Brown. Our attorney pointed out
that Ms. Brown had actually adamantly opposed the teaching of
intelligent design, and the committee was not unified. When asked why
she had disregarded Ms. Brown's opposition, she replied, "She was
ignoring me."

The most dramatic episode of the day came when Ms. Geesey gave testimony
that directly contradicted her depositions, which had been taken in
March 2005. On Friday she testified that intelligent design had been the
alternative to evolution discussed at the June 2004 board meeting.
However, our attorney reminded her of what she had said in her
deposition.

Q. What did he [Buckingham] say he wanted to balance Darwinism with at
that [June] meeting?
A. At that meeting, I don't know. He wanted another theory at that time.
At that time, I don't think he knew."

[at another place in the deposition]

Q. Do you recall a discussion by anyone or a statement by anyone at the
June 14 meeting involving the words intelligent design?
A. No.

Ms. Geesey explained the discrepancy by saying that seeing a letter to
the editor she'd written that our attorney had questioned her about
earlier in the day "refreshed her memory." (Which was interesting, since
the letter only mentions creationism, not intelligent design.)

After her cross, Judge Jones questioned the witness.

Judge Jones: I'm confused.
Heather Geesey: So am I.
Judge Jones (with a smile): It's more important that I'm not confused.

He proceeded to ask her why her testimony differed, and how seeing her
June 27, 2004 letter to the editor could possibly have refreshed her
memory. Here are excerpts from the letter:

"Our country was founded on Christian beliefs and principles. We are not
looking for a book that is teaching students that this is a right or
wrong thing. It's just a fact."

"You can teach creationism without it being Christianity. It can be
presented as a higher power."

No mention was made of intelligent design in the letter, but Ms. Geesey
repeated that the letter had reminded her of the discussion including
intelligent design.

The afternoon concluded with testimony from Asst. Superintendent Michael
Baksa.

Monday should be an interesting day, with Alan Bonsell appearing on the
stand. Bonsell is one of the biggest proponents of teaching intelligent
design.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow I expected more from this trial. So far the defense has managed to show very little in its favor. We seem to have two witnesses who have lied (rather ineffectivly too), and very little true defense of their position. As much as Behe danced, it still seems that he didn't have much to support his position. Fuller was damaging (ok, I am confused here perhaps he was really a procecution witness).

The bottom line seems to be missing from the defense. The point of the trial is that there is some reason that the board thinks that the teaching of evolution needs to be balanced with ID or something else. So far I don't see much of a defense being raised for that point. My personal bias is at work here since I can't fathom what the justification would be. I have to admit to being swayed for a short time by the ID folks claiming "gaps" in evolution. I was starting to actually buy this until I realized that this wasn't the case. The more I learned about the supposed alternative (ID), the more it became clear that they are all the same tired negative arguments. So the bottom line is that 9th graders should learn science in science class. If there was some genuine alternative theory to evolution, it would probably operate in a domain that 9th graders are not likely to grasp anyway (I am being very generous here).

Once again we have a lame attempt to ram the narrow religious views into the science curiculum. I can't really understand the violent reaction these folks have toward the theory of evolution.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another anonymous said:

(ok, I am confused here perhaps he was really a procecution witness).

There is no "prosecution" as this is a civil case. It's plaintifs vs. defendants.

Personaly, I suspect the problem the defense is having is that the policy was rammed through people who don't understand enough science to appreciate the issues by people who have a personal stake in being anti-evolution. That doesn't give the defense much to work with. I also get the impression that the defense attorneys share the ideology and the lack of understanding of science with the defendants that got the policy put in place. The blind spots become rather obvious....

At the core of the issue--and much larger than this case--the problem for creationists of all stripes is that there are a great many disciplines that all point to the same conclusions and reinforce each other--deep time, natural development, materialist explanations. In order to invalidate evolution, you have to chuck out things that no longer threaten Biblical literaists like geology, astronomy, nuclear physics and a whole host of technologies that rely on the correctness of the conclusions of those fields. One *used* to get (and probably still do in some cases) claims of decay of light speed, changing rate of radioactive decay and other such nonsense to support a young Earth. The ID folks aren't pushing those ideas, mostly because ID is a fallback position.

IF ID ever gains a solid foothold, watch out for the infighting among the various factions operating under that umbrella.

(For that matter, isn't it curious that the *one* creationist idea that is *not* in the ID group is "theistic evolution"?)

12:04 PM  
Blogger kshetline said...

Isn't there a certain point at which you can slap these defense witnesses with perjury charges? Anyone who's ever listened to a five year old lying about taking a cookie could see through these so-called "lapses of memory" Buckingham and Geesey et al seem to be suffering from so much.

Do these people have the audacity to imagine themselves doing "God's work" by lying under oath so much?

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Often, it seems that the people who are most aggressive in ramming religious ideas into the public arena are also the ones who "forget" the commandments that they are trying to spread..... You know, just like that certain Texas congressman who drug religion and congress into the Shaivo issue - and is now facing charges for illegal use of money....

1:41 PM  
Blogger Chef Bouillon said...

Seriously, why are people so threatened by the idea of a creator? Anyone who is reasonably intelligent will be able to read both THEORIES and figure out which is correct. Why not allow people the CHOICE to choose a theory based on being TAUGHT. You know, teaching, what is supposed to happen in our schools but is all to often forgotten due to people freaking out over every little word choice. Just a thought.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am wondering when corrected transcripts might become available, particularly the Day 12 afternoon session?

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one is threatened by a creator or the concept of a creator. That is not the problem or issue here.

The issue is that when you are teaching H.S. science, you have to get the science correct or your students will flunk science when they get to college.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Primus said...

Judge Jones: I'm confused.
Heather Geesey: So am I.
Judge Jones (with a smile): It's more important that I'm not confused.


OUCH.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said, "I can't really understand the violent reaction these folks have toward the theory of evolution."

The problem they have with evolution is that their belief system says that God created man in his own image and gave him an immortal soul and an afterlife. If evolution is right, and we're essentially just big chimpanzees that got lucky, their entire belief system (that we're chosen specially by God, etc.) goes right out the window. And their preachers are out of a job and will have to find real work somewhere. That's a scary proposition. I think they are reacting so strongly out of fear that they might just be wrong...

We're steadily slipping behind the rest of the world in math and science education, so fighting back against this nonsense is really critical, even if they do react violently.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chef bouillon

What is the purpose of intelligent design? what does it do or add to science?

Evolutionary science has brought us advancements in medicines and technology.

intelligent designs adds nothing to science, has no breakthroughs, has no defined theory as such by the intelligent design advocates themselves.

The only point to intelligent design is to put religion into science class.

Science does not claim there is or is not a creator, it just observes and tests and experiments with the natural worl and observable events.

Why are intelligent design advocates afraid of evolution, besides the fact that everything we have found so far invalidates the strict literal interpretation of the bible. It does not invalidate the bible itself as a means of an inner moral compass, to be interprited and put into action.

Why the rush to insert intelligent design into high school and elementary schools, when it has offered nothing to the scientific world at all, and is not a scientifically falsifiable hypothosis, and even one of the defendents said that the "designer could be dead for all we know. Is that what you want taught? that god is dead?
To force the concept of a god of their choosing upon every one who sees things differently. That's not education, that's indocternation

Just A Layman

3:19 PM  
Blogger Phil Karn said...

Chef Boullion:

You're attacking a straw man. The issue is not whether people are "threatened by the idea of a creator".

You may not realize it, but many, perhaps even most, religious people accept the theory of evolution. Dr. Kenneth Miller is a good example. As a scientist, he sees and understands the enormous weight of physical evidence that supports it. And as a Catholic, he has evidently concluded that evolution is one of the mechanisms through which God works.

This notion -- God creating the basic laws of nature that led to evolution -- is known as "theistic creationism", but the creationists explicitly reject this position.

It's interesting how people who purport to worship and respect God so much can put such strict limits on exactly how He can function.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This notion -- God creating the basic laws of nature that led to evolution -- is known as "theistic creationism", but the creationists explicitly reject this position.
----

I think you mean "theistic evolution."

12:07 AM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Chef Bouillon, who's quite a good cook
Did not take a deep enough look;
    The Dover defendant
    Broke the First Amendment
And by Christo-conmen got took.

And on the substantive points:
1.  Science is difficult enough.  Why do you want it debased by adding religion to it?
2.  Why do you want to present children with a false choice between conclusions drawn from a huge body of evidence (biology, including evolution) and religion?
3.  What makes you think that high school students are going to have the acuteness of thought and depth of experience to realize that "intelligent design" is the construction of a bunch of con-men who had to change their game after "scientific creationism" was ruled to be religion?
4.  Why do you want to violate the First Amendment and have religion taught, not just in public school, but falsely presented as science in science classes?

I have most of the same objections to teaching astrology in science classes.  It's garbage.  So-called "intelligent design" is just stinkier garbage.

2:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chef Bouillon,

We're not talking about a creator in this case; we're talking about ID. The reason I oppose ID being taught as science is that a Flying Spaghetti Monster is just as valid (and verifiable) a theory as ID:

http://www.venganza.org/

FWIW, I think ID would make a very valid and interesting course of study in anthropology, cultural studies, social studies etc.

1:20 PM  
Blogger real_tips said...

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3:06 AM  

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