Monday, October 31, 2005

More Transcripts

You've been asking for them, and here they are:

Transcript Day 13 PM (Supt. Nilsen direct testimony)
Transcript Day 14 AM (Supt. Nilsen testimony & cross)
Transcript Day 14 PM (Supt. Nilsen cross; Asst. Superintendent Baksa testimony)
Transcript Day 15 AM (Prof. Stephen Fuller testimony)
Transcript Day 15 PM (Prof. Stephen Fuller testimony)
Transcript Day 16 AM (Buckingham testimony - NOTE: some of this file is garbled in spots. If you scroll down past the first couple of pages, you should be able to read a lot of it.)

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

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

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

You see, what had happened was....

If you came here looking for info from Friday's proceedings, don't fret. It's coming. Would you accept any of the following explanations for our tardiness?
A. The hamster that turns the wheel that keeps Speaking Freely going stopped running.
B. The dog ate it.
C. Speaking Freely is an intelligently designed machine with a purposeful arrangement of parts, and when one part is removed, the machine stops functioning.

Seriously, we'll have a recap up this morning. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek (as opposed to a sneak-and-peek): Once again a Dover School Board member contradicted herself on the stand. Here's an excerpt from the coming post:
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.)

Meanwhile, yesterday's (Harrisburg) Patriot News outlined the falling-out between the Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Deer in the headlights

Yesterday the Kitzmiller trial featured the much-anticipated testimony of former school board member William Buckingham, a figure of controversy because of the religious statements attributed to him in the local press (which he has denied).

After the June 7 and June 14, 2004 board meetings, the York Daily Record and York Dispatch reported that Buckingham said that he wanted "creationism" taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution. The papers reported that he was worried because the textbook proposed by science faculty was "laced with Darwinism" and that he wanted a book with a balance "between creationism and evolution." His concern: "If you teach evolution over and over again, the students will believe it is fact." He was said to have challenged a member of the public "to trace your roots to the monkey you came from."

Buckingham was also quoted as claiming that "separation of church and state is mythic" and that it wasn't necessary to teach Hindu, Muslim or other religious beliefs alongside creationism because "This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. It was founded on Christianity."

Then, there was the famous quote: "2000 years ago someone died on a cross for us; shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?"

Buckingham said that he never read any of the articles published about the Board meetings (although both papers were delivered to his house every day) and that for the most part he wasn't told what was being reported. He testified that he hadn't reviewed the news articles to prepare for trial because he didn't "give a darn thing about what they print."

When asked to read the news articles, Buckingham testified that the reporters for the Daily Record and the Dispatch got most things right, but that they "made up" his use of the word "creationism." He also said that some statements - including "2000 years ago..." and "...founded on Christianity" -- were things he had said in late 2003, after a Board debate over requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance that focused on the words "under God" in the pledge.

[Gratuitous side comment: The courts have held unequivocally that the First Amendment forbids a school from requiring a student to recite the pledge.]

Buckingham said he believed that the reporters simply substituted the word "creationism" every time a Board member said "intelligent design." He stated emphatically that neither he nor any other School Board member ever used the word "creationism" during any School Board meeting, Curriculum Committee meeting, private discussion or to the press.

Then Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton LLP played for Buckingham a segment aired by Fox News in the summer of 2004. All around the courtroom, Buckingham's face appeared on monitors and screens, saying, "It's OK to teach Darwinism, but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism."

Buckingham said he'd forgotten about that interview. He characterized the interview by the Fox News reporters as an "ambush" and said he'd felt like a "deer in the headlights." He then explained that he had been so concerned about all the news reports that used the word "creationism" - the same reports he'd said that he never read, wasn't told about and didn't "give a darn thing about" - that he was concentrating really hard on not using that word and it just slipped out. "I made a mistake," he said.

At his first deposition, Buckingham had testified that he "absolutely" voted to purchase Biology in time for the beginning of classes in the Fall of 2004. Yesterday, Buckingham conceded that he had voted against buying the biology textbook to try to force the Board to purchase Pandas as a companion text. He agreed with the news report that he had said, "If he didn't get his book, then the District would not get its book."

Buckingham testified that he learned about Pandas from Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, when seeking a textbook that offered an alternative to evolution. In proposing the curriculum change, Buckingham sought only legal advice, never any educational or scientific advice. Nor did he consult the Curriculum Advisory Committee, which is made up of Dover Area residents, because he was new to the Board and didn't realize that was Board policy.

Finally, Mr. Harvey asked Buckingham about the School Distric's acquisition of dozens of copies of Pandas. Buckingham testified that members of his church had donated money for the purchase of the books, and that he written a check to Donald Bonsell, father of the President of the School Board Alan Bonsell [who will be testifying next week]. He stated that he didn't share that information when a member of the public asked how the district got Pandas because he "didn't think it was relevant."

Mr. Harvey then asked Buckingham to read from his deposition. Mr. Harvey had asked where the books came from and Buckingham had responded that he did not know who had donated the books, but that he had "deduced" there might be a tie to Alan Bonsell just because Bonsell was Board President. In the same deposition Buckingham said he did not ask where the books came from "because I didn't want to know."

"Didn't you lie to me?" asked Mr. Harvey. Buckingham responded that his deposition answer was truthful because he didn't know the names of the church members who had made cash donations for the purchase of the books.

Then, came the reporter...

Immediately after Buckingham's testimony, Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, the author of the York Dispatch articles that Buckingham claimed were inaccurate, testified. ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak walked Ms. Bernhard-Bubb through each of the eight articles and she confirmed that her quotes were correct. In particular, she confirmed that she heard Buckingham and other Board members say they wanted to add "creationism" to the biology curriculum at June 7, 2004 Board meeting and heard Buckingham use that word again at the June 14 Board meeting. She testified that the phrase "intelligent design" was not mentioned until the August 2, 2004 Board meeting - which is why it did not appear in any of her articles until August. She also confirmed that she heard Buckingham make the other statements she attributed to him.

Ms. Bernhard-Bubb will be cross examined today.

submitted by Mary Catherine Roper, Staff Attorney, ACLU of PA

Thursday, October 27, 2005

ACLU and Al-Qaeda: A lot alike except that we're not

Good times, good times: "Facts, or smear?" This article includes the following from Dover school board member Ron Short: "I fear the ACLU more than I fear Al-Qaida."

Doesn't Ron know how cute and cuddly we are? Especially cute?

Meanwhile, in the parts of the world not called The Twilight Zone, reality-based columnist Mike Argento of the York Daily Record had this to say in his latest column, "Intelligent Design's plea for help":
Fuller said intelligent design is, essentially, a half-baked idea, pretty much something the intelligent design guys have whipped up without doing much in the way of producing evidence.

And that's why it should be taught to ninth-graders in Dover.

You know, I can come up with a lot of half-baked ideas that no one in their right mind would want to teach to kids in Dover. Let's see. How about this? Cows think in Spanish. Discuss.

Finally, here's John Cleese as Dr. Michael Behe in Monty Python's flying creationism.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Scientific Revolution 101

Dr. Steve William Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, took the stand yesterday to discuss historical and philosophical perspectives on scientific methodology. His testimony ranged from economic oppression to the self-perpetuating scientific elite to prejudice and discrimination. He proposed affirmative action plans in the science community and advocated the recruitment of young people.

Yes, I was in the right courtroom. I didn't see any black berets or "Free Huey" buttons, but he was definitely talking about revolution.

According to Dr. Fuller, scientific methods are inherently discriminatory and designed to shut out alternative ideas. For example: peer review. The reviewers are rarely a representative group but a "self-perpetuating elite." By evaluating a scientist's track record and publications, the process discriminates against young scientists with new or unpopular ideas. Dr. Fuller said that these same scientists might also have unequal access to grant funding. He suggested that an affirmative action program for scientists with alternative ideas might be one way to address this economic bias.

But Dr. Fuller put the most emphasis on the innate tendency of scientific method itself to favor the most popular theory. He said that our current methods persuade scientists to move in a unified direction, eventually creating a small number of widely accepted ideas or paradigms that are only challenged when they begin to self-destruct. Dr. Fuller said that these paradigms in science are so strong that, in order for an unpopular or alternative idea to have a shot at validity, a scientific revolution must occur.

Scientific Revolution FAQ:

How does one start a scientific revolution?

To gain acceptance as a science is to change the definition of science. Dr. Fuller explained that the boundaries between science and non-science are constantly being negotiated and policed. In Dr. Fuller's world, the words "a well substantiated explanation" should be stricken from the definition of scientific method and that instead we should think of science as "an explanatory conception of a range of phenomena" in order to validate newer, less established ideas.

Should we test it first?

Testability, while important to the growth of scientific theory, should not determine whether or not an idea is science. The gist of the story...ID is not currently testable but, according to Dr. Fuller, testability relates to the longevity of an idea and does not effect whether or not something is science. Regardless of testability, a new idea should still be presented to school children. ID is not testable, but Dr. Fuller specifically supports teaching it in classrooms because ID needs "new recruits."

What's the motivation? Religion?

When asked whether the ID movement has religious motives, Dr. Fuller replied that almost all science "has religious roots." ID has changed over time and "doesn’t know its own history" but Dr. Fuller is clear that the ID mindset assumes a creator exists.

Yet, whether ID introduces a supernatural aspect or not is moot because the term supernatural refers both to things that are "above" observation (for example, God) but also to things that are "below" observation - like atoms.

In short, he agreed that the ID movement's motive was religious and that it may be considered "supernatural" in so far as it is not currently testable. But according to Dr. Fuller, that doesn’t mean it’s not science.

Evolution does not inspire people to practice science. According to Dr. Fuller, belief in genetic mutation and natural selection has a tendency to make people just "sit around and wait to die" instead of questioning, studying and testing ideas. On the flip side, he said that cultures in which people believe they were "crafted in the image and likeness of God" have historically been more inquisitive and have developed a larger body of scientific knowledge than other cultures. He suggested that these people felt "like God" and therefore had the confidence to believe that they could figure out how life works.

Or, Personal Preference?
The final reason to challenge evolution: Dr. Fuller doesn't like it. While Dr. Fuller agrees that, evolution is a better biological science than ID, he still "has a problem with it" just as he has a problem with any explanation that is not being sufficiently contested or opposed.

But, what is the biggest threat to any revolution?
Perhaps the biggest threat to a revolution is dissention in the ranks. Or in this case...dissention in the witness.

The latter part of the cross-examination, redirect, and rebuttal focused on clarifying what appeared to be major contradictions in Dr. Fuller's testimony and deposition.

In deposition, Dr. Fuller said that the word "theory" in the Dover paragraph was used in a misleading way. On the stand, he explained that he was only sympathizing with the fact that those less familiar with the concepts might find it confusing.

Like...ninth graders, perhaps?

In deposition, Dr. Fuller made several direct correlations between ID and creationism, for example:
"It [ID] is a kind of creationism."
"What we now call the Intelligent Designer used to be called the Creator."
"Intelligent Design is a way of interpreting creationism."

And my personal favorite: "Intelligent Design (aka Creationism)."

On the stand, Dr. Fuller explained that each of those quotes was either an attempt to provide a point of reference for those less familiar with the term ID or just "unfortunate" choices of wording.

At the closing of his testimony, Dr. Fuller questioned the plaintiff's assertion that the ID movement is approximately 20-years old. When it was pointed out that the term ID appeared in Of Pandas and People in 1989, Dr. Fuller interrupted and emphatically disagreed with the logic.

"You don't use a high school textbook to determine what science is," he said.
Submitted by Janeya Hisle, Director of Administration and Finance, ACLU of PA

Monday, October 24, 2005

Points for creativity

Today Judge Jones issued an order striking the Discovery Institute's friend-of-the-court briefs, which were filed on October 3.

The ACLU argued that these briefs were simply a way to bring in the Discovery Institute's opinions "without opening up themselves to the scrutiny of cross-examination." As noted in the previous post, several experts from the Discovery Institute were set to testify on behalf of the defendants, the Dover Area School District. They subsequently withdrew as witnesses, and were therefore not cross-examined. Nonetheless, the Discovery Institute attempted to include much of the withdrawn expert testimony of Dr. Stephen Meyer in its friend-of-the-court brief.

Motion to strike the friend-of-the-court briefs from the Discovery Institute

Judge Jones's order


Last Friday the American Enterprise Institute sponsored a forum titled "Science Wars" that focused on the intelligent design/evolution controversy. Among the participants in the forum were the director for the Thomas More Institute, Richard Thompson, and Mark Ryland, Director of the Discovery Institute's Washington office.

As you may recall, the Discovery Institute is a pro-intelligent design group that was originally supposed to provide expert witnesses for the defense. However, their witnesses pulled out because the Thomas More Center did not want them to have their own attorneys represent them in depositions. (Thomas More Center is representing the Dover Area School District.)

During the debate, Thompson and Ryland ended up in a somewhat heated exchange. Ryland claimed that the Discovery Institute had "never set out to have school boards" teach intelligent design. He was quickly confronted by Thompson, who produced a copy of the Discovery Institute's Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum: A Guidebook by Steven Meyer and David DeWolf.

Other participants in the excerpt include moderator Jon Entine, Kenneth R. Miller (who appeared as an expert witness for us a few weeks ago), and Steve Gey.

(Thanks to the National Center for Science Education's Nick Matzke for transcribing part of the debate.)

Guest Blogger: Rev. Charles W. Holsinger (Ret.)

"Evolution led me to believe more firmly in God"

So what about evolution? So what about the idea or theory or secular conspiracy that suggests I really came from a friendly chimpanzee-UP the evolutionary ladder? Is that a direct contradiction to another thought or theory or possible conspiracy, that I came from the mouth of God himself-or herself? Consider!

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a retired Presbyterian minister who for a short time was once a Biology teacher. As a very young teenager, long before I took the institutional church seriously, I had already read Darwin's Origin of Species. It was the miracle and wonder of the natural world in Darwin's evolutionary ideas, that mysteriouus beauty and majesty "behind" me, that led me gently but surely into the ministry of faith where I have tried to be a priest, a prophet, a preacher, and a pastor. It all begain with that noble idea that as a human creature I belonged to the wider world of all Creation. The more I understood that world, the more mystery I uncovered, the more wonder I found revealed, the more I grew in faith and belief.

It may be too simple a statement for some, but I am convinced that the concept of evolution led me to believe more firmly in God. Call it a theory or call it what you wish, dismiss it out of hand and suggest that "Intelligent Design" is sufficient and you will short-circuit the search, the curiosity, the probing, the revelation that lies awaiting us in all its wonder and glory. That search, probing and revelation is necessary for all scientific research and that same sort of searching and probing has led me personally to believe in God the Creator. The most important part of the Genesis story, however, is in the first three words: "In the beginning, God......." But the Creation didn't stop there; it continues to evolve, for evolution science attempts to answer the question: How. My religion attempts to wrestle with: Who and Why. None of those questions have final and complete answers and the search continues. But they are not dealing with the same arena of thought and understanding.

In short, whether you are Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, or Atheist, believe in whatever deity you choose or whatever dream you have-but keep it where it belongs-out of a Pennsylvania Biology school classroom and in the home, synagogue, church, mosque, or any discussion of philosophy elsewhere. In the Biology classroom-and out of it as well-with evolution by your side, analyze the present and search for the future and let evolutionary science stir your senses in examining the person you are and the neighbors you have, animal, vegetable and mineral. If you don't know as much as you can about where you came from-in terms of the real world we live in-you will never know who you are or where you're going.

Reverend Charles Holsinger lives in York County. A former biology teacher, Rev. Holsinger's ministry has included leading forums and discussion groups on faith and science.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Apparently students aren't the only ones who don't always listen to their teachers

The defense abruptly withdrew its expert witness Dick Carpenter II, who was set to testify on Friday. Instead, we were treated to the cross-examination of Dover Area School District Superintendent Richard Nilsen.

Much of Dr. Nilsen's initial testimony and cross-examination focused on the reaction of the high school's science teachers to the addition of intelligent design to the biology curriculum. He said he was surprised when the teachers asked that their names be removed as authors of the biology curriculum. Nilsen testified that he was "confused," since "the teachers had written 99% of it;" the only difference was the addition of intelligent design.

In their request for the removal of their names, the teachers had noted that "if there is any litigation, we do not want to be liable." Nevertheless, the superintendent said it "didn't seem significant" that they'd asked that their names be withdrawn. (He did comply with their request, however.)

Despite the addition of intelligent design to the curriculum, Dr. Nilsen denied repeatedly that reading the statement the board approved constituted teaching. However, when asked "Are students learning when they hear that statement?", he responded, "Yes."

Later our attorney, Eric Rothschild, pulled up several sections of Dr. Nilsen's January 2005 deposition.

Q. At the time this resolution was passed, had you done anything to assure yourself that Intelligent Design was in fact a scientific theory?

A. No.

In another section of the deposition he was asked how he’d arrived at the conclusion that ID was science.
A. In discussions I had with numerous individuals; counsel, board members.
Q. Anybody else?
A. To my recollection, no.

He confirmed on the stand that he did not consult with his trained science teachers. He did, however, take the word of board members (who he admitted earlier in the day had no scientific background or training) and his lawyers.

Much of the remainder of his testimony focused on his interactions with board members. Although he said he had no recollection of creationism being discussed at either of the board member retreats in 2002 or 2003, Nilsen admitted that the typed minutes he'd prepared from those events showed that both times board member Allan Bonsell cited creationism as being an issue of top importance to him. (Actually, to be completely accurate, in 2002 it was "creationism and prayer.")

The trial resumes on Monday with testimony from Steve Fuller, professor of sociology at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa.

Submitted by Sara Mullen, Associate Director

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Behe

Perhaps we can make up for our late post today by bringing you the latest available transcript, Day 12 AM (also known as this past Wednesday morning). It contains part of the cross-examination of Professor Michael Behe. It's surprisingly entertaining.

Media Round-up

Sorry, our posting today is a little delayed because our observer had to come back to Philadelphia to write it up. Here's a quick look at the media coverage today of Superintendent Richard Nilsen's appearance:

From the York Daily Record:
Dover teachers frustrated Nilsen
Nilsen doesn't recall details
Mike Argento's column, The makings of a bad defense

From AP:
Superintendent: 'Intelligent design' not same as creationism

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Things that make you go "hmmmm"

For a group trying to claim that its decision to teach intelligent design was not religiously motivated, the Dover Area School District has made some curious choices for its defense.

First, the district is being represented pro bono by the Thomas More Center, which, according to its website, is "dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. Our purpose is to be the sword and shield for people of faith, providing legal representation without charge to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square." (italics ours) Interesting that they'd volunteer to defend the school district merely over an alleged "scientific" theory....

Today's Salon has a great interview with the Thomas More Center's founder, president, and chief council Richard Thompson about the Dover case and his motivations. (You can read the whole article if you agree to see an ad.)

Scheduled to testify on Friday for the defense is Dick Carpenter, an assistant professor of leadership, research and foundations at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He also happens to be the former Education Policy Analyst for Focus on the Family, which believes that "the ultimate purpose in living is to know and glorify God and to attain eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." He held this position from 2000-2002, according to his vita.

He continues to be affiliated with Focus on the Family as a lecturer in their "Love Won Out" program, which is focused on "promoting the truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable — a message routinely silenced today. ...Individuals don't have to be gay." Dr. Carpenter's sessions are called "Why is What They're Teaching So Dangerous?" and "Teaching Captivity? Addressing the Pro-Gay Agenda in Your School."

Now as a general matter we certainly don't have any objection to religious groups being involved in public discussions or in litigation. But we don't see any reason for them to pretend that they are not promoting their particular religious viewpoints when they in fact are. Of course it becomes rather problematic when a group promoting a particular religious point of view decides to advance that religious viewpoint by supporting government officials who are doing the same thing. And to do it while pretending that they are not doing it.... Hmmmm.

Perhaps there should be a little less posting of the Ten Commandments and a little more honoring the commandment to "not bear false witness."

A quiet day in court

Calling the day's proceedings "short" and "abbreviated," Judge Jones ended a two-hour stint just before 4:45 p.m. after hearing testimony from one witness. Dr. Richard D. Nilsen, the Dover Area School District superintendent, was called to the stand by defense attorney Patrick Gillen at 2 p.m.

Nilsen's testimony focused on his recollection of the time period from January 2002 through fall 2004 at the Dover Area School District. His attorney presented Nilsen with a number of documents and asked that Nilsen identify and discuss the documents. Among the documents was a memo written by former Dover Area School District principal Trudy Peterman. In the April 2003 memo, Peterman advised district officials that the science teachers in Dover Area High School were teaching both evolution and creationism. Nilsen identified another document as a letter from Messiah College advertising a seminar on "Creationism and the Law" – a seminar to which he sent his assistant superintendent.

In addition to Nilsen's testimony about a variety of documents, Nilsen also testified about various board meetings. He recalled one board meeting when former school board director Bill Buckingham's wife, Charlotte Buckingham, spoke. Nilsen said Mrs. Buckingham spoke during the public comment period and read from the Bible. Nilsen testified that she "rambled on" and "there was no point." He further testified that it was inappropriate and embarrassing.

Nilsen's testimony will continue at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, 2005.

Submitted by Paula K. Knudsen, ACLU-PA Staff Attorney

Behe in his own words

Surprisingly, we just received the transcript from Tuesday afternoon, which contains the beginning of cross-examination of Prof. Michael Behe. (You might be wondering what happened to Tuesday morning's transcript. So are we. But we post what we've got.)

The Wedge Strategy: The Next Generation

According to a deposition by Foundation for Thought and Ethics founder Jon A. Buell, Dr. Michael Behe is listed as a co-author of the 2005 edition of Pandas, entitled Design of Life. Behe, of course, denied this on Tuesday, but said he "might be in the future." The FTE publicity materials should probably be corrected, then.

Unlike the defense counsel, Judge Jones thought the text of the new edition to be "highly relevant" to the case.

Like a moving target, the language in Design of Life will 'evolve' from the 1993 and 1987 Pandas incarnations, which dropped the term creationism in favor of ID. Both books explore the gaps in the fossil record, which the theory claims are not just gaps in the record, but actual gaps or "transitional links."

The new edition omits the terms intelligent design and intelligent agency and replaces them both with "sudden emergence," meaning that "various forms of life began abruptly [with] features already intact: fish [suddenly emerging with] fins and scales, birds with feathers" and, as the new edition adds, "mammals with fur and mammary glands."

So, Rothschild inquired, will we "be back in a few years for the sudden emergence trial?"

Judge Jones responded: "Not on my docket."

Submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer

Faith and science, livin' in perfect harmony

Here are a few pieces worth noting regarding faith and science.

First, Jeremy Gunn of our Freedom of Religion and Belief project had this piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Then there are two other articles worth noting, "Darwin Goes to Church" from the Washington Post and "Area clergy make room for evolution with the divine" from the Patriot News. (The latter may not be up much longer because pulls down articles after about two weeks.)

Michael Behe's Testimony

For those not content to read second-hand accounts of Michael Behe's testimony on the "science" of intelligent design, here's the transcript of the first morning of his three-day appearance on the stand.

This is just his testimony, not the cross-examintation, which is where it really got interesting.

Here's a quick roundup of some of the coverage of Behe's testiony.

From the York Daily Record:

A test nobody wants to take: Neither side is interested in trying to prove intelligent design.
Behe insists proof absent
Of Behe and mammary glands (another gem from columnist Mike Argento)

From Slate:
Neo-creationists and their embarrassing ancestors

From the New York Times:
Witness Defends Broad Definition of Science

And an AP interview with Michael Behe.

All in the name of science? Part 2

During today's cross-examination, Eric Rothschild returned to our favorite subjects of bacterial flagellum and irreducible complexity. (This writer vastly prefers them to blood clotting cascades. But, I digress.)

Rothschild introduced an article written by James Curtsinger in the Minnesota Daily (and posted in response to an earlier blog entry).

While you're at PubMed [Curtsinger writes] try searching for "bacterial flagella secretion." One of the resulting papers, by SI Aizawa (2001), reports that some nasty bacteria possess a molecular pump, called a type III secretion system, or TTSS, that injects toxins across cell membranes.
Much to Dr. Behe's distress, the TTSS is a subset of the bacterial flagellum. That's right, a part of the supposedly irreducible bacterial "outboard motor" has a biological function!

"Did you agree to that?" asked Rothschild. "I don't recall," replied Behe, indicating that if TTSS is a subset, bacterial flagella are still irreducibly complex and must be the product of a designer. "When you see a purposeful arrangement of parts," said Behe, today, "it bespeaks to a designer."

Rothschild then brought up the gradual process of "slow design," a subject of Tuesday's testimony. This, Rothschild shared, "is what I experienced in my kitchen."

But, seriously folks...

Rothschild continued, "At some time, the bacteria would not have all of these parts. That is a phenomenon of both natural selection and ID, correct?"

Behe disagreed. "Until it has all of its parts, it's problematic to call it flagellum... No one has said how you could get from TTSS to flagellum. We see nothing that bears on the question of natural selection or random mutation...The crucial question is mechanism."

"In evolution, the mechanism suggested is natural selection." Rothschild responded, asking, "What is the mechanism suggested [by] slow design?" According to Behe, "we don't have a description of the mechanism [in evolutionary theory]. We do in intelligent design."

We do?

Rothschild: "The only way that we know that a designer exists is that objects that are designed exist?" Behe agreed. That seemed good enough for him.

Behe has written in Darwin's Black Box that there could be both multiple designers and/or competing designers. Rothschild asked today if there have been "any new irreducible complex systems [that have emerged] in the last five..." ten, fifty or 100 years.

Behe: "All studies considered are much older than that."
Rothschild: We "can't infer from that that the intelligent designer still exists."
"Correct," said Behe
Rothschild: "Is that what you want taught to high school students?"

But, we learned today, Behe has proposed a way to test the theory of irreducible complexity in his article 'Reply to my Critics,' published in the November 2001 issue of Biology and Philosophy.

In fact, intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal... In Darwin's Black Box I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can't be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum - or any equally complex system - was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

Rothschild asked Behe if he could claim that his own theory is "well tested?"

"Yes you can... from the inductive argument. When you see a purposeful arrangement of parts we always see that as designed."

Yet, Behe proposes a test, which would in his estimation take about 2 years. Has he himself undertaken it? "I was advising people who are skeptical that this is the test...I think I'm persuaded by the evidence."

In fact, no intelligent design proponent has undertaken it. Presumably, this is because they are also persuaded by "inductive reasoning." But, here's the thing with their concept: it starts with a functioning organisms, say a bacterial flagellum and "works backwards by removing parts." If the precursor is not functional this demonstrates irreducible complexity. But, evolution doesn't work this way; it starts from the precursor and moves forward. Even Behe admitted - in 'Reply to My Critics' and in court - this is a "serious weakness," a "defect" in the theory. Any immediate plans to repair it? No.

And, yet, when we're talking evolution, say, of the immune system...

According to Behe "there is no detailed rigorous explanation [explaining that the immune system could] arise from random mutation or natural selection." So, Rothschild offered Behe 58 articles written over a 20-year period, a half dozen books and several chapters out of immunology texts all addressing this issue.

But, "not only would [Behe] need to see it mutation by mutation...[he] would also want to see relevant information such as population, selective value, detrimental effects..." He described these works as "analogous to the theory of aether...working within the aegis of a theory."

Like using the terms of the theory to prove the theory? That sounds familiar.

See, Behe studies peer review articles about cells and concludes that they "strongly look like a purposeful arrangement of parts, a hallmark of intelligent design." But, he "surveys the scientific literature and sees no evidence for a Darwinian explanation." Of course, "the hypothesis of design is tested differently than Darwinian evolution," claims Behe. Like... how scientists tested aether?

submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of PA

Transcripts Through Oct. 14

Okay, so it's not exactly a clever title. In any case, here are the transcripts you've been waiting for. We'll post Michael Behe's sessions as soon as they are available.

Day 7 morning (remainder of cross-examination of Dr. Barbara Forrest)
Day 7 afternoon
Day 8 morning
Day 8 afternoon
Day 9 afternoon

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

All part of the scientific process? Part 1

Peer review - "[it is] all part of the scientific process," said Dr. Michael Behe, today. As he has done for other scientists, one "reviews results...techniques... conclusions."

It has been stated here before that Behe has not submitted his own work on intelligent design for peer review. At the same time, Behe agreed, when asked by plaintiff's counsel Eric Rothschild if the "peer review for Darwin's Black Box was analogous to peer review in the [scientific] literature." It was, according to Behe, even more rigorous. There were more than twice standard the number of reviewers and "they read [the book] more carefully... because this was a controversial topic."

One such reviewer, said Behe, was Dr. Michael Atchison, head of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school. "He was selected," Behe said, "because he was the instructor of the editor's wife." While Behe was not in touch with him, "Professor Atchison contacted [Behe]...after the book came out."


Rothschild introduced this article by Professor Atichison, for the purposes of impeachment.

The editor [of Darwin's Black Box]was not certain that this manuscript was a good risk for publication. There were clearly theological issues at hand, and he was under the impression that these issues would be poorly received by the scientific community...

The editor shared his concerns with his wife. His wife was a student in my class. She advised her husband to give me a call. So, unaware of all this, I received a phone call from the publisher in New York. We spent approximately 10 minutes on the phone. After hearing a description of the work, I suggested that the editor should seriously consider publishing the manuscript...It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript. We hung up and I never thought about it again. At least until two years later.

"Is this your understanding of the kind of peer review that Dr. Atcheson did of your book?" "No," Behe replied. Rothschild continued, "he didn't review it carefully… he didn't review it at all." Behe: "My understanding is different."

Atchison goes on in his article, using the events described to imply that God's will played a role in leading the editor to him and in his own encouragement of the publication of Behe's book.

Is this the sort of rigorous peer review that science dictates?

Also on the subject of scientific discourse, Behe repeated his oft quoted statement: "I've considered [peer-reviewed scientific conferences] to be a poor forum for discussing such ideas" because "you can't just present ID in an abbreviated fashion." Yet, when pressed, Behe still insisted that a high school classroom would provide an adequate forum "to mention [such] topics that [students] can pursue outside of the classroom."

submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of Pennsylvania

The smoke and mirrors strategy

Ok, Behe has dazzled (actually, bored) us non-scientists with his scientific wizardry the last two days. (We'll ask our attorneys if the use of wizardry in a federal courtroom violates the Establishment Clause.)

The community education team isn't going to act like we can counterpoint statements on the bacterial flagellum, but there are plenty of scientists who can. Be sure to check out the links at the right. Also, consider this segment from an op-ed by H. Allen Orr, a bio prof at the University of Rochester, from the New Yorker in May:
But Behe's principal argument soon ran into trouble. As biologists pointed out, there are several different ways that Darwinian evolution can build irreducibly complex systems. In one, elaborate structures may evolve for one reason and then get co-opted for some entirely different, irreducibly complex function. Who says those thirty flagellar proteins weren't present in bacteria long before bacteria sported flagella? They may have been performing other jobs in the cell and only later got drafted into flagellum-building. Indeed, there's now strong evidence that several flagellar proteins once played roles in a type of molecular pump found in the membranes of bacterial cells.

Full article

Meanwhile, Mike Argento of the York Daily Record is at it again with biting commentary:
Behe's 15th-century science
Scientists, sex mark Day 10

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Scientists overwhelmingly disapprove of Behe's ideas

The morning began again with science, science, science (or something sort of resembling science). After exhausting the subject of blood clotting cascades, the defense moved to a critical analysis of Dr. Kenneth Miller's testimony.

Professor Behe claimed that Of Pandas and People is more accurate and comprehensive than Miller gives credit. Behe also proposed that the papers and works that Miller had cited during his testimony earlier in the month were "unpersuasive," and failed to address natural selection and random mutation.

Behe also defended Pandas as an appropriate text for high school students. Behe proposed that students often times take evolutionary theory at face value and are not given tools to distinguish fact from theory. Behe proposed that students need other theories in order to understand the complexity behind a theory and to distinguish it from fact. During cross-examination, attorney Eric Rothschild pointed out that students are not taught several versions of theories such as germ theory and plate tectonics.

Defense also questioned Professor Behe about the distinction between creationism and intelligent design. Behe stated that creationism is based on theology and is religious in nature whereas ID relies on "physical, observable evidence found in nature" and that "ID is not based on anything religious."

After lunch, Rothschild began his cross-examination by questioning Behe's status as a critical reviewer of Pandas. Behe revealed that had in fact not reviewed the entire book just the sections on blood clotting. Professor Behe was questioned about his designation as co-author of Pandas, but he explained that "he might be in the future" but was not at this time.

Next, Rothschild asked Behe about the scientific community, which has largely denounced the idea of ID as science. The National Academy of Sciences, for instance, regards ID and its supernatural ideas as inaccurate and unfounded. Even the Lehigh University Biological Sciences faculty, where Behe is a professor, has stated that ID has "no basis in science."

Behe argued that scientists and scientific organizations misunderstand intelligent design. Not only is ID science, Behe claimed, it is also an appropriate scientific theory to introduce to students. Behe concluded by saying he was "happy with the progress we were making with ID."

The underlying themes of today: First, according to Behe, ID is misunderstood by the scientific community and should be offered as an option to students. Second, the Discovery Institute is working to try to integrate or "wedge" ID into schools and scientists who agree with Behe are striving to make ID an acceptable science. Third, even if I haven't contributed to a book, if I have plans to in the future, I can be considered a co-author today.

Cross-examination of Professor Behe will continue Wednesday.

Submitted by Jamie Mullen, legal assistant, ACLU of PA

Intelligent Design-palooza

For those who just can't get enough of this trial, you can catch Larry Frankel, our legislative director, on Wednesday night's edition of It's Your Call with Lynn Doyle on CN8 at 9 p.m. in Philadelphia. He will be one of four panelists.

For those in Western Pennsylvania, you can catch Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh this Sunday at 2 pm. She'll be talking about the Dover trial and intelligent design. Dr. Scott is one of the nation's leading opponents to the teaching of intelligent design and other religiously-based views in science class. Her organization has been serving as scientific advisors to our legal team.

Guest Blogger: Tim Beazley, J.D.

Tim Beazley, J.D., grew up in York and now lives in San Diego. His op-ed "Pro-ID piece uses rhetorical tricks" appeared in the York Daily Record on Sunday.

Dover, we have a problem

As a retired lawyer who grew up in York, I'm very interested in the
Intelligent Design (ID) case from Dover, going on right now in federal
court. I've followed the creationism-evolution dispute for several years,
and, speaking as a former trial lawyer, I have nothing but profound
admiration for the creationists' rhetorical tricks, especially their
ubiquitous "false dichotomy."

False dichotomy arguments are very simple. First, the creationist claims
that evolution and ID are the only two possible choices. That's the
dichotomy. Then, he points out alleged problems in evolution. Finally, he
triumphantly concludes that, since evolution has problems, ID must
necessarily be correct, since it is the only other option available. Voila.
The debate's over, and ID won.

Well, not so fast!

First, notice that this strategy allows the creationist to focus exclusively
on the flaws, real or imagined, of evolution, while keeping ID itself safely
out of the spotlight. That is crucial, because ID is so flimsy, it cannot
withstand even the slightest scrutiny.

Obviously, the false dichotomy strategy places great emphasis on
mud-slinging, which is why creationists "go negative" so much. Think back
to your own conversations with creationists. I bet they rarely offered
positive arguments for ID, and spent most of their time attacking evolution,
right? Well, that's the false dichotomy trick, and it is completely

Dichotomy arguments are valid, only if the two options are cumulatively
exhaustive (no other options are possible) and mutually exclusive (they
can't both be true simultaneously).

To illustrate, let's say X is found dead in a locked room, along with
suspects A and B. If you know that A did not kill X, does that
automatically mean B did? Of course not. A and B are not cumulatively
exhaustive; there are other possibilities. X may have killed himself, died
of natural causes, or been killed by C, before A or B entered the room.
Merely proving A innocent, does not prove B guilty.

Also, A and B are not mutually exclusive; they could have killed X together.
Merely proving B guilty, does not prove A innocent.

Most arguments for ID and against evolution have exactly the same flaws.
Evolution and ID are not cumulatively exhaustive. There are other options,
including theistic evolution, deistic evolution, panspermia,
self-organization, Lamarckism, and non-theistic design theories, such as
Raelianism. So merely proving that evolution did not produce new species
would still not prove that ID did.

Nor are evolution and ID mutually exclusive. Even most ID advocates admit
the designer could have used evolution in the design process. So merely
proving that ID did produce new species would still not prove that evolution
wasn't also involved.

False dichotomy arguments always fall apart when closely examined. Federal
courts usually examine arguments pretty closely. That could be a problem
for Dover.

Scientists Weigh In

While we await the arrival of the transcripts of Dr. Michael Behe's testimony, here is some commentary from the scientific community on evolution and intelligent design. The National Center for Science Education website also provides reviews and analysis of Of Pandas and People, including an article by Friday's expert witness Kevin Padian, called "Gross Misrepresentation."

Monday, October 17, 2005

Michael Behe's deleterious multi-mutant flagellar protein secretion systems double secret probation

If you came to Speaking Freely looking for a scientific breakdown of Dr. Michael Behe's arguments from this afternoon, you've come to the wrong blog and will have to wait until we get the transcripts posted. This writer had exactly two science courses in his last five years of schooling (four undergrad years at Pitt and my senior year of high school). And they were both astronomy courses. And they both included esteemed members of the school's academic community- Pitt football and basketball players.

In light of my deficiency in knowledge of "flagellar proteins" and "protein secretion systems," let's bring it back to something we all understand:


(Of course, if Congress continues to fund abstinence-only education, teens and young adults won't even understand sex anymore.)

Before Dr. Behe spent the latter half of the afternoon discussing the really interesting stuff, he took the time to tick off a list of scientific issues that evolution cannot explain, including, according to Dr. Behe, sexual reproduction.

As he testified, asexual reproduction would actually make more sense in evolutionary theory.

"This is an idea that has stumped science for a very long time," he said.

(Ok, it had to be done. The very first selection in a Google search of "evolution of sex" brought up this document from Brown University.)

Dr. Behe also noted that evolutionary theory (or, as he continued to say, "Darwinian theory") cannot explain the genetic code, the structure and function of ribosome, new protein interactions, and a list of other scientific concepts that I can't spell.

Oh, and he also continued to insist that ID is a "positive argument," not a listing of evolution's weaknesses.

"The positive, inductive argument for design is the purposeful arrangement of parts," Dr. Behe noted.

Dr. Kenneth Miller's testimony was also in question again throughout the afternoon. Dr. Behe accused Dr. Miller of mischaracterizing his arguments and stated that Dr. Miller's removal of parts from the bacterial flagellum do not fit evolutionary, err, "Darwinian" theory.

"Dr. Miller is viewing my theory through the lens of his own theory," Dr. Behe said. "He's overstating my argument in order to make it seem brittle."

Let's back track slightly to an issue we didn't explain in much detail from the morning. Just before the lunch break, Dr. Behe equated ID theory with the Big Bang Theory. According to Dr. Behe, the BB was considered "supernatural" when it first came forth in the late 1920s, much like ID is considered "supernatural" today, and the BB was rejected by large segments of the scientific community. In his testimony, Dr. Behe implied that science accepted the BB over time.

He also claimed that ID and BB are similar in that ID cannot scientifically determine the "designer." Meanwhile, Dr. Behe had testified earlier in the morning that he believes the designer is God "based on theological and philosophical and historical factors."

A few other miscellaneous notes: Dr. Behe stated that he feels there is a bias against the publication of ID articles, and he bases that view on news stories, personal conversations, and his own experiences.

Also, he spent much of the morning session listing various academic conferences he has been invited to attend, which was clearly an attempt to legitimize "the controversy" and the discussion on the issue in the academic community. When opposing counsel Robert Muise asked Dr. Behe several times to recall conversations and letters he had received from publishers and other academics, Eric Rothschild from our team objected on the basis of hearsay, and Judge Jones sustained those objections in all but one instance.

Direct questioning of Dr. Behe continues tomorrow.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

Turnabout is fair play?

From an October 14, 2005 article in the Daily Californian:

Amid growing controversy surrounding the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom, a federal lawsuit was filed Thursday against UC Berkeley and the National Science Foundation officials over religious statements found on a UC Berkeley Web site.

The reason?
According to the complaint, the site violates the [Establishment] clause through its assertion that most religious denominations find no conflict between their religious doctrine and evolutionary theory, citing a section of the site that dispels common misconceptions of evolution.

Full article

Welcome to the machine

The courtroom was abuzz today as Dr. Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, fellow of the Discovery Institute, and the public face of intelligent design, took the stand. The defense started its case this morning.

A full gallery observed as opposing counsel Robert Muise questioned Dr. Behe on the scientific aspects of intelligent design. Dr. Behe answered in the affirmative when Muise asked him if ID is "scientific," "testable," and "not a religious belief."

Quoting from his book Darwin's Black Box, the professor stated that "the appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming."

During his testimony at the opening of the trial, Dr. Kenneth Miller of Brown University testified that ID is a negative argument. But in court this morning, Dr. Behe insisted otherwise.

"This argument is an entirely positive argument," he stated. "Dr. Miller is looking at things through his own theoretical perspective."

Dr. Behe attempted to illustrate this point through an analysis of the bacterial flagellum. Using a diagram of the b.f., he noted that it looks and operates like a machine built by humans. (Nothing gets my motor running, to use a phrase, like talk of the bacterial flagellum.)

The professor noted numerous journal articles in which biological processes are referred to as "machines." When asked by Muise if this is intended in a metaphorical sense, Behe insisted that the use of the word "machine" is, in fact, a reference to the fact that these processes actually operate like machines.

Muise and Behe spent some time exhibiting quotes from Richard Dawkin's book The Blind Watchmaker that mentioned "the appearance of design."

Behe also compared the emerging ID debate with the initial debates around the Big Bang theory, which we'll go into with the next posting after the day's session ends.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

Saturday, October 15, 2005

"Evolution in life is essentially the whole enchilada"

So observed Dr. Kevin Padian, plaintiff’s final expert witness, whose testimony was the focus of day 9 of the Dover intelligent design trial.

Dr. Padian, is a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and a Curator in the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught for 25 years. Dr. Padian has a bachelor's degree in Natural Science and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Colgate University. (Vic Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania's Legal Director also attended Colgate University for his undergraduate education).

Before going on to get his Ph.D. from Yale, Dr. Padian gained three years of what turns out to be very relevant experience - he taught life sciences to 6th and 7th graders. So he knows what it is like to teach science to teenagers.

At Yale, Dr. Padian wrote a dissertation on the structure, function, morphology and evolution of flight of pterosaurs (flying reptiles from the age of dinosaurs). His principal training is in evolutionary theory, paleontology, zoology and the history of science. He is the author or co-author of nearly 100 peer-reviewed papers and several books on topics such as the evolution of dinosaurs to the development of evolutionary thought.

Dr. Padian's testimony was a quick, but understandable, course on evolutionary theory. He showed how fossils, geology and molecular biology help explain how life has changed through time. He walked Judge Jones, the lawyers, and members of the audience through a series of graphs and images, patiently explaining their significance and interjecting some dry wit on numerous occasions. He frequently referred to "critters" when talking about living as well as extinct species.

Much of Dr. Padian's testimony was a critique of the pro-intelligent design book Of Pandas and People. Dr. Padian refuted many of the claims made in that book.

For example, Of Pandas and People states: "The problem is that there are no clear transitional fossils linking mammals to whales."

Dr. Padian testified about numerous transitional fossils that demonstrate the descent of whales from its early ancestors, a group of cloven-hoofed mammals. He illustrated the gradual evolution of features over time.

"We think the transitions are pretty good," Dr. Padian said.

Dr. Padian also explained why Of Pandas and People contained incorrect assertions about a lack of evidence that living things evolved. He showed how intelligent design proponents ignore lots of fossilized evidence and "a wealth of data" from molecular biology that support the finding that living things have evolved over millions of years.

Attentive listeners in the audience learned a lot about the evolutionary development of fish, birds, and mammals. They also learned that some scientists were thinking, writing and talking about evolution even before Charles Darwin was published. Darwin's big contribution was his work on natural selection.

Dr. Padian also explained what homology is - the study of similar characteristics of living organisms - and then discredited the assertions regarding homology contained in Of Pandas and People. Dr. Padian testified that: "Intelligent design proponents either do not understand or accept how scientists establish relationships among organisms."

Robert Muise, one of the attorneys representing the school district, cross-examined Dr. Padian. Muise asked about Stephen Jay Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium. Gould thought that evolution could be better described as taking place in fits and starts. Padian indicated that he thought Gould offered this theory as a possible explanation for gaps in the fossil record.

Muise then asked: "Is natural selection responsible for punctuated equilibrium?"

"That's a great question," responded Dr. Padian. He then went on to state that while Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium may raise questions about the mechanism of evolution it does not contradict the idea of common descent.

Muise also asked about Dr. Padian's referring to the Cambrian Explosion, 500 million years ago, as a period when there was an abrupt appearance of life. Dr. Padian acknowledged that he and other scientists have used the word "abrupt" in that context and that they mean "that's the first place where we found it." Dr. Padian added that the abrupt appearance did not conflict with the tons of scientific evidence that morphological changes have occurred.

Two of the plaintiffs also testified at the trial on Day 9. They talked about how they were harmed by the Dover intelligent design policy. Steven Stough said "They have usurped my authority to be the one in charge of my daughter's religious education."

Stough also testified that his daughter would probably be asked to be excused during the reading of the intelligent design statement unless the court overturned the policy. When asked to describe what consequences his daughter would suffer, Stough replied: "She's harmed by that because she's no longer part of the accepted school community."

Among those in attendance for the morning session were Vic Walczak's parents, wife and three children.

Submitted by Larry Frankel, legislative director, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More Recommended Reading

As we mentioned earlier, Jeremy Gunn, director of the national ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, is a guest blogger this week on TPMCafe. Today's entry, about intelligent design and slipping science standards in the United States, is an interesting perspective on the issue.

And as always, for a unique take on the trial, check out the latest from the York Daily Record's Mike Argento, Dover statement bombs, even in Canada. It's probably the only story on the trial to date to include the phrase "a rat’s hindquarters."

Finally, somehow we missed the York Dispatch's article on Monday speculating on whether or not this case will end up in the US Supreme Court.

Recommended Reading

We're happy to bring you the transcript of Day 6, PM session. (Also known as the afternoon of October 5, for those not on intelligent design trial time.)

This contains the continuation of Dr. Barbara Forrest's testimony, in addition to the first half of her cross-examination. (Dr. Forrest is an expert on the nature and strategy of the intelligent design creationist movement. )

Cross begins on page 56 of the transcript. Page 58 includes opposing counsel's questions about Dr. Forrest's ACLU membership. Other highlights include p.64, lines 14-17; p. 94, lines 13-16; p. 108, lines 5-18; p. 111, lines 23-25 and p. 112, lines 1-4; and, oh, we could go on, but really, the whole thing is well worth a read.

All available transcripts

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dissecting Design

Dr. Alters analyzes Dover statement

So, as I was saying, in the AM, Dr. Alters went through the Dover biology statement on evolution and intelligent design that is read to students before the start of the evolution chapter. (FYI, this link is to the updated statement, which was changed in June, according to opposing counsel. Vic Walczak and Dr. Alters discussed the original statement that was read in January. But don't fret, dear readers, Dr. Alters tangled with the new statement. Keep reading.)

Here's a look at the statement and Dr. Alter's thoughts on it:

The statement, paragraph 1: 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.
The messages that students receive, according to Dr. Alters: "Evolution must be a special science... We'd rather not do it, but the state requires it."

Paragraph 2: 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.
The message students get out of this: "A theory is a half-baked idea."
Analysis from Dr. Alters: "All theories continue to be tested. Why is evolution singled out? ... Evolution is a theory and a fact. [Scientists] no longer debate it."

Paragraph 3: 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.
Analysis: Dr. Alters noted that, "Darwin didn't posit a view in public on origins of life." Evolution only explains the origin of species. Furthermore, Dr. Alters repeated a fact that has come up several times throughout this trial: "Panda's central theme of intelligent design has been judged not to be science."

Paragraph 4: 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.
The unwritten message: "It seems like what we're about to learn they really don't want to teach us."
Analysis: "They're only encouraged to keep an open mind with this theory."

Dr. Alter's conclusions: "It's about as bad as I could possibly think of. It's absurd to me. I can't imagine anything worse."

During re-direct from Vic Walczak in the afternoon, Dr. Alters looked at the new statement, which has just one change, which is in the third paragraph and in bold below:
"The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available in the library along with other resources for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves."

When Vic asked the professor about the change, he said that the revision "makes it worse."

"It sounds like there are even more books on non-science," Dr. Alters testified.

On re-cross examination, opposing counsel Robert Muise asked Dr. Alters if he would change his opinion if he knew that the "other resources" include books challenging intelligent design. Dr. Alters responded that now you're telling students that there are books calling ID non-science while administrators are telling the students it is science.

Before I sign off, we would be remiss if we didn't fill you in a little more on the cross-examination of Bertha Spahr by Patrick Gillen this morning. By and large, the questioning was reiterating statements that were already on the record, as most of Mrs. Spahr's answers were "yes" or "correct."

However, perhaps the most interesting piece of her testimony this morning regarded a textbook catalog she received. In the catalog, according to Mrs. Spahr's testimony, Of Pandas and People was listed under the category "Creation Science." Our team entered the catalog into evidence, despite the objection of opposing counsel, which was overruled by Judge Jones.

Mrs. Spahr also talked about the resistance from the science faculty on the curriculum change and noted the tension in the community.

"Some in the community felt if we didn't support the board, we were atheists." She said that she was taken aback by that since two of the school's teachers are children of ministers.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

Back to school

Dover science teacher, science education expert testify this morning

Bertha Spahr, the chair of the science department at Dover HS and a 40-year veteran of the district, and Dr. Brian Alters, a science education expert from McGill University in Montreal, testified this morning as the Intelligent Design Challenge, Week 3, kicked off in courtroom #2 at the federal building in Harrisburg.

Opposing counsel Patrick Gillen handled cross-examination of Mrs. Spahr, and it was, essentially, a rehashing of the facts regarding Mrs. Spahr's various meetings with school board officials.

Dr. Alters has been involved in the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution and regularly advises teachers on how to handle it. He is the author of five books, including Defending Evolution in the Classroom, which was published in 2001, and most of his peer-reviewed articles concern the teaching of evolution.

In direct questioning from Vic Walczak, our legal director, Dr. Alters stated that not teaching evolution in biology "would be the equivalent of teaching physics without teaching gravity."

"Evolution is special culturally," he said. "It is not special scientifically."

Dr. Alters became especially animated when he launched into the statement that is read to 9th grade biology students before the evolution chapter begins. He testified that the statement "detracts from (good scientific education)."

We'll have more on Dr. Alters' analysis of the statement later this afternoon, but now this writer has to get back to class, errr, court.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Smoking Gunn

If you live near Philadelphia, you may want to check out a debate at the National Constitution Center on Oct. 19 about the Dover case and intelligent design. Our side will be represented by Dr. Jeremy Gunn, director of the national ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. Representing the other side will be Randall Wenger, lawyer for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, the intelligent design advocacy group that produces the now-infamous Of Pandas and People.

Jeremy also happens to be the guest blogger this week at TPMCafe.

Witness Schedule

After a few days off, the trial will resume tomorrow (Wednesday). The Dover science department chair, Bertha Spahr, will finish her testimony and be cross-examined by the other side.

Then Brian Alters, our science education expert, will testify. Friday we will start with Kevin Padian, the only paleontologist who will testify at the trial. Kevin will systematically explain how Pandas is dead wrong on the science, and how much of that was established when the book was written in 1989.

More information about Alters and Padian, including their expert statements for the trial.

A Rose By Any Other Name...

We have the first of the exhibits we introduced during Dr. Barbara Forrest's testimony last week. As you may recall, Dr. Forrest is an expert on intelligent design and co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. During her testimony, she traced the historical progression from creationism to intelligent design.

These exhibits (all in PDF) show that after the 1987 US Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard that found the teaching creationism in public schools unconstitional, the publishers of the textbook originally called Biology and Origins and later Of Pandas and People substituted the word "intelligent design" almost every place that "creationism" had appeared.

Graphs comparing use of creationism/intelligent design -related words over different versions (Note the change in 1987, the year of the Supreme Court decision!)

Comparison of a paragraph through different versions of Of Pandas and People

Timeline showing the textbook's revisions relative to the 1987 decision

Monday, October 10, 2005

ID Proponents Have Larger Goals

From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Intelligent design's big ambitions: Advocates want much more than textbooks

The advocates of "intelligent design," spotlighted in the current courtroom battle over the teaching of evolution in Dover, Pa., have much larger goals than biology textbooks.

They hope to discredit Darwin's theory as part of a bigger push to restore faith to a more central role in American life. "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions," says a strategy document written in 1999 by the Seattle think tank at the forefront of the movement.

The Controversy That Isn't

Throughout this case, the other side has argued that this is a matter of "academic freedom" and that we should "teach the controversy." Here's a great article from the Guardian, co-authored by Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins, about why that argument just doesn't hold water.

It sounds so reasonable, doesn't it? Such a modest proposal. Why not teach "both sides" and let the children decide for themselves? As President Bush said, "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes." At first hearing, everything about the phrase "both sides" warms the heart of educators like ourselves.

…What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of "it is only fair to teach both sides"? The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all.

Read the entire pdf version of "One Side Can Be Wrong"

Thanks to Jerry Coyne for sending this along to us. We couldn't have put it better!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Get Your Transcript Fix

We're happy to report we have the transcript of the Barbara Forrest's testimony from the morning of Oct. 5. It can be found with the rest of the transcripts from the trial. Transcripts from her cross-examination should be up soon.

For those unfamiliar with the case, Dr. Forrest is an expert on the intelligent design movement and its attempts to get ID taught in schools.

For a more light-hearted look at Barbara Forrest's testimony and cross-examination, see Mike Agento's column from today's York Daily Record.

Exhibits Part I

Over the next few days we'll be posting many of the exhibits from the trial (they are all PDFs). For now we have:

The newsletter the Dover Area School Board sent out to convince people that intelligent design is a viable alternative scientific theory to evolution. The document includes a ringing endorsement of the teaching of intelligent design by Sen. Rick Santorum.

Letter from Dover Area School District biology teachers to Superintendent Richard Nilsen in which they refuse to read the statement about intelligent design to their students.

You Say Theory...

Dr. Barbara Forrest took a moment in her testimony yesterday morning to clarify an important distinction that some people may have been ignoring lately:

"A theory is well established science," she said. "When you propose an idea, it is a hypothesis. When a person purports to have a scientific theory, the research has already been done."

Defense counsel Richard Thompson responded, "Would you agree that there are different definitions of theory?"

"In science, there is one," Dr. Forrest answered. "It is an explanation that is confirmed."

Later she said, "All people who are bonafide scientists produce data. Peer review is based on sharing of data."

Mr. Thompson spent much of his cross examination today circling around the issue of whether Dr. Michael Behe has submitted his work on intelligent design for peer review and whether that work is scientific. Dr. Forrest answered in several different ways that, while Behe was engaged in some scientific research, he was not gathering data to support a theory of intelligent design, nor submitting his work to peer review through attending scientific forums or submitting his work to journals. Behe himself has stated that, "I just don't think that scientific forums are effective for presenting these ideas."

Mr. Thompson went on to read a long list of venues (including universities) where Behe had spoken, but could not specify whether Behe spoke on intelligent design. Dr. Forrest noted that one of the events Mr. Thompson mentioned was organized by proponents of creationism, while another was organized by Catholic Youth Ministries.

She said, "The fact that scientists have responded [to Behe] does not make his work science." Forrest added, "Scientists do not usually defend their ideas in church."

Towards the end of her testimony this morning, Dr. Forrest was asked about the title of her book, Creationism's Trojan Horse. She said that the title was suggested by her publisher, Oxford University Press, but she and her co-worker deemed it an appropriate characterization of intelligent design proponents.

"The Greeks offered a wooden horse, a trojan horse as a gift. In truth, what that gift contained was … the destruction of the city," said Forrest. Intelligent design theorists are "offering a balanced scientific theory, [but] it is a religious belief described as a scientific theory. It would not be beneficial" to teach in public schools.

Dover High School science teacher Jennifer Miller followed Dr. Forrest on the stand. A thirteen-year veteran of the Dover public schools, Ms. Miller took a similar stance to Dr. Forrest about the so-called benefits of addressing intelligent design in ninth grade biology class. She said that if teachers taught students that evolution is important, and then turned around to read a statement encouraging students to read Of Pandas and People, which says evolution doesn't exist, that would be confusing. "It misrepresents how important evolutionary theory is for students," said Ms. Miller.

Ms. Miller also testified that use of Pandas was inappropriate for ninth graders because the language was "at too high a level" and because she had "questions" about the how scientific its conclusions were.

Ms Miller confirmed previous testimony, stating that teachers were consistently kept out of the loop of curriculum changes regarding the subject of ID. In 2002, teachers made "sure that [the biology] curriculum was realigned with the state standards" without school board participation. In contrast, the school board spearheaded the inclusion of intelligent design into biology lessons, failing to consult teachers at key points or take their concerns into consideration.

Ms. Miller related an event at the October 17th meeting. School Board member Jeff Brown had expressed concern that the inclusion of intelligent design language into the lesson would be illegal and teachers might sue the board. School Board member Heather Geesy said "if the teachers sue us, they should be fired because they agreed to this." Ms. Miller remembered that she "jumped out of her seat and ran to the podium and said we had not agreed to [the changes]."

Ms. Miller was also asked about a mural created "as a senior project showing the evolution of man." The mural, donated by the student, had been on display in one of the Dover High School science classrooms until, but disappeared suddenly. At a June 7th, 2004 meeting, Board member William Buckingham was asked what happened to it. According to Ms. Miller, Mr. Buckingham answered "I believe that [school custodian] Woody watched it burn."

Submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Dover Science Teachers Speak Out

On Thursday afternoon, the testimony resumed with the cross-examination of Jennifer Miller, head of Dover's high school biology department.

Ms. Miller stated that she and her fellow science teachers have worked to come up with a compromise ever since the school board began to push ID. First, the teachers approved the inclusion of Of Pandas and People as a reference book, as long as the book wasn't distributed directly to students, and as long as intelligent design was not included in the teaching curriculum. Second, to reassure those who were concerned that the teaching of evolution might conflict with their own views of the origins of man, Ms. Miller and the other science teachers made a clear distinction between the "Origins of Species," which is what evolution explains, and the "Origins of Life" which is beyond what evolution can address.

Ms. Miller spoke of the many times that she had expressed her concerns to school board members and school faculty about the probable negative effects of including intelligent design in the curriculum. She was concerned for untenured teachers who risked losing their jobs if they resisted including ID. She was concerned about students being ridiculed for supporting evolution. And, at an October 2004 school board meeting, she expressed her worry that Dover would become the "test case" for ID, which would result in an expensive lawsuit for the taxpayers of the district. Dover's attorney remarked that her prediction was "very prescient."

After a short recess, Bertha Spahr took the stand. Ms. Spahr is a chemistry teacher, has taught in the Dover School District for her entire career - 41 years! - and has been head of the high school science department for 12 years.

In March 2003, Ms. Spahr found out that some school board members were interested in having creationism taught along with evolution. As she testified, she related a similar chronology of events as noted by Jennifer Miller and Casey Brown: a burned mural, a struggle to obtain textbooks, a school board member's wife reading of Genesis at a school board meeting and a school board member convinced that separation of church and state is a myth.

At the August 2004 meeting of the school board, Ms. Spahr read a prepared letter, which she read from during her testimony. In the letter, she stated that the teachers do not teach the origins of life; that evolution is part of the state standards for school curriculum; that the draft of a letter from the school board, written without the science department's input, was unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional; that ID is about the origin of life, so by mentioning it the teachers would be violating school policy; and that Ms. Spahr believed that ID is creationism under another name. She urged the board to delay voting in On Pandas and People. The board, however, voted that night to order the textbook as a reference.

When the books arrived, Ms. Spahr was asked to unpack the texts. Inside she found a catalog for other materials from the company that sold the books. She was asked to read the heading from page 29 of the catalog, which was "creation science." She noted that there was a reference to Of Pandas and People on that page.

In November 2004, the Dover School Board sent out a press release claiming that the biology curriculum "was developed in coordination with the science department." Yet, the teachers had merely been asked to review the "scientific accuracy" of a statement to be read to the students. The science teachers released their own statement to the media about the misleading nature of the school board's statement.

Ms. Spahr reinforced Ms. Miller's testimony that the teachers went along with Of Pandas and People as a reference book and agreed to teach that there are "gaps and flaws" in evolution in an attempt to "positively compromise" with the school board. These actions were taken only in response to the initiatives of the curriculum committee and did not come from the teachers themselves. They "couldn't say 'no'" to the purchase of books, said Ms. Spahr.

Ms. Spahr ended by saying that no one ever explained why or how the school board's proposed new science curriculum would improve the science education of Dover students.

Submitted by Cheryl Humes, legal intern, ACLU of Pennsylvania; third-year law student, Widener School of Law-Harrisburg

Forrest Coverage

Here are a few tidbits to tide you over until we can get transcripts from Barbara Forrest's testimony. She's on the stand again this morning.

Good coverage of yesterday's proceedings from the York Daily Record today.

Yet another funny column from Mike Agento, this one on the attempts of the defense attorney to question Forrest on whether she's a "card-carrying member" of the ACLU and the ACLU's stance on child pornography (yup, that's really what he asked).

Transcript from Friday afternoon, which included testimony from John Haught, a Georgetown University theology professor.

We promise to get the transcripts for Forrest's testimony up as soon as we receive them!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What, or who, is on trial here?

Don't drink the water. It's been muddied.

In his cross-examination of Dr. Barbara Forrest, Dick Thompson, the director of the Thomas More Law Center, launched into Dr. Forrest's membership in the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, and the New Orleans Secular Humanists Association (NOSHA).

When Thompson framed a question by listing a variety of stances the ACLU takes, our attorney Eric Rothschild objected, stating, "This has absolutely no relevance."

Judge Jones agreed and said, "We could be here for days if we go into other issues."

After Thompson questioned Dr. Forrest about her membership in NOSHA, her belief in the supernatural, and her belief in "the immortality of the soul," Eric objected on the basis of a federal rule that prohibits questioning a witness on his/her religious beliefs in an attempt to impeach his/her credibility.

Earlier, under direct questioning, Dr. Forrest continued her examination of the development and motivation of the intelligent design movement. This included further investigation into "the wedge strategy," including its three phases.

According to Dr. Forrest, the ID movement has moved forward with all three phases but, by the admission of the movement's own leaders, is lacking in the scientific research, which is phase I.

In a question about the curriculum change at Dover, a Seattle Times article from March 2005, paraphrased the answer of Dr. Stephen Meyer, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, saying, "Intelligent design isn't established enough for that yet."

Dr. Forrest testified that ID leaders admit that the scientific research on ID is lacking.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA