Liveblogging the PBS Dover trial special, hour 2

Continued from previous post

8:02 – The Kitzmiller family is getting scary mail and, I assume, death threats. They now mention that eight of the nine school board members (!!!) resigned.

8:05 – Enter the villains! Eight members of the Discovery Institute are shown, all of whom originally wanted to testify. For unknown reasons, five dropped out. (Or not so unknown. See Martin’s comment below for more information.)

8:06 – ACLU guy says “It was pretty clear that everything [for the defense side] rested on Michael Behe’s testimony.”

8:07 – Dramatization of Behe’s testimony. That’s definitely an actor. Now I am not so sure that’s really Jones either. He’s mugging too much. I think they’re all actors.

8:08 – Flagellum bullshit, with Behe’s favorite diagram. Now they show animations illustrating the flagellum up close.

8:14 – Now they’re also showing a similar genetic thing to the flagellum, which does not spin but serves a completely different purpose. It is made up of many of the same components as a flagellum. This is a great illustration of adapting pieces that may have evolved for different reasons.

8:15 – Ken Miller picks apart the irreducible mousetrap analogy.

8:16 – This actor who plays Behe is pretty good. He’s portraying exactly the right amount of smugness and condescension.

8:17 – Rothschild-actor enacts the amusing stunt of stacking up a pile of books which refute his claim that there are no publications about evolution of flagellum. Behe-actor sits there opening and shutting his mouth, fishlike. Okay, that’s probably a bit over the top.

8:24 – Now Judge Jones (the real one) is talking about first amendment, establishment clause issues. We’re getting into the “smoking gun” evidence that Pandas & People was once explicitly billed as a creationism book. Lots of shots of Eric Rothschild googling things with an intense look in his eye.

8:27 – Barbara Forrest uncovers the famous typo. One of the lawyers pronounces the words “cdesign proponentsists.” Hilarity ensues, in my house anyway.

8:31 – ACLU guy gives Forrest major props as the hero of the trial. Then they re-enact the scene where Behe admits that his definition of “science” applies to astrology. They’ve now hit both of the high points of Behe’s testimony, IMO. And, again with the fish-mouth. In my house, Paul says: “And the Discovery Institute didn’t take him home and lynch him, after that performance?”

8:34 – A nice image of the wedge document. Then Barbara Forrest explains its significance. Then an announcer explains its significance some more, with close-ups on significant phrases. Phil Johnson bloviates on camera: “I know it SOUNDS conspiratorial and sinister. But it’s really very simple. I just want to chop the theory of evolution into little pieces. And I’m just a humble lawyer, but surely SOMEBODY must know more than me and still support my position. The wide end of the wedge would be smart sciency sounding people like Michael Behe and, um… well, pretty much just Michael Behe.” (That’s a paraphrase, if it wasn’t obvious.)

8:38 – Scenes of Buckingham replay on video footage, where the dumbass says “creationism” many many times, thereby completely tipping his hand about promoting religion. In the courtroom enactment, Buckingham pleads that he “just couldn’t think of the words Intelligent Design at the time.” This is, of course, contrary to how he was portrayed earlier, where he just wanted to stick in creationism and had never heard of ID before.

8:39 – Buckingham apparently lies under oath, saying he doesn’t know where the money came from to buy the Pandas & People copies, or who donated them. Turns out he collected the money from his church personally. Then gave that money to a businessman. Who gave it to Buckingham’s dad. Who bought the books. Asshat.

8:43 – Rothschild-actor gives a theatrical summation. Defense attorney-actor also gives quite a stirring summation himself, doing a passable imitation of Alan Shore as he makes an impassioned plea to think of the children and please just let them decide for themselves on the validity of Intelligent Design.

8:45 – Clip of Pat Robertson is shown, threatening Dover with the wrath of God for rejecting Him from their city. And here I am without any popcorn to throw.

8:46 – Fourteen minutes left, and they’re just now getting to Judge Jones’ lovely ruling on the case. But at least they have him reading it out loud. Actually that’s not so great; he’s kind of an awkward and slow reader. Soon an announcer takes over to explain the ruling instead of listening to Jones tell it. Speaking freestyle and not reading, Jones then expounds on the ruling and sounds much better. They replay highlights including showing the term “cdesign proponentsists” again.

8:49 – Bill Buckingham: “To put it bluntly, I think he’s a jackass. I think he went to clown college instead of law school.” He does not add: “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”

8:50 – Other members of DI fall all over themselves to alternately bad-mouth Judge Jones and distance themselves from the rotten performance of their colleagues. Jones talks about receiving death threats.

8:52 – You know, Phillip Johnson really looks a lot like Skeletor on camera these days. “I’ll get you next time, evolution! Next time!” No wait, that’s Dr. Claw.

Final verdict on this show: It was not bad, but I wouldn’t call it riveting television. For people who didn’t follow the trial closely, it’s a decent academic introduction to the events. For those of us who did, it’s mostly a retread that didn’t offer a lot of new stuff. The re-enactments were a bit distracting in their amateurishness. The interviews were the most interesting part, and I would have liked to see more of that. Plus, as I said before, much more creative computer animations.

Liveblogging the PBS Dover trial special

I’ve never tried something like this before. Martin asked me if I would post a review of the Nova Special, “Judgment Day,” since he wouldn’t get to watch it. So I thought I’d take some live notes during the show, either as an aid to or in place of this review. I’ll update this post periodically throughout the two hour show. Paul Wilson is here, we’re having a couple of beers and kibitzing. Feel free to join the comments, whether you’re watching or not.

7:09 – Still on background material. They showed shots of the town, had clips from various people (Kenneth Miller, Phillip Johnson) on the conflict. Had some people talking about how they should teach that God did the creation. As usual, these people are blissfully aware that ID isn’t really religion. (Wink wink.)

7:12 – clips of the Spencer Tracy classic “Inherit the Wind”. Great movie, good artistic choice. Mentions that teaching creationism is today considered a violation of church /state separation.

7:14 – Dover school board member is whining that the textbook they were initially going to approve was “laced with Darwinism.” OMG! It’s like complaining that a physics book is laced with Newtonism.

7:15 – they talk about Darwin’s finches, with background provided by Ken Miller.

7:18 – nice 3d animated rendering of a “tree of life.” Well, actually kind of cheesy. :) Also, there’s that awkward mixed metaphor of going UP the tree while talking about “descent.”

7:20 – They show the mural drawn by a Dover HS student depicting evolution. It was thrown out and burned without asking anyone.

7:22 – Tammy Kitzmiller (bringer of the suit) makes an appearance, talking about the heated school board meetings.

7:24 – So it was the lawyer from the “Thomas More Law Center” who had the bright idea to bring “Intelligent Design” to Dover. Buckingham, the school board lackey, just wanted a book that had evolution AND creation. This lawyer advised him to try Pandas and People, and the rest is history.

7:27 – Buckingham is still trying to talk about Genesis, and is in fact frustrated by the failure of P&P to mention God. Oh goody, here’s that blowhard, Phillip Johnson.

7:28 – Buckingham sees ID as “A good compromise” even though it’s not religious-y enough. Science teachers come on one by one to say that the book is crap and they see right through it as creationism. Ultimately, the board rejects Pandas and approves the Miller textbook. But “an anonymous donor” generously supplies a crate full of P&P, and the same school board slips through a 6-3 mandate to use the “free” books. WTF? The three resign in protest.

7:31 – The lawsuit is introduced. The science teachers collectively agree as a unit that “we have standards, we’re not reading this stupid disclaimer about alternative theories.” This is clearly not a case of big bad government oppressing poor innocent teachers who want to teach the controversy; it’s a bunch of school board creeps with an agenda trying to order teachers to read this disclaimer.

7:34 – Re-enactment of the Dover trial starts. This is a minimalist set with dim lighting I can’t tell if this the real Rothschild talking to the real Judge Jones. They look like the real people, but I don’t know them that well. Now the real Jones is being interviewed. Hey, did you know he was not only approved by Bush, but recommended by Rick Santorum? I guess they’re establishing his “true conservative” cred before he tears ID to shreds.

7:39 – Fundamental questions of the trial: 1. Prove that the one minute statement is a promotion of religion. 2. Show that ID is not science.

7:41 – Here’s that cheesy tree animation again. Paul makes the excellent point that for all the work they did on panning the camera, it’s still a STATIC TREE. To be a really good analogy, they should show a tree that’s actively sprouting in the animation, while elsewhere it would show branches falling off where species go extinct. Paul’s right, I think that would be way cool.

7:49 – Alan Bosnell and other Dover school board members predictably make a horrible botch of the word “theory.” The courtroom re-enactors correct the public understanding of the word. I think this is the real Judge Jones in the fake courtroom, but this guy playing Ken Miller is definitely not him. Not-Miller agrees with the ID lawyer that “evolution is tentative,” but correctly adds that ALL science is tentative. Pretty well played.

7:52 – An excellent point made by the show: genetics provided a genuine test for evolution. It’s not just an ad hoc theory. There were major missing pieces from Darwin’s theory, and genetics filled them in. As Paul points out, it’s an important counter to the idea that evolution makes no predictions: evolution predicted genetics.

7:58 – Yaaaaay Robert Pennock! (I am such a geeked out fan.)

8:00 – The plaintiffs rest, and the show fades to black. This seems like a good time for a page break. This commentary continues in the next post.

This Tuesday: Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Yes, I know things have been quiet around here for several days, but rest assured I’m about to be doing a lot of catch-up blogging this week. But for starters, I wanted to alert everyone to this week’s upcoming episode of PBS’s venerable Nova, a two-hour special about the Dover trial entitled Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. Barbara Forrest, who was in town at the beginning of the month, is among the experts prominently featured in it, and at least one review I’ve read assures us it will be a solid pro-science piece dealing in the facts and nothing but the facts, without the lame style of “he said, she said” reportage that masquerades as “fair and balanced” “journalism” in the post-Fox world. So check your listings.

And I have a favor to ask of our readers. I won’t be in a position to watch it Tuesday night. So if anyone can TiVO it/tape it/burn it to DVD/post it to Google or YouTube, please let me know. I really can’t wait to see it and I’m bummed I’ll be nowhere near a television Tuesday night. Thanks in advance!