Is everyone looking forward to the new Nova program, Judgment Day? Look for it next Tuesday, 13 November, on PBS. The first review I’ve seen is available in this week’s Nature, and it’s positive.
Hot on the heels of several books chronicling Kitzmiller vs Dover, comes Judgment Day, a rigorous television documentary from the producers of the prestigious science series Nova. This two-hour montage of interviews and reconstructions, to be shown on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States, features all the main players, bar one. Michael Behe, inventor of the specious meme “irreducible complexity” and guiding light of the intelligent-design movement, refused to participate. His testimony — the cornerstone of the defence — revealed a definition of science so loose that it includes astrology.
I thought Behe was so proud of his testimony! Why should he now be reluctant to expound further on it in a documentary?
Herein lies the dramatic challenge of retelling this important story. The feebleness of the intelligent-design case, and the overwhelming strength of the prosecution in systematically deconstructing it, render the verdict clear just minutes into the programme. The makers of Judgement Day inject tension with eyewitness accounts from the people of Dover, and home-video footage of raucous school board meetings shows how passionate and divided this small community became. It works: it is inspiring to hear parents and educators,such as Sunday school and physics teacher Bryan Rehm, recount how they refused to be steam-rollered into bringing religion into the science classroom.
I’m happy to see that due importance is being attached to the real center of the argument: while they are important, the testimony of the scientists is secondary to the role local communities play. This is a battle that’s got to be fought in the minds of ordinary citizens, not just in laboratories.
Be sure to tune in next week!
Rutherford A (2007) Dover trial documentary screens. Nature 450:170.