NOVA Droppin’ Science On Creationism

I just finished watching tonight’s NOVA documentary on Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 Dover, Pennsylvania evolution/intelligent design court case, called “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial” on PBS. It’s pretty spectacular. In two hours, the show laid it down as to why ID as a “scientific theory” is a crock and put together mounds of evidence on how the 150 year-old theory of evolution continues to be confirmed by ongoing discoveries in genetics, paleontology, molecular biology, and a partridge in a pear tree. The web site for the episode is located here, and the entire episode will be available online here starting November 16. In the meantime, there are video and audio clips related to the episode available here.

I’ve taken a little extra interest in it due to the fact that I live less than 25 miles away from Dover, so the whole twisted, sorry saga hits a little too close to home for me.

One of the clips currently available is of the show’s senior executive producer discussing why NOVA, a science show, did an episode devoted to a court case and hot-button political issue. She said:

The trial . . . was fascinating. It was like a primer, like a biology textbook. Some of the nation’s best biologists testified. When I began delving into the case, it was clear that both the trial and the issue were perfect subjects for NOVA.

This is not just any case; it’s an historic case as well as a critical science lesson. Through six weeks of expert testimony, the case provided a crash course in modern evolutionary science, and it really hit home just how firmly established evolutionary theory is. The case also explored the very nature of science—how science is defined. Perhaps most importantly, the trial had great potential for altering science education and the public understanding of science. . . .

At the end of the trial, Judge John Jones issued a 139-page verdict supporting the teaching of evolution and characterizing intelligent design as a religious idea with no place in the science classroom. It was a landmark decision, all the more so because Judge Jones was appointed by President Bush and nominated by Republican Senator Rick Santorum. . . .

Recent polls tells us that 48 percent—almost half of all Americans—still question evolution and still believe that some kind of alternative should be taught in the public schools. What happens when half of the population doesn’t accept one of the most fundamental underpinnings of the sciences? Evolution is the absolute bedrock of the biological sciences. It’s essential to medical science, agriculture, biotechnology. And it’s critical to understanding the natural world around us.

We’re a country built on our command of the sciences and technology. But we now face a crisis in science literacy that could threaten our progress in these areas and ultimately threaten our quality of life. So, at NOVA and at Vulcan, we feel that understanding the importance of evolution, and enhancing science literacy in general, are more crucial than ever.


I can see only one problem with all of this, and it’s a discouraging thought: Odds are the overwhelming majority of those 48% who still question evolution won’t ever bother watching NOVA, let alone this particular episode. On top of that, try to show it to their kids in school, and you’ll probably wind up with a lawsuit on your hands. Plus, good luck reaching anyone who either has their kids in a private, church-based school or who homeschools their kids specifically because of attempts to teach them about this sort of thing.


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9 Responses to “NOVA Droppin’ Science On Creationism”

  1. doridoidae Says:

    I’m both surprised and happy to see the outstanding number of people who watched this show and who gave it positive reviews. Makes me hopeful for the future of science education!

  2. compassioninpolitics Says:

    Characterizing it as a religious idea is hardly a reason to dismiss it. I understand in the context of church and state that you might be correct, however in the context of science it doesn’t mean that its automatically untrue. For instance, my understanding is the Bible specifies the correct day that is most beneficiary for circumcision. The assumption that science and biblical teaching are anti-thetical or can’t co-exist are both steortypical and flawed.

  3. compassioninpolitics Says:

    I want an open dialouge on the issue and the PBS special was hardly an open diaglouge. Specifically it traded 15 minutes of quality scientific argument for soundbites like “the Bible says its true, it must be true.” Of course from a rationalist perspective–which has its own flaws–talk to the feminists and the post-colonialists and the post-modernists–it sounds problematic. The PBS documentary fundamentally framed the debate such that the people on the Creationist side didn’t look like scientists, but only Bible thumpers. (i think I only saw 2 scientists in favor of Intelligent Design–thats hardly an honest cross-section and PBS knows thats true)

    If you want an open and honest discussion (and not just talk to folks who already agree with you)…please feel free to read my post and provide input in the comments section. As of yet, I have yet to hear anything that credibly indicts Intelligent Design besides its “religious”–which doesn’t mean its also not scientific.

    Thanks for posting and thanks for listening…I hope you want to contribute!

  4. 6 Flaws in Evolution: The PBS Special on the Evolution Contraversy | A Metaphor for the Radical Misteps of Mass Media « Compassion in Politics Says:

    […] claims. However, they come up a bit short in answering any of the six plus criciticisms of the PBS evolution special I outlined above (and two or three more in the comments section). If I’m in error…feel […]

  5. HeartOfGold Says:

    NOVA lost credibility when it called Scopes a “science teacher” (he was a physical education teacher who occasionally substituted for other teachers) and showed ficticious scenes from Inheret the wind of G-men arresting a science teacher in class as though it were even close to true.

    NOVA is now a propaganda arm of the NCSE.

  6. Mike Says:

    This Nova program was thorough and well balanced. Everyone ought to watch it. The sad truth is that the only people open minded enough to watch it, who aren’t already aligned with one side or the other, are people who are intellectually curious enough to have already picked up a fair amount of science education in the course of their lives. Those who have failed to pick up enough education to follow it will instinctively fall back to whatever side doesn’t threaten their sense of identity and the world view they picked up from their parents. People don’t “learn” religion – they “accept” it through peer pressure. Science requires a certain amount of skepticism and a reasonable attention span, which is a discipline that is learned. I’ve read Behe’s book. I think his idea of irreducible complexity is an idea worthy of robust debate – a truly worthy scientific idea. But ID isn’t science. Judge Jones did the right thing. He followed the law. People who think this show wasn’t balanced can’t see the forest for the trees.

  7. BILL Says:

    I believe the overwhelming evidence support Evolution. I have dropped my religious affiliation because of the closed minded atmosphere, found in my previous church. I feel more comfortable as an agnostic , anyway.

  8. WM. O'BRIEN Says:


  9. SomeGuy Says:

    compassioninpolitics Says:

    “As of yet, I have yet to hear anything that credibly indicts Intelligent Design besides its “religious”–which doesn’t mean its also not scientific.”

    The double negative confuses me… it is usually doubletalk when double negatives are used rather a positive statement. Did you mean to say that Intelligent Design is scientific?? I guess you didn’t bother reading what the Judge said in his 130 odd page judgement in which he empatically said “ID is not science” period. Has no scientific evidence or validity other than a negative argument. Hard to believe the Creationist “scientists” considered them scientists when their only support is a “negative argument”. That is, because you can’t explain it therefore by negative inference you have to accept it without proof. That’s not science!!! The absence of evidence doesn’t mean that is the evidence of absence. That’s like saying, prove to me that I am wrong when I say that “polar bears do not exist” and you then searched all over Australia and can’t provide any sighting of polar bears. Because you can’t dispel my assertion, I then proudly proclaim that I am right all along – polar bears are a myth. Which is utter nonsense!!! Which is why “real scientist” don’t bother wasting their time debating Creationists.

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