Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Darwin on Design

By now, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the trial brought by parents to block the introduction of so called ‘intelligent design’ theory into the local public schools has been well hashed over. Personally I found it to be one of the most interesting cases I had followed in a while, primarily because this type of broad indictment of faith-based nonsense does not get its day in court very often. This trial was an opportunity for people driven by reason to square off against people who think they are encouraging religion, but are really just exhibiting conviction in their own ignorance.

There has been a great deal said and written about the trial since it was decided in favor of the plaintiffs, including some memorable words from Pat Robertson (who might be funny if he wasn’t such a deranged freak). The victory was complete and absolutely unambiguous. The judge not only decided against ID, but ridiculed and berated the school board members who, contrary to their own profession of Christian faith, misrepresented their motives and perjured themselves to cover their own tracks.

So why rehash it? There is an article in this month’s Harper’s Magazine by Matthew Chapman titled ‘God or Gorilla.’ Mr. Chapman is the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin. In reporting on the trial, Mr. Chapman has brought some interesting insight and a great deal of acerbic ridicule to the personalities and arguments surrounding the trial. In addition to simply reporting the story, he provides some great cameos of some of the local players.

Of the defense lawyer Patrick Gillen’s primary proclivity he writes, “Protecting the Sanctity of Life,” which as a biblical literalist myself, I take to mean defending such freedoms as the biblically mandated right to capture women in battle, shave their heads, lock them up for a month, rape them into matrimony (Deuteronomy 21:10), and then deny them the right to an abortion afterward”

At a local community meeting, “...a man…calmly…started to defend evolution. Within moments, a woman, suffering from dental defects that would do an Appalachian proud, was standing in the middle of the hall shouting, “You’ve been brainwashed in college!” There were grunts and murmurs of agreement…”

On local minister Rev. Groves, “A wiry little homo-hater in his late fifties…Every Halloween he joins the parade in York, putting on one of those shows so beloved of the breed, smashing blood-filled dolls and displaying graphic photographs of aborted fetuses and so scaring the children that in 2002 he was actually arrested by the local police.”

Anticipating testimony, “Outsiders such as myself were in a froth of anticipation for the testimony of a pugnacious, OxyContin-addicted crusader Bill Buckingham (a member of the Dover school board).”

Summing up the whole thing, “So this was the genesis of the whole thing: an auto repairman appointed an OxyContin-addicted biblical literalist without a shred of knowledge to decide which books the kids should learn from, and a woman who had no curiosity about anything, even her own most deeply held beliefs, seconded the whole idea.”

And for the school board president, “Alan Bonsell…with a relaxed slightly contemptuous manner of a politician…reminded me of George Bush, in that he exuded a confidence unwarranted by the facts.”

Let’s not forget the Judge, “In a withering 139 page opinion… Judge Jones… found that the goal of Intelligent Design movement is religious in nature…is not science and cannot be taught in the Dover schools. ….the board’s claimed reason for including ID was a “sham”. In referring to board members he used such words as “striking ignorance” and “breathtaking inanity.” Additionally he wrote that Buckingham and Bonsell “had either testified inconsistently, or lied outright under oath on several occasions” and that “It is ironic that several of these individuals who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy.”

As so infrequently happens these days, the good guys won and the creationists were exposed not only for their ignorance, but their deceit as well.

Again, the article appears in the February 2006 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Very Highly recommended. Unfortunately it is not posted online, or I would have included a link.


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