Via The Education Wonks comes this article from The New York Times, “In Pennsylvania, It Was Religion vs. Science, Pastor vs. Ph.D., Evolution vs. the Half-Fish.” This is of course about the trial having to do with
creationism — okay, so-called “Intelligent Design”– being taught in science classes. I haven’t been following the story of this court case that closely, though I am concerned as an academic and, ultimately, I suppose I’m concerned as a parent, too.
Anyway, this NYT piece strikes me as kind of unusual for them because it is sort of taking the People magazine/Entertainment Tonight approach– you know, the “inside story,” the “people behind the scenes.” Here’s a juicy section:
The trial presents a particular challenge for the journalists from science magazines. In the courtroom hallway during a break last week, Celeste Biever, a reporter for NewScientist, was interviewing a courtroom regular, a bearded local pastor who says he considers evolution a lie.
“You want half-bird, half-fish?” she asked, drawing a dotted line on her notepad.
“Yeah, why not,” the pastor said.
Later, out of the pastor’s hearing, Ms. Biever said with fascination, “He thinks evolution is a bird turning into a fish turning into a rabbit” – one straight line of common descent, instead of a tree with common roots.
Ms. Biever was finding that she could not cover the trial the way she would a classic courtroom face-off. When you put intelligent design up against evolution, she said, “It’s not a head-on collision between two scientific arguments; it’s orthogonal,” with the opponents coming at each other from right angles.
“It’s apples and oranges,” Ms. Biever said.
Her readers do not take intelligent design seriously, she said, so she was striving for “local color.” Her readers want to know, she said, “Why is this happening here?”
“We’re not just science cheerleaders, and I don’t want to overlook any valid argument for intelligent design,” Ms. Biever said. “As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t heard one yet.”
As for the pastor, after four days of listening to science experts dismantling the case for intelligent design, he was unimpressed.
“They’re babblers,” said the pastor, the Rev. Jim Grove, who leads a 40-member independent Baptist church outside of Dover. “The more Ph.D.’s you get, it seems like the further away from God you get.”