The "Intelligent Design" trial: the inside story

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.”

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One Response to The "Intelligent Design" trial: the inside story

  1. Doc Mara says:

    The quotes at the end of your snippet seem telling “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.� and “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.�

    Not only are ID and evolution not competing theories, the combatents have two totally different purposes. One side wants the educational sytem to work rationally (at least in the narrow sense of “because we can’t agree on metaphysics, we’ll leave that out, but we all agree that empirical science should stay in the schools, right?” ). The other side wants “closer to God.”

    I’m afraid that both sides are vying for forum control over the schools. The evolution/scientist/sectular coalition have taken it to a different forum, the court, to sweep away the gains the “God” side has made in school board forums. When the news media come and see that nobody is really talking to one another, what is the newspaper to do? They COULD take one side or another, or do the laughable “fair and balanced” thing where both sides get to paint themselves as the arbiters of truth. I think tabloidism is the only way the NYTimes can stomach that kind of balance when they SO want to just say “the ID rubes have no chance.” Better to let both sides speak for themselves at this current political moment.

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