November 13, 2007

Judgment Day: Parting Thoughts

Having just watched Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, I had a few thoughts I wanted to jot down.

For me, the most interesting part of the program was seeing the people from Dover involved in the case. That's in large part because I've looked at the transcripts from the case before and have discussed the proceedings at some length, both on the Internet and in my offline life. There wasn't much new there for me, but seeing the interviews with Tammy Kitzmiller, with the science teachers of Dover, with Judge Jones, and with Bonsell and Buckingham was novel. The character of those involved was quite apparent in those interviews, and to that extent I think that PBS did an excellent job in bringing something new to the table.

My impression of Bonsell was very negative; he came across as a particularly slimy customer who certainly proved himself ready to lie in order to advance his agenda and cover his own ass. The lowest of the low, I think, was Buckingham. I hadn't known before this program that he was a cop before he joined the Dover school board, but his behavior both before and after the trial speaks of the type of arrogance indulged by one who believes himself to be above the law, a trait in many police officers with which I'm only too familiar due to my own upbringing. Buckingham appears to have taken it upon himself to confiscate and destroy the property of others, to squirm like a worm in his efforts to find ways to get around the law in order to push Creationism into classrooms and, like Bonsell, to hide the truth when it suited him. His statements about Judge Jones at the program's close were particularly telling. From what I saw of Buckingham, the man is clearly a bully and one of the least eloquent ideologues ever to find himself a soapbox. I can only imagine that the world would be a better place with fewer Buckinghams in it.

As far as the teachers of Dover, they came off as fighters. These are some brave people and, at the risk of sounding sexist, I must describe Bertha Spahr as an endearingly spunky woman who I am sure, having seen her tonight, must be one hell of a good teacher. It's also clear to me that Judge Jones is a man of conviction and intellectual honesty, even though I'm certain that I disagree with some of his decisions previous to Dover. Nonetheless, anyone who can call Jones an "activist" needs medicating. Jones seems to me a strict Constitutionalist, based both on his reasoning as expressed in the show and on the passages I've previously read from his lengthy decision.

Michael Behe declined to appear in the program, of course, no doubt in part because his testimony reveals him as a ninny. I confess that this is the word which leaps to mind first and foremost whenever I consider Behe's testimony or his general attitude. Were he not trying to redefine science in his role as a part in a complex machine whose purpose was to undermine reason and society, he would be a pathetic and rather sympathetic character. As it stands, though, he's a ninny. He should know better, but he doesn't. He's a man caught between a rather uncommon density of skull and a stubborn nature and so will never, ever be able to admit to his own errors.

And Philip Johnson is, I think, best likened to a tumor. His arrogant malignancy in his desire to be the "sharp edge" of a wedge designed to split science and society, his conviction that he is the man destined to bring about what he sees as the most important revolution of the past two centuries, casts him in my mind with the likes of Charles Manson and Ted Kaczinsky. Like many tumors, he is an unfortunate growth and the best we can hope of him is that he won't spread anymore than he already has. From the look of things in the interview segments with him, I doubt he'll be with us much longer, but I am under no illusion that the death of one egotist is likely to change the minds of the majority of those attracted to his intrinsically sinister nature.

When all is said and done, of course, the take-away from the program is that the "cdesign proponentists" are likely to be with us for a very, very long time to come. Their groups will no doubt splinter again and again, since there is no objective basis to which they can cling. Disagreements over the particulars of faith will creep in over time as they always do with faith-based movements, but there will always be some group of ignorant and/or manipulative people for whom belief in their own correctness is the only proof they need that they have the answers — if only those who require something more can be gotten out of the way!

All in all, I think PBS did a commendable job with the program. I wonder how many death threats executive producer Paula Apsell has gotten for having the nerve to bring the Kitzmiller/Dover trial into the light once again. I'm sure there must have been a few by now. The things are practically inevitable when one makes some member of the Disenlightenment look bad, even when they looked bad to begin with.

Sphere: Related Content