Showing in Dover Yesterday of "More Reasons Why Evolution Is Stupid"

Darwin’s great-great-grandson in attendance

From today’s York Daily Record

If Charles Darwin could have attended a meeting in Dover on Thursday, he would have been shocked by the disrespect shown his theory, according to his great-great-grandson Matthew Chapman.

Chapman was among about 150 people, including about 20 members of the media, who came to Dover Fire Station (6) for a presentation involving a video of “More Reasons Why Evolution is Stupid.”

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Trial: Day 4

On the stand today was Carol “Casey” Brown, a Dover resident and former reporter for the York Dispatch. She and her husband, Jeffrey, each have a child who attended the Dover schools. For five and ten years, respectively, Mr. and Mrs. Brown served on the Dover Area School Board, until they both resigned on October 18th, 2004. Today, Mrs. Brown testified as to the events leading to that resignation. In doing so, she called attention, not only to the desire of certain board members to shape school policy based on their religious convictions, but to the intimidation tactics and unusual procedural routes taken to further these goals.

Mrs. Brown began her narrative by describing a January 2002 retreat where the newly elected board president Alan Bonsell “expressed the desire to bring prayer and faith back into schools.”

“He mentioned bibles.” Mrs. Brown said, “and he mentioned creationism.”

Questions of creationism came up again as the board’s curriculum committee began addressing the need for new biology textbooks, preparing for the 2003-04 school year. A member of the committee at the time, Mrs. Brown stated that teachers had stopped using the old books because they were not in accordance with the state mandate. They had requested the purchase of Biology by Miller and Levine. The request was denied due to budget concerns.

The next year, in each of its June meetings, the board discussed the book, but committee chair William Buckingham stalled a vote because he viewed the book to be “laced with Darwinism” and “not balanced.” He repeated a statement from fall 2003, “regarding his disbelief in separation of church and state.” Mrs. Brown remembered also his concern that evolution and creationism should be “taught side by side.”

At the next meeting, Mr. Buckingham continued his objections. In addition, Mr. Bonsell allowed Mr. Buckingham’s wife to speak for 10-15 minutes, in a manner described by Mrs. Brown as akin to a “chautauqua… an old tent revival.”

“She described how to accept Christ as our personal savior. She spoke very vehemently in favor of creationism…she read from Scripture.” Mrs. Brown recalled that “there were muttered amens” from board members, including Mr. Buckingham.

In the meeting, Mr. Brown raised concerns about the legality of bringing the subject of creationism into the schools and was called a coward by Mr. Buckingham.

And the issue of the biology book was not resolved. Buckingham had brought up several objections – including the fact the inclusion of Charles Darwin in a science timeline and the absences of any “mention of creationism or god.” He was even bothered that, in a section on Darwin’s finches, “the finch had been named for Darwin.”

In the summer of 2004, Mr. Buckingham proposed the intelligent design book, Of Pandas and People, as an “adjunct alternative text.” At the August 2004 meeting, Mr. Buckingham indicated that he would “give [the district the] biology book” if they agreed to include Of Pandas and People. He said that he had the votes to prevent them from getting books. “We lost [the vote’,” said Mrs. Brown, but a board member on the winning side requested a re-vote and changed her position rather than deny students their books.

Then, in September 2004, Vice Superintendent Baksa informed Mrs. Brown of a proposal to modify the biology curriculum so that, in the words of curricular materials, “Students will be made aware of gaps in Darwin’s theory and other theories of evolution.” While changes to the curriculum are usually due to “changes in mandates by the state,” changes in the subject matter or changes in textbooks, Mrs. Brown indicated that Mr. Buckingham seemed to be spearheading these changes.

On the Thursday prior to the October 18th meeting, she received from Baksa a revised statement that students would be “made aware of gaps…including but not limited to intelligent design” and Pandas was to be used as a reference.

“Normal procedures were not in place,” said Mrs. Brown. “Anything related to curriculum changes at this time [of the year] was unusual.” The teachers were not involved, only learning of the changes “on the morning of October 18th.” Finally, the community-based Curriculum Advisory Board was not consulted. According to Mrs. Brown, “it was unheard of for stakeholders not to be involved.”

On October 18th, the new material was approved in a 6-3 vote, changing the curriculum. At the end of the meeting, Mrs. Brown “asked for recognition from Mr. Bonsell and resigned.”

Today, she read from her prepared statement of resignation:

“We as board members serve as the representatives of our community to our district, representing all of the members of our community and representing all viewpoints… We cannot favor one over another… In the past year, there seems to have been a shift…There has been a marginalization of some of the board members… Religious belief is of paramount importance [to some board members]… I have been asked twice if I have been born again…With deepest regret, I am stepping down…I shall pray that you will learn to represent all the members of this community.”

“Just after stepping down from the board,” concluded Mrs. Brown, “[Mr Buckingham] decried my belief and called me an atheist.” A couple months later, at the recess of a board meeting, Mrs. Brown told the court that Mr Bonsell “accused me and my husband of destroying the board. He told me that I would be going to hell.”

Submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of Pennsylvania

California Superintendent Just Says "No" to Intelligent Design

Thankfully, not all school districts feel that teaching intelligent design is a good idea. Here’s a great defense of teaching evolution (and not intelligent design) in science classes from the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction:

LOS ANGELES-State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today defended California’s science standards from efforts to inject the theory of intelligent design into natural science curriculum.

“The introduction of intelligent design theory in natural science courses would be a blow to the integrity of education in California,” O’Connell said. “Our state has been recognized across the country and around the world for the quality and rigor of our academic standards. Just like I will fight tooth and nail to protect California’s high academic standards, I will fight to ensure that good science is protected in California classrooms.”

Local Coverage of the Trial

The York Daily Record has provided great coverage of the trial, especially some very funny columns by Mike Argento.

Witness bashes intelligent design

Anniversary trip: Dover trial
A Spring Garden Twp. couple are among the courthouse spectators

Mike Argento’s columns

Have you ever really looked at intelligent design?

The worst job: Teaching science in Dover

Also, here’s a nice editorial from this morning’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hard to believe: Pennsylvania hosts its own Scopes trial

"Everything you do in the classroom is teaching"

Plaintiffs testify at afternoon session

This afternoon, three plaintiffs in our case testified regarding school board meetings they attended and their feelings about the curriculum change. Julie Smith, Christy Rehm, and Beth Eveland all took the stand.

Mrs. Rehm, who is a teacher in a public school outside of York County, testified about the impact of behaviors in the classroom.

“As a teacher, I feel teachers in general have been harmed,” she stated. “Everything you do in the classroom is teaching. How I dress is teaching. Statements I don’t make teach my students.”

“This has spilled over into other classes,” she continued. “Children of school board members say, ‘Do you think we came from monkeys? How can you think we came from monkeys?'”

Mrs. Rehm is the mother of four children, including a daughter in the ninth grade.

Earlier, Julie Smith conveyed her concerns about the impact of school events on her family’s religious life.

According to Mrs. Smith, her teenage daughter said, “Mom, evolution’s a lie. What kind of Christian are you?”

Mrs. Eveland discussed board meetings, calling them “a circus-like atmosphere.”

“I remember [Dover School Board member] Bill Buckingham saying, ‘2,000 years ago someone died on a cross. Isn’t someone going to take a stand for him?'”

Mrs. Eveland responded by sending a letter to school officials and a letter to the editor of the York Daily Record, which the paper published. When Steve Harvey, our attorney who handled direct questioning, asked her to read the letter, opposing counsel objected, calling it “hearsay.”

“Why is it hearsay?” Judge Jones asked.

After listening to the defense counsel’s point, his honor asked, “Who wrote the letter?”

“She did.”

“Overruled.”

In a final note, reporters from two York newspapers agreed to testify under a strict factual order from Judge Jones. Thus, opposing counsel cannot ask the reporters about their personal beliefs.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

ID would take us "backwards," MSU professor testifies

For anyone who ever napped through a college philosophy class (like this writer, for example), the morning session might not seem particularly attractive as it featured Dr. Robert Pennock, a professor of philosophy of science at Michigan State University. However, Dr. Pennock offered insightful testimony to further bolster our case. He even managed to bring some levity to the situation.

Dr. Pennock and Eric Rothschild, who handled direct questioning, analyzed statements by Dr. William Dembski, a key proponent of ID. The testimony included quotations from several of Dembski’s writings.

“They want to revolutionize science” Dr. Pennock stated. “They want a theistic science.”

“They would turn us back to an earlier era,” he noted, causing “the scientific community to ‚Äútake a number of steps backwards.”

The various factions of creationists were also discussed, including Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, and Special Creation. Dr. Pennock stated that intelligent design is an attempt to unite the factions.

“It is a strategy to unite against a common enemy,” he said.

The morning session included several light moments. Dr. Pennock testified that referring to a “designer” rather than “God” is like referring to “Ambassador Wilson’s wife” rather than “Valerie Plame Wilson.” As the gallery laughed, Judge Jones chuckled and said, “As an example.”

Also, when opposing counsel Patrick Gillen asked if he had ever heard evolution referred to as a “big tent theory,” Dr. Pennock said curiously, “I can’t say that I’ve ever heard it referred to as a ‘Big Ten theory.'” When he realized his mistake, Dr. Pennock noted his position at Michigan State, and Gillen referred to his own degree from the University of Michigan.

This afternoon the court will deal with the issue of two York newspaper reporters who have been subpoenaed for testimony.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

Trial, Day 2 Continued

“Laced with Darwinism”

That was the theme of day two of Kitzmiller v. Dover, as a parent, a teacher and a school board member, all parents with children in the district, testified as to the religious intent of school board members in advocating for the teaching of intelligent design.

This afternoon, Dover parent and plaintiff Tammy Kitzmiller testified that she was drawn into the controversy while reading of the search for new biology books in the York newspaper. The paper quoted a statement of one school board member that a proposed biology book was “laced with Darwinism.” Kitzmiller’s attention was caught. As she explained today, she felt as though the school board was placing religious ideology in the schools, which affected her two school-aged daughters.

Next on the stand was plaintiff Aralene “Barrie” Callahan, who is a parent and former Dover Area School District board member. A board member for 10 years, Callahan recalled attending school board retreats at which members discussed creationism and the need to balance the ideology 50-50 with that of evolution.

Issues surrounding the teaching of evolution came up for Callahan as a parent, too. While, the school board had purchased textbooks for several other classes, they still had not ordered biology books. Callahan’s daughter had no biology book to study from at home because the book the board had originally chosen was “laced with Darwinism.” When Callahan questioned the school board, she was told that they were looking for a different, balanced, textbook.

When asked if she felt harmed by the school district, Callahan stated, “the school district is trying to influence my daughters religious beliefs.” Not only were the board members “demeaning the theory of evolution, but their actions hindered students from learning real science which could ultimately harm them when furthering their education.”

The last plaintiff’s witness of the day was former Dover physics teacher Bryan Rehm. Two of Rehm’s four children attend school in Dover.

Rehm recalled several lunchtime conversations in which teachers discussed the issue of the biology curriculum. After several discussions, the science teachers received a video by a school board member, called “Icons of Evolution.” After they viewed the movie, they met with board members, and voiced their concern regarding the teaching of intelligent design. The science teachers concluded that they were not comfortable teaching ID in biology or other science classes.

Rehm said that he further engaged himself in the debate by attending several board meetings. According to Rehm, the school board demonstrated their religious intent in advocating for intelligent design by making statements regarding creationism and Jesus dying on the cross 2,000 years ago.

Rehm’s testimony was consistent with accounts in two different York newspapers. However, the board members denied in depositions that they ever made such statements – even though they never asked the newspapers for retractions after the articles first appeared.

“There was no discrepancy in what I read in the York Daily Record and what I heard that night,” Rehm stated.

Rehm ended his testimony by relating how he has been harmed both professionally (he no longer is a physics teacher at Dover), and personally, due to the tensions growing within the community. Rehm expressed concern that teachers have not been respected for their opinions and their expertise. According to Rehm, it is the students within the school district who will ultimately suffer.

“There should be no debate,” Rehm said. “Science is science and religion is religion.”

Submitted by Jamie Mullen, legal assistant, ACLU of PA