More Transcripts

You’ve been asking for them, and here they are:

Transcript Day 13 PM (Supt. Nilsen direct testimony)
Transcript Day 14 AM (Supt. Nilsen testimony & cross)
Transcript Day 14 PM (Supt. Nilsen cross; Asst. Superintendent Baksa testimony)
Transcript Day 15 AM (Prof. Stephen Fuller testimony)
Transcript Day 15 PM (Prof. Stephen Fuller testimony)
Transcript Day 16 AM (Buckingham testimony – NOTE: some of this file is garbled in spots. If you scroll down past the first couple of pages, you should be able to read a lot of it.)

Judge Jones: "I’m confused"

Friday morning began with the appearances of York Dispatch reporter
Heidi Bernhard-Bubband and Joe Maldonado of the York Daily Record. Both
reporters attended the June 2004 Dover school board meeting, and both
wrote articles that stated board members there used the word
“creationism” repeatedly. Several of the Dover School Board members
dispute that the word was used, including Thursday’s witness, Bill
Buckingham, and Heather Geesey.

Ms. Geesey followed the reporters on the stand. Parts of her testimony
bore a strikingly similarity to that of Supt. Nilsen the previous week.
Both admitted that their sole sources of knowledge about intelligent
design – including their belief that it is “scientific” – were board
members William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell. They also chose to believe
these board members – who both witnesses admit have “no science
background” – over the school district’s own biology teachers. Neither
found it necessary to do any research on their own about the proposed
addition to the curriculum.

Ms. Geesey also recounted her rather rocky relationship with one of her
fellow board members, Casey Brown. When Ms. Geesey first joined the
board in December of 2003, Ms. Brown had been her mentor. However, the
two had a disagreement, and according to Ms. Geesey, Ms. Brown stopped
returning her calls and refused to give her advice. (Bear with me – I
promise this ties in later.)

Ms. Geesey defended her decision to vote in favor of the intelligent
design textbook Of Panda and People – which she said never read – by
stating she was merely relying on the decision of the Curriculum
Committee. The Curriculum Committee was made up of board members William
Buckingham, Alan Bonsell, and… Casey Brown. Our attorney pointed out
that Ms. Brown had actually adamantly opposed the teaching of
intelligent design, and the committee was not unified. When asked why
she had disregarded Ms. Brown’s opposition, she replied, “She was
ignoring me.”

The most dramatic episode of the day came when Ms. Geesey gave testimony
that directly contradicted her depositions, which had been taken in
March 2005. On Friday she testified that intelligent design had been the
alternative to evolution discussed at the June 2004 board meeting.
However, our attorney reminded her of what she had said in her
deposition.

Q. What did he [Buckingham] say he wanted to balance Darwinism with at
that [June] meeting?
A. At that meeting, I don’t know. He wanted another theory at that time.
At that time, I don’t think he knew.”

[at another place in the deposition]

Q. Do you recall a discussion by anyone or a statement by anyone at the
June 14 meeting involving the words intelligent design?
A. No.

Ms. Geesey explained the discrepancy by saying that seeing a letter to
the editor she’d written that our attorney had questioned her about
earlier in the day “refreshed her memory.” (Which was interesting, since
the letter only mentions creationism, not intelligent design.)

After her cross, Judge Jones questioned the witness.

Judge Jones: I’m confused.
Heather Geesey: So am I.
Judge Jones (with a smile): It’s more important that I’m not confused.

He proceeded to ask her why her testimony differed, and how seeing her
June 27, 2004 letter to the editor could possibly have refreshed her
memory. Here are excerpts from the letter:

“Our country was founded on Christian beliefs and principles. We are not
looking for a book that is teaching students that this is a right or
wrong thing. It’s just a fact.”

“You can teach creationism without it being Christianity. It can be
presented as a higher power.”

No mention was made of intelligent design in the letter, but Ms. Geesey
repeated that the letter had reminded her of the discussion including
intelligent design.

The afternoon concluded with testimony from Asst. Superintendent Michael
Baksa.

Monday should be an interesting day, with Alan Bonsell appearing on the
stand. Bonsell is one of the biggest proponents of teaching intelligent
design.

You see, what had happened was….

If you came here looking for info from Friday’s proceedings, don’t fret. It’s coming. Would you accept any of the following explanations for our tardiness?
A. The hamster that turns the wheel that keeps Speaking Freely going stopped running.
B. The dog ate it.
C. Speaking Freely is an intelligently designed machine with a purposeful arrangement of parts, and when one part is removed, the machine stops functioning.

Seriously, we’ll have a recap up this morning. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek (as opposed to a sneak-and-peek): Once again a Dover School Board member contradicted herself on the stand. Here’s an excerpt from the coming post:

The most dramatic episode of the day came when Ms. Geesey gave testimony that directly contradicted her depositions, which had been taken in March 2005. On Friday she testified that intelligent design had been the alternative to evolution discussed at the June 2004 board meeting. However, our attorney reminded her of what she had said in her deposition.

Q. What did he [Buckingham] say he wanted to balance Darwinism with at that [June] meeting?
A. At that meeting, I don’t know. He wanted another theory at that time. At that time, I don’t think he knew.

[at another place in the deposition]

Q. Do you recall a discussion by anyone or a statement by anyone at the June 14 meeting involving the words intelligent design?
A. No.

Ms. Geesey explained the discrepancy by saying that seeing a letter to the editor she’d written that our attorney had questioned her about earlier in the day “refreshed her memory.” (Which was interesting, since the letter only mentions creationism, not intelligent design.)

Meanwhile, yesterday’s (Harrisburg) Patriot News outlined the falling-out between the Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center.

Deer in the headlights

Yesterday the Kitzmiller trial featured the much-anticipated testimony of former school board member William Buckingham, a figure of controversy because of the religious statements attributed to him in the local press (which he has denied).

After the June 7 and June 14, 2004 board meetings, the York Daily Record and York Dispatch reported that Buckingham said that he wanted “creationism” taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution. The papers reported that he was worried because the textbook proposed by science faculty was “laced with Darwinism” and that he wanted a book with a balance “between creationism and evolution.” His concern: “If you teach evolution over and over again, the students will believe it is fact.” He was said to have challenged a member of the public “to trace your roots to the monkey you came from.”

Buckingham was also quoted as claiming that “separation of church and state is mythic” and that it wasn’t necessary to teach Hindu, Muslim or other religious beliefs alongside creationism because “This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. It was founded on Christianity.”

Then, there was the famous quote: “2000 years ago someone died on a cross for us; shouldn’t we have the courage to stand up for him?”

Buckingham said that he never read any of the articles published about the Board meetings (although both papers were delivered to his house every day) and that for the most part he wasn’t told what was being reported. He testified that he hadn’t reviewed the news articles to prepare for trial because he didn’t “give a darn thing about what they print.”

When asked to read the news articles, Buckingham testified that the reporters for the Daily Record and the Dispatch got most things right, but that they “made up” his use of the word “creationism.” He also said that some statements – including “2000 years ago…” and “…founded on Christianity” — were things he had said in late 2003, after a Board debate over requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance that focused on the words “under God” in the pledge.

[Gratuitous side comment: The courts have held unequivocally that the First Amendment forbids a school from requiring a student to recite the pledge.]

Buckingham said he believed that the reporters simply substituted the word “creationism” every time a Board member said “intelligent design.” He stated emphatically that neither he nor any other School Board member ever used the word “creationism” during any School Board meeting, Curriculum Committee meeting, private discussion or to the press.

Then Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton LLP played for Buckingham a segment aired by Fox News in the summer of 2004. All around the courtroom, Buckingham’s face appeared on monitors and screens, saying, “It’s OK to teach Darwinism, but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism.”

Buckingham said he’d forgotten about that interview. He characterized the interview by the Fox News reporters as an “ambush” and said he’d felt like a “deer in the headlights.” He then explained that he had been so concerned about all the news reports that used the word “creationism” – the same reports he’d said that he never read, wasn’t told about and didn’t “give a darn thing about” – that he was concentrating really hard on not using that word and it just slipped out. “I made a mistake,” he said.

At his first deposition, Buckingham had testified that he “absolutely” voted to purchase Biology in time for the beginning of classes in the Fall of 2004. Yesterday, Buckingham conceded that he had voted against buying the biology textbook to try to force the Board to purchase Pandas as a companion text. He agreed with the news report that he had said, “If he didn’t get his book, then the District would not get its book.”

Buckingham testified that he learned about Pandas from Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, when seeking a textbook that offered an alternative to evolution. In proposing the curriculum change, Buckingham sought only legal advice, never any educational or scientific advice. Nor did he consult the Curriculum Advisory Committee, which is made up of Dover Area residents, because he was new to the Board and didn’t realize that was Board policy.

Finally, Mr. Harvey asked Buckingham about the School Distric’s acquisition of dozens of copies of Pandas. Buckingham testified that members of his church had donated money for the purchase of the books, and that he written a check to Donald Bonsell, father of the President of the School Board Alan Bonsell [who will be testifying next week]. He stated that he didn’t share that information when a member of the public asked how the district got Pandas because he “didn’t think it was relevant.”

Mr. Harvey then asked Buckingham to read from his deposition. Mr. Harvey had asked where the books came from and Buckingham had responded that he did not know who had donated the books, but that he had “deduced” there might be a tie to Alan Bonsell just because Bonsell was Board President. In the same deposition Buckingham said he did not ask where the books came from “because I didn’t want to know.”

“Didn’t you lie to me?” asked Mr. Harvey. Buckingham responded that his deposition answer was truthful because he didn’t know the names of the church members who had made cash donations for the purchase of the books.

Then, came the reporter…

Immediately after Buckingham’s testimony, Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, the author of the York Dispatch articles that Buckingham claimed were inaccurate, testified. ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak walked Ms. Bernhard-Bubb through each of the eight articles and she confirmed that her quotes were correct. In particular, she confirmed that she heard Buckingham and other Board members say they wanted to add “creationism” to the biology curriculum at June 7, 2004 Board meeting and heard Buckingham use that word again at the June 14 Board meeting. She testified that the phrase “intelligent design” was not mentioned until the August 2, 2004 Board meeting – which is why it did not appear in any of her articles until August. She also confirmed that she heard Buckingham make the other statements she attributed to him.

Ms. Bernhard-Bubb will be cross examined today.

submitted by Mary Catherine Roper, Staff Attorney, ACLU of PA

ACLU and Al-Qaeda: A lot alike except that we’re not

Good times, good times: “Facts, or smear?” This article includes the following from Dover school board member Ron Short: “I fear the ACLU more than I fear Al-Qaida.”

Doesn’t Ron know how cute and cuddly we are? Especially cute?

Meanwhile, in the parts of the world not called The Twilight Zone, reality-based columnist Mike Argento of the York Daily Record had this to say in his latest column, “Intelligent Design’s plea for help”:

Fuller said intelligent design is, essentially, a half-baked idea, pretty much something the intelligent design guys have whipped up without doing much in the way of producing evidence.

And that’s why it should be taught to ninth-graders in Dover.

You know, I can come up with a lot of half-baked ideas that no one in their right mind would want to teach to kids in Dover. Let’s see. How about this? Cows think in Spanish. Discuss.

Finally, here’s John Cleese as Dr. Michael Behe in Monty Python’s flying creationism.

Scientific Revolution 101

Dr. Steve William Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, took the stand yesterday to discuss historical and philosophical perspectives on scientific methodology. His testimony ranged from economic oppression to the self-perpetuating scientific elite to prejudice and discrimination. He proposed affirmative action plans in the science community and advocated the recruitment of young people.

Yes, I was in the right courtroom. I didn’t see any black berets or “Free Huey” buttons, but he was definitely talking about revolution.

According to Dr. Fuller, scientific methods are inherently discriminatory and designed to shut out alternative ideas. For example: peer review. The reviewers are rarely a representative group but a “self-perpetuating elite.” By evaluating a scientist’s track record and publications, the process discriminates against young scientists with new or unpopular ideas. Dr. Fuller said that these same scientists might also have unequal access to grant funding. He suggested that an affirmative action program for scientists with alternative ideas might be one way to address this economic bias.

But Dr. Fuller put the most emphasis on the innate tendency of scientific method itself to favor the most popular theory. He said that our current methods persuade scientists to move in a unified direction, eventually creating a small number of widely accepted ideas or paradigms that are only challenged when they begin to self-destruct. Dr. Fuller said that these paradigms in science are so strong that, in order for an unpopular or alternative idea to have a shot at validity, a scientific revolution must occur.

Scientific Revolution FAQ:


How does one start a scientific revolution?

To gain acceptance as a science is to change the definition of science. Dr. Fuller explained that the boundaries between science and non-science are constantly being negotiated and policed. In Dr. Fuller’s world, the words “a well substantiated explanation” should be stricken from the definition of scientific method and that instead we should think of science as “an explanatory conception of a range of phenomena” in order to validate newer, less established ideas.

Should we test it first?

Testability, while important to the growth of scientific theory, should not determine whether or not an idea is science. The gist of the story…ID is not currently testable but, according to Dr. Fuller, testability relates to the longevity of an idea and does not effect whether or not something is science. Regardless of testability, a new idea should still be presented to school children. ID is not testable, but Dr. Fuller specifically supports teaching it in classrooms because ID needs “new recruits.”

What’s the motivation? Religion?

When asked whether the ID movement has religious motives, Dr. Fuller replied that almost all science “has religious roots.” ID has changed over time and “doesn’t know its own history” but Dr. Fuller is clear that the ID mindset assumes a creator exists.

Yet, whether ID introduces a supernatural aspect or not is moot because the term supernatural refers both to things that are “above” observation (for example, God) but also to things that are “below” observation – like atoms.

In short, he agreed that the ID movement’s motive was religious and that it may be considered “supernatural” in so far as it is not currently testable. But according to Dr. Fuller, that doesn’t mean it’s not science.

Inspiration?
Evolution does not inspire people to practice science. According to Dr. Fuller, belief in genetic mutation and natural selection has a tendency to make people just “sit around and wait to die” instead of questioning, studying and testing ideas. On the flip side, he said that cultures in which people believe they were “crafted in the image and likeness of God” have historically been more inquisitive and have developed a larger body of scientific knowledge than other cultures. He suggested that these people felt “like God” and therefore had the confidence to believe that they could figure out how life works.

Or, Personal Preference?
The final reason to challenge evolution: Dr. Fuller doesn’t like it. While Dr. Fuller agrees that, evolution is a better biological science than ID, he still “has a problem with it” just as he has a problem with any explanation that is not being sufficiently contested or opposed.

But, what is the biggest threat to any revolution?
Perhaps the biggest threat to a revolution is dissention in the ranks. Or in this case…dissention in the witness.

The latter part of the cross-examination, redirect, and rebuttal focused on clarifying what appeared to be major contradictions in Dr. Fuller’s testimony and deposition.

In deposition, Dr. Fuller said that the word “theory” in the Dover paragraph was used in a misleading way. On the stand, he explained that he was only sympathizing with the fact that those less familiar with the concepts might find it confusing.

Like…ninth graders, perhaps?

In deposition, Dr. Fuller made several direct correlations between ID and creationism, for example:

“It [ID] is a kind of creationism.”
“What we now call the Intelligent Designer used to be called the Creator.”
“Intelligent Design is a way of interpreting creationism.”

And my personal favorite: “Intelligent Design (aka Creationism).”

On the stand, Dr. Fuller explained that each of those quotes was either an attempt to provide a point of reference for those less familiar with the term ID or just “unfortunate” choices of wording.

At the closing of his testimony, Dr. Fuller questioned the plaintiff’s assertion that the ID movement is approximately 20-years old. When it was pointed out that the term ID appeared in Of Pandas and People in 1989, Dr. Fuller interrupted and emphatically disagreed with the logic.

“You don’t use a high school textbook to determine what science is,” he said.
Submitted by Janeya Hisle, Director of Administration and Finance, ACLU of PA

Points for creativity

Today Judge Jones issued an order striking the Discovery Institute’s friend-of-the-court briefs, which were filed on October 3.

The ACLU argued that these briefs were simply a way to bring in the Discovery Institute’s opinions “without opening up themselves to the scrutiny of cross-examination.” As noted in the previous post, several experts from the Discovery Institute were set to testify on behalf of the defendants, the Dover Area School District. They subsequently withdrew as witnesses, and were therefore not cross-examined. Nonetheless, the Discovery Institute attempted to include much of the withdrawn expert testimony of Dr. Stephen Meyer in its friend-of-the-court brief.

Motion to strike the friend-of-the-court briefs from the Discovery Institute

Judge Jones’s order

Tit-for-tat

Last Friday the American Enterprise Institute sponsored a forum titled “Science Wars” that focused on the intelligent design/evolution controversy. Among the participants in the forum were the director for the Thomas More Institute, Richard Thompson, and Mark Ryland, Director of the Discovery Institute’s Washington office.

As you may recall, the Discovery Institute is a pro-intelligent design group that was originally supposed to provide expert witnesses for the defense. However, their witnesses pulled out because the Thomas More Center did not want them to have their own attorneys represent them in depositions. (Thomas More Center is representing the Dover Area School District.)

During the debate, Thompson and Ryland ended up in a somewhat heated exchange. Ryland claimed that the Discovery Institute had “never set out to have school boards” teach intelligent design. He was quickly confronted by Thompson, who produced a copy of the Discovery Institute’s Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum: A Guidebook by Steven Meyer and David DeWolf.

Other participants in the excerpt include moderator Jon Entine, Kenneth R. Miller (who appeared as an expert witness for us a few weeks ago), and Steve Gey.

(Thanks to the National Center for Science Education’s Nick Matzke for transcribing part of the debate.)

Guest Blogger: Rev. Charles W. Holsinger (Ret.)

“Evolution led me to believe more firmly in God”

So what about evolution? So what about the idea or theory or secular conspiracy that suggests I really came from a friendly chimpanzee-UP the evolutionary ladder? Is that a direct contradiction to another thought or theory or possible conspiracy, that I came from the mouth of God himself-or herself? Consider!

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a retired Presbyterian minister who for a short time was once a Biology teacher. As a very young teenager, long before I took the institutional church seriously, I had already read Darwin’s Origin of Species. It was the miracle and wonder of the natural world in Darwin’s evolutionary ideas, that mysteriouus beauty and majesty “behind” me, that led me gently but surely into the ministry of faith where I have tried to be a priest, a prophet, a preacher, and a pastor. It all begain with that noble idea that as a human creature I belonged to the wider world of all Creation. The more I understood that world, the more mystery I uncovered, the more wonder I found revealed, the more I grew in faith and belief.

It may be too simple a statement for some, but I am convinced that the concept of evolution led me to believe more firmly in God. Call it a theory or call it what you wish, dismiss it out of hand and suggest that “Intelligent Design” is sufficient and you will short-circuit the search, the curiosity, the probing, the revelation that lies awaiting us in all its wonder and glory. That search, probing and revelation is necessary for all scientific research and that same sort of searching and probing has led me personally to believe in God the Creator. The most important part of the Genesis story, however, is in the first three words: “In the beginning, God…….” But the Creation didn’t stop there; it continues to evolve, for evolution science attempts to answer the question: How. My religion attempts to wrestle with: Who and Why. None of those questions have final and complete answers and the search continues. But they are not dealing with the same arena of thought and understanding.

In short, whether you are Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, or Atheist, believe in whatever deity you choose or whatever dream you have-but keep it where it belongs-out of a Pennsylvania Biology school classroom and in the home, synagogue, church, mosque, or any discussion of philosophy elsewhere. In the Biology classroom-and out of it as well-with evolution by your side, analyze the present and search for the future and let evolutionary science stir your senses in examining the person you are and the neighbors you have, animal, vegetable and mineral. If you don’t know as much as you can about where you came from-in terms of the real world we live in-you will never know who you are or where you’re going.

Reverend Charles Holsinger lives in York County. A former biology teacher, Rev. Holsinger’s ministry has included leading forums and discussion groups on faith and science.

Apparently students aren’t the only ones who don’t always listen to their teachers

The defense abruptly withdrew its expert witness Dick Carpenter II, who was set to testify on Friday. Instead, we were treated to the cross-examination of Dover Area School District Superintendent Richard Nilsen.

Much of Dr. Nilsen’s initial testimony and cross-examination focused on the reaction of the high school’s science teachers to the addition of intelligent design to the biology curriculum. He said he was surprised when the teachers asked that their names be removed as authors of the biology curriculum. Nilsen testified that he was “confused,” since “the teachers had written 99% of it;” the only difference was the addition of intelligent design.

In their request for the removal of their names, the teachers had noted that “if there is any litigation, we do not want to be liable.” Nevertheless, the superintendent said it “didn’t seem significant” that they’d asked that their names be withdrawn. (He did comply with their request, however.)

Despite the addition of intelligent design to the curriculum, Dr. Nilsen denied repeatedly that reading the statement the board approved constituted teaching. However, when asked “Are students learning when they hear that statement?”, he responded, “Yes.”

Later our attorney, Eric Rothschild, pulled up several sections of Dr. Nilsen’s January 2005 deposition.

Q. At the time this resolution was passed, had you done anything to assure yourself that Intelligent Design was in fact a scientific theory?

A. No.

In another section of the deposition he was asked how he’d arrived at the conclusion that ID was science.

A. In discussions I had with numerous individuals; counsel, board members.
Q. Anybody else?
A. To my recollection, no.

He confirmed on the stand that he did not consult with his trained science teachers. He did, however, take the word of board members (who he admitted earlier in the day had no scientific background or training) and his lawyers.

Much of the remainder of his testimony focused on his interactions with board members. Although he said he had no recollection of creationism being discussed at either of the board member retreats in 2002 or 2003, Nilsen admitted that the typed minutes he’d prepared from those events showed that both times board member Allan Bonsell cited creationism as being an issue of top importance to him. (Actually, to be completely accurate, in 2002 it was “creationism and prayer.”)

The trial resumes on Monday with testimony from Steve Fuller, professor of sociology at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa.

Submitted by Sara Mullen, Associate Director