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 Nevertheless, the superintendent said it “didn’t seem significant” that they’d asked that their names be withdrawn.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?
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