Dover Area School Board President Sheila Harkins still doesn’t “have a way to describe intelligent design.”
According to Harkins’ testimony today, she “knew a little bit” about intelligent design in October 2004 when she and her fellow board members introduced the notion into the ninth grade biology curriculum at Dover Area School District. And today, she knows little more.
Harkins, the second defense witness during Wednesday’s testimony, said that she still doesn’t have “a firm explanation of intelligent design.” What she did learn about intelligent design was mostly gleaned from the Internet. “I Googled,” she explained when her attorney Patrick Gillen asked how Harkins tried to acquaint herself with intelligent design. Her answer elicited laughter from the audience and a smile from Judge Jones.
Hakins testified from about 9:30 a.m. until 1:50 p.m., with a break for lunch.
Wednesday’s first witness was Dover Area School Board member Alan Bonsell, whose testimony was continuing from Monday. Defense attorney Patrick Gillen led Bonsell through the 2002 and 2003 board retreats, and had Bonsell testify about whether he advocated for prayer in the schools at those retreats. His answer was no. Gillen also asked Bonsell if he had advocated for changing the social studies curriculum at those retreats. Bonsell said no.
Then Gillen turned to questioning Bonsell about the Dover Area School District February 2005 newsletter issued to District residents and a quote by Anthony Flew. [Text of the quote in the newsletter: “[DNA] has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved. My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.” -Anthony Flew (world famous atheist who now admits the universe appears to have an intelligent design).] Bonsell said that the quote was added to the newsletter to show that intelligent design isn’t religious; nor is evolutionary theory necessarily religious.
At the end of Gillen’s questioning, Bonsell attempted to explain some previous inconsistencies in his testimony. He said that in January 2005 – the time of his first deposition – he had never been deposed, had never been part of a federal lawsuit, and was trying to answer as truthfully as he could despite his nervousness.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen G. Harvey cross-examined Bonsell about the January 2005 deposition by introducing Bonsell’s second deposition transcript. In plaintiffs’ second deposition of Bonsell, in April 2005, Bonsell was asked, “[I]f there was anything that you testified to in that prior deposition that you would like to change or modify today.” Bonsell answered: “I don’t believe so.” Despite an objection by Gillen, Jones allowed the introduction of Bonsell’s answer in the April 2005 deposition.
The third defense witness of the day was Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa. It was Baksa’s third day of testimony; he had previously testified on October 21 and 28. Baksa testified at some length about the different versions of the curriculum language for the ninth grade biology class and the attempts to reconcile the science teachers’ desires with the school board members’ desires.
A notable portion of Baksa’s testimony was his description of his visit to Messiah College on March 26, 2003. On that date, Baksa attended a symposium on creationism at Messiah College. Reading from his handwritten notes, Baksa testified that at that time, he learned of Phil Johnson and intelligent design. Baksa testified that the Superintendent, Dr. Richard Nilsen, sent him to the symposium, though he did not know why.
Baksa’s cross examination by plaintiffs’ attorney Eric J. Rothschild will continue Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 9:15 a.m. Closing arguments are expected on Friday, November 4, 2005.
Submitted by Paula Knudsen, staff attorney, ACLU of Pennsylvania