PBS’s two-hour NOVA documentary, Judgment Day:Intelligent Design on Trial (aired on November 13, 2007) demonstrated more than ever the necessity of Reasons To Believe’s presence in the marketplace of ideas. The program, which included a partial reenactment of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, effectively portrayed evolution as triumphant while demonstrating intelligent design (ID) to be unscientific. To be sure, RTB commented on the case when it first broke in 2005 (see here and here) and agreed with the judge’s decision. However, the way in which the conflict was set up was maddening to watch. On the one hand you had bright, well-spoken, calm, and pleasant people explaining what real science was. Darwinian evolution was testable, attractive, and appeared unassailable. On the other hand you had a couple of less-well-spoken, shifty, Bible-thumping types who sought by any means possible (including deceit) to promote a religious agenda. Any neutral observer who was intelligent and concerned about discerning truth but was not a scientist would be compelled to side with evolution. As they say, though, “the devil’s in the details.” Here’s one example. The program built a case for an evolutionary “tree of life” based largely upon the Tiktaalik fossil find reported a couple of years ago. Presumably the specimen was a transitional intermediate between lobe-finned fish and four-footed land-dwelling creatures. As a viewer I found it provocative. To summarize:
Here’s what Darwinian evolution predicts, and here’s the data to confirm the prediction. That’s good science. ID, on the other hand is a “science show-stopper.” ID people invoke a creator and his magic; therefore, they’re not interested in investigation.
Well, as RTB biochemist Fuz Rana said at the time of the discovery:
If Tiktaalik is a transitional intermediate, it means that evolution from fish to land-dwelling animals must have happened in less than 10 million years. When evolutionary biologists claim that the transition from sea to land is that fast-paced, it raises very real questions about evolution as an explanation for life’s history, even if this fossil is regarded as the “holy grail” of paleontology. Evolution couldn’t have happened that rapidly given the extensive biological changes needed for a creature to move from the water to land.
NOVA went on to make sport of Michael Behe (played by an actor) and his irreducible complexity argument—another obvious place where a key witness from RTB might have helped—and made it clear that ID was not science, but merely recycled creationism. Reasons To Believe has formulated a scientifically testable creation model that attempts to explain natural history, and boy was it sorely needed on this program. One brand of ID has failed miserably, but other expressions exist. It’s up to the Christian community to assume responsibility for specious science. Rather than resorting to name calling and threats and regrouping for the next battle, maybe it’s time for an actual scientific model. What do you think?