Kitzmiller v Dover, Ten Years Later: Dennis Venema and Ted Davis in Conversation (Part 1)

(system) #1
How a trial in a small Pennsylvania town came to symbolize the American conflict over science and faith.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Dr. Ted Davis) #2

As always, comments and questions are invited.

(Dcscccc) #3

" since there just isn’t much real controversy among biologists about the basic truth of evolution"-

besides creation\id biologists. but even then- science isnt base about consensus but about evidence. and the id scientists indeed have evidence for their claims.

(Dr. Ted Davis) #4

Actually, science is about forming a consensus about how to interpret the evidence. Until such time as creation/id biologists are able to persuade a substantial number of other biologists to see things differently than Darwin saw them, there is no possibility of changing what students are taught.

(Larry Bunce) #5

I thought I would do a little research on the trial before writing a reply, and found a good talk by Dr. Ken Miller, who testified against ID at the trial.

Unfortunately, the idea that accepting evolution leads to loss of religious faith is so ingrained in our society that trials like this are bound to be repeated.


Yes, and PBS/Nova had a whole 2-hour special on the trial: Intelligent Design on Trial. Available for free streaming with a companion web site.


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(Dcscccc) #8

prof miller is wrong about is claims against id in this video. for example: he mention the chromosomal fusion as evidence for a commondescent. but actually the chromosomal fusion happaned in the human lineage. so it cant be evidence for a commondescent with apes.

(Dcscccc) #9

so according to this if most of the geologists will believe in a flat earth, you will support their consensus that the earth is flat?

first- thousands of biologists do believe in the id model. why their opinion doesnt count?

second- where is the limit that you will agree that there is a controversy?

(Dr. Ted Davis) #10

If in fact most geologists concluded that the earth is flat, it’s likely that I would believe them–provided that I understood the facts and why they believed they led them to that conclusion. The average person would probably just take it for granted, just as the average person takes for granted that the earth orbits the sun. Most people lack sufficient understanding of science to explain to their own children how astronomers know this, when ordinary observation and common sense tell us that it can’t be true. Speaking only for myself, I don’t have sufficient scientific background to question claims in many parts of science, especially in fields like biochemistry or physiology (to name just two examples). But, I know enough about astronomy some other physical sciences at least to ask the right questions, if I an inclined to be skeptical of something. Most people probably can’t do even that.

(Dr. Ted Davis) #11

What exactly is “the id model” that you refer to here? I understand that the following exchange took place more than eight years ago, and that readers can update us on relevant progress (assuming there is any such), but listen please to one of the great founders of ID, Phillip Johnson, when interviewed about this at

Question: So what does intelligent design say about how life was created and how we ended up with the diversity of life we see today?

Answer from Phillip Johnson: Well, the alternative is not well developed, so I would prefer to say that, as far as I’m concerned, the alternative is we don’t really know what happened. But if non-intelligence couldn’t do the whole job, then intelligence had to be involved in some way. Then it’s a big research job to figure out the consequences of that starting point.

That doesn’t sound like very much of a model to teach, dcsccc. Can you honestly say I’m wrong here?

The DI folks want public school teachers to be free to “teach the controversy,” which amounts to saying that students should be told that the experts agree that there are certain explanatory problems with evolutionary theory. Well, that’s fine and dandy, but what’s the reason we want students to be told that about evolution, while not being told that about (say) gravitation or particle physics or … any specific part of modern science in which there are enough unsolved problems for scientists to work on to justify research grants or even entire journals devoted just to those specific areas of inquiry?

IMO, the reason that evolution gets singled out for such treatment has to do with the fact that people want to draw religious conclusions from evolution, when they wouldn’t be so inclined in so many other areas with unsolved problems. Listen to another segment from the same interview of Johnson:

Question: Many scientists ask, “How do I go about testing intelligent design?” And if I understand correctly, you were saying that the test of intelligent design is whether something can be explained by evolutionary theory. But scientists say that’s just a negative argument. That doesn’t prove anything about intelligent design. How would you respond?

Johnson’s answer: My business was actually making negative arguments. [Ted notes that this simply underscores what I’m saying about ID not offering an alternative model.] I looked at the grand story of evolution, the story that is important, the one that catches the imagination] of the world and stirs controversy. This is the story that there’s no need for a creator or a designer because the whole job can be done by unintelligent material processes. We know that that’s absolutely true, such that any dissent from it should be treated as akin to madness. That’s what I was looking at.

IMO, dcsccc, this gets to the heart of the matter. What really bothers ID people is the conflation of science with religion, specifically the inflation of evolution into atheism, a la Dawkins or Coyne. Johnson just did the same bait and switch himself, by assuming the general validity of the claim that Darwinian evolution equates to atheism. Frankly, that conflation and inflation should bother ID people, just as it bothers us at BL. However, in my opinion, if we’re going to rely on certain explanatory problems in evolutionary theory to combat it, then we do indeed have a problem to worry about, but on our own side of the exchange. To paraphrase Steven Weinberg (a famous physicist who uses science against religion), what about all of that atheism going on in meteorology? In other words, b/c meteorologists don’t invoke God to explain tomorrow’s weather, shouldn’t we Christians be calling for the government to shut down the National Weather Service?

(GJDS) #12


I am not so sure that evolution (or the prevailing view) is taught in schools the way other science subjects are taught. I do not have knowledge of what they do in the USA, but when I went to school, the origin of amino-acids (as one example) from a primordial soup, was just one facet of evolution, no questions asked. I have read recent papers that also seem to me, to make statement about evolution as if they were tested facts, when they are not.

I hasten to add that I do not detect a conspiracy or intent to deceive anyone. I am of the view that most teachers simply accept anything that is given as evolution is proven, and take it from there. It is not so much that they keep on teaching evolution as such, but rather they may discuss some area of biology (or even biochemistry) and when the need arises, they simply say, more or less “that is because it has evolved…”. The same can be said of most science and science fiction films and popular programs - evolution is given as a common understanding pervading the entire program.

The atheistic and anti-theistic notions are added. If anyone questions any or every aspect of evolution - the most common response is, “don’t you believe evolution?” and not so much about the question, it is a surprise that one would question it, and an assumption that the question arises not from the inadequacy of the theory, but rather from a religious motive…


Thank you @TedDavis and Biologos for this article (and prior ones). I followed the trial years ago and find your commentary to be very insightful — lots of great stuff. The ID movement truly took a big hit in 2005 from which it may never recover.

What about the school board itself… are there any lessons to be learned from its Christian members who triggered the lawsuit? Perhaps that this battle doesn’t belong in our k-12 public school science classrooms. More importantly, perhaps that Christianity is better served by thoughtfulness, humility and love instead of by force.

(Dennis Venema) #14

Hi dcscccc,

What we observe in the human and chimpanzee genomes, if indeed we share a common ancestor, predicts that either a chromosome fusion or splitting event. Based on the pattern seen in all other great apes (48 chromosomes) a fusion event is the far more likely scenario. Evolution predicts that we should find evidence of a fusion event, and we do.

We also know now that this fusion was not unique to humans - other hominins had the same fusion as we do, so the event is deep in our past (at least 800,000 years ago). So, we weren’t “human” when this happened to our lineage.

(Steve Schaffner) #15

Are you saying this is the legal implication of the Dover ruling? If so, what is your legal basis? Because the court’s decision doesn’t say anything like this. Or are you saying that teachers have interpreted the ruling this way? If so, what is the evidence that they have done so?

(Patrick ) #16

Totally disagree. Young students as early as fifth grade should learn the physics of motion and yes doing simple experiments like a ball rolling down an incline and plugging the numbers into F=mA.

(Patrick ) #17

Not in New Jersey where the science curriculum has greatly expanded both in public and parochial schools. Along with the standard Biology, Chemistry and Physics, most high schools have Forensic Science, Advance Biology with Genetics, Organic Chemistry, Electromagnetics/Optics Quantum Mechanics, and Relativity, Geology, and Astromony/Cosmoslogy


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In that case, it’s time to change the name again. Perhaps to “strengths and weaknesses”