In 2004, when the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board forced science teachers to read a statement in class saying that “intelligent design” is a valid alternative to evolution, no cameras were allowed in court for the trial that followed (in which the judge ruled against the school board). Although the case was reported to death, the dramatized courtroom transcripts in this special edition of Nova are far more successful than any print account at illustrating the conclusiveness of the pro-evolution arguments mounted by the ACLU and a Philadelphia law firm (ditto the almost clownishly amateur case made by the other side).
When scientists explained in court how they use logical inference to close the “gaps” in evolutionary theory that the other side used to rationalize the teaching of intelligent design, several reporters covering the case were stunned to discover that much more evidence of evolution exists than they were ever told about in school. Indeed, as the special tells us, evolution basically went completely untaught in U.S. public schools between the 1925 Scopes trial and the escalation of the space race almost 35 years later. Scientific education in our country is still recovering from that lengthy setback: If nearly two thirds of American adults believe humanity in its present form was directly created by God, it could well be because they don’t really know what evolution is.
The scientific arguments here are lucid and easily digestible, but the entertainment value comes from the incompetence of the defendants and their lawyers, who, among other things, shamelessly lied on the stand about having spent their own money on creationist textbooks that were anonymously donated to the district. After watching Judgment Day, those who have nightmares about America becoming an evangelical theocracy will be able to rest much easier.