In Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, Vulcan Productions and WGBH/NOVA Science Unit tell the captivating story of one of the latest battles in the war over evolution—the celebrated federal case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District.
In 2004, the local school board in the tiny town of Dover, Pennsylvania ordered science teachers to read a statement to their high school biology students. The statement suggested that there is an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution called intelligent design—the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore must have been designed by an intelligent agent. The teachers refused to comply, and alarmed parents opposed to intelligent design filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the constitutional separation of church and state. Suddenly, the small town of Dover was torn apart by controversy, pitting neighbor against neighbor.
“There was a blow up like you couldn't believe,” Bill Buckingham, head of the school board's curriculum committee, tells NOVA. Buckingham helped formulate the intelligent design policy when he noticed that the biology textbook chosen by teachers for classroom use “was laced with Darwinism.”
Kitzmiller was the first legal test of intelligent design as a scientific theory, with the plaintiffs arguing that it is a thinly veiled form of creationism, the view that a literal interpretation of the Bible accounts for all observed facts about nature.
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial chronicles the emotional conflict in interviews with the townspeople, scientists and lawyers who participated in the historic six-week trial. With recreations based on court transcripts, the film presents the arguments by lawyers and expert witnesses in riveting detail and provides an eye-opening crash course on questions such as “What is evolution?” and “Does intelligent design qualify as science?”
Premiered November 13, 2007 on PBS.
Vulcan Productions developed a special educational resource to further guide and support teachers as they face the challenges of evolving instruction, which remains a controversy in several states. Along with the show’s companion website, we offer an online professional development course and Teacher’s Domain site with media-rich content about this landmark case to all educators.
“Judgment Day captures on film a landmark court case with a powerful scientific message at its core,” said Paula S. Apsell, NOVA Senior Executive Producer. “Evolution is one of the most essential and least understood of all scientific theories, the foundation of biological science. We felt it was important for NOVA to do this program to heighten the public understanding of what constitutes science and what does not, and therefore, what is acceptable for inclusion in the science curriculum in our public schools.”
“Vulcan Productions has long been committed to the subject of evolution and its teaching,” remarked Vulcan Productions Executive Producer Richard Hutton. “When we co-produced the Evolution series with the WGBH NOVA Science Unit in 2001, we set out to bring the richness of Darwin's theory to life. The story of the Dover trial gives us another opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to helping audiences understand the nature of science through elegant and compelling storytelling.”
For years to come, the lessons from Dover will continue to have a profound impact on how science is viewed in our society and how it is taught in the classroom.
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