Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NOVA smacks down the cdesign proponentsists!

Wow, was that ever a serious smackdown that NOVA just handed down to proponents of intelligent design this evening! No wonder the IDiots at the DI are unhappy. Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial turned out to be an outstanding and gripping documentary of the saga of Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District. Even my 7-yr old Darwinista daughter was pulled in to watching large chunks of it. This one is definitely going on my holiday DVD order list from PBS, and I (like many of my colleagues, undoubtedly) will be pulling some of the outstanding science exposition bits out of it to add some multimedia pizazz to my lectures in Evolution next spring. Not that the social drama wasn't interesting, but I wouldn't necessarily take up classroom time with that material.

I could list a number of great things about this documentary were I to attempt a comprehensive review, but I won't do that here - there are many other better reviews out there that you can read online, including one from the multi-taskmaster PZ Myers, who live-blogged it! If you missed watching the show, wait for the DVD, or go online to the NOVA site on/after Nov 16 and watch it there - and if you can also multi-task, you could fire up the Pharyngula live coverage along with your popcorn and enjoy the thumping of intelligent design in all its multimedia goodness.

As for me, here are some quick highlights, my immediate favorite moments:

  • I somehow didn't know, and was therefore especially struck by the fact that the whole thing started in Dover over this mural by a student:

    I love it when artists get the creationists' goat - although in this case the mural was actually burned down by (apparently) the school board member who thus got the ball rolling on this trial. It so often starts with burning art, doesn't it?
  • The various segments of science interspersed between recreations of the trial (is it just me, or would we all be better off with a good Hollywood recreation of the courtroom drama? How about "Inherit the Wind - Part II"?) were especially good. My favorite would have to be the segment showing the discovery of the transitional tetrapod ancestor fossil Tiktaalik roseae (pictured above), which happened in parallel to the trial.
  • Another wonderful science segment addresses the evolution of the infamous bacterial flagellum. Not only do they have beautiful animations of the flagellum and its likely precursor secretory apparatus, but Nova also shows you how to do proper journalism when confronted with two unequal but opposite arguments. Rather than merely regurgitating the "irreducibly complex" flagellum argument in a (Be)he-said / she-said frame, the show brilliantly brings in DeRosier (Behe's acknowledged source for the idea) who systematically takes apart Behe's argument! One side can be wrong indeed - and how badly wrong at that!
  • And the transitional fossil of the day has to be "cdesign proponentsists"! It was immensely entertaining to watch Barbara Forrest in action digging through the 7000 strata of buried manuscript to find and piece together the missing links between the extinct (I wish) "creationists" and the soon to be endangered "design proponents" via this lovely fossil resulting from a copy-n-paste mutation.
What fun!



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