Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Would you like your books back?

Hopefully many of you followed the Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District trial in 2005 that was the first direct challenge in federal court against a school district requiring the presentation of 'intelligent design'. If you didn't or are still unsure what it was all about and why it was important then you should watch the PBS 'Judgement Day' special. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom so there are 'dramatic recreations'. You can watch the whole thing online.

A decision was made early on by the plaintiff's legal team to make the evolution of the immune system their key example. Given the complexity of the immune system this was a bold move but the key defense witness, Michael Behe, had made particularly dramatic claims about the evolution of the immune system:

"We can look high or we can look low, in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system." (Darwin's Black Box, p. 138)

A key moment in the trial came as Behe was literally surrounded by a mounting pile of papers and books that demonstrated the massive amount of research there is on the evolution of the vertebrate immune system.

The National Center for Science Education who provided much of the research for the plaintiffs have a nice website on the trial which, because it focuses on the immune system, now provides a nice, up to date annotated bibliography on the evolution of the vertebrate immune system.

If you'd like to hear how this was used in the trial read the transcript of day 12. Wikipedia has links to all the trial documents here.

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