Chapman in Harpers
The February issue of Harpers contains a lengthy report on the big Dover trial, by Matthew Chapman. In addition to being a first-rate writer, Chapman is also a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin.
Sadly, the article does not seem to be available online. I recommend running down to the local newsstand to pick up a copy. But there are a few places where Chapman so completely nails it that I felt compelled to transcribe a few portions. Early on we find:
Having said that, I suppose I should declare my bias at the start. My great-great-grandfather was Charles Darwin. This was not something I thought much about growing up in England. Evolution was fully accepted. Darwin was a historical figure. If I did think about my connection to him, it was only negatively. The pressure to succeed academically and the unlikelihood of doing so in comparison to my ancestor was such that I decided to turn my back on academia and pursue a course of willful ignorance. When I finally moved to Hollywood in the early Eighties, I had gone about as far as I could in that direction.
I then discovered that many Americans not only rejected the theory of evolution; they reviled it. I had come here in part because I never felt comfortable in England. I hated the snobbery and thought of America as being less weighed down by its past, more advanced. Sir Francis Drake might have been the first man to sail around the world, but it was an American who first set foot on the moon. Now here I was in the New World faced with a willful ignorance that went far beyond anything I had ever attempted.
True, I did not know much about evolution, but a quick study of the subject showed that 99 percent of scientists believed in it. Why would one doubt them? Did the pedestrian question the theory of gravity? Did the farmer who went to the doctor question his diagnosis? Why in this one area of science did nonexperts feel compelled to disagree with those who clearly knew better?
Willful ignorance. Exactly right. I've been to enough creationist conferences to know that a great many of the people in the audience eagerly want to be deceived.
Chapman's description of Behe is likewise perfect:
On the stand, Behe sat forward in his chair, earnest and concentrated. Only once did I see him lose his composure. This was when Rothschild revealed that Behe's own department at Lehigh had issued a statement saying it fully supported evolutionary theory and that:
The sole dissenter from this position, Professor Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of intelligent design. While we respect Professor Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.
Behe put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair, smiling defiantly. He looked like a naughty child who had told his mother he'd seen a ghost and wouldn't budge from the story no matter what. I couldn't help wondering what Behe would be without intelligent design. The scientific community may despise him, but he is beloved on the other side. He gets invited to talk all over the country, and he has sold a lot of books.
The answer is that Behe would be just another competent scientist toiling away at esoteric problems only a handful of people in the world would care about. I used to feel some sympathy for ID advocates who had made sacrifices in their careers to defend their beliefs. Then at some point it dawned on me that they were laughing all the way to the bank. There is a good living to be made in the propagation of popular crankery.
One more excerpt:
Heather Geesey, a school board member who supported Bonsell and Buckingham, fell squarely into the repellant category, however, without mitigation. I found her the most terrifying of all the witnesses. A woman who seemed to think - against all evidence - that everything she did or said was astonishingly cute and funny, she clearly relished being on the same team as “President Alan,” as she referred to Bonsell, and grinned relentlessly throughout....
[ACLU attorney Vic Walczak] asked Geesey if she supported the teaching of intelligent design. “Yes.” “Because it gave a balanced view of evolution?” “Yes.” “It presented an alternative theory?” “Yes.” “And the policy talks about gaps and problems in evolution?” “Yes.” “Yes. You don't know what those gaps and problems refer to, do you?” “No.” “But it's good to teach about those gaps and problems.” “That's our mission statement, yes.” “But you have no idea what they are?” “It's not my job, no.” “Is it fair to say you didn't know much about intelligent design in October of 2004?” “Yes.” “And you didn't know much about the book Of Pandas and People either, did you. “Correct.” “So you had never participated in any discussions of the book?” “No.” “And you made no effort independently to find out about the book?” “No.”...“And no one ever explained to you what intelligent design was about?” “No.” This went on for quite a while, Geesey grinning throughout as if her ignorance was just the cutest thing, until, finally, still smiling happily, she stated that she had relied on the curriculum committee - Bill Buckingham and Alan Bonsell - to make the decision. “And do you know whether Buckingham has a background in science?” “No, I do not.” “Do you know that in fact he doesn't have a background in science?” “I don't know. He's law enforcement, so I would assume he had to take something along the way.”
So this was the genesis of the whole thing: an auto repairman appointed an OxyContin-addicted biblical literalist without a shred of knowledge to decide which books the kids should learn from, and a woman who had no curiosity about anything, even her own most deeply held beliefs, seconded the whole idea.
And unless one doubted two seemingly decent professional reporters and a host of other witnesses, she would happily lie.
Ouch. That's rather harsh, but the unbelievable arrogance of these people simply has to be exposed.
Anyway, Chapman's article is quite long and nearly perfect. Go read the whole thing!