Repetition (With Variation)

Let Them Eat Cake

The Soup Peddler

Doubting Darwin

Doubting Darwin
(2005) 10:00 Mixed media

Produced and Directed by Lisa Kaselak and Jeanne Stern

Mixing stop-motion animation with documentary material, this 10-minute short explores arguments for intelligent design theory with counterpoints from evolution theorists.

(2004) Texas Documentary Tour - Ten Little Indies

It was touted as a complex issue but the debate is pretty simple, really. The following is from a great article featured at Science Bistro that explains the debate:

Biologists know 1858 as the year Darwin published his theory of evolution through natural selection. It took 75 years for the teaching of creationism in high school science to be challenged in court, though many scientists agreed with Darwin by this time. This trial, the Monkey Trial of John Scopes, had only social ramifications. The legal turning point came in 1968 when the Supreme Court told educators that it was unconstitutional to not allow evolution to be taught in school. The scientists had won.

But they haven't gone unchallenged.

Numerous attempts to teach creationism alongside evolution in the 70s and 80s were thwarted by the Supreme Court, citing the First Amendment and the maintenance of the separation between church and state. But the Supreme Court's 1987 teach the controversy decision and Michael Denton's 1985 book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis begot a second wave of scientists who have tried to convince us that Creation has a scientific basis and that evolution does not. If the creationists could prove faults in the logic of 150 years of research in evolution, they could sneak back into Texas science classes via an Essential Knowledge provision demanding that students analyze the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories using scientific evidence and information and an Education Code passage stating that textbooks should be free from factual errors.

At the Summer 2003 Texas Board of Education (TBOE) textbook hearings, arguments were raised by pro-creationism all-stars, who were hoping to convert Texas and use the state's clout with publishers to proliferate their message. Arguments for creationism and evolution by hearing participants are outlined in the video Doubting Darwin, co-directed by Lisa Kaselak and Jeanne Stern, MFA students in the Radio-Television-Film program at UT. It screened Wednesday, May 12, at our beloved Alamo Drafthouse.

"It's not a scientific debate," says Dr. Sahotra Sarkar in Doubting Darwin, "it's a political debate." TBOE member Don McLeroy defended the anti-evolution arguments by saying "[the debate] has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with good science." The co-directors agreed with this point, but respectfully declined to judge the participants in their video as in the advocumentaries of a post-9/11 pre-election 2004. Stern said she and Kaselak tried to represent both sides, show the politics on both sides. We thought it was important for people to come their own conclusions.

Hidden Biases It shouldn't have been difficult to determine which side the hearing participants were taking, but it was. Guess which of the following were pro-evolution and which were anti-evolution (the answers are at the end of this article): a. Jonathan Wells, author of "Icons of Evolution" b. William Dembski, author of "Intelligent Design" c. Texans for Better Science Education d. Discovery Institute e. Texas Citizens for Science/Texas Citizens for Science Education f. Stand Up For Science g. Texas Freedom Network The anti-evolutionists failed at the hearings. The $30 million of biology textbooks that will be used this fall semester will teach evolution exclusively. They did not fail because anyone disproved the science behind Intelligent Design [more more], the creationism-surrogate theory that sidesteps the First Amendment by not invoking the church. (The theory argues that irreducibly complex biological systems could only be created or seeded by intelligent beings, preferably in the form of God, though the theory wouldn"t rule out alien overlords.)

The Intelligent Design proponents simply failed to come to the hearings with solutions. TBOE member Gail Lowe recapped "they seem to be here to express a viewpoint, but it doesn"t seem to relate to the textbooks we're actually considering." Strict creationists can hide behind God because He is beyond scrutiny, but Intelligent Design believers require science (or a miracle, literally). Science is, after all, the pursuit of truth by empirical means, not by philosophy. "Can you really use science to prove the unprovable?," Stern asked rhetorically.

In the co-director's view, Intelligent Design has failed to become a science because it can't be put under the rigors of the scientific method. Some flaws, briefly: 1 Living systems are not irreducibly complex, as dependencies can change over time. 2 Who is the intelligent designer behind the intelligent designer? 3 Why were we designed with so many flaws, vestigial organs and junk DNA? 4 Why would a creator not show itself or allow us to scrutinize its non-existence? Groups like the Church of Scientology and the Church of Christ, Scientist don't pretend to have anything to do with science. Intelligent Design proponents should join them.

Based on the response from the Alamo screening, Doubting Darwin successfully piqued people's interest by laying out key arguments from both sides (from scientists on the side of evolution and creationist demagogues of Intelligent Design) in an entertaining manner. The video plays out like a textbook with data presented in figures (animated by Stern), making for an accessible introduction to the debate.

The next Biology textbook debate is about ten years away and, without doubt, the creationists will be back. As Kaselak put it, it is "an ideology issue that will never get resolved." But for now, there is a place for creationism in textbooks. It's called Sunday School. It's something kids hate just as much as high school Biology.