You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

PBS' "Nova" might seem like an unlikely place for one of the year's most quietly important TV projects, but the insidious campaign to discredit science and elevate religion as a legitimate academic alternative shouldn't escape notice.

PBS’ “Nova” might seem like an unlikely place for one of the year’s most quietly important TV projects, but the insidious campaign to discredit science and elevate religion as a legitimate academic alternative shouldn’t escape notice. Using a widely publicized Pennsylvania court case, this special deals with a local school board’s attempt to mandate that “intelligent design” be taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution, fueling discord in the tiny hamlet of Dover. Illuminating the scientific issues with welcome clarity, these two hours should be shown not just in every U.S. high school but in houses of worship as well.

Although the questioning of Darwin’s theory seemed to peak in the 1930s with the Scopes monkey trial (dramatized in the movie “Inherit the Wind”), resurgent evangelism has renewed debate that has bled into schools. Columnist/actor Ben Stein is among the latest to assault the scientific community for its alleged tyranny on the topic, adopting the conservative ploy of casting scientists who advance dubious minority opinions on issues such as evolution and global warming as victims.

As constructed, the two hours unfold on two distinct levels, capturing the strategies surrounding the legal dispute along with its effect on the Dover community, where science teachers and a group of parents took a principled stand against teaching intelligent design — a term birthed in the 1980s arguing that an “intelligent agent” (really just a veiled way of saying “God”) must have steered the development of various species and organic structures.

In “Judgment Day’s” most TV-friendly flourish, the producers employ dramatic recreations to present key bits of actual court testimony in the case, conducted before Judge John Jones III, a conservative President Bush appointee who, sadly if predictably, faced death threats because of his ruling.

Through the expert testimony as well as interviews with the actual scientists, the production drives home that whatever one’s religious beliefs, incorporating an untestable theory based on faith into school curriculum bastardizes the long-held definition of science as something that can be challenged, examined and proven.

Finally, there’s even a kind of “Perry Mason” moment, where researchers expose intelligent design advocates using the term interchangeably with “creationism” in published materials, despite their insistence that the two are not directly linked.

The prevailing trend in television, of course, is to lay out two competing viewpoints on every issue, with talking heads espousing their respective causes. While “Nova” affords both sides an opportunity to plead their case, “Judgment Day” is a scientific mismatch, one that makes the guys in white lab coats look like Gulliver next to the Lilliputians.

Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

PBS, Tues. Nov. 13, 8 p.m.

Production: Produced by Nova and Vulcan Prods. in association with the Big Table Film Co. Senior executive producer, Paula S. Apsell; executive producer, Richard Hutton; producers, Joseph McMaster, Gary Johnstone, Vanessa Tovell; senior producer, Susanne Simpson; directors, Johnstone, McMaster; writer, McMaster.

Crew: Running Time: 120 MIN.

More TV


    TV Review: ABC's Live 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons'

    In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before reboot and revival fever manifested as verbatim repeats — but if TV’s gonna go there, bringing back eerily timely shows like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” is the way to do it. That Norman Lear’s comedies are timely, or at least prescient, is [...]

  • WGA Agents Packaging Fight Placeholder

    Judge in Writers Guild Suit Against Agencies Replaced Again

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine W. Mandel has replaced Craig D. Karlan to handle the Writers Guild of America’s lawsuit against Hollywood’s four major talent agencies. Mandel was appointed Wednesday. She is the third judge assigned to the case, which was filed April 17 by the WGA against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners [...]

  • Andy Cohen Desperate Housewives E

    TV News Roundup: Bravo Announces First Ever BravoCon

    In today’s roundup, Bravo announces its first ever BravoCon and the trailer for the fourth season of “Queen Sugar” dropped.  DATES The buddy comedy “Partners in Wine,” starring Lauren White and Jasmine Curry, will be available for streaming on Amazon Tuesday, May 28. It follows best friends Mia and Anne, who support, challenge, and judge [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Agencies Offer to Restart Talks With WGA to End Packaging Fee Standoff

    Hollywood’s largest talent agencies have offered to restart negotiations with the WGA to end the standoff over the guild’s effort to impose new rules on talent agents. In a letter to WGA West president David Goodman sent Wednesday, UTA co-president Jay Sures extended an olive branch and suggested resuming talks next week. UTA later sent [...]

  • Martin Short

    Martin Short Joins Whitney Cummings, Lee Daniels Amazon Comedy Pilot 'Good People'

    The cast of the Amazon comedy pilot “Good People” continues to grow, with Martin Short becoming the latest big name star to sign on to the project. Short joins previously announced cast members Lisa Kudrow, Greg Kinnear, and Whitney Cummings. Cummings is also writing and executive producing the pilot with Lee Daniels. “Good People” centers [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content