In Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, Vulcan Productions and WGBH/NOVA Science Unit tell the captivating story of one of the latest battles in the war over evolution—the celebrated federal case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District.
In 2004, the local school board in the tiny town of Dover, Pennsylvania ordered science teachers to read a statement to their high school biology students. The statement suggested that there is an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution called intelligent design—the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore must have been designed by an intelligent agent. The teachers refused to comply, and alarmed parents opposed to intelligent design filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the constitutional separation of church and state. Suddenly, the small town of Dover was torn apart by controversy, pitting neighbor against neighbor.
“There was a blow up like you couldn't believe,” Bill Buckingham, head of the school board's curriculum committee, tells NOVA. Buckingham helped formulate the intelligent design policy when he noticed that the biology textbook chosen by teachers for classroom use “was laced with Darwinism.”
Kitzmiller was the first legal test of intelligent design as a scientific theory, with the plaintiffs arguing that it is a thinly veiled form of creationism, the view that a literal interpretation of the Bible accounts for all observed facts about nature.
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial chronicles the emotional conflict in interviews with the townspeople, scientists and lawyers who participated in the historic six-week trial. With recreations based on court transcripts, the film presents the arguments by lawyers and expert witnesses in riveting detail and provides an eye-opening crash course on questions such as “What is evolution?” and “Does intelligent design qualify as science?”
Premiered November 13, 2007 on PBS.