Messiah College/Dover trial

From: Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Fri Nov 11 2005 - 00:56:59 EST

The following statement, based on a post I sent to the attorneys for the
plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller case, should clarify an issue raised by
references to Messiah College in sworn testimony.

Ted

****

The testimony of Mr Michael Baksa during the Kitzmiller trial mentioned a
workshop sponsored by Messiah College, and in the direct and cross
examination portions of the testimony (taken together) the following
misinformation and misleading interpretations are indicated.

(1) The workshop was not actually held at Messiah, contrary to what Mr Baksa
stated (his memory was faulty on this point). It was held at Grace United
Methodist Church in downtown Harrisburg--our principal target audience was
state legislators, and we'd have had several attend (they made reservations)
except that Gov Rendell dropped his budget on them the night before, so all
but one of them cancelled out. We still had several school administrators
and attorneys attend, along with a reporter and members of the general
public. The workshop carried ABA continuing education credit as well, since
it was led by a law professor. We offered the workshop as a public service
to the people and commonwealth of Pennsylvania; we knew that there had been
controversies about evolution and creationism in the Anneville-Cleona school
district and that other districts were also showing signs of similar
controversies. We had no other purpose in offering the workshop than this.
We have a Forum at Messiah devoted to public discussion of issues involving
science and religion (http://www.messiah.edu/godandscience/index.html), and
we believed that a seminar on this particular issue would be important and
timely.

(2) Contrary to the clearly intended implications of the plaintiffs'
questions to Mr Baksa about Messiah College acting as the sponsor of this
event, there is no way in which any reasonable person would ever construe
that the event was intended to promote creationism or a religious agenda of
any sort. Here are details about the workshop:

http://www.messiah.edu/godandscience/spring04/creationism.html

As one can see, it was directed by the most qualified person in the world on
this particular subject, Dr. Edward Larson from the University of Georgia.
I do not recall specifically what might have been said about "intelligent
design," although I think it came up briefly. I do know Dr Larson's opinion
on this (relative to public schools) is identical to my own; indeed, I
verified this with him directly just a few days ago. Dr Larson says that it
is not unconstitutional for a public high school science teacher to mention
criticisms of evolution raised by the "intelligent design" movement, as long
as there are clear secular educational purposes for doing so. And both he
and I agree that there can be situations in which such purposes are
evident--it can be a quality educational experience for teachers to do case
studies in which the relationship between evidence and theories is closely
examined, and "intelligent design" could be part of such an experience in
biology. Furthermore, in the courtroom one day I mentioned Ed's view to
Eugenie Scott, and she actually agrees with it (at least she said so that
day to me). She does believe that a science teacher can discuss
"intelligent design" under certain circumstances; it need not be confined to
a social studies or philosophy class. I know this is not the opinion of the
ACLU, as expressed by Mr Walczak, but it is the view of the leading legal
expert on this issue.

My concern here is simply for the truth, not for winning or losing the
Kitzmiller case. Thus I provide accurate information about the workshop
that Mr Baksa attended. Whatever conclusions Mr Baksa drew from attending
the workshop are of course entirely his own. The facts as I have them are
presented here.

Edward B. Davis
Distinguished Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Received on Fri Nov 11 00:59:37 2005

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