Posted by Nick Matzke on May 3, 2007 06:04 PM

Although many have read the transcripts of the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial (HTML version | PDF version) and found them interesting, reading the transcripts does not give the full sense of what it was like to be in the Kitzmiller courtroom. In real life, in addition to the witness answering questions, the lawyers and witnesses were constantly referring to exhibits that were digitally projected onto a large screen on the right wall of the courtroom. Usually the exhibits were just documents, but when the science witnesses testified, their powerpoint presentations contain fossils, flagella, and everything else in between. I think it is safe to say that the testimony is much easier to understand when read with the demonstrative exhibits available (the exhibit lists and a few exhibits are available online).

However, it takes a lot of work to convert the slides to web format, add captions, embed them in HTML, etc. But as a first step, I and others at NCSE have done this for Kevin Padian’s testimony (testimony+slides | just slides).

Padian’s testimony was probably the most visually dramatic of all of the witnesses, as he illustrated in point after damning point how the book Of Pandas and People was at variance with the fossil record as documented in museums and scientific publications. I was particularly impressed with Padian’s comparative morphology example with wolves, dogs, and the “Tasmanian wolf”, aka the Thylacine, which blasts out of sky the repeated wild incompetence we get from creationists about how the Tasmanian “wolf” is “identical” to the placental wolf or how, as stated in this Icons of Evolution DVD clip, the Tasmanian “wolf” skull shares numerous homologous features with the placental wolf that neither shares with their respective taxonomic groups.

This stuff is of more than historical significance, since it looks like the Discovery Institute and the ID guys are bound and determined to do it all over again with their new supplemental, no-way-it’s-creationism high school biology textbook promoted for the public schools, to be entitled “Explore [sic] Evolution [sic] : The Arguments for [sic] and Against Neo-Darwinism [sic]” (coming soon from www.exploreevolution.com!).

I hope to put up the demonstrative slides of Barbara Forrest and Kenneth Miller sometime soon as well.

Here is the announcement from the NCSE frontpage and NCSE Resources page on Of Pandas and People:

Meet Padian’s critters!

NCSE is pleased to announce that, for the first time, a transcript of Kevin Padian’s expert witness testimony in the trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover (400 F.Supp.2d 707 [M.D. Pa. 2005]) is available on-line – with the slides that he displayed in the courtroom. Padian testified in the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, eleven local parents who were challenging the Dover Area School Board’s “intelligent design” policy; Judge John E. Jones III found in their favor, ruling that teaching “intelligent design” in the public schools is unconstitutional. Padian is Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Curator of Paleontology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology, and president of NCSE’s board of directors.

Padian’s testimony was widely regarded as among the highlights of the trial. For example, the columnist Mike Argento summarized Padian’s discussion of Of Pandas and People: “It’s too bad that just about everything the book says is wrong…. The book, in so many words, is misleading, incorrect, incomplete, illogical and distorts the facts, he said.” (York Daily Record, October 15, 2005). And in his account of the trial, Monkey Girl (Ecco 2007), Edward Humes wrote, “Kevin Padian, Berkeley paleontologist and curator of his university’s Museum of Paleontology, entertainingly brought the bone hunter’s perspective to the courtroom, the sort of character on whom the fossil-hunting hero of the film Jurassic Park was based. Padian happily showed slides of his ‘critters,’ as he tended to call the ancient fossils and bones he used as a window on the past…. Padian, with evident fierce joy, debunked the often repeated claim that the absence of ‘transitional fossils’ was a problem for evolution and an argument for creation or intelligent design.”

Judge Jones, for his part, was also impressed with Padian’s testimony, writing in his decision (PDF), “A series of arguments against evolutionary theory found in Pandas involve paleontology, which studies the life of the past and the fossil record. Plaintiffs’ expert Professor Padian was the only testifying expert witness with any expertise in paleontology. His testimony therefore remains unrebutted. Dr. Padian’s demonstrative slides, prepared on the basis of peer-reviewing scientific literature, illustrate how Pandas systematically distorts and misrepresents established, important evolutionary principles.” He also noted that “Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students ‘stupid.’”


(This description was copied from the NCSE news announcement.)

May 3, 2007

There may still be some typos in the transcript, or issues with getting the slides to display correctly on various monitors. Please send comments/corrections suggestions to matzke(at)ncseweb.org.