'Nova' documentary features Dover's intelligent design case

'Nova' documentary features Dover's intelligent design case
CHRISTINA KAUFFMAN The York Dispatch - 11/06/2007
In some ways, the life of every plaintiff and person close to Kitzmiller v. Dover will never be the same. Bill Buckingham says he understands that; things can't return to normal when people keep writing books and making movies and documentaries about the intelligent design case.

Then as if playing his own character, Buckingham calls the judge in the case "a jackass who has the guts of a house plant."

And it seems that some things haven't changed.

The man known for his outspoken -- sometimes outrageous -- exposition in support of intelligent design hasn't altered his frankness.

For good measure, he adds: "And I'll tell that to his face if I ever have a chance, and if I keep shooting off my mouth like this I'm sure he'll make sure I do. ..."

Interviews: Buckingham, a former member of the Dover Area School Board, is one of several people interviewed by Nova crews who produced a documentary about the trial.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial features trial re-enactments based on court transcripts and interviews with expert scientists and Dover parents, teachers, and area officials. The documentary will air on WITF-TV as a two-hour special at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Buckingham and several of his former colleagues on the school board voted in 2004 to include intelligent design -- a notion that life is so complex that a "higher being" must have created it -- in Dover's high school biology classes.

Eleven parents filed a federal civil suit against the school district and the board, saying the policy violated the constitutional separation of church and state. U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III -- who has won acclaim from scientists and teachers but eludes Buckingham's favor -- sided with the plaintiffs, saying that intelligent design is kin to Christian creationism. He ordered the school board to pay $1 million in legal fees and damages.

Writer, producer and director Joseph McMaster said the documentary about the trial was a natural fit with Nova's goal of exploring the world of science.

"We felt, as many people did, that it really was a historic court case but it was also a real beefy science lesson," he said. "Since we're a science series, it was a great chance to look at evolution, which is of course the bedrock of the biological sciences."

Proud of attempt: Buckingham says he's proud of what his former school board tried to accomplish, despite the hefty legal fee and the ire of Dover voters who ousted all of the candidates who supported intelligent design.

"A lot of people misread me through this," he said. "I really do care about people."

Buckingham said he still believes in intelligent design and, as one of the only former board members still willing to talk about the debacle, wants his side of the argument to reach the public.

"I get e-mails from Boston and New York and other board members, people who want to talk to me about it," he said. "This is never gonna go away. I was on the computer the other day and just for the heck of it I typed my name in. You know I'm on YouTube?"

The Internet site features what is perhaps Buckingham's most infamous screen appearance.

It's an airing of a Fox 43 news interview during which Buckingham -- who swore he was not trying to sneak creationism into schools -- said he wanted to balance the teaching of evolution with alternative views, "such as creationism."

One tech-savvy YouTube user created a remix of the video, where Buckingham says over and over, "creationism, creationism, creationism."

About the program

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, a documentary about the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, will air on WITF-TV (Comcast channel 2) as a two-hour episode of NOVA at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13.

The documentary features trial re-enactments based on court transcripts and interviews with expert scientists and Dover parents, teachers and area officials.

-- Reach Christina Kauff man at 505-5436 or ckauf fman@yorkdispatch.com.