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‘Nightline’ Tackles Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

The local school board has required that high school biology students be read a short statement that evolution "is a theory … not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence." The statement mentions intelligent design as an "alternative" to evolution.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon,
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Ted Koppel's Nightline (ABC-TV) weighed in January 13 on the escalating controversy between evolution and "intelligent design theory" — a school of thought most frequently described as thinly veiled creationism.

"War in Dover," with correspondent John Donvan, focused on the town of Dover, Pennsylvania. The local school board has required that high school biology students be read a short statement that evolution "is a theory … not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence." The statement mentions intelligent design as an "alternative" to evolution.

As a consequence of this small step, American Civil Liberties Union lawyers have threatened "to break the back of this school district" financially (we can always count on the ACLU for public spirit), unless the board revokes its action. Some board members have resigned, and according to Nightline, the townspeople are bitterly divided over the issue.

Donvan tried very hard to put up a sober, responsible, fair, and unbiased piece of television journalism. He resisted the temptation to play for the sensational — no clips of citizens yelling at each other, no interviews with off-the-wall fanatics, no melodramatic music in the background. In this he succeeded — almost.

It wasn't his fault that host Ted Koppel waited until the last minute of the broadcast to let slip the expected left-wing bias. In his "closing thought," Koppel offered a cute little anecdote equating evolution critics with the flat earth crowd.

Donvan swam against the current by interviewing Christians who were thoughtful, civil, and articulate, thus presenting them as persons worthy of respect. Koppel undid it in less than a minute. He might as well have said, "Just kidding, folks! Of course we know that anyone who bucks Darwin is an ignoramus."

That wasn't the only slip-up. The report several times cited a convenient Gallup Poll (37% of Americans reject evolution, 37% believe in it, 29% undecided). But nobody polled the people of Dover. As long as we're doing polls, why not do the one poll that has a bearing on the Dover story? If 50% of the town, say, solidly support evolution as the one and only explanation of the origin and history of life on Earth, then why would the school board take an action bound to alienate half of its constituency?

Also ignored was a November poll by CBS and The New York Times: 55% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form, 27% believe God guides evolution, only 13% believe God isn't involved at all — and 65% believe creationism should be taught in the schools along with Darwinism.


Media Bias, Post-election Style

These omissions indicate ABC's prejudice in favor of evolution.

Had this Nightline piece been done six months ago, it might have looked very different. Since then, big media has discovered the "values vote" that put George W. Bush back in the White House in spite of the media's best efforts to run him out of it. (Remember, it was an ABC News executive, in an October 8 internal memo, who expressly stated his network's bias for the president's opponent. For the full text of the memo, see

Many big media personalities, since the election, have spoken of a need to reach out to Christian viewers — before their falling ratings drive them (to use an evolutionist's metaphor) to extinction. So we must not expect to see much more of the traditional, media Christian-bashing they practiced before the election.

The fact is, evolution is only a theory, and there are holes in it. No one knows how new groups of animals arise from the old, or even whether it really happens at all: no one has ever observed it. Its core assumptions are untestable.

But evolution is the only scientific theory whose proponents claim exclusive rights in the marketplace of ideas, immunity from debate, and sheer immutability. Every other theory known to science is subject to continual debate. Scientists in other fields accept their theories as more or less temporary. When new discoveries are made, old theories are discarded.

But not evolution. If string theory physicists hired a bunch of ACLU gunslingers to suppress all mention of competing theories, it would be considered conduct unbecoming scientists. When Darwinists do it, it's par for the course.

We're Not Satisfied

Unless the Dover Board of Education was consciously bent on self-destruction, its members must have believed the majority of the community would be with them. Nightline failed to explain why the board took this step. Comments like "It is war in Dover" (Donvan) and "There can be no compromise" (Koppel) imply the town is split down the middle — without proving it.

We are left with no prospect of a resolution of the controversy, asked to take ABC's word for it that support for evolution in "mostly Christian" Dover is much higher than it is in the rest of the country, and, in the end, suspicious as to whether we've been told the whole story.

Federal Judge Silences Georgia Evolution Critics

The same day "War in Dover" aired, a federal judge ruled that school authorities in Cobb County, Georgia, must remove from high school biology textbooks stickers that say "Evolution is only a theory, not a fact."

In a lawsuit initiated by the ACLU, the judge said, "[T]he sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement [of religion] and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders" (World Net Daily, Jan. 13, 2005).

Doesn't removing the stickers equally tell some citizens (evolution critics) that they are the outsiders, and others (evolution supporters) that they are the insiders? Does it not convey a message of rejection of religion?

In a zero-sum game, one player's gain must be the other player's loss. "Neutrality" is impossible.

R.J. Rushdoony revealed the fallacy of neutrality years ago, when he wrote of "the radically fallacious idea that secular and atheist opinions and approaches to education were 'neutral' while religious approaches were partial and prejudiced" (Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, Vallecito, California, 1963: 1995 reprint, p. 384).

The judge's ruling in the Cobb County case shows that the fallacy in 2005 is still alive and well.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at

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