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A modern Scopes trial

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#16    eight bits

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:18 AM



Did the Defence simply accept everything the Plaintiff said, nodded and smiled and then sat back and did nothing?  Surely not.

No, but there was a problem. Phillip Johnson, the legal strategist behind the whole idea of going to court on this matter, had the nightmare of his case falling apart like a cheap suit. He had the wrong clients (it's always bad when the judge refers your clients to prosecutors for perjury charges), the wrong curriculum (that is, the resolution of the case on a finding of fact that the dispute had already been adjudicated is embarrassing) and dissension or some problem among his experts.

The latter would have been fatal, had the curriculum not already killed him. He needed to make an affirmative case that there was an authentic secular purpose, and that there was actual science being taught. In objective fact, neither was true. OK, lawyers argue untruths all the time, and in this case, the lawyer may have been misled by his clients.

No, you don't sit there and nod. Cross-examination is worth a shot. You can always get lucky - get a loose cannon like Richard Dawkins talking and eventually he'll say something you can use. Generally speaking, though, you score on cross when you show the witness is mistaken about something asserted on direct, preferably because of a character defect. If the witness isn't mistaken in direct testimony, then the cross doesn't pan out. Note that in an American court, you are prohibited from "arguing your case" during cross-examination, nor are you allowed to "debate" with the witness - you can only ask about things that the witness said during direct.

If it didn't pan out, which evidently it didn't much, based on the judge's opinion, then it is fair to leave it aside in an after-action report, and concentrate on the attempt to make the affirmative case. Cross examination against the affirmative case did work out, in spades. It is fair to include it.

Also, the film clearly has dual purpose, to teach some science as well as to report on how things went in court. If it was only the latter, then the film would have needed to be about the Lousiana case, because almost all that happened in the Dover case of legal significance was the recognition that it was the same curriculum as before. Anything else that happened during the Dover trial can only be interesting for some other reason besides affecting the outcome

Edited by eight bits, 12 February 2013 - 11:30 AM.

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#17    Paranoid Android

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 11:55 AM

View Posteight bits, on 12 February 2013 - 11:18 AM, said:

Also, the film clearly has dual purpose, to teach some science as well as to report on how things went in court.
Which is pretty much how I saw it.  As I said, I thought the video was fantastic.  It got the point across and would be a valuable source for anyone interested in the evolution vs creationism/intelligent design debate.  I just felt that it was biased in respect to one side as opposed to the other (which I think you'll find is true - but then, something "biased" does not therefore it is invalidated.... I would never argue that point).

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