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PBS and NOVA Set to Spin Their Wheels in Dramatization of Dover ID Trial

In 2001 an internal PBS memo titled The Evolution Controversy, Use It or Lose It: Evolution Project/WGBH Boston, revealed an improper political agenda behind PBS’s miniseries “Evolution.” The memo made very clear how “Evolution” would be used to influence government officials and marketed to the public in an effort to exercise control over how evolution is taught in public schools.

Here they go again. November 13th, PBS’s NOVA will air Judgment Day, which PBS describes as “recreations based on court transcripts, NOVA presents the arguments by lawyers and expert witnesses in riveting detail and provides an eye-opening crash course on questions such as ‘What is evolution?’ and ‘Does intelligent design qualify as science?'” You can bet there won’t be any leaked memos about how they plan to spin the Dover trial. (We hardly need one having been inundated with misrepresentation after mistreprsentation of the trial’s impact for almost two years now.)

The trailer for the program shows that PBS has turned to the usual suspects to advance their agenda.
One new character, Judge Jones, who presided over the real-life courtroom drama, likes to boast that he allowed all sides of the issue to be aired, even saying: “Margaret Talbot, who wrote after the trial in the New Yorker, ‘It was a science class that everybody wished they’d been able to take when they were in school.'”

Kids in Dover are still wishing they could get a full and complete education, without scientific ideas such as intelligent design censored as too dangerous for them to hear about.

Here’s how we reported the leaked PBS memo in 2001.

Dated June 15, 2001, the memo bears the title “The Evolution Controversy, Use It or Lose It: Evolution Project/WGBH Boston.” The document outlines the overall goals of the ongoing PBS series Evolution and describes the marketing strategy for the series. The complete text of the PBS memo is posted at

According to the document, which was leaked by a source within PBS, one of the goals of “Evolution” is to “co-opt existing local dialogue about teaching evolution in schools.” Another goal is to “promote participation,” including “getting involved with local school boards.”

In addition, the document identifies “government officials” as one of the target audiences for the series, and it describes a publicity campaign accompanying the series that will include writing op-eds for newspapers and “guerilla/viral marketing.”

“Clearly, one purpose of “Evolution” is to influence Congress and school boards and to promote political action regarding how evolution is taught in public schools,” says Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman. “In fact, “Evolution’s” marketing plan seems to have the trappings of a political campaign.”

“Public television is funded in part by American taxpayers, and it should be held to high standards of fairness. It is inappropriate for public broadcasting to engage in activities designed to directly influence the political process by promoting one viewpoint at the expense of others,” said Chapman.

]According to Discovery Institute’s John West, the political agenda behind “Evolution” is made even more explicit by its enlistment of Eugenie Scott as one of the official spokespersons for the series.

Scott runs the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an advocacy group that by its own description is dedicated to “defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools.” According to the group’s web site, the NCSE provides “expert testimony for school board hearings,” supplies citizens with “advice on how to organize” when “faced with local creationist challenges,” and assists legal organizations that litigate “evolution/creation cases.”

“The NCSE is a single-issue group that takes only one side in the political debate over evolution in public education,” says West, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific University. “It is inappropriate for public television to enlist NCSE’s executive director as an official spokesperson for this program.”

Robert Crowther, II

Robert Crowther holds a BA in Journalism with an emphasis in public affairs and 20 years experience as a journalist, publisher, and brand marketing and media relations specialist. From 1994-2000 he was the Director of Public and Media Relations for Discovery Institute overseeing most aspects of communications for each of the Institute's major programs. In addition to handling public and media relations he managed the Institute's first three books to press, Justice Matters by Roberta Katz, Speaking of George Gilder edited by Frank Gregorsky, and The End of Money by Richard Rahn.