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The devil in Dover : an insider's story of…
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The devil in Dover : an insider's story of dogma v. Darwin in small-town… (2008)

by Lauri Lebo

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In the summer of 2002, a Dover PA school board member was disturbed by a mural depicting human evolution seen during a tour of classrooms. Shortly before teachers returned in the fall, the janitor burned the mural. The science teachers noticed immediately. Meetings followed, with teachers reassuring administration and board that they were sensitive to religious faith and adhered strictly to the textbook and state standards. In the summer of 2004, the tension went public at a school board meeting. Another school board member had reviewed a proposed textbook and found it to be "laced with Darwinism", so was seeking an alternative that balanced evolution with "creationism". This was reported in the local newspaper.

Who contacted whom is not clear, but later that summer, school board members talked with the Thomas More Law Center. At a subsequent public meeting, the word "creationism" was not uttered. A vote was held on a recommendation to supplement the standard biology textbook with Pandas and People, which advocated the supposedly scientific theory of Intelligent Design. The recommendation was voted down. Mysteriously, before the fall term began, a box of Pandas and People, sent by an anonymous donor, arrived at the school. Meanwhile, the school board and science teachers had been negotiating a curriculum change. The teachers made concessions, but balked at including mention of Intelligent Design. The school board inserted it anyway, into a statement that was to be read to students by teachers, informing them of "gaps" in the theory of evolution, and the existence of books in the library describing an alternative theory of Intelligent Design. On the day of the statement, science teachers and some students walked out of classrooms, so the statement was read by administrators. Some parents and teachers contacted the ACLU.

Dover became a test case. The Thomas More Law Center was founded in 1999 with a mission to fight the culture war in the courts, and had been watching local events around the US in search of an intelligent design case. Richard Thompson, one of its cofounders, became the lawyer for the school district. ACLU lawyer Vic Walczak and National Center for Science Education director Eugenie Scott contacted lawyer Eric Rothschild, who agreed to assist with the case pro bono on behalf of the parents and teachers. The case was named Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, for a parent of a directly affected student. The judge was John Jones, endorsed by Rick Santorum and appointed by George W. Bush, who had both expressed support for "teaching the controversy". Among the witnesses for for the defendants was Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute, the originator of Intelligent Design. Among the witnesses for the plaintiffs was Kenneth Miller, coauthor of the standard biology textbook. Among the documents presented were excerpts from drafts of Pandas and People, most significantly the drafts written before, and revised after, the 1987 Supreme court case Edwards v. Aguillard ruled that it is unconstitutional to include creationism in a public school curriculum.

Anyone who has seen the NOVA documentary Judgment Day will know the gist of the story, and the result of the trial. This book intertwines the formal trial with the drama behind the scenes. The author is a local newspaper reporter, who grew up nearby, knew people on both sides, and was painfully aware of the antagonisms and accusations that divided the town for a year, personally aware, as her involvement strained her relationship with her fundamentalist Christian father. She takes a clear stand: Intelligent Design is a fraud. This is not "balanced" journalism, deliberately. It is responsible journalism. Also a page turner.

(read 23 Jan 2012- Review by qebo, LibraryThing member.)
  AdocentynLibrary | May 18, 2017 |
In the summer of 2002, a Dover PA school board member was disturbed by a mural depicting human evolution seen during a tour of classrooms. Shortly before teachers returned in the fall, the janitor burned the mural. The science teachers noticed immediately. Meetings followed, with teachers reassuring administration and board that they were sensitive to religious faith and adhered strictly to the textbook and state standards. In the summer of 2004, the tension went public at a school board meeting. Another school board member had reviewed a proposed textbook and found it to be "laced with Darwinism", so was seeking an alternative that balanced evolution with "creationism". This was reported in the local newspaper.

Who contacted whom is not clear, but later that summer, school board members talked with the Thomas More Law Center. At a subsequent public meeting, the word "creationism" was not uttered. A vote was held on a recommendation to supplement the standard biology textbook with Pandas and People, which advocated the supposedly scientific theory of Intelligent Design. The recommendation was voted down. Mysteriously, before the fall term began, a box of Pandas and People, sent by an anonymous donor, arrived at the school. Meanwhile, the school board and science teachers had been negotiating a curriculum change. The teachers made concessions, but balked at including mention of Intelligent Design. The school board inserted it anyway, into a statement that was to be read to students by teachers, informing them of "gaps" in the theory of evolution, and the existence of books in the library describing an alternative theory of Intelligent Design. On the day of the statement, science teachers and some students walked out of classrooms, so the statement was read by administrators. Some parents and teachers contacted the ACLU.

Dover became a test case. The Thomas More Law Center was founded in 1999 with a mission to fight the culture war in the courts, and had been watching local events around the US in search of an intelligent design case. Richard Thompson, one of its cofounders, became the lawyer for the school district. ACLU lawyer Vic Walczak and National Center for Science Education director Eugenie Scott contacted lawyer Eric Rothschild, who agreed to assist with the case pro bono on behalf of the parents and teachers. The case was named Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, for a parent of a directly affected student. The judge was John Jones, endorsed by Rick Santorum and appointed by George W. Bush, who had both expressed support for "teaching the controversy". Among the witnesses for for the defendants was Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute, the originator of Intelligent Design. Among the witnesses for the plaintiffs was Kenneth Miller, coauthor of the standard biology textbook. Among the documents presented were excerpts from drafts of Pandas and People, most significantly the drafts written before, and revised after, the 1987 Supreme court case Edwards v. Aguillard ruled that it is unconstitutional to include creationism in a public school curriculum.

Anyone who has seen the NOVA documentary Judgment Day will know the gist of the story, and the result of the trial. This book intertwines the formal trial with the drama behind the scenes. The author is a local newspaper reporter, who grew up nearby, knew people on both sides, and was painfully aware of the antagonisms and accusations that divided the town for a year, personally aware, as her involvement strained her relationship with her fundamentalist Christian father. She takes a clear stand: Intelligent Design is a fraud. This is not "balanced" journalism, deliberately. It is responsible journalism. Also a page turner.

(read 23 Jan 2012)
14 vote qebo | Jan 23, 2012 |
Important topic, but disappointing book. The considerable insertion of author's personal life, relations with father, might have worked, but it does not, as it makes the book disjointed, and even at times trivializes matters (who cares about the author getting her first tatoo?). ( )
  Lasitajs | Nov 8, 2008 |
Excellent book by reporter Lebo about the case in Dover, Pennsylvania as to whether the school board could force the science classes in the schools to mention intelligent design along with evolution. Lebo, herself the daughter of a fundamentalist Christian minister, writes with passion about the trial and events leading up to it, and the characters of all the leading people in the case. Those people range from the school board members, to the parents of children willing to become plaintiffs, to the lawyers, the scientists, the judge, the reporters, and the people of Dover.

Intelligent design had been a growing issue in the American culture wars, and national level organizations on both sides were looking for a test case. The school board, though warned that their actions could result in a costly and lengthy trial, went ahead and bought 60 copies of an intelligent design (ID) textbook and made it available in the schools, and also required that a four paragraph statement calling evolution a theory, not a fact, and recommending ID as an alternative theory be read to the students in biology classes (for the full text of the statement see page 62).

The book deals with a lot of important issues. Lebo is terrific at giving context to everything, from the Scopes trail and subsequent court cases involving evolution, to the people behind the issues and what drives them. It is a complex story. Those on both sides, for example, were predominantly Christian, but held widely different views of how science, government, education, and religion interact.

Fascinating book, fascinating story, and Lebo tells it well. She is wiling to listen to every side, and in the process of covering the trial learned a lot herself about what is science and what is not, and in the end she is unwilling to label something that is religion as science. This contrasts with the proponents of ID, who were consistently unprepared and had little knowledge of what ID is, and how it could fit into a valid scientific framework. Even Michael Behe, who is the most known scientist promoting ID and who testified at the trail, was unable to explain the mechanisms of how ID could work and explain the facts of biology. Lebo proves she is a good writer by being able to explain enough of the science clearly without it overwhelming the story. She does it again in talking about the pooeple, and bringing in enough of her own story to add a unique slant to the book. For example, the trial increased tensions with her father. She was unable to see how he could support those school board members who committed perjury to obscure their religious motivations, while he mourned that her acceptance of evolution would lead her to hell.

One of the heroes of the trial was the presiding judge, John E. Jones. He is a Republican appointed by George W. Bush, but who decided the case on its merits rather than his political interests. "In a speech he gave to the Anti-Defamation League [after the trial], Jones said accusations that he is 'an activist judge' point to a problem 'that threatens to, I think, tear at the fabric of our system of justice in the united States... the premise of Ms. Schlafly and some others seems to be that judges can and should act in a partisan manner rather than strictly adhering to the rule of law. Now, to those who believe that judges must cast aside preferences and rule according to an agenda, let me say that I believe the public's dependence upon the impartiality and integrity of judges is absolutely essential to its confidence in our system of justice." (p. 214).

Marvelous book, well-written, well planned, and thoughtful. ( )
1 vote reannon | Jul 19, 2008 |
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A few weeks before the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial began, Bruce Springsteen introduced "Part Man, Part Monkey," at a concert in Newark, New Jersey by saying "Dover, PA--they're not sure about evolution. Here in New Jersey, we're countin' on it."
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Dedicated to the Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson, and to the Separation of Church and State
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I sit across from my father in a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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