It’s been almost a decade since the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial put Intelligent Design on the witness stand and unmasked it as the religion-lite pseudoscience it is. The repercussions still resonate. It’s very difficult for this nonsense to get footing within schools when an actual Republican judge appointed by none other than George W Bush hisownself has declared it foolishness. You expect blatantly religious claptrap to get struck down by courts no matter the figleaf it wears. But to have a conservative Lutheran judge demolish it sans mercy, issuing an opinion that gave it an unrestrained verbal flailing worthy of the most godless heathen – that was divine.
How the heck did that happen?
There’s no better book to turn to for the inside story than Lauri Lebo’s The Devil in Dover. She has insight no one else, no matter their journalism skills, can muster. As a reporter for the York Daily Record, she covered the entirety of the trial. She is a local, and her father was a Christian fundamentalist with an evangelical radio station. She’s able to get into the minds of people who believe creationism is an appropriate subject for public school science class. She has insights into them few other people do.
Her book on the trial isn’t an impersonal account. It couldn’t be impersonal and remain honest. She watched people lie for Jesus, and her father fail to understand why that’s so wrong. She had her personal relationships shaken, her Christian faith crumbled, and she was eventually muzzled by her editors, who were terrified of her coming across as “pro-evolution.” What rings out clearly throughout this book is that truth matters. And if the truth is almost all on one side, it’s too bad: you can’t balance the scales with falsehoods.
Lebo is able to take us inside the events that led up to the trial with an infuriating clarity. She doesn’t demonize the board members and citizens who tried to sneak religion into the classroom in cheap imitation secular garb, but she’s only as kind to them as they deserve. She does a spectacular job bringing the trial to life, and showing how the parents and activists, the teachers and scientists, gave their all exposing the lies and defending science. She shows the personal costs involved with a vividness that stays with you once the tale is told.
It’s critical that we understand how and why creationists manage to slip their religious convictions into secular classrooms. It’s vital to see how we can effectively defend science. And it’s important not to forget that we’re dealing with people. Lebo ensures we see the trial as more than a courtroom drama.
Anyone who’s interested in creationist assaults on science education needs this book. Especially if you want a riveting read. This book will meet your requirements, and leave you with far more food for thought than you expected coming in.