Everyone Combating Creationism Needs to Read The Devil in Dover

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?

Image is the book cover for The Devil in Dover

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.

Everyone Combating Creationism Needs to Read The Devil in Dover

9 thoughts on “Everyone Combating Creationism Needs to Read The Devil in Dover

  1. 2

    I’ve read the book and it is a splendid account. The happy ending is especially gratifying, but Lebo’s connection with the losers adds an extra note of understanding. The liars for Jesus really did think the ends justified the means because they believed they were doing God’s work. That entitles you to run rough-shod over the heathen, of course.

  2. 3

    There’s some not exactly conclusive evidence that believers commit more crimes because they use their beliefs to justify it. “Those rich unbelievers don’t deserve all that nice stuff.” “God’s law trumps tax law.” “It’s better to have sex with my daughter than to visit a prostitute.” Part of me wants to say that assholes are assholes, no matter what they believe, but deep down inside I can’t shake the feeling that it’s all part of a system that insists things are the way they “should” be, rather than how they are.

  3. 4

    Lebo’s book was brilliant and informative, written from a first hand perspective.

    Another good book on the Dover trial is Monkey Girl by Edward Humes. Written from a third person perspective, it doesn’t have the personal touch of The Devil in Dover, but it does explore aspects of the story which are not in Lebo’s book.

  4. 5

    Christine, that’s unbelievably creepy if true. I’d almost rather they just know it’s wrong and not care than that they commit evil with justifications that it’s “right”.

    Actually, when I think about it, I’d rather be victimized by someone who was simply immoral than someone who justified their immorality with religion. If it was someone assaulting me, I’d bet the immoral person would stop once they’d accomplished their aim (either robbing me, or proving their power, or whatever) — the religious person would stop only when they thought their god would be satisfied.

  5. 8

    Second on the additional recommendation of monkey Girl.

    I was serving as Vice President of Kansas Citizens for Science at the time of this trial, and we were in a constant state of virtual war with the state school board in those years, so you can bet we were all watching very closely.

    I wrote several reviews of the ruling itself (which is really a great read, and not at all as dull as your average court case). Even the transcripts (available online in a few different places) have a lot of really interesting (and some downright embarrassing for the defendants) bits and nuggets. Dembski getting eviscerated like he did on the stand brings a tear of schadenfreude to mine eye every time! :)

  6. 9

    Crimson Clupeidae @ # 7 – Dembski self-eviscerated without taking the stand, in a bravura solo performance.

    Multiple other IDiots did get theirs heads and asses handed to them in Judge Jones’s courtroom, Behe and Buckingham being hoisted highest on their own petards imho.

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