Friday, March 28, 2008

The More They Misrepresent, The More They Lose All Credibility



Another book about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, titled "The Devil in Dover: An Insider's Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-town America," written by a reporter who worked for the York Daily Record, is scheduled for release on May 13. The book's description on says,

"What happened in Dover is a tiny sliver, a broken shard of glass mirroring what plays out across the country. A war of fundamentalist Christian values versus secularism. A battle between evangelical fanaticism and tolerance."—from The Devil in Dover

In December 2004, following the Dover area school board's decision to teach intelligent design in ninth-grade biology classrooms, eleven parents sued, sparking a federal constitutional challenge. Lauri Lebo, a small-town reporter who covered the trial, knows not just the legal case and science, but the people on all sides of the divisive battle.

In The Devil in Dover, Lebo traces the compelling backstory of this pivotal case described by some as a perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violations, and an assault on American science education. In a community divided across unexpected lines, the so-called activist judge, a George Bush-appointed Republican, eventually condemned the school board's decision as one of "breathtaking inanity."

WOW! "Evangelical fanaticism"! "Religious intolerance"! "First Amendment violations"! "An assault on American science education"! "Devil in Dover"! "Dogma v. Darwin"! Them's fighting words! Maybe a better title for the book would be "The Great Satan in Dover."

The words "this pivotal case described by some as a perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violations, and an assault on American science education" were obviously borrowed from a Nature magazine book review by Kevin Padian. The NCSE website says of the book review,

. . . he also mentions a fourth book, by local reporter Laurie Lebo, to appear on the trial, which, he says, "promises even more lively details of this perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violation and the never-ending assault on American science education.'"

It is obvious that "Devil in Dover" is a sensationalistic book that tries to demonize the Dover school board. Prof. Albert Alschuler said in what I consider to be the best summary of the Kitzmiller case,

The court offers convincing evidence that some members the Dover school board would have been delighted to promote their old time religion in the classroom. These board members apparently accepted intelligent design as a compromise, the nearest they could come to their objective within the law. Does that make any mention of intelligent design unconstitutional? It seems odd to characterize the desire to go far as the law allows as an unlawful motive. People who try to stay within the law although they would prefer something else are good citizens. The Dover opinion appears to say that the forbidden preference taints whatever the board may do, and if the public can discern the board’s improper desire, any action it takes also has an unconstitutional effect. If board members would like to teach Genesis as the literal truth, the board may not direct teachers even to mention the anamolies (sic) in the theory of natural selection that the court itself recognizes. The court seems to declare, "Because we find that you would like something you can't have, we hold that you can't have anything."

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