Dispatches from the Creation Wars

A Whole New Experience

I began a new project this week that I’m really excited about – writing a book. I’ve written a few million words worth of essays, but never a whole book, so this will be a new experience for me. Thankfully, I don’t have to do it alone. I’ve got a co-author, Wesley Elsberry, whose knowledge and insight will undoubtedly make me look much better than I am. The subject of the book? The Dover trial. We are aiming at doing a thorough history of the trial from beginning to end and beyond.

We’ll trace the changes in strategies employed by the antievolutionists from Scopes through “teach the controversy” as well and we plan to include an appendix that offers a legal analysis of Judge Jones’ ruling. The first step is writing the preface (a history of evolution trials) and one of the middle chapters and using those as sample chapters to pitch the book. Michael Shermer has already agreed to read the manuscript and give us an endorsement/cover blurb (very important in the publishing world), so that’s a big boost. We’ll be lining up a few more potential endorsers as well.

We’ve been encouraged to submit the project to the big four academic presses and that is what we plan to do. I’m 90% sure that Prometheus would publish the book regardless, but if we can get it published by a major press that would be preferable. And especially if Paramount does end up making a movie about the trial, the sky’s the limit for the book. In the meantime, of course, expect me to continue to rant and rave here as I always have.

Comments

  1. #1 Ken Brown
    March 31, 2006

    Writing that kind of book, I’m curious your take on Edward Larson’s work (e.g. Summer For the Gods)?

  2. #2 Mike Heath
    March 31, 2006

    Ed – good luck. I’ll buy a handful.

    I happened to read most of the hearing transcripts and of course the ruling of that trial. As I was reading the hearing transcripts one thought that went through my head over and over – this would make for a compelling drama, but an unbiased matter-of-fact report would appear to be so over the top I doubt people would believe it was unbiased. The ruling itself was anticlimatic for me at least based on the heaarings.

    It was like watching a football game where the score ended up being 220 – 0; with the ID team’s owner claiming he didn’t own the team during the game, and a controversy after the game erupts as the losing team claims they lost a 220 – 0 game because of poor refereeing, and reported that way without comment by the media.

    I was especially impressed with Dr. Forrest’s testimony and how the judge handled the hearings. I’m disappointed that a judge who did such a great job is now being crucified in the popular media by conservative pundits without journalists hosting those outlets refuting their rhetorical fallacies.

    I’m confident your book will go a long way in setting the record straight.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    March 31, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    Writing that kind of book, I’m curious your take on Edward Larson’s work (e.g. Summer For the Gods)?

    I’ve actually not read Larson’s book yet, but I’m familiar with a lot of the history. He was not the first to point out that much of the trial was contrived and that Inherit the Wind is highly inaccurate. In a way, our book may end up functioning as a preemptive fact check on the movie that is in the works (if it ever gets made, of course). Any such movie is bound to be highly inaccurate and we’ll be putting out the reality likely before the movie is even out.

    Wesley and I are in a unique position to write this story and add a lot of behind the scenes detail that the public doesn’t know. Between us, we know almost all of the principal players and we were directly involved, he more than me of course, in the preparations for the trial. We have a very long list of items that are important to the story and that show how arguments and events at the trial were developed out of the public spotlight, and almost none of them are known to the public. So there’s a lot of story to tell.

  4. #4 J-Dog
    March 31, 2006

    Congratulations! Sounds like a fun project. Maybe you can adapt the old tried and true publishing bromide of Banned In Boston, and instead use “Banned By DaveScott and ID Angels Everywhere”.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    March 31, 2006

    Mike Heath wrote:

    I happened to read most of the hearing transcripts and of course the ruling of that trial. As I was reading the hearing transcripts one thought that went through my head over and over – this would make for a compelling drama, but an unbiased matter-of-fact report would appear to be so over the top I doubt people would believe it was unbiased.

    Interesting observation. The situation really does lend itself to a natural dramatic reading, and I think that the book will lend itself to that without any distorting of the facts at all. There really were several Perry Mason moments, both in the preparations for the trial and during the trial itself, and they lend themselves to an ideal dramatic arc. You’ve got the story of this sleepy town that suddenly finds itself wrapped in a national controversy. You’ve got a trial with the attendant sideshows, including Darwin’s grandson showing up and creationist PT Barnum’s like Hovind showing up to do their schtick. You’ve got smoking guns being found on one side while the other side collapsed into backstabbing and infighting. You’ve got that infighting bubbling up publicly on C-SPAN during a forum in the middle of the trial. The dramatic elements of the story almost write itself, so it’s no surprise that Paramount saw a movie in it. But there’s also an enormous amount of background information that fleshes out the story.

  6. #6 bourgeois_rage
    March 31, 2006

    Wow, I look forward to when the book is ready. With you and Wes working together it should be very well written and entertaining.

    I’m not sure I’d like to see a movie of Kitzmiller. I can easily see Hollywood taking liberties in the facts to make it “more dramatic”. I can see them pushing a twist ending in where evidence is reveal after the trial that could be disputed, and perhaps Behe and Dembski looking to the future vowing to fight on. Yuck! Blech! Or the lawyers leaving the court house to crowds of drones praising Jebus and praying for the souls of the ACLU. Credits roll over “Onward Christian Soldiers”

    shivers

  7. #7 VisualFX
    March 31, 2006

    Very cool! I will be eagerly anticipating the release of that book. I just got done reading the trial transcript while riding the ferry to work). It was long, detailed and at times riveting. Let’s hope that Paramount’s movie is at least half as good as “Inherit the Wind.”

  8. #8 Bill Ware
    March 31, 2006

    When I got to the word “book” in your post, I wondered how long it would be before “Scope’s Trial” came up. I see it didn’t take long. If you and/or Wes decide you need to come to Dayton to visit the Scope’s trial museum, please let me know. I’ll make sure the guest room suite is available. Better yet, plan to come in early July and take in the Scope’s trial reenactment. Unlike Inherit the Wind, it’s straight from the trial transcripts. See you then!!!

  9. #9 Leni
    March 31, 2006

    I’ll really be looking forward to it too.

    I should by a copy for my insanely Catholic sister. Not that she’ll read it… but it’ll boost your sales by one ;)

    Will you be including the reams of crap that came out in the DI’s press releases/Will Dembski’s blog etc etc?

  10. #10 SkookumPlanet
    March 31, 2006

    Go Ed! Book length’s a bear. Co-author is good. You’ll be great at it, guaranteed. And it’s an excellent subject, in general, but for you, too.

    Does this mean less blogging? If you say “No”, I’m cutting my fingers off! I’ll feel like I’ve got stubs at the keyboard compared to your output. If I actually have stubs, it won’t be so bad.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    March 31, 2006

    SkookumPlanet wrote:

    Does this mean less blogging? If you say “No”, I’m cutting my fingers off!

    I hope it doesn’t interfere much with my blogging. There are other things I could cut back on first, I think. I suspect there might be a few specific times when my posting is reduced because, for example, I’m out of town interviewing someone for the story or doing research for it. But those would be short periods of time.

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    March 31, 2006

    Leni wrote:

    Will you be including the reams of crap that came out in the DI’s press releases/Will Dembski’s blog etc etc?

    To the extent it’s relevant, yes. For instance, we will almost certainly refer to Dembski’s blog postings when dealing with his decision to withdraw as a witness (or being forced to resign, depending on which side you believe). And we will be attaching an appendix that is a legal analysis of the ruling. That will likely involve answering some of the DI’s many arguments against it.

  13. #13 Chris Hallquist
    March 31, 2006

    What publishing houses are you submitting too?

    I’m currently in the same situtation – writing a book that I’m pretty sure I could get published by Prometheus, though it wouldn’t hurt to try other houses.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    March 31, 2006

    Chris-

    We’ll at least submit to the “big four” academic presses – Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and University of California. We may well submit it to several others as well, I guess it depends on whether it gets accepted by the first group.

  15. #15 SkookumPlanet
    March 31, 2006

    Ed

    Re: Manuscript submission.

    Two words — bidding war!

    Now I’m off to the kitchen to get my Chinese cleaver. Expect fewer comment posts in the future.

  16. #16 Wesley R. Elsberry
    April 1, 2006

    As long as the project has gone public, we might as well solicit readers to suggest titles. Glenn Branch is already in for The Great Panda Trial, an homage to L. Sprague de Camp’s The Great Monkey Trial, and Fall for the Idiots, an homage to Larson’s Summer for the Gods. I’ve gotta say that of the two, I strongly prefer the former over the latter.

  17. #17 SkookumPlanet
    April 1, 2006

    Go for the bestseller list — put movement in the title, somehow.

    I’ve spent 6 weeks plaguing everyone ad nauseam about “psychomarketing”, maybe it’s put-up or shut-up time for me. I was a pretty good headline writer, do well with my own titles, have two degrees in fiction writing, and I’ve read or skimmed long parts of the trial transcripts. Guess I’m screwed if I don’t come up with something!

    I’ll give it to the ol’ subconscious to chew on for awhile, but don’t expect a miracle …. hmmm ….. miracle …. it would have been a miracle if …… no,no ….. Non-Miracle in Dov… …… nah. ….. how about ….. resurrection …. yeah, resurrection ….. Creationism’s Third Resurrection, Not! ………. nah, stupid ……. hmmmm ….. End Times for ID ….. that’s awful! … maybe ….. uuuuuuhhhh….. …..

  18. #18 386sx
    April 1, 2006

    As long as the project has gone public, we might as well solicit readers to suggest titles.

    How about “Rode to Dover” – a play on words of the famous “Road to Morocco”, as a tribute to the late Dorothy Lamour.

  19. #19 Wesley R. Elsberry
    April 1, 2006

    On the theory that 90% of everything is crud, here’s a few shovels full… One of them I got from Ed. If you can figure out how to shine any of these up, or get to something better, drop a comment.

    A Panda for the Suing
    101 Uses for a Dead Ideology
    Too Late the Panda
    The Call of the Grackle
    One Panda Flew Over Dover
    The Last of the Pandas
    Pride and Pandas
    Night of the Panda
    A Panda in the Dark
    Valley of the Panda People
    Return of the Panda People
    Inherit the Windbags
    Gone With the Windbags
    Winds of Dover
    A Panda Falls in Dover
    Nightmare in Dover
    The Truth About Pandas
    The Truth About Kitzmiller
    The Panda Showdown
    The Panda Brief
    When Pandas Go Bad
    Dover Turning
    Decision at Dover
    That Was for Practice
    Mark Twain Was Right
    The Dover Diary
    I Heard the Panda Call My Name
    Land of the Panda
    A Panda By Any Other Name
    A Panda of Their Own
    Dover Divided
    Dover Revisited
    The Judge and the Panda
    Tried and Found Wanting
    The Case of the Pious Panda
    The Case of the Perilous Panda
    The Case of the Perjured Panda
    The Case of the Deceiving Panda
    The Turn of the Panda
    Dover: Reflection of Anytown, USA
    Forty Days of Dover
    A Panda’s Day in Court
    Designs on Dover
    The Panda’s Progress
    A Little Loss of Liberty
    A Farewell to Dover
    The Panda Masters
    The Painted Panda
    Deception in Dover
    A Designed Deception in Dover
    Dover Deceived

    OK, I think I’ve had enough fun for the moment.

  20. #20 Gretchen
    April 1, 2006

    That’s fantastic! I’m so excited for you.

  21. #21 cpurrin1
    April 1, 2006

    You clearly have enough book title options, but I can’t help but try to push “Pandamoanium”.

  22. #22 Corkscrew
    April 1, 2006

    Wes: “Designs on Dover” ain’t bad, the only worry being that casual browsers will respond with “where the heck is Dover?”

    I’d go for something that is more descriptive about the situation – specifically the fact that the entire reason we had the trial was because a bunch of creationist nutjobs were attempting to do an end-run round the laws keeping them out of the science classroom. It probably shouldn’t just rely on words like “Dover” and “intelligent design” that only mean anything to those who already know about the situation. Using “creationism” would be much better.

    How about something like “Subversion: the defeat of the new Creationism”?

    Good luck with the book – I’ll be sure to get a copy when it comes out.

  23. #23 Matthew
    April 1, 2006

    Congratulations. You probably have more than enough blog posts to fill a book of essays on any number of topics. I’ve heard of some people doing this, actually.

  24. #24 Corkscrew
    April 1, 2006

    Ooh! Ooh! How about “Unintelligent Decline”!

    Probably not a good title for a book, but I couldn’t resist…

  25. #25 Ed Brayton
    April 1, 2006

    Wes-

    No more coffee for you!

  26. #26 Leni
    April 1, 2006

    Inherit the Windbags…

    ROFL!

    Oh it’s perfect!

  27. #27 386sx
    April 1, 2006

    How about these ones:

    “Leave It To Dover”

    “Late Night With Dover Letterman”

    “D*O*V*E*R”

  28. #28 386sx
    April 1, 2006

    How’s this one:

    “Dispatches From The Culture Dover”