Incidentally, I think Kevin Padian gets things just about right in his review of the three books on the Dover trial. For the record, the three books are Monkey Girl, by Edward Humes, 40 Days and 40 Nights by Matthew Chapman, and The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything, by Gordy Slack.
Here’s Padian’s summary:
All three books are entertaining and informative reads; on balance the nod goes to Humes for his comprehensive account, although Slack is concise and readable. Another book on the trial, by local reporter Lauri Lebo, is due out next year. It promises even more lively details of this perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violation and the never-ending assault on American science education.
Having met Lauri Lebo during my foray to the Creation Museum last month, I am likewise looking forward to her book. As for the current three, I would probably go just a little bit further than Padian in praising Humes over his competitors. I felt his was the best of the three by a considerable margin. I reviewed Humes’ book in more depth here.
I liked Slack’s book as well. After describing a screening of a Kent Hovind video, Slack writes:
The talk is lively, but it’s fair to say, I think, that we are all demoralized. Eyal Press is a populist who writes eloquently and with dignity about the disenfranchised and overlooked parts of America; his articles always go beyond knee-jerk observations to the experience of real Americans. Press had hoped to gain some insight tonight about the character behind the caricature of the evangelical anti-evolutionist. I was looking for something similar, a way to dramatize the humanity of a group that most Salon.com, Nation, and Harper’s readers are too happy to dismiss as mindless bigots.
The problem was, as afar as we could tell, the anti-evolution crowd at the firehouse was about as bigoted and as mindless as they come. If they represent the evangelical movement that put President Bush in power, and it heir numbers are as big and their influence is rising as fast as we hear, what hope is there that America can fin dits way through the ever-thornier thicket of ethical, political, environmental, and technological problems we face? (95)
That pretty well summarizes my own thoughts on the subject. Back when creationism and fundamentalist Christianity were things I only read about in magazines, I was inclined to think it was a more complicated phenomenon than the caricature presented. But after attending a few creationist conferences and moving to a part of the country in which that sort of Christianity was a major force, I changed my tune.
Chapman’s book was the most disappointing of the three. He goes too far, in my view, to try to present the Dover School Board members in a sympathetic way. And much of his prose, regrettably, is rather flat.
On the other hand, for someone on my side of this issue it would be pretty difficult to write a bad book on the trial. I just never get tired of reading about how Michael Behe was humiliated under cross-examination. I think I would even enjoy reading a pro-ID book on the subject. I mean, their defeat was so decisive and unambiguous that it would be fun to see the level of spin required to present things any other way.