The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America by Lauri Lebo
This was an impulse read. I suppose it might be odd that I chose to read about a evolution/intelligent design court case on impulse, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The book was mentioned in passing during an interview I watched with actor John de Lancie (“Q” on Star Trek: The Next Generation). De Lancie is a secular activist and has been working on a play based on the trial.
The trial is Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Basically, in the early 2000s, some members of the Dover Area School Board sought to add creationism (later, intelligent design) to the local public school’s science curriculum while downplaying the validity of evolution. Some parents of students had a problem with this, seeing it as a violation of division of church and state. The teaching of creationism in public schools had already been ruled against: creationism is seen to be a religion-based concept that furthers only a specific religion. The crux of Kitzmiller v. Dover came down to whether intelligent design is an actual scientific theory not based in any religious (Christian) faith and whether the proposed addition constituted as “teaching.” The judge ruled for the parents in a 139 page decision.
Lauri Lebo is a Pennsylvania native and was a local reporter during trial. The Devil in Dover is about the trial and the events leading up to it, but also focuses on relationships between people on both sides of the issue, her own relationship with her fundamentalist Christian father, and her shift away from religion. Many of the people involved in the case were neighbors and most were Christians, though not necessarily of the same denomination. There was also libel and potential perjury on the part of the defendants, which is not a good look for people who claim to be interested in the souls of others.
The Devil in Dover was published in 2009, but there are aspects of it that still seem very relevant. Lebo states near the beginning of the book that she believes 9/11 changed the US in a bad way. That it made it easy to embrace an “us against them” attitude where “they” are evil even when they are your literal or figurative neighbors. I’m not sure I entirely buy the notion that the change occurred particularly after 9/11, but it’s baffling to me how much division there has been when we really needed to be united.