From Publishers Weekly
Chapman, Charles Darwin's great-great grandson and a successful Hollywood screenwriter, describes the 2005 intelligent design (ID) trial in Dover, Pa. The native-born Brit loves his adopted American home, but is terrified at the rise of a belligerent fundamentalism that seems to him invincibly ignorant and contemptuous of such scientific commonplaces as evolution. The 40 days and nights of the trial convince him that ID should indeed be taught in every science classroom in America: as an exercise in removing the kid gloves with which religion is treated in this country, science teachers should demolish ID before their pupils' eyes. The strength of the book is its function as an old-fashioned courtroom drama, which stays lively even as readers know how the trial will turn out. Chapman rightly describes himself as unable to "maintain animosity toward people with whom I violently disagree once I get to know them." He even checks his own agnosticism to compliment Jesuit theologian John Haught for having "the most beautiful mind in the whole trial." Chapman's exploration of the American soul finds not only cause for fear but also much that is good and decent. The book bogs down in forays into theology, which are marked by egregious misstatements about evangelicals in general (as opposed to just in Dover), and with a side story paralleling Dover with the Scopes monkey trial, which feels like a clunky addendum. (Apr.)
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Charles Darwin's great-great-grandson offers the second 2007 book--the first: Edward Humes' Monkey Girl--
, the 2005 federal trial of a public school board's stab at getting evolution-aversive intelligent design (ID) into the high-school science curriculum. Chapman is glad the board lost yet maintains that ID ought to be in the classroom, anyway, so that real science can shoot it down like in the courtroom. Fortunately, his flaky opinion follows a bang-up job of reporting the trial. A movie writer-director by trade, and unimpaired by higher education, Chapman is a raconteur of a writer who treats informants sympathetically and congenially (he interviewed many trial principals afterward) and addresses readers as comrades. No match for Humes at historical and scientific backgrounding, he edits the trial testimony masterfully as well as obviously, telling whom and what he omits. Despite his tasteless digs at large Catholic families, such as those of the board's legal team, and breathtaking ignorance (or casuistry) about Evangelical Christians, he will please more readers than Humes will. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved