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40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, Oxycontin®, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania Paperback – Bargain Price, March 25, 2008
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Charles Darwin's great-great-grandson offers the second 2007 book--the first: Edward Humes' Monkey Girl--about Kitzmiller v. Dover, 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 Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The cover itself seems to advertize a work of pulp fiction, not an entertaining account of a trial with historic implications. It's reference to " . . . Oxycontin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania" is not only false, but unnecessary; the actual content of the book would be its best advertisement.
Another reviewer has commented on the hilariously unflattering photo of the author, which implies that the publisher does not take this book seriously. And a firmer editorial hand might have spared us such phrases as the Center for Thought and Ethics having provided certain documents "thoughtfully and ethically," and a book with a panda on the cover being referred to as "unbearable."
Apart from the general cutesiness of the author's attempts at puns, the account of the trial and its aftermath make for entertaining and informative reading.
But the final chapter, in which Chapman argues that Intelligent Design should be taught in schools so that its falsity can be demonstrated is tedious. Worse, Chapman apparently fails to appreciate the irony: he is, in essence, arguing FOR the first step of the "wedge strategy" advocated by the Discovery Institute, that is, to "Teach the Controversy," thus elevating "Intelligent Design" to a level apparently competitive with evolution. Given Chapman's obvious viewpoint expressed in the book, his failure to appreciate the implications of his final disquisition is disappointing. Not to mention that demonstrating the falsity of Intelligent Design in athe classroom might well run afoul of the Establishment clause of the Constitution.
40 Days and 40 Nights has the appearance of having been rushed into print with little attention to serious editing. The publisher should be embarrassed.
This third reason is what seperates this book from the several others profiling the "battle of intelligent design versus science." As other reviewers point out, books like Edward Humes's "Monkey Girl" and Gordy Sack's "Battle Over the Meaning of Everything" may be more journalistic, this book explores the characters. Chapman seems to have a face-to-face with every major (and minor) player on all sides.
Beyond this, Chapman himself notes, "One of my chief defects - or better qualities, I'm not sure which - is that I find it almost impossible to maintain animosity toward people with whom I violently disagree once I get to know them." (loc. 490, Kindle edition) No matter how judgmental and acerbic Chapman can be - and he is both, strongly pro-evolution - Chapman paints all characters in as fair a light as possible. (One of the best parts comes later in the book, where Chapman reveals the very human side of Bill Buckingham, the perjurer and hot-headed leader of the Dover School Board that started the whole mess. You almost - ALMOST - empathize with the guy!)
If Chapman's book explores the more human Dover, it doesn't make for anywhere near the gripping blow-by-blow account of Edward Humes' or Gordy Sacks' books. Whereas those are very matter of fact and linear, this book jumps from spot to spot, intertwining scenes from the trial with scenes from the school-board meetings to philosophic rumination. The other two books are more snappy and journalistic in tone, whereas this one (for good or bad) is warmer in tone, which doesn't make for a page turner.
In the end, Chapman's book on a well-trodden subject DOES manage to set itself apart form the others by focusing on the characters more than the others. With Humes,' and Sacks' book (I have yet to read Lebo's), I feel like I understood the trial quite well. With this book, I feel like I understand Dover quite well.
Of all the chapters, I enjoyed Chapman's last best. Perhaps the contents of the other parts of his book had grown a little stale on me having read the other books, but I think that in the final chapter his reflections on the case and the history of fundamentalism, the sting it still carries in its tail, is short and well written; and certainly worth commiting to memory. I do enjoy his chapter "John Haught and the Teapot of Wisdom" very much. It was a detailed account of the cross-examination of the theologian John Haught, who was called as an expert by the plaintiffs. Finally, I think one of the earlier reviewers ("Dr GH") mentioned in his review that he did not find 'the "Of Pandas and People" gaff exposed by Barbara Forrest' mentioned in this book. I hope I can be helpful and refer to pages 140 to 142. It is in the chapter "Barbara Forrest and the Panda's Tale".