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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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Top Customer Reviews
The trial itself was a melange of expert witnesses on both sides. It was revealed just how deceit was used by those professing belief in ID as actual science. But all science relies on factual experiments, observations and conclusions and ID was found lacking in these science requirements that are needed to justify teaching it in ant science classroom. And so the judge ruled.
The flavor of this book comes from the portraits of the townspeople involved in the contest and those who wished it would all go way because the trial had gone national because of the issues involved. Touches of humor spice the narrative from time to time. The book represents theongoing disputes about religion and science and the choice of what is to be taught in public school to our children: the Bible or science.
But much of that information, while fascinating, lacked the narrative quality that a screenwriter like Chapman could bring to the story. I decided to buy this book along with Gordy Slack's "The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything" to fill in some gaps in my knowledge and to try and understand the roles played by the Thomas More Law Center, the Discovery Institute, and the members of the Dover Board of Education. I was very happy that I did.
Chapman is a decendent of Charles Darwin; a great-great grandson, in fact. He is also a screenwriter and his method of telling a story borrows the flashback idea from the movies. Occasionally, he'll pull some piece of information about a past event and bring it into current time in a manner that can be entertaining but, at times, annoying.
His writing skill is first-rate and he has the flair of a novelist. For example, he writes "If the plaintiffs' legal team was a well-oiled collegial machine, the defense was a dysfunctional family with a frequently absent father". You don't get the sense that you are reading an account from a daily newspaper with a quip like that.
However, I sometimes felt that if I had not made myself aware of a good deal of the background information concerning this case prior to reading his book, that I might feel, if not lost, that at least I was missing something. For that reason and for the disorienting flashback technique, I gave the book a 4-star rating - his storytelling ability would be worth 5-stars in my opinion.
I enjoyed this book a little bit more than Gordy Slack's, though they cannot be directly compared as they approach the subject in quite different ways. Slack sounds, at times, like a guy writing for the Huffington Post, rather than a former editor of a natural history magazine. I say that with affection. His chapter on "Assembling Goliath", the pooling of elite resources by the plaintiffs' team, made me feel like I was watching Eisenhower discuss the invasion plans with his staff. Chapman, however, went to the current event and filled in whatever background info he chose to as the narrative of the trial moved along.
Read in tandem, the two books give you a good sense of the trial, the outcome, the implications for years to come. Each is a very well-told tale.
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.