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The Devil in Dover: An Insider's Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America Hardcover – May 13, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A brilliant account of the ‘intelligent design’ case in Dover . . . by a first-rate journalist." —Howard Zinn

"Both fascinating and moving. . . . [Lebo] thoughtfully probes one of America’s most divisive cultural conflicts—and the responsibilities journalists have when covering such a controversial story." —Religion Dispatches

"Engaging and richly textured . . . a compelling narrative. " —The Patriot News(Harrisburg)

"[Lebo] took care with both the politics and the science of the Dover case." —Carl Zimmer, science journalist

Review

"Lebo combines the dramas of family and courtroom into an engrossing story, trading illusions of journalistic objectivity for hard-won personal truths . . . paints a national pastime in living, local color."
--Alternet --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595582088
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595582089
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Straight on July 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a powerful and wonderfully-told story--but in many ways it's a very sad story. Lebo points out that Pennsylvania has one of the strongest religious freedom constitutional guarantees in the country. This states (in part) "no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship." After the decision, the right and the Christian right--or rather, I should say, those who like to call themselves the Christian right--bitterly assailed the judge as an "activist" working against the constitution, and the plaintiffs and much of the media for being anti-God.

Lebo was a local person: she knew many of the people. She has integrity, which as she relates, often worked to her detriment in the trial. Her boss seemed very concerned at times: he wanted Lebo's reporting to make it seem as if the drama that was playing out in the courtroom was going equally well for both sides, when clearly such was not the case. Maybe the sports section would have had a headline "Penn State Slips Past Dover State 92-0", although the Dover trial was not quite that lopsided [63-3 is more realistic, perhaps]. Lebo describes her father, a fundamentalist, who often makes the same joke about the ACLU being the "American Communist Lawyers Union", a minister who believes that anyone who does not accept the entire Bible literally cannot ever be called a Christian, and others on both sides. Many of the plaintiffs showed great courage--vituperative attacks on their children at school, death threats, and the like. So what you get is a very personal view of the case--something virtually impossible for an outsider to achieve.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I received my copy of Lauri Lebo's "The Devil in Dover" last night, and I am sorry that I have finished it. It was a fast read. Lebo's work stands out among the other books written about the Dover Panda Trial for the strongly personal nature of the book. This stems from both her familiarity with all the Dover locals, but even more personally, agnostic Lebo uses the trial as a mirror to her personal relationship to her fundamentalist father and doing so illuminates both. After the trial was over and the news vans packed off to the next story, Lebo stayed because Dover is her home, and "The Devil in Dover" is as much her story as any other participants.

If you are more interested in a book that places intelligent design and the Dover trial in the context of America's struggle over creationism and science, Edward Humes, "Monkey Girl" (2007 New York: Harper Collins) will probably be more to your liking. And Matthew Chapman's 2007 book, "40 Days and 40 Nights" (New York: Harper Collins), has a clearer focus on the legal machinations. But neither of them can come close to Lebo's understanding of the Dover school board's character, the plaintiff parents or the citizens of Dover.
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Format: Hardcover
If Fundamentalist Protestant Christian religious zealots Alan Bonsell and Bill Buckingham had sought to introduce the teaching of Intelligent Design in the biology classrooms of New York City's Stuyvesant High School, then theirs would have been an utterly spectacular failure, recognized by many as a blatantly brazen attempt in injecting religion into science classrooms. Why? Though in recent years Stuyvesant High School may be better known as the high school where best-selling memoirist Frank McCourt taught English and creative writing for nearly two decades, the school itself has a nearly century-old reputation as America's foremost high school devoted to the sciences, mathematics and engineering; the prestigious alma mater of such distinguished alumni as the late Joshua Lederberg - one of the school's four Nobel Prize laureate alumni - former president of Rockefeller University and a leading pioneer of molecular biology, mathematician and University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer, political pundit Dick Morris, molecular biologist Eric Lander, leader of one of the two teams which sequenced successfully the human genome, and physicists Brian Greene and Lisa Randall. Neither its principal (who has vowed in public that Intelligent Design will never be taught there as long as he serves), nor its faculty, nor its parents would have permitted it.Read more ›
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The lead attorney and the lead defendant appeared disinterested during the infamous Dover trial. Attorney Thompson didn't brighten up until his daily exit from the courtroom, when he became alive - playing to the press about how successful that day was. Defendant Bonsell just smirked most of the time - a higher power had already told him he was right. Thompson was willing to accept this defeat for the ultimate fight where his side would be vindicated - The Supreme Court. Unfortunately for him, the voters in Dover kicked out the defendant school board. There's no way the new board would appeal the decision.

The author, a journalist with a local newspaper, made friends with witnesses and participants on both sides. A Dover home town girl, her fundamentalist father's biggest worry was whether she was going to go to heaven. Several times each week, they managed superficial talk about the trial, each favoring a different side. Meanwhile, she was torn between an assumed journalist's creed - that both sides be presented - versus this situation, where one side carried all the logic and the other was full of deceit and misrepresentation. She asked herself whether a journalist should have to grant intelligent design equal status with evolution when only 1-2% of mainstream scientists consider ID to be a science. Was it fair for her boss at the newspaper to pressure her to change her daily news stories about the trial when the obvious truth was, the plantiffs had a convincing case and the defendants - those who weren't just deluded - were lying?

This is a gripping story about the modern version of the Scopes trial with a personal touch by the author. Her dad died while the trial played itself out, never getting the satisfaction of seeing his (mostly) agnostic children see the "truth."

DB
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