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Devil in Dover, The: A Journalist's Story of Dogma V. Darwin in Small-town America Hardcover – 26 Jun 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: THE NEW PRESS; First Edition, First Printing edition (26 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595582088
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595582089
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,926,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Vallo Dee on 19 July 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in one sitting. For an English person it is hard to understand how anyone can believe in creationist nonsense and not accept evolution as a fact. Lauri Lebo explains. She gives the background of religion in her country and make the characters live. They sometimes command sympathy whilst one still vehemently disagrees with them.
Lauri has shown the arguments for both sides and makes it clear how easy it is to have a working knowledge of evolution and to see the falsity of intelligent design aka creationism. She also makes an exciting narrative of courtroom drama against the background of fundamental differences of religious belief with her own father.
I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone. It is compassionate and eyeopening at the same time.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David W. Straight on 13 July 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: Paperback
I was already familiar with the story from the 2 hour pbs Nova documentary about the Dover case. This is a very well written engaging book on a terrific subject.

I can't quite get my head around the fact that 48% of Americans think evolution is hogwash.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 42 reviews
71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
reporting at its best 11 July 2008
By David W. Straight - Published on Amazon.com
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.

There's a lot of disillusionment for Lebo--seeing reporters she knows and respects accused of lying about what was said at school board meetings and threatened with jail--defamation by supposedly Christian people who claimed the Bible as their guide, but who showed no hesitation in committing perjury for their cause. Lebo remembers asking herself plaintively "How can they lie like that in Christ's name?" When videotape contradicts sworn testimony, you have a problem, as Judge Jones certainly did. There's a wealth of detail about the testimony on both sides, and the view of the community is compelling reading. A fine book, powerfully told!
89 of 97 people found the following review helpful
At home in Dover 6 May 2008
By Gary S. Hurd - Published on Amazon.com
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.
105 of 121 people found the following review helpful
A Remarkable, Poignant, and Vivid Account of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Trial as Told By a Local Journalist 5 May 2008
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
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. Furthermore, had sixty copies of Intelligent Design "textbook" "Of Pandas and People" appeared suddenly in the school's library, I am certain that some enterprising students might have used them in a "scientific experiment" testing their buoyancy in the briny waters of the Hudson River (For an insightful look at Stuyvesant High School itself, I strongly encourage readers to buy my friend Alec Klein's "A Class Apart", which is available for purchase here at Amazon.com. In the interest of full disclosure, both Klein and I are fellow alumni of Stuyvesant High School and Brown University.).

Located in the southeastern corner of the state of Pennsylvania, the small rural town of Dover is not New York City; its high school, Dover High School, probably doesn't come close to matching Stuyvesant's celebrated academic excellence. Nor does the town of Dover resemble, even remotely, New York City's cosmopolitan religious and ethnic diversity. Instead, Dover is located in Pennsylvanian Dutch country, and, like much of the United States, part of a Fundamentalist Protestant Christian "Bible Belt" in which most of its citizens are devout Christians who strongly believe in the Bible's literal truth, and they regard, with ample suspicion and hostility, an "atheistic" idea like Darwin's Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection. In such an environment, it isn't surprising that former Dover Area School District board members Bonsell and Buckingham succeeded in persuading the board to adopt a policy sympathetic to the teaching of Intelligent Design. However, it is surprising that they did so contrary to the wishes of Dover High School's science faculty, who clearly understood that theirs was a deceitful effort towards introducing a religious doctrine (Intelligent Design) into the high school's 9th grade biology classrooms. Indeed, much later, at the conclusion of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, Judge John E. Jones III would harshly condemn the Dover Area School District board for ignoring the sound advice of these teachers and acting against their wishes.

Among the many reporters covering the six week-long Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial in the Fall of 2005, the finest included several local reporters, such as York Daily Record's education reporter Lauri Lebo, whose "beat" covered the First Amendment issues raised by the Dover Area School Board's advocacy of Intelligent Design. Now, in "The Devil in Dover", Lauri Lebo has written a terse, but quite compelling, personal account of the trial, told from the perspective of someone who knew many of those involved in the unfolding legal drama (For example, she mentions Bill Buckingham in the acknowledgements section of her book, still counting him as a friend simply because of their mutual admiration for bluegrass music and his excellence as a raconteur.). It is an intensely personal account, since Lebo had to wrestle with personal demons, both during and after the trial, hoping to reconcile herself to her father, a "Born Again" Fundamentalist Protestant Christian, and the owner of the local radio station devoted exclusively to "Christian" programming. It is also a splendidly written account, replete with a simple, almost poetic, prose style, that could remind readers of Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" in its sincerity. It is also the most riveting account I have read yet of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial, and one which deserves to take its place alongside Edward Humes' "Monkey Girl" and Matthew Chapman's "40 Days and 40 Nights" as the finest books published so far on the trial itself.

Lebo quickly introduces us to those on the Dover Area School District board like Bonsell and Buckingham, who were passionately advocating Intelligent Design, without making a serious effort in trying to understand it and in determining whether it was truly a "viable" scientific alternative to contemporary evolutionary theory. Indeed, I am delighted that Lebo also provides a remarkably complete summary of the origins of the Intelligent Design movement, mentioning briefly the now infamous "Wedge Document", whose crypto-Fascist objectives included the successful introduction of Intelligent Design "theory" into science classrooms throughout the United States; her coverage only lacks the ample detail and insightful analysis of the movement that is found in Edward Humes' "Monkey Girl". She suggests that the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks evoked a strong spiritual reawakening among many Americans, especially those in Dover, creating a political and cultural atmosphere which led inexorably to a school board quite sympathetic to the teaching of Intelligent Design in Dover High School's science classrooms, even if its members were only vaguely familiar with its principal tenets like the concept of "Irreducible Complexity". Hers is an appealing, quite compelling, argument, but one I am quite skeptical of, for several reasons, the least of which is recognizing that Intelligent Design creationism and other kinds of creationism had enjoyed ample support among Fundamentalist Protestant Christians long before the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. I had known people like Alan Bonsell and Bill Buckingham many years before, as a Brown University undergraduate, within its Campus Crusade for Christ campus chapter membership; many of its leaders were friends, with whom I had much in common politically, while ignoring our radically divergent interests in science and religion. Indeed, I became the "token" "Darwinist" on an "Ad Hoc Committee on Origins" which sponsored a "Creation Science vs. Evolution" debate held at Brown's hockey rink, between Henry Morris, the president of the San Diego-based Institute for Creation Research, and Ken Miller, a young assistant professor of biology, who had recently returned to his undergraduate alma mater (The debate resembled a religious revival meeting of the kind described so vividly by Lebo, since most of those present were from Fundamentalist Protestant Christian churches in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.).

It is clear from Lebo's compelling saga that the Dover Area School District board, led by the likes of Bonsell and Buckingham, was "boldly going" where no other school board had gone before, in its blatant effort at injecting Christianity into Dover High School science classrooms during the summer and fall of 2004. A board that was ignoring not only the educational guidance provided by veteran teacher Berta Spahr and her Dover High School science colleagues, but also defying the wishes of its own attorneys, who recognized the potentially perilous course that the board was undertaking towards a potential First Amendment lawsuit against itself. Not only a potential First Amendment lawsuit, but also potential charges of perjury loomed, after several board members, including Bonsell and Buckingham, denied under oath that "creationism" was discussed at several acrimonious board meetings, which were covered by two of Lebo's York Daily Record colleagues and another journalist from a local television station. They also refused to admit, again under oath, how sixty copies of the Intelligent Design textbook "Of Pandas and People" were purchased from money raised via a "private" church donation. Lebo deftly switches back and forth between the board's shenanigans to the potential interest shown in its activities from the National Center for Science Education, the Discovery Institute, and the Thomas More Law Center, whose attorneys would serve as the board's principal defense attorneys during the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial.

Without question, the most riveting portions of "The Devil in Dover" are Lebo's extensive recollections of the trial testimony itself. Reading her version of events during Ken Miller's cross examination by defense attorney Patrick Gillen and Intelligent Design advocate Michael Behe's bizarre exchanges with lead plaintiff attorney Eric Rothschild over the very definition of science and the evolutionary implications of immunology, one is left indelibly with a strong impression of how important these testimonies were in Judge Jones' well-reasoned, and well-stated, decision; a decision that was not replete with instances of "plagiarism" and "judicial activism" - as many Intelligent Design creationists and other creationists have contended frequently here at Amazon.com, their own websites like Bill Dembski's Uncommon Descent, and elsewhere - but instead, a brilliant legal document which underscored Jones' keen understanding of what constituted valid science - contemporary evolutionary theory - and why Intelligent Design was really a fraudulent idea whose primary aim was to inject "Christian" religious values into science classrooms. Yet the "missing link" that tied Intelligent Design to religion, was unearthed by philosopher Barbara Forrest in a brilliant piece of detective work; her courtroom testimony may be the most compelling that I have read from any of the books devoted to this trial.

In "The Devil in Dover", Lauri Lebo demonstrates how she became a committed journalist interested in reporting only the truth, ignoring the pleas from her editors to offer "balance" between the opposing sides. A commitment for which she paid dearly in losing the trust and respect of her father, and then, finally, her decades-old job as a local newspaper reporter. But a superb commitment in support of the truth that we, the public, should salute Lauri Lebo for her ample courage and determination in putting an end to "The Devil in Dover". Hers is a book which deserves a wide readership, especially since the Discovery Institute is still aggressively pursuing its crypto-Fascist Wedge Strategy, as though it was some latter day group of Visigoths, Vandals and Huns, seeking to destroy all that is noble and just in Western Civilization. Oddly enough, by mere coincidence, not by "Intelligent Design", it is being published mere weeks after the debut of Ben Stein's pathetic cinematic mendacious intellectual pornography, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed", which contends that there is a virulent mainstream scientific "witch hunt" against Intelligent Design advocates, and equates most odiously, "Darwinism" with Nazism. "The Devil in Dover" also deserves ample critical acclaim as one of the best books published this year; it is truly a spellbinding affirmation of my apt description of Intelligent Design as mendacious intellectual pornography.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Journalists' Dilemma - How to Give Balanced Coverage To Unbalanced Views 27 July 2008
By The Spinozanator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
A must read 20 Jun 2008
By Concerned reporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a good book. But more than that, it's an important and necessary book.

As a journalist myself, I was particularly disturbed by the actions that Ms. Lebo describes on the part of her newspaper's management. According to her account, they pressured her to soft-pedal the defendants' obvious lies in her coverage, and to refrain from taking part in a conference dealing with the issue of evolution.

Their concern, apparently, was that she would appear too "partisan" in a case where one side was clearly lying. Ms. Lebo suggests that the real issue was a reluctance on the part of her newspaper's ownership to anger fundamentalist readers.

This kind of pandering is all too widespread in the modern news media, and has implications that go far beyond the teaching of evolution.

Think about the years in which tobacco companies tried to deny a link between smoking and cancer, bolstered by a handful of disreputable scientists-for-hire who vainly attempted to contradict a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Think of the parties who still insist that global warming doesn't exist, for purely financial and political reasons.

Scientific facts are not subjective opinions, which news stories are obliged to counterbalance with the views of somebody who simply feels differently. They are either supported by credible evidence, or they are not.

Too many news outlets don't acknowledge that distinction. At best, they simply don't understand it. At worst, they willfully ignore it out of sheer intimidation and call it "objectivity."

The irony, of course, is that intentionally distorting the truth is the very opposite of objectivity. Until newspaper owners understand that, they'll never effectively meet their obligations to keep members of the public informed and empowered.

Fortunately, some courageous journalists like Ms. Lebo are still around to point that out.
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