Padian reviews Kitzmiller books


Paleontologist Kevin Padian reviews (subscription required) three books about Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which teaching "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools was found to be unconstitutional, in the July 19, 2007, issue of Nature (448: 253-254). "A gullible and obstinate school board in the middle of Pennsylvania's rolling hills was just crazy enough to buy [intelligent design]," he writes, "and that was the start of the now-famous Dover case." Summarizing the different approaches of the books, Padian explains:

The author of 40 Days and 40 Nights, Matthew Chapman, is a great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin; his presumed vested interest in the proceedings is tempered by his own history as a school dropout, a movie screenwriter and a Brit with a perpetually bemused view of colonial antics. Still, his odyssey is a fulfilling one, and he seems genuine enough to get himself invited into many homes where insights and passions run deep. Gordy Slack, author of The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything and an experienced science writer and editor, likewise brings his own family baggage (his father is a staunch fundamentalist) to his account, but his reporting is more linear and his background research deeper. Edward Humes in Monkey Girl is even more scholarly and thorough in his approach, and contextualizes the trial historically. Unlike Chapman and Slack, he does not insert himself into his narrative, but his views of the proceedings are no less clear.
Padian praises all three of the books as "entertaining and informative," giving the nod to Humes's Monkey Girl on account of its comprehensiveness; he also mentions a fourth book, by local reporter Laurie Lebo, to appear on the trial, which, he says, "promises even more lively details of this perfect storm of religious intolerance, First Amendment violation and the never-ending assault on American science education."

The president of NCSE's board of directors, Padian himself testified on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller trial; in his decision, Judge Jones commented, "Dr. Padian's demonstrative slides, prepared on the basis of peer-reviewed scientific literature, illustrate how Pandas systematically distorts and misrepresents established, important evolutionary principles." A transcript of his expert witness testimony in the trial, complemented with the slides that he displayed in the courtroom, is available on-line.