Four Stakes in the Heart of Intelligent Design


Writing in The New York Times (January 4, 2009), Charles McGrath reviewed a quartet of books relevant to the creationism/evolution controversy, described in the headline as "Four Stakes in the Heart of Intelligent Design." Beginning with Why Evolution is True (Viking, 2009), McGrath writes, "The author, Jerry A. Coyne, is not as eloquent as Richard Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould, probably the two most famous defenders of evolutionary theory, but in some ways he’s more informative about the basics, and he makes an unassailable case." Even though the scientific case for evolution is unassailable, controversies over the teaching of evolution continue; Lauri Lebo's The Devil in Dover (The New Press, 2008) relates the story of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. McGrath writes, "her account is both well informed and at times deeply ... personal: the whole time she was reporting the story, she was struggling with her own beliefs and also locked in argument with her father, who owned a fundamentalist Christian radio station." Testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller case was NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller, whose Only a Theory (Viking, 2008) "pretty much dismantles all the claims, such as they are, for the intelligent design movement. ... Miller also adds an impassioned argument for why the rest of us shouldn’t just turn our heads and let a few benighted school systems teach whatever they want." Finally, Peter J. Bowler's Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons (Harvard University Press, 2007) provides a historical background to the controversy: "Bowler thinks that if we understand the history of the debate better we might be able to depolarize it," McGrath ruefully concludes, "but that may be too much to hope."