40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin®, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania

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9780061179457: 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin®, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania

In this fascinating story of evolution, religion, politics, and personalities, Matthew Chapman captures the story behind the headlines in the debate over God and science in America

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Board of Education, decided in late 2005, a Republican judge rendered a surprising verdict in a case that pitted the teaching of intelligent design (sometimes known as "creationism in a lab coat") against the teaching of evolution. Taking place in a small Pennsylvania school district, the case had national repercussions, all the way up to President Bush, who said he believed intelligent design should be taught as "an alternative theory" to evolution.

Matthew Chapman, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, spent several months covering the trial from beginning to end. Through his in-depth encounters with the participants—creationists, preachers, teachers, scientists on both sides of the issue, lawyers, theologians, the judge, and the eleven parents who resisted the fundamentalist proponents of intelligent design—Chapman tells a sometimes terrifying, often hilarious, and above all moving story of ordinary people doing battle in America over the place of religion and science in modern life.

Written with a filmaker's eye for character and detail, and including insights only a descendent of Darwin could bring forth, Chapman paints an entertaining, yet disturbing picture of America today.

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About the Author:

Matthew Chapman is the author of Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir. He is also a film director and screenwriter whose writing credits include Consenting Adults and Runaway Jury. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.

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.)
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