"One point on which anti-Darwinists and anti-creationists agree is that this
is a pitched battle between dogmatic religious fanatics on the one hand,
and rigorous, fair-minded scientists on the other. However, which side is
which depends on who you read."
—Nathaniel C. Comfort, from The Panda’s Black Box
The landmark court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which stemmed from a Pennsylvania school board’s decision to introduce students to the
concept of “intelligent design” in science class, concluded in late 2005 with a federal
judge’s resounding rejection of the district’s position. But the debate over whether
alternatives to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution should be taught in schools
continues unabated in print. Since the beginning of the year, no fewer than nine
books on evolution, intelligent design, creationism, and the disagreements between
their adherents have been published. Three of them focus exclusively on the
Kitzmiller case: 40 Days and 40 Nights, written by Darwin’s great-great-grandson;
The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything; and Monkey Girl (profiled in “New in Print” on Feb. 14 ). Another, The Edge of Evolution, is written by the trial’s primary
witness for the defense, Michael J. Behe, and builds on his 1996 book Darwin’s
Black Box, considered to be an essential text in the intelligent-design canon.
Two of the books take a historical approach—In the Beginning charts the
controversy’s path since the 1920s, and Darwin’s Origin of Species (profiled Feb. 14)
describes the composition of that groundbreaking work—while multiple viewpoints
on the current debate are presented in two collections of essays, Scientists Confront
Intelligent Design and Creationism and The Panda’s Black Box, which derives its
name from Behe’s earlier work and Of Pandas and People, an intelligent-design
textbook. One voice, meanwhile, attempts to bring about conciliation, that of the
theologically trained evolutionary biologist Francisco J.Ayala, in Darwin’s Gift to
Science and Religion. It remains to be seen, though, whether he will succeed,
particularly as the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth in 2009 draws nearer.
40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania
by Matthew Chapman (Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins, www.harpercollins.com
; 288 pp., $25.95 hardback).
The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design, and a School Board in Dover, Pa.
by Gordy Slack (Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley, www.josseybass.com
; 240 pp., $24.95 hardback).
The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism
by Michael J. Behe (Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, www.simonsays.com
; 336 pp., $28 hardback).
In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement
by Michael Lienesch (University of North Carolina Press, www.uncpress.unc.edu
; 352 pp., $34.95 hardback).
Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism
edited by Andrew J. Petto & Laurie R. Godfrey (W.W. Norton, www.wwnorton.com
; 416 pp., $27.95 hardback).
The Panda’s Black Box: Opening Up the Intelligent Design Controversy
edited by Nathaniel C. Comfort (Johns Hopkins University Press, www.press.jhu.edu
; 184 pp., $20 hardback).
Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion
by Francisco J. Ayala (Joseph Henry Press, an imprint of the National Academies Press, www.jhpress.org
; 256 pp., $24.95 hardback).
God on Trial: Dispatches From America’s Religious Battlefields
by Peter Irons (Viking, an imprint of Penguin, www.penguin.com
; 384 pp., $26.95 hardback).
The Kitzmiller trial is one of five conflicts
examined; also included are prayer at
school events and the words “under God”
in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Silenced! Academic Freedom, Scientific Inquiry, and the First Amendment Under Siege in America
Bruce E. Johansen (Praeger, an imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, www.praeger.com
; 216 pp., $49.95 hardback).
One of six chapters asks, “How intelligent is this design?”
Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture
by Jon Savage (Viking, an imprint of Penguin, www.penguin.com
; 576 pp., $29.95 hardback).
When placing the origin of the idea
of adolescence as a distinct age
range possessing its own customs
and mores, the post-World War II
period, with its poodle skirts and
sock hops, comes
readily to mind. After
all, the word
common parlance only
in the 1940s. But
Savage, a broadcaster
and writer on popular
culture, contends that much of
what we associate with modern
obsession with the present—could
be seen in youths across Europe
and in the United States in the late
Victorian era, as exemplified in
such works as Oscar Wilde’s The
Picture of Dorian Gray and J.M.
Barrie’s “Peter Pan.” The evolution
of adolescence makes up the
narrative of this book, which
examines the period from 1875 to
1945. Among the developments
Savage follows are the
militarization of teenagers, from
the Boy Scouts to the Hitler Youth;
growing links between adolescence,
idealism, and nonconformity; and
young people’s increasing
interaction with advertising and
mass culture. The latter would
prove especially influential, Savage
concludes, forming the basis of
today’s typical vision of youth, a
parallel of postwar Western society:
Out Law: What LGBT Youth Should Know About Their Legal Rights
A guide for gay teenagers on identifying and combating sexuality-based discrimination.
Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body
by Courtney E. Martin (Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, www.simonsays.com
; 352 pp., $25 hardback).
Reassesses eating disorders among
Spellbound: The Surprising Origins and Astonishing Secrets of English Spelling
by James Essinger
(Delta, an imprint of Random House, www.randomhouse.com
; 336 pp., $13
Showing up on Broadway, in movie
theaters, and on prime-time network
television, the subject
of spelling is enjoying
a resurgence in
popularity in the
United States. Part of
extends from society’s
affection for the
quirks and contradictions of written
English, speculates Essinger, a
linguist and author. In this book,
similar in style to Lynne Truss’ bestselling
punctuation guide Eats,
Shoots & Leaves, he traces the
language’s circuitous history over the past 1,500
years, from the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain
through to the invention of text-messaging. Along
the way, he considers the nature of writing itself
and the limitations of a phonetic, as opposed to a
symbol-based, system. (He points, for example, to
research indicating that children with dyslexia
may find Chinese easier to read than English.)
While Essinger acknowledges the potential
benefits of modernizing minor spelling
irregularities, he maintains that major reform or a
free-for-all approach would be a gross mistake and
“deprive us of the rich cultural heritage
represented by the current English spelling
system.” Interesting reading for language arts
teachers or anyone who has puzzled over the
vagaries of English spelling.
Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language
British and American English from
the seventh century through the present day.
Much Ado About English: Up and Down the Bizarre Byways of a Fascinating Language
Dissects many of the language’s
The New Press, a nonprofit publishing house specializing in educational,
cultural, and contemporary issues, is bringing several out-of-print books
considered to be classics in the field of progressive education back into
circulation, in a new series edited by the well-known writer and alternative
educator Herbert Kohl. The first two titles in the series, released this month,
are How Kindergarten Came to America, by Bertha von Marenholtz-Bülow, and The Public School and the Private Vision, by Maxine Greene. Two additional
titles planned for publication in December are A Schoolmaster of the Great
City, by Angelo Patri, and The New Education, by Scott Nearing.
How Kindergarten Came to America: Friedrich Froebel’s Radical Vision of Early Childhood Education
A description of kindergarten’s German creator. This is a reprint of the
1895 edition of Reminiscences of Friedrich Froebel, translated by Mary
Peabody Mann, the wife of the education reformer Horace Mann and a
key player in bringing kindergarten to the United States.
The Public School and the Private Vision: A Search for America in Education and Literature
An analysis of literature in relation to changes in American culture and
educational philosophy since the 1830s, first published in 1965. This
edition contains a new preface written by the author.
A Schoolmaster of the Great City: A Progressive Education Pioneer’s Vision for Urban Schools
An Italian-born New York City principal’s account of fostering cultural integration at a time of widespread immigration, first published in 1917.
The New Education: Progressive Education One Hundred Years Ago Today
A celebrated educator, peace activist, and leader of the back-to-the-land
movement shares his views on schooling, first published in 1915.