Published Online: June 5, 2007
Published in Print: June 6, 2007, as New in Print

Book Review

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Intelligent Reading

"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

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Read the accompanying story, “Also of Note”

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).


Related Reading

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

by 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?”


Adolescents

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 “teenager” entered common parlance only in the 1940s. But Savage, a broadcaster and writer on popular culture, contends that much of what we associate with modern teenagers—emotional volatility, delinquency, consumerism, 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: consumption-driven and quintessentially American.

Out Law: What LGBT Youth Should Know About Their Legal Rights

by Lisa Keen (Beacon Press, www.beacon.org; 176 pp., $13 paperback).
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 young women.


Language Arts

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 paperback).
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 this fascination 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

by Seth Lerer (Columbia University Press, www.columbia.edu/cu/cup/; 320 pp., $24.95 hardback).
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

by Richard Watson Todd (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, www.nicholasbrealey.com; 156 pp., $16.95 hardback).
Dissects many of the language’s peculiarities.


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

by Bertha von Marenholtz-Bülow (New Press, www.thenewpress.com; 288 pp., $18.95 paperback).
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

by Maxine Greene (New Press, www.thenewpress.com; 192 pp., $17.95 paperback).
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

by Angelo Patri (New Press, www.thenewpress.com; 160 pp., $17.95 paperback).
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

by Scott Nearing (New Press, www.thenewpress.com; 288 pp., $18.95 paperback).
A celebrated educator, peace activist, and leader of the back-to-the-land movement shares his views on schooling, first published in 1915.

Vol. 26, Issue 39, Pages 30-31

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