—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.
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.
A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2007 edition of Education Week