The great Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin once wrote — or, rather, sighed — that “creationism is an American institution.”
As an institution, creationism has crossed social strata as easily as it crosses decades. Despite all that science and secularism can do to explain it away, the crusade against evolution — the foundation of modern biology — is as intransigent, and strangely modern in its anti-modernism, as ever. The actor-author-documentarian-presidential speechwriter Ben Stein, with his movie Expelled, has become only the latest in the long line of its media-savvy critics. Today, around half of all Americans prefer creationism, in some form, to the scientific consensus.
Few know this better than Lauri Lebo, author of The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America. When the trial over intelligent design theory in Dover, Pennsylvania, caught the attention of the world, Lebo was the lead local reporter covering the case. For her, the controversy was personal as well as professional; as the trial unfolded, she struggled to come to terms with the impending death of her Pentacostal father, desperate for assurance that he would see her in the creationist-only hereafter. In The Devil in Dover, Lebo combines the dramas of family and courtroom into an engrossing story, trading illusions of journalistic objectivity for hard-won personal truths.