The Devil In Dover

It’s coming on four years since the beginning of what’s now called the Dover trial. Kitzmiller v. Dover, or the Intelligent Design trial. We’ve all had that time to digest the impact of the decision. Since then, our Most Holy of Presidents has left office, the radical right is rudderless, and fundamentalist Christians no longer have the ear of government. The “New Atheism” is all the rage, and Rush Limburger and Sean Vannity are sputtering in their cups. An outside observer could even, with some validity, point to Judge Jones’ 139 page opinion as a turning point in the cultural war that’s been raging for some twenty or so years. Of course, as long term wars are apt to do, it’s probably not something to get too excited about, being no more than a slight ebb to the flow of the battle. But one can hope, can’t one?

I recently read I book I want to highly recommend. In fact, the decision to buy the book was a throwaway impulse, caused by Amazon’s shipping fee policy if you spend more than $25 in an order, but I’m so glad that the policy is in place, if only this one time. The book is Lauri Lebo’s The Devil in Dover. It was delivered on Tuesday, and I finished it on Thursday, and I’m a slow reader. Lauri Lebo, at the time of the trial, was the reporter for the York Daily Record, a local paper situated in the county seat of the county in which the town of Dover lies, prior to the circumstances that gave rise to the trial. As the education reporter for the paper, she was apparently assigned to cover the 40 day trial. She did, and collected enough material, and more importantly, was so affected by the trial, that it resulted in this wonderfully written book.

I’m not sure I enjoyed the book because it was so good, or because I felt such a connection to it. I live in Harrisburg, attended the trial (one day only – some people have to work) and was positively affected by it in a similar fashion as she, with a lot of the same turmoil she describes. I became a card carrying member of the ACLU at that time as a result. Lebo’s father was a fundamentalist owner of a Christian radio station in the same town I attended parochial High School. I practice law in the Central Pennsylvania region, and am often in York.  I followed much of the trial by reading her dispatches, and the columns of her associate, Mike Argento. So the book really hit home for me.

On the other hand, the book is just that good.

What is so good about it is that, as opposed to other books which simply relate the trial in a straightforward historical context, Lebo makes it a personal memoir, weaving the trial in and out of the story of her metaphysical journey towards her own budding agnosticism (she doesn’t come right out and say she’s an atheist – I’ll be conservative here – but at the end of the trial, she did have the image of The Flying Spaghetti Monster tattooed above her gluteus maximus), along with her relationship with her fundy father. At one point she admits that “…it can never be said that I don’t love a good story.” She got that part right, because you have to love a good story to be able to tell a good story.

She makes it clear that the whole trial was about ignorance, not education. The members of the school board were so enamored of their religion, and so distraught that society didn’t place a higher value on Christian viewpoints, that they used their position of power in this remote little enclave of America to start a revolution against evolution, a topic they viewed as the linchpin of ungodly teaching. They wanted to prevent students from learning about evolution, because in their minds it conflicted with the only book worth reading, so they began the process by attempting to introduce a competitive idea, Intelligent Design, in the guise of enhancing education by adding it to the Biology curriculum. Admittedly, the introduction to ID was made to appear innocuous, but they surely saw it as a wedge to get Christianity back in the classroom where they thought it belonged. What they didn’t realize was that ID is simply the stalking horse for pure, unadulterated ignorance.

But what really sparks the book is her outrage over the fact that these so-called Christians lied for Jesus. They not only lied, they seemed to enter and perpetuate a conspiracy of deceit. Prior to any litigation, in fact prior to deciding to change the school curriculum, one or two of the board members made it clear in numerous public statements that they wanted to introduce creationism into the school biology curriculum. Once litigation ensued, however, they testified under oath that they never even used the word, despite the fact that there were scores of people at the meetings when they did, and that at least two reporters wrote articles about it. They claimed, in their defense, that the reporters lied, and this struck a nerve in Lebo. Reporters, whose life blood is the truth, whose credibility is strictly determined by the accuracy of their reporting, and whose integrity depends on it, had their characters assassinated by people who professed to be moral Christians.

To add insult to injury, Lebos’ relationship with her father seemed to scuttle on the rocks of his hypocrisy. Where he would be expected to condemn the lies and deceit of these Christians, he did the opposite, implying that if put in the same position, he too would probably lie for Jesus. What was important to him, as it is important to most fundamentalist Christians, is not what we do here, but what happens after we die. Anything and everything is fair game in this life if it results in saving one’s soul in the next – including lying. This seemed to break Lebo’s faith, if ever she had it. She paid lip service to god for the sake of her relationship with her father, but after that, she could not even continue the pretense, though the passages where she describes her father, warts and all, are so lovingly articulated that you know that it hurt her deeply for them to be so close yet so distant.

Edward J. Larson, author of Summer for the Gods, contends that the Scopes trial truly holds the title of “The Trial Of the Century”, at least for the 2oth century. His reasoning is that all the other trials (Leopold-Loeb, Sam Shepherd, OJ, etc.) were about the criminal culpability of the defendant, while the Scopes trial was about ideas. Ideas were on trial, not people. The same can be said about the Dover trial, making it a contender for the 21st century title, only five years into the century.

If you read only one book on the trial, read this one.

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29 thoughts on “The Devil In Dover

  1. With all due respect to Ms. Lesbo, and, her budding agnosticism, I’ve never had to lie about anything where Christianity’s concerned, because, rightly interpreted, it stands on it’s own voracity. The difference between Christianity and atheism is really no different from the respect that you have your dumb X-tians and your dumb atheists… like those infidels that hang out, here.

    The Scopes trial was a big fucking laugh! A bunch of well-meaning, but, nevertheless, good ‘ol boy, God-fearing folk up against some fast-talking, well-healed, infidel hucksters and shysters (sound familiar, SI?) with an agenda, supported by an atheist-run system… what the hell else could result?

    I don’t have to lie for Jesus, because, Christianity makes more sense than believing your ancestry consists of fish-frogs and insects, and interstellar protozoa – all of it suddenly popping into existence from nothing, all on it’s non-existent self, of it’s own non-existent prompting!

    LOL! Man, when you guys (that would be the minority, of course!) finally do wake up, I’ll be there with bells on… to LOFL at you!



  2. SI

    Im all for free speech, but unfortunately reading Gideons stuff isnt free. It costs me one or two brain cells with every reading. At least if I got to listen to him in person I could decide whether or not I beat him to a pulp. 😉

  3. “It will sometimes be necessary to use falsehood for the benefit of those who need such a mode of treatment.” – Eusebius

    Btw, the Creationists won the Scopes trial. 😉

  4. “Btw, the Creationists won the Scopes trial.”

    They did, eh? Funny, you’d never know it by what’s taught in schools, today!

    Tit… one has to have a brain to lose brain cells, bud. When God was handing out brains, yours were served to you in a teaspoon, and someone jiggled His arm!

    Oh, and you’re going to beat me up? Hey… where’s all of this grand atheist tolerance and superior intelligence we’re constantly hearing about? Hmmm… seems like it’s in short supply, these days, along with your brains! Text is cheap, boy, like your mama!

    Oh, and Clarence Darrow made his reputation getting communist sympathizers off of the hook, as you would know IF you understood history, that is. Funny how Atheism and Communism run hand in hand? If any of you can read, check out Frank Steunenberg’s story. The really ambitious ones could try their public library.

    The only history you retards understand is what you were force-fed in ‘Publick’ School. That, and how to laugh like idiots at the truth, and bury it, at every opportunity!

    Can you spell P-R-O-G-R-A-M-M-E-D?


  5. I’ve never had to lie about anything where Christianity’s concerned, because, rightly interpreted, it stands on it’s own voracity.

    I normally refrain from being a language Nazi, but, since Gideon went from that sentence to a proclamation that the atheists who “hang out here” are dumb, I can’t resist the opportunity.

    Gideon – check out the definition of the word, voracity. That could have been a Freudian slip, seeing as how Christians love pot luck dinners, etc.

    Or, maybe the word you really wanted was, veracity.

    A word of advice: if you’re going to call people stupid, make sure you understand all of the terms you are using throughout the comment and use them properly. Otherwise, you might end up making an embarrassing slip.

  6. “…where Christianity’s concerned, because, rightly interpreted, it stands on it’s own voracity.”

    LOLOLOLOL! There IS a God!

  7. I don’t have to lie for Jesus, because, Christianity makes more sense than believing your ancestry consists of fish-frogs and insects, and interstellar protozoa – all of it suddenly popping into existence from nothing, all on it’s non-existent self, of it’s own non-existent prompting!

    Oh yes, it makes much more sense to believe that in a universe filled with billions of galaxies each filled with billions of stars and planets that a supreme being would make itself the personal deity of a band of semi-nomadic tribes in a patch of land in the Middle East on the tiny speck of our planet in one of these billions of galaxies in this infinite cosmos, and then after a couple of thousand years have passed, said deity decides to impregnate a virgin Jewish teenage girl in the Galilee who gives birth to a human with divine powers who preaches and performs miracles before dying for the sins of all mankind, and that if you don’t believe this story you deserve to burn in hell in the afterlife for all eternity. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

  8. All:

    SI’s practicing comment deletion, again, so, I’ll try once more to answer your inquiries. (Appears I was wrong giving the liar the benefit of the doubt!)

    “A word of advice: if you’re going to call people stupid, make sure you understand all of the terms you are using throughout the comment and use them properly.”

    Okay, Stupid, I will… Stupid!

    “Count your blessings. It could have been in ALL CAPS.”

    Oh, sorry, SI… Chumplain, that should read STUPID, stupid!

    Jimbo… our favorite after-hours petting zoo patron! You done boinking the neighbor’s dog, sport? Maybe your mama doesn’t have to hook tonight, and, you can bang her, instead?

    Tit… YOU? Beat me up? What, you think winning two out of three matches with your little sister qualifies you for the big time? Go for it, champ! LOL! Oh, and don’t worry about losing half of your brain cells… you still have two left!

    Philly Two-Willies; you think creationists won that, eh? Guess all that BULLSHIT EVILUTION we’re taught in public school is just coincidence, eh? Your headdress is cutting off the circulation, again.


    You’re right… atheism is a crock of shit, just like your reasoning is a crock of shit, and your head is full of shit, and you talk shit… shithead!


  9. Well, look at that! My earlier comments have finally appeared!


    Must be that WordPress is atheist, too!

  10. “Must be that WordPress is atheist, too!”

    Nah. It’s got to be SI fooling around. Goes with his profession, n’ all!

  11. Thanks for the review of the book, you make it sound very compelling and I’ve just started catching up on the trial, didn’t follow it at the time. Just checked and my local library has it, so that’s cool.

  12. “Thank you, atimetorend. Someone who actually responds to the review, rather than the troll, is quite refreshing.”

    Yeah, you don’t want to have your ass banned, so be nice to the widdle guy!

    Speaking of trolls, how come Jim-Bob, the barnyard Romeo isn’t affected by Akismet? His language is just as “colorful” as mine, yet, he enjoys immunity from the comment reaper? Mighty strange, the happenings around here!

    But then, strangeness is nothing new to the world of the infidel.

  13. Gideon

    As I said over at Evo, it has to be you. The only control I have over spam is threefold:

    1. Total moderation, i.e. every comment is held until approval. I think you can see I don’t do that.

    2. Hold all comments with X number of links. I do have that turned on, limited to 3 links. I don’t think you’ve ever posted a comment with three links.

    3. I can hold any post that has any words I put in the spam filter, such as “Gideon” or “widdle guy” or “Ass”. I have nothing delineated in that spam trap, other than the email address of the Mexican troll I had here the first month, that I refer to over there >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> in my Blog Stats. Maybe you’re that Mexican troll? The comment he left me, which I’ll reproduce below, has a certain similarity to your writing style, don’t you think?

    Thank you! We’re all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view, you ridiculous little carnival freak. Clearly, you spend way too much time in darkened rooms in front of your seven-year-old computer turning a whiter shade of pale. Go outside once in a while and breathe, before your brain starts to rot from all that festering stagnation and cognitive dysfunction.

    Trying to get something of value out of your post is like trying to squeeze orange juice out of an apple. Why is it that the people with the smallest minds always have the biggest mouths? Reading your post makes blindness a wonderful thing to look forward to. As Abba Eban so aptly said: “His ignorance is encyclopedic.”

    You are about as entertaining as watching grass grow in a windowbox. What do you do for a living? You are living, aren’t you? If you called the Suicide Hotline, they’d say: “Go ahead. Do it!” Maybe you wouldn’t come across as such a jellyfish-sucking mental midget if you’d had enough oxygen at birth; if your weren’t so fat that your local ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ buffet had to install speed bumps, or if you didn’t have a face that people rub tree branches on to make ugly sticks. No, come to think of it, you would.

    In closing, why don’t you put your glasses on backwards and walk into yourself?

    You’ll have to figure out why Akismet doesn’t like you. Go to their website, let me know what you find.

  14. You’re right… atheism is a crock of shit, just like your reasoning is a crock of shit, and your head is full of shit, and you talk shit… shithead!

    Gosh, with the profanity you spew, Christianity must be true!

  15. “In closing, why don’t you put your glasses on backwards and walk into yourself?”

    LOL! Hey, this guy’s good! I almost wish I was him! He’s spot on in his analysis of you and your gaggle of dorky hanger-ons, that’s for sure!

    I think you do hold comments in queue, just long enough for you and your buddies to get whatever you want to say said ahead of my responses. Amateur and pathetic, but, not unheard of in company like you have, here.

    Anyway, I couldn’t care less. As this “Mexican” you’re whining about so eloquently stated, your ignorance IS encyclopedic. One shouldn’t expect too much from any discourse originating here.

    Dummykey: Yes, Christianity IS true, you little shit-for-brained asshole! And, the next time you’re spewing vitriol here or at some hapless ‘nice-guy’ Christian’s site, remember, not all of us feel they are under any obligation to treat shitheaded morons like yourself with any regard other than that one might give to a dried up turd laying on the lawn.

    Also, the TIRED old cliche you just farted out your ass/mouth is so typical of someone unaccustomed to debating in an adult forum. Can’t win by logic or reason, resort to slamming the religion! Standard infidel procedure!

    What a git!


  16. Dear Mr. Inquisitor,
    I just wanted to thank you for the terribly nice review. I actually read it last night sitting in my car at the Antietam Battlefield, pondering the awful divisiveness in this country. Your kind words and your understanding of what I had tried to accomplish reminded me that there are kindred spirits out there.

    Thank you,
    Lauri Lebo

  17. Okay, SI, I have to say, this is frickin’ AWESOME. You write a book review on your blog and the AUTHOR shows up to say thank you? That is just too cool.

  18. Tommy – yeah, and either way it speaks volumes about the value of Christianity!

    T.O.G. – You’re right. Very impressive that Lauri showed up here to thank SI. He deserved it.

  19. Evo,

    ..either way it speaks volumes about the value of Christianity!

    No, it doesn’t. Whatever Gideon’s behavior “speaks” relates to a single individual, so stop making blanket statements.

  20. “No, it doesn’t. Whatever Gideon’s behavior ‘speaks’ relates to a single individual, so stop making blanket statements.”

    And here you sit, talking to and about Gideon like he is a reasonable individual. Confounds the hell out of me.

  21. cl said: stop making blanket statements

    Evo replied: Stop posting here cl.

    No, I didn’t really mean it. Hope you didn’t either. The correct way to phrase your objection would be: “I hope everyone can see that evo is just making blanket statements”.

    Anyway, cl, I find him highly representative of Christians – though admittedly in caricature. If you don’t – you don’t. [shrugs}

  22. Pingback: the devil in dover « a time to rend

  23. Thanks again for your review, I just finished the book this week, excellent read. I really didn’t follow the coverage at the time of the trial, so it was informative to read about. But the personal elements Lebo relates really do make the book, which your review described well. I was very impressed at the way she expressed her disdain for the ID camp while also showing sympathy for the people involved. I posted a small write-up of my own and linked to your review, hope you don’t mind.

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