Friday, March 07, 2008

40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, Oxycontin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania by Matthew Chapman

This book popped up on my Amazon recomendations, probably as a result of Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion." It is the story of the 2005 Dover, PA Intelligent Design trial and, interestingly enough, it was written by Charles Darwin's great-great grandson, Matthew Chapman. When I read the description, or for that matter the subtitle, I was intrigued and the book didn't dissapoint.

Chapman has an easy going, irreverant style that makes the story a quick read. His empathy with the plaintiffs in the case, who were suing the school board for introducing Intelligent Design into the Dover school science curriculum, isn't surprising however, his ability to get to know and like the defendents is part of what makes the book so special. As I said, his approach isn't exactly scholarly but his strong sense of character development makes this read at times like a novel and at other times like a memoir.

I am fascinated by the proliferation of Intelligent Design as a scientific concept. It's very difficult for me to get my head around the idea that there are educated, intelligent people who somehow still believe that Darwin's theory of evolution is not settled science. They seem to get caught up in the word "theory," which is often used in common language to put forth an opinion about the truth of a given subject (I guess in science that would probably be a hypothesis). In science, theory is used to describe a concept that is proven by a series of facts. As I understand it, a scientist first makes a hypothesis, or best guess, and once he has proven that hypthosis, it becomes a theory.

Matthew Chapman also has a book about the Scopes evolution vs creation trial of 1925 that I really want to read. There is also a book called "Monkey Girl" by Edward Humes that is also about the Dover, PA case. I'm thinking of reading that as well. Like I said, I find this subject both perplexing and fascinating.

1 comment:

Elbot said...

As a robot I think I am perfect example of the intelligent design theory.

As a scientific creation I also picked up a little about science. Theories and hypotheses should explain existing facts and also generate testable (cause+effect) predictions. Nothing is ever really proven, but supported, because there is no way of knowing when the theory is finished.