Inherit the Wind collides with the Woodstock Generation and true believers out of Babbitt, with strange—and highly readable—results.
A few years ago, a Pennsylvania school board faced a crisis brought on by fundamentalist ministers and parents, who demanded that the teaching of Darwinian evolution be scrapped for creationism or its recent variant, intelligent design (ID)—or anything else asserting that God created the earth 6,000 years ago and humankind has always existed in its present form. The assault worked, writes seasoned nonfiction author Humes (Mean Justice, 1999, etc.). The school board shed its doubting Thomases, including a member who had appeared nude on the Woodstock album cover, and the Bible entered the classroom. A group of pro-evolution parents fought back, filing a lawsuit against the school district that went before a federal court. Death threats flew, and expert witnesses flew in. Ideological lines hardened as ID advocates confessed to disputing not just monkey-to-man evolution but the idea that anything evolved from anything else, period. Big ideas were sounded and tested, with scientists patiently explaining that while there might be some holes in the evolutionary evidence, there were none in evolutionary theory. The judge’s ruling, writes Humes, was sound, but only a partial victory, because even though that verdict essentially held that anyone who disputes evolution is a blockhead, fully half and more of Americans at the beginning of the 21st century do indeed dispute it. Anti-evolution isn’t going to go away, the author acknowledges, but he offers a valuable primer in how to debate the matter by soldiering on through the arguments and counterarguments. Wondrously titled chapters such as “Paleozoic Roadkill, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Bad Frog Beer” provide plenty of sound and fury as they show some very angry people arguing the merits and necessity of science.
An illuminating blend of science, religion and politics.