What should be taught about creation or evolution in government schools? Many people thought that question was settled with the Scopes Trial back in 1925. However, the Intelligent Design movement has brought the question front and center again, reigniting debates about science, religion, biblical interpretation, and how science should be taught.
Olasky and Perry have done a great job presenting the current debate by placing it within the context of the Scopes Trial. They revisit the trial, exploring the motivations of the key players, the role of the media and public perception, the actual legal issue, and the underlying philosophical issues. They point out the pervasive influence that Charles Darwin's theory already had achieved in intellectual and educational circles, and how the media portrayed the trial as pitting the educated elite against the Bible Belt country folk of Dayton, Tennessee.
Setting the record straight is an important part of their agenda since so many people think of the movie "Inherit the Wind" as an accurate portrayal of the trial—even though the filmmakers themselves clearly stated that was not the case.
Issues raised at the trial concerning religious and academic freedom have reappeared in recent years but from opposite positions. Whereas evolutionists were battling for a place in the curriculum (which they already had achieved to a large extent) in 1925, our present day battle is for anything other than evolution to be allowed into the curriculum.
Olasky and Perry take the last few chapters to explain the Intelligent Design movement and how it is challenging the Darwinian juggernaut with some impressive success. This is a great way for those unfamiliar with the Intelligent Design movement to get an overview of its strategy and some key players.
While I sometimes felt the authors included a bit too much detail on historical events peripheral to the trial, overall, this is a very well written and readable book. Weaving together the history of the famous trial, the impact of the even more familiar movie Inherit the Wind, some biographical insight into Charles Darwin, and the impetus of the growing Intelligent Design movement makes for a compelling read as well as an effective primer on the modern creation vs. evolution debate.