In September 2005, I convened the bench trial in the now famous case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. As the lengthy and complex trial testimony unfolded, I occasionally glanced at the substantial gallery that each day assembled to watch the proceedings. Many faces became familiar to me, although in most instances I did not know the names of these frequent attendees. One such visitor to my courtroom was an attractive and somewhat professorial looking woman. I did not know either her name or affiliation, although because she sat in proximity to the plaintiffs I assumed that she was aligned with their cause. She appeared at all times to be totally and intently engaged in the trial testimony. It was only after the case concluded that I learned through watching media interviews that the person I had almost daily observed was Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education. I also learned that she had been substantially responsible for coordinating the plaintiffs' expert testimony.
In October 2006, well after the Kitzmiller case had ended, I found myself in Chicago speaking to judges from around the country at a national conference dealing with scientific evidence. Scott, whom I've since come to know as Genie, was one of my fellow presenters. Serendipitously we were seated next to each other at a dinner organized by our hosts. Given our common experiences during the previous year, we had much to talk about. That evening I learned several things. First, Genie is a most pleasant conversationalist! But more than that, she is virtually encyclopedic regarding the myriad issues that attend the debate over evolution and creationism. While she undoubtedly favors the former, I was tremendously impressed by her ability to objectively relate the salient points raised by advocates of the latter. Moreover, she possesses a comprehensive grasp of the long history of the underlying controversy.
When speaking publicly about the Kitzmiller case, I have candidly admitted that prior to having the case appear on my docket, other than generalized knowledge gained from my liberal arts education at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania years ago, coupled with somewhat eclectic reading tastes and a basic understanding of what took place in the John Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925, I had little exposure to this debate or to the science of evolution. However, deciding Kitzmiller and experiencing its aftermath have informed me that in this regard I was decidedly in the company of the majority of my fellow citizens. Simply put, evolution is poorly understood by most Americans, if indeed it is grasped at all. And too many Americans do not understand the constitutional reasons for not advocating religious views in the classroom.
After Genie asked me to write a foreword for this edition of Evolution vs. Cre-ationism: An Introduction, I had considerable pause, and thus initially demurred. But on reflection, and after reading the updated version, I reconsidered this somewhat reflexive position. After all, in the years since Kitzmiller I have frequently found myself saying to audiences and individuals when describing what I saw, heard, and read: "You should have been there." By that I have meant that the testimony in support of evolution was both compelling and understandable. But this comment is also directed to the historical antecedents in the evolution versus creationism debate. Manifestly, this is not a simple area, and the passions brought to it by advocates on both sides tend at times to impede clear understanding. I had the advantage of a full year of litigation on the topic, including a six-week trial containing abundant expert testimony. Few others will be so fortunate. But Genie Scott has rendered a book that both educates the uninformed and enlightens those who possess a basic but not detailed knowledge of the debate. In effect then, the aptly nicknamed Genie has granted my wish that others experience what I did in 2005. To the extent that someone either could not witness the whole of the Kitzmiller trial or lacks the time to wade through thousands of pages of dry transcripts, here is a compendium that in my view accurately depicts both the historical and scientific facets of the controversy.
In the last several years, I have developed a passion for speaking in public about topics such as judicial independence, the rule of law, and a better understanding of our democracy and Constitution. Genie Scott quite obviously brings that same passion to bear as it relates to science. Any tool that facilitates better teaching of these subjects in our high schools and colleges is vital. Here, then, is a superior work that I believe is a "must read" relating to science education in the United States. I commend it not just to students, but to anyone who seeks a better understanding of one of the important and enduring issues for our time.
Judge John E. Jones III U.S. District Judge Middle District of Pennsylvania
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