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Several York countians will be reading about themselves in Pulitzer Prize-winner journalist and best-selling author Edward Humes' book about the Dover intelligent design trial, which was released to most major booksellers today.

Humes interviewed several of the trial's key players for the nonfiction book, which classifies the events in Dover as a representation of the larger national conflict over what people believe about human origins.

"The central element is the (Dover) case, but it's placed in a larger context," Humes said earlier this month.

The book looks at similar controversies in Kansas and other states, as well as the history of evolution-versus-religion cases, such as the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee.

Though Dover's trial was billed as the "second coming" of the Scopes trial, Humes said the Dover case "went far beyond Scopes" because the scientific experts weren't allowed to testify in the Scopes case.

"I would call (the Dover case) the most enlightening display of science ... in the history of jurisprudence," Humes said.

The 'characters': Humes said he was inspired to write the book because the science behind evolution and human origins is fascinating; he entered college with the intent of being a scientist and, though he changed his plans, he always maintained interest in science, he said.

The California-based author was also fascinated by the people, the "interesting characters" who pre-
sented themselves at the center of Dover's debate, he said.


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An example is Bill Buckingham, a former police officer and Dover school board member who "didn't come off very well" during the trial, Humes said.

One of the former school board's most outspoken proponents of intelligent design, Buckingham made some of the most controversial comments when the board discussed intelligent design. The judge in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, John E. Jones III, would later accuse Buckingham and former board member Alan Bonsell of lying on the witness stand.

"It was very illuminating to get to know (Buckingham) better," Humes said. "When I first was learning about the case ... it was easy to view him as a very one-dimensional figure. And I don't really think that's the case."

The book gives a bigger glimpse into the private lives and personal beliefs of intelligent design proponents, such as Buckingham, and opponents, such as former school board members Jeff and Casey Brown, than was presented during most of the media coverage of the trial; this was one way to convey the "disconnect" between the people who were on different sides of the debate, Humes said.

"I found (Buckingham's) personal history, his situation with his addiction to Oxycontin and his despondency to medical problems, it really informs his whole role in this story. ... I think it's a valuable part of this story," Humes said.

'Total originals': At the home of Jeff and Casey Brown, Humes said, he learned that, while Casey Brown appeared nervous on the witness stand, she was a "principled person" who has her own religious convictions but didn't want to force them into public policy.

"It would have been very easy for a lot of people in that position to just back down," he said. "I think whether you agree with her position or not, you can see her as a very principled individual."

"Jeff Brown of course has a very lively personality and was a very interesting fellow," Humes said.

The author's first visit to the Brown residence resulted in Jeff Brown proudly pulling out an old photo album and producing a picture of his wife, Casey, skinny-dipping at Woodstock.

"And she wasn't the least bit upset about that," Humes said. "These are two people who are total originals."

Placing blame: The title "Monkey Girl" was inspired by a story Humes heard while he was conducting his research; there was a Dover teen whose peers taunted her with the name "Monkey Girl" because she thought it would be good to learn more about evolution.

Humes was never able to identify the girl, so the title is more symbolic than literal -- a metaphor that represents the negative feelings that circulated in Dover, and the misconception that Charles Darwin suggests people "came from monkeys."

While Humes said he didn't want to assign fault for the debate, he said he agrees with the judge's decision and that the trial showed the former Dover school board members "lacked any real understanding of what the theory of evolution and intelligent design was about."

He said the problem is that policy makers -- from the Dover school board up to President George W. Bush -- adopt beliefs when they really don't have solid information on which to base those beliefs.

"And I think that is very common. ... People doubt or outright reject the theory of evolution but they don't even know what it is they've rejected," Humes said. "They just know they don't like it."

Ultimately, the fallout for such thinking could be a national crisis; fewer young Americans are getting science degrees, and that doesn't bode well for the United States' progress against foreign competitors, Humes said.

About Kitzmiller v. Dover
Intelligent design says living things are so complicated they had to have been created by a higher being, that life is too complex to have developed by the method described by 19th-century biologist Charles Darwin.

In October 2004, the Dover Area School Board voted to require including a statement about intelligent design in its ninth-grade biology classes. School board members Jeff and Casey Brown resigned in protest of the policy's passing.

About two months later, 11 parents filed a federal lawsuit against the school district and the school board.

The parents, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the board had religious motives for putting the policy in place.

The non-jury trial started Sept. 26, 2005, and was completed Nov. 4, 2005.

On Dec. 20, 2005, U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III ruled against the former school board, issuing a scathing, 139-page ruling that accused some former board members -- including outspoken ID proponent William Buckingham -- of lying in the witness stand.
-- Reach Christina Kauff man at 505-5436 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.