Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Intelligently Designed: How Creationists Built the Campaign against Evolution

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Intelligently Designed: How Creationists Built the Campaign against Evolution

Article excerpt

Intelligently Designed: How Creationists Built the Campaign against Evolution. By Edward Caudill. (Urbana and other cities: University of Illinois Press, 2013. Pp. [xii], 200. Paper, $25.00, ISBN 978-0-252-07952-8; cloth, $85.00, ISBN 978-0-252-03801-3.)

Over its first four years in operation, the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky attracted more than one million visitors. Among its attractions are displays that posit the coexistence of people and dinosaurs. The Washington Post termed the claimed scientific basis of the museum "nonsense," and the New York Times also found the hyperbolic anger of the museum's critics reminiscent of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's play Inherit the Wind (New York, 1955) (p. 135).

Edward Caudill's Intelligently Designed: How Creationists Built the Campaign against Evolution tackles the central paradox of the now venerable conflict between science and conservative Protestantism in the United States. How could a movement suffer endless legal defeats, regular humiliation in elite media and movies, and scorn from the vast majority of scientists and still maintain its popular momentum? Caudill points to numerous surveys that show that anywhere from one-third to one-half of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form within the last ten thousand years. Several Republican presidential candidates have denounced evolution, and President George W. Bush suggested that within public school classrooms "both sides [evolution and creationism] ought to be properly taught" (p. 123).

Caudill partly attributes the political and cultural success of creationism to its media savvy and tenacity. He argues, "Creationists have won press attention and converts, in part, by injecting their story with myths and values that hold broad cultural appeal" (p. 11). They portray themselves as anti-elitist rebels and individuals, tolerantly demanding that parents exercise greater democratic control of local classrooms. The most original sections of Caudill's book concern the most recent events, such as the Dover, Pennsylvania, case in which a U.S. district court rejected the teaching of intelligent design as promoting a specific religion and therefore a violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause. …

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