Book review: Of Pandas and People, Part I of II

by Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon

In 2005, a legal battle threatened to tear apart the little town of Dover, Pennsylvania. In October of the year before, the Dover Area School District changed its teaching curriculum to require that Intelligent Design be taught alongside Evolution. Apparently, the existing text was “laced with Darwinism” and it was “inexcusable to have a book that says man descended from apes with nothing to counterbalance it.” Biology teachers were required to announce this statement in class as part of the curriculum: “Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.”

The text used to introduce the topic in class was titled Of Pandas and People, approved by a well-known religious think tank in Seattle, The Discovery Institute. In a widely published court battle, the ruling in Dover came down that Intelligent Design is a form of Creationism, and its teaching violates the First Amendment. Bye, bye, Pandas.

Indeed, the 1987 publication of the textbook still used the word “Creationist” to describe the authors’ views, and even back then the obvious link to Christian beliefs didn’t sit well. Seeking to escape the religious baggage of that word and to make the text more palatable for court, the 1987 version was republished, changing the word “Creationist” everywhere to “Design Proponent.” Unfortunately, the cut-and-paste was botched in one place, resulting in the phrase “Evolutionists think the former is correct, cdesign proponentsists accept the latter view.” Apparently, only the letters “reation” were cut out, and “cdesign proponentsists” was hailed by evolutionists everywhere as the missing link between Creationism and Intelligent Design.

The gaff was fixed, and in 2004, 60 copies of Pandas were anonymously donated to the Dover school district to promote Design. My used second-edition copy of Pandas is stamped Donated To Dover Area High School Library. Thus did Pandas inherit its reputation as a bumbling flagship for modern-day Creationism. But is the reputation deserved? I’ll give you my take on the book tomorrow, with a regular book review.

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