Within days, a group of parents, business people, teachers, students and other residents mobilized to defend Darwin against Mr. Brickley's challenge. The group, Ravalli County Citizens for Science, phoned a biotechnology firm in nearby Hamilton asking for help and was connected with Dr. Jay Evans, a research immunologist. He began looking into Mr. Brickley's claims, which were drawn in part from materials from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization affiliated with many conservative causes.
Refuting Mr. Brickley's claims, Dr. Evans said, "took me one afternoon." As soon as he had the information, it went to the rest of the citizens' committee, and from there to the wider community.
Partly because of the contentious dynamics of an election year, partly because of the coast-to-coast influence of the Discovery Institute, local disputes on the teaching of evolution are simmering in states from Alabama to Ohio to California. But with the help of the Internet, defenders like the group in Ravalli County are springing up all over the nation.