Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul

( 6 )

Overview

What should we teach our children about where we come from?

Is evolution good science? Is it a lie? Is it incompatible with faith?

Did Charles Darwin really say man came from monkeys? Have scientists really detected "intelligent design"--evidence of a creator--in nature? Inside our DNA? Inside amazing molecular "machines" within our very cells? Or are those concepts nothing more than scientific fool’s gold, ...

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Monkey Girl

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Overview

What should we teach our children about where we come from?

Is evolution good science? Is it a lie? Is it incompatible with faith?

Did Charles Darwin really say man came from monkeys? Have scientists really detected "intelligent design"--evidence of a creator--in nature? Inside our DNA? Inside amazing molecular "machines" within our very cells? Or are those concepts nothing more than scientific fool’s gold, tricks designed to sneak religious ideas into public school classrooms?

What happens when a town school board decides to confront such questions head-on, thrusting its students, then an entire community, onto the front lines of America’s culture wars?

From bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes comes a dramatic story of faith, science, and courage unlike any since the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. Monkey Girl takes you behind the scenes of the recent war on evolution in Dover, Pennsylvania, the epic court case on teaching "intelligent design" it spawned, and the national struggle over what Americans believe about human origins.

Told from the perspectives of all sides of the battle, Monkey Girl is about what happens when science and religion collide.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A 2005 court decision may have scuttled plans to teach intelligent design in the classrooms of one small Pennsylvania town, but Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes predicts that the battle is far from over. Reporting from the front lines of America's culture wars, a bitter arena of mutual misconception and mistrust, Humes takes us behind the scenes of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, showing how this high-profile lawsuit thrust the evolution debate raging in local schools, courts, churches, and town halls into the national spotlight. Written with unparalleled clarity, fairness, and compassion, this spellbinding account examines what happens when religion and science collide. Nonfiction narrative at its stellar best!
Chicago Tribune
“Making a complicated issue accessible . . . His fast-moving, richly detailed book reads like a suspense novel.”
Seattle Times
“His writing is vivid, memorable, and engaging, and a welcome breath of common sense.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“[E]xcellent science writing, with crisp explanations of complicated evolutionary mechanisms, and fascinating material on Darwin.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“In painstaking detail, Humes breaks down the politics and the science . . . inexhaustible reporting married to talent.”
Skeptic Magazine
“A fascinatingly detailed record of the creationist war on science.”
Seed Magazine
“Rich back stories of characters from both sides of the courtroom make self-evident the fundamental culture war brewing.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review [cover review]
“Humes especially shines in his careful explication of the history of this larger fight.”
Christine Rosen
Humes's book is a compelling account of that struggle, and likely not the last salvo in the battle between evolution and intelligent design.
— The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
Inherit the Wind collides with the Woodstock Generation and true believers out of Babbitt, with strange-and highly readable-results. A few years ago, a Pennsylvania school board faced a crisis brought on by fundamentalist ministers and parents, who demanded that the teaching of Darwinian evolution be scrapped for creationism or its recent variant, intelligent design (ID)-or anything else asserting that God created the earth 6,000 years ago and humankind has always existed in its present form. The assault worked, writes seasoned nonfiction author Humes (Mean Justice, 1999, etc.). The school board shed its doubting Thomases, including a member who had appeared nude on the Woodstock album cover, and the Bible entered the classroom. A group of pro-evolution parents fought back, filing a lawsuit against the school district that went before a federal court. Death threats flew, and expert witnesses flew in. Ideological lines hardened as ID advocates confessed to disputing not just monkey-to-man evolution but the idea that anything evolved from anything else, period. Big ideas were sounded and tested, with scientists patiently explaining that while there might be some holes in the evolutionary evidence, there were none in evolutionary theory. The judge's ruling, writes Humes, was sound, but only a partial victory, because even though that verdict essentially held that anyone who disputes evolution is a blockhead, fully half and more of Americans at the beginning of the 21st century do indeed dispute it. Anti-evolution isn't going to go away, the author acknowledges, but he offers a valuable primer in how to debate the matter by soldiering on through the arguments and counterarguments. Wondrouslytitled chapters such as "Paleozoic Roadkill, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Bad Frog Beer" provide plenty of sound and fury as they show some very angry people arguing the merits and necessity of science. An illuminating blend of science, religion and politics. Agent: Susan Ginsburg/Writers House LLC
Eugenie Scott
“An unusually deft analysis . . . based upon extensive behind-the-scenes interviews . . . highly recommended.”
Michael Shermer
“Compelling page-turning narrative . . . A must read for anyone who cares about science, education, and liberty.”
Patt Morrison
“Monkey Girl is compelling and unsettling.
Lee M. Silver
“A real page-turner and an eye-opener for those who think they understand the American psyche.”
Chicago Tribune
“Making a complicated issue accessible . . . His fast-moving, richly detailed book reads like a suspense novel.”
Seed Magazine
“Rich back stories of characters from both sides of the courtroom make self-evident the fundamental culture war brewing.”
Seattle Times
“His writing is vivid, memorable, and engaging, and a welcome breath of common sense.”
Skeptic Magazine
“A fascinatingly detailed record of the creationist war on science.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“[E]xcellent science writing, with crisp explanations of complicated evolutionary mechanisms, and fascinating material on Darwin.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review [cover review]
“Humes especially shines in his careful explication of the history of this larger fight.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“In painstaking detail, Humes breaks down the politics and the science . . . inexhaustible reporting married to talent.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Humes especially shines in his careful explication of the history of this larger fight."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060885496
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/19/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 891,299
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Humes
Edward Humes is the author of eight critically acclaimed nonfiction books, including Mississippi Mud, School of Dreams, and Over Here. A recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and a PEN Award, Humes lives in California.
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Read an Excerpt

Monkey Girl

Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul
By Edward Humes

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Edward Humes
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060885489

Chapter One

Balancing Act

To the combatants, the conflict in Dover seemed new and dangerous, even epochal, but in truth it was but the latest iteration of a battle spanning five centuries and continuing still. It began when Copernicus launched the scientific revolution, removing humanity from the center of the solar system and revealing the Earth, despite all appearances and assumptions and faith to the contrary, to be a mere mote adrift in a vast cosmos, no longer the apple of God's eye. Then came the Age of Enlightenment and the learned deists who founded America, men like Jefferson and Franklin and Washington, who envisioned a creator setting the universe in motion but then letting matters unfold on their own--one reason, perhaps, why the Founding Fathers so adamantly fashioned a nation in which religion and government were never to interfere with each other. A century later, the paleontologists and geologists began to unearth a past no one ever had suspected, of long-extinct jungles, giant reptilian monsters, and an Earth that appears to be billions of years old instead of the 6,000 years carefully calculated from the Bible and assumed to be true for most of a millennium. That bedrock beliefs could crumble so quickly and easily in this new age of science was disturbing, to say the least, yetthe western world took comfort in the one great truth that stood through it all, dating back to Plato and before: the grand design of life that laymen and scientists alike could observe everywhere around them. They witnessed the amazing delicacy and aerodynamic perfection of a bird's wing; the fish's sleek body so astutely fashioned to swim; the miracle of the human eye, a complex assemblage of innumerable parts that far outstripped anything man could ever hope to build--marvelous machines and breathtaking beauty in form and purpose, all of it evidence that a master engineer of infinite power had breathed life and purpose into creation. Science, it seemed, couldn't alter that fundamental truth; indeed, as the power of microscopes and telescopes and man's insight into nature increased, the purposeful design underlying creation seemed not less but more obvious. By the middle of the nineteenth century, scientific proof of the existence of God seemed achingly, gloriously within reach.

And then Charles Darwin took all that away, too, delivering in its place a world built in part by accident, in part by the brute, blind drive to survive--a purpose, to be sure, and a direction, but not a design. Chance, adaptability, and good fortune ruled this new world, where each species could not be seen, after all, as a master composer's symphony, but as a desperate mechanic's jury-rig of used parts. Dolphins (but not fish) have vestigial fingers inside their fins, and a bat's wing (but not a bird's) closely resembles the structure of the human hand not because such adaptations make anatomical sense from a design point of view, but because all three sets of limbs were derived from the same basic mammalian model: arms, wrists, phalanges, parts recycled and reshaped by variation and natural selection across vast stretches of time. Darwin and those who embraced and perfected his theory perceived an even greater grandeur in this view of life, of a nature so full of wonder that a simple, primitive life-form, no more than a germ, could evolve across the ages into a butterfly and a tiger and a man. To them, this suggested a God infinitely more subtle and magnificent than ever before imagined, having fashioned a creation that creates itself.

But the implications were also fairly horrifying when it came to man's place in this Darwinian world. Higher purpose was gone. Made in God's image--gone. And what of the soul? Only men had souls, it was said, but if humans shared a legacy with apes and sharks and garden slugs, did that even leave room for a soul? For an afterlife? For something greater than the flesh? The logic of Darwin, notwithstanding his own invocation of a creator in his writings, suggested that man's ascendance was nothing more than a happy accident, the flip side of which was this: If you could turn back the clock and do it all over again, humanity, which had the arrogance to fancy itself the pinnacle of creation, might not even come to exist the second time around. Life, intelligence, consciousness, and love were not gifts from God; it was all just a lucky break, a roll of the dice. And there it was: Darwin, alone among scientists in the new age, had finally provided the proverbial last straw for the faithful. It was one thing for science to destroy geocentrism, or to turn the Bible from literal history into lovely metaphor, but when it tried to dethrone man as God's masterpiece and render him no better (or worse) than marsupial or mollusk, then science simply had gone too far. The war that ensued has not really abated since.

"Will you honestly tell me (and I should be really much obliged) whether you believe that the shape of my nose (eheu!) was ordained and 'guided by an intelligent cause'? " an exasperated Darwin wrote to the pioneering geologist Charles Lyell amid the outcry that followed publication of The Origin of Species. It was as succinct a put-down of what has come to be known as intelligent design as has ever been delivered in science. But a century and a half later, Darwin's unfortunate proboscis (eheu! being Latin for "alas!") has still failed to stem the howls of protest from men and women who see evolutionary theory as both sacrilege and threat.

Tucked away in a mostly rural swath of York County, famous for the battle of Yorktown and for hosting the fledgling American government for nine months during the Revolutionary War as the founders dodged the redcoats, Dover began its life as a waypoint on the road to larger towns and markets. Even today, with a population just shy . . .



Continues...

Excerpted from Monkey Girl by Edward Humes Copyright © 2007 by Edward Humes. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: One Thing's for Sure, We Didn't Come from Any Monkey     xi
Origins
Balancing Act     3
What Lies Beneath     16
I'd Rather Take a Beating Than Back Down     35
Darwin's Nemesis     63
Class Acts     79
Survival of the Fittest
Broken Watches     109
The Watchmaker Returns     128
The Waters of Kansas Part     146
What Will We Tell the Children?     161
Unnatural Selections
Send Lawyers, Geeks, and Money     181
Monkey Suit     201
Sword and Shield, Shock and Awe     228
Paleozoic Roadkill, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Bad Frog Beer     254
Of Panders and People     279
Under the Microscope, Deer in the Headlights     297
Forty Days and Forty Nights     316
Breathtaking Inanity     328
Epilogue     339
Notes     353
Index     367
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The best of the several books written about the "Dover Case" which is often referred to as the Scopes Trial of the 21st Century.

    Edward Humes has written a comprehensive and carefully researched and supported summary of the Dover Case from 2005. Dover deals with the conflict between science and religion and more specifically the tension between Darwin's Theory of Evolution and Creationism/Intelligent Design. In this case certain members of the Dover school board were determined to introduce a Creationism biology text into the high school biology curriculum over the opposition of the science faculty and several parents. The parents sued and prevailed in a case which will provide a watershed for future litigation. Humes not only provides extensive interviews with all the principals from both sides of the controversy but details the historical and cultural context going back to the mid-19th Century. His narrative is exceptionally well-written and reads like a well plotted mystery. There have been several books produced in the wake of the Dover case (Kitzmiller v. Dover School District)2005 but this is the most comprehensive and the best documented.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2014

    I have read several of the narratives of the Kitzmiller Vs. Dove

    I have read several of the narratives of the Kitzmiller Vs. Dover School Board and this is clearly the best. I followed
    the trial while it was happening and read the transcripts. Humes does a tremendous job explaining the issues and
    describing how the town became divided over the subject of teaching evolution. It shows clearly what happens when
    the Discovery Institute comes into a school district and stirs up serious trouble. Monkey Girl is a really clear warning
    the dangers of allowing religion to interfere with science education in this country.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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