Monday, October 13, 2008

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

I just realized that I am WAY behind on my goal of writing about all of the books that I read this year. I actually finished this book back in August, have read two more since and am almost finished with a third. So, without further adieu:

If you've been following my blog this year, you know that the battle between evolution and intelligent design has become something of an obsession for me. It started with Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion" which, I think, lays out a very compelling case that there is in fact no evidence of the existence of God and that the theory of evolution isn't controversial at all. It is settled science.

In "Monkey Girl," Humes does an excellent job of reporting on the 2005 trial in Dover, PA. If you're unfamiliar with the case, the Dover school board had adopted a policy of "teaching the controversy" between intelligent design and evolution and was successfully sued by the parents of several students within the school district. The judge in the case found that intelligent design is not science at all. Instead it is merely creationism with a new name and therefore has no place in science class.

Having read Matthew Chapman's excellent "40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, Oxycontin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania," I was already very familiar with most of the story told by Edward Humes. However, Humes book focuses more on the facts of the trial and the impact on the community where Chapman's focus is more on the individuals involved in the story. "40 Days and 40 Nights" reads more like a memoir where "Monkey Girl" is a piece of journalistic reporting.

Both books are excellent and both are crucial to understanding this important trial in American history. Why do I think it's so important? Because science matters. This is a free country and we have the right to believe whatever we want but a fundamentalist reading of the bible that chooses to ignore established scientific fact, for example that the earth is much older than ten thousand years, isn't faith it is ignorance.

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