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Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul Hardcover – January 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

The Pulitzer Prize?winning Edward Humes (Mississippi Mud, School of Dreams, Over Here) knows how to successfully tackle society's big issues and present them to the general reader. Monkey Girl is no exception. Humes writes clearly, makes complex scientific ideas accessible, and uses a novelistic approach to heighten the legal conflict and courtroom drama. Critics diverged only on a few points. While most thought Humes's account evenhanded (for example, his sympathetic portrait of the defense's star witness, Michael Behe), the Wall Street Journal called Humes "disappointingly self-righteous" in his criticism of intelligent design. And while most applauded his exhaustive reporting, a few cited a simplified narrative. Monkey Girl still stands as the best book for staying current on the arguments for and against the teaching of evolution in our public schools.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

From Booklist

Some see the 2005 case of Kitzmiller v.Dover, concerning a small-town school board's adding an "intelligent design" (i.e., anti-Darwinian) text to the ninth-grade science curriculum, as the second Scopes trial. But whereas evolution lost in 1925, it won in 2005. Also, Kitzmiller was a federal andScopes a state case. Yet as Humes sees it, Kitzmiller won't end the battle over evolution any more than Scopes did. That fracas, he opines, doesn't die; it evolves. Hence, religion was central in the earlier, science in the later, trial. While thoroughly presenting the personalities and events ofKitzmiller, Humes fills in so much of the story of evolutionary theory and literalist biblical reaction to it--especially the intelligent design, originally "creationist," then "creation science," movement--that the book is an engrossing community drama and a character-centered, topical history-of-science primer. Humes' clear reportorial style and sympathy for all the principals in Kitzmiller (except, perhaps, for the school board's hired-gun lead attorney) ensure the high interest of both aspects of the book. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1st edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060885483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060885489
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,425,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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QUICK STORY: A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Edward Humes' latest books are A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN (Public Affairs, October 2013), the biography of winemaking legend Jess Jackson, and GARBOLOGY: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash (Avery/Penguin, April 2012). His other books include the PEN Award-winning NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT: A Year In the Life of Juvenile Court, the bestseller MISSISSIPPI MUD, FORCE OF NATURE: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution, and MONKEY GIRL: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America's Soul.

BACK STORY: When I was six I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I've been at it ever since. I started my writing career in newspapers, and I think I probably would have paid them, instead of the other way around, for the thrill of seeing my first byline in print. As a newspaper reporter, I gravitated toward stories that allowed me to dig behind the scenes and beneath the surface, looking for questions others hadn't asked or imagined. For me, the job amounted to this: license to find out the things I had always wanted to know, about anything and everything that interested, touched or outraged me. Then, within the space and time limitations of a daily newspaper, I had the chance to mold it all into a story to pass onto others. I loved that work.

When I left newspapers to write nonfiction books, I suddenly had weeks or months, rather than hours or days, to immerse myself in the inner workings of the places, characters and events I seek to understand and write about. I had found the greatest job I can imagine.

In my books, I try to take readers inside worlds most don't get to visit or see close up on their own. My first stories were about crime -- real-life murder mysteries-- and I still enjoy reading and writing true crime. But I've pursued broader and more varied narratives in my more recent books. I've written about the nation's crumbling juvenile justice system, the California high school that went from worst to best in the state, the harrowing but surprisingly humane world of a neonatal intensive care unit, the front lines of a modern-day Scopes Monkey Trial, a Gulf Coast murder mystery solved by the victims' own daughter.

Lately - in ECO BARONS, FORCE OF NATURE and GARBOLOGY - I've focused on narratives about the environment and sustainability. I believe this to be the most important story of our age - for ourselves, and for our children.

But after immersing myself in trash for GARBOLOGY, I dove into the very different world of wine and undertook my very first biography. I feel privileged to tell the classic American success story behind the founder of Kendall-Jackson Wines, Jess Jackson, in A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN.

OTHER WRITING: I've written for numerous publications, including Los Angeles Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Readers Digest, California Lawyer, the Oxford American, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. I have taught writing and journalism at the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, and the University of Oregon.

SPEAKING: I enjoy speaking about my work, and have been invited to address a wide range of groups and organizations:the National Education Summit, the National Steinbeck Center, the ALOUD series, the National Association of District Attorneys, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Dole Center for Politics, the National High School Journalism Conference, the National College Newspaper Convention, the National Association of Teachers of English, the California Department of Corrections, the California Appellate Project, the American Psychology and Law Society, the Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Poynter Institute, the Crichton Club and numerous universities and other schools. I was called to testify about my reporting on juvenile court before the U.S. Senate and a joint session of the California Senate and Assembly. I've had the pleasure of delivering a commencement address at Hampshire College in Amherst, my alma mater, and have enjoyed speaking at venues throughout California as a contributing writer to MY CALIFORNIA, an anthology from which all proceeds were donated to the California Arts Council to support arts and writing programs for the state's school children. I served as a Regents Lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, and taught writing workshops at the University of Oregon graduate program in literary nonfiction.

HONORS: I received a Pulitzer Prize for my newspaper coverage of the military, a PEN Center USA award for NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT, a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for "The Forgotten," my LA Magazine account of life inside Los Angeles's nightmarish home for neglected children, and a Silver Gavel honor for MONKEY GIRL. The Washington Post named SCHOOL OF DREAMS a best book of 2003; the Los Angeles Times named MEAN JUSTICE a best book of 1999.

BORN: Philadelphia.

EDUCATION: Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.

CURRENT WHEREABOUTS: Southern California

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

166 of 173 people found the following review helpful By William C. Garthright on February 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It appears that the "culture wars" are playing out even in these reviews, and it doesn't seem likely that we'll get any neutral observations. I wonder if people who gave it poor reviews even read it. To my mind, "Monkey Girl" is about as fair to both sides as you can get,... but the trial was a slam-dunk, after all. If you read the book without any pre-conceived ideas, I think you'll be amazed at how sympathetic - and how understandable - the author really is.

More importantly, perhaps, the writing is superb. I have rarely read a non-fiction book that kept my attention as well as this one. Honestly, I could not put it down. It covers not just the famous Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, but the situation leading up to the trial, including background on the entire evolution-creationism war. I learned a great deal from the book, while being even more greatly entertained by it.

If you're interested at all in our public schools, I strongly recommend this book. If you're on a school board, you NEED to read this book. Frankly, I think that nearly everyone should read it, simply because it explains the whole controversy so well - and explains the science, the history, and the politics behind it - while being such a darn good read. It WILL keep your attention. Highly recommended!
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Lee Harrison on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is simply breathtaking. The Dover trial, in the mind of the public, has already lost its true details and has become little more than a rallying cry for polemicists on both side of the 'evolution war'. Humes strips away the misinformation and the sensationalism and erects in their place a well researched picture of human beings with families, goals and principles, all trying to do what is right.

Despite Humes bending over backwards to portray the full complexity of the school board members, they do not come out of this looking good - their frailties, arrogance and mendacity are on display for all to see and judge. Humes, however, successfully avoids turning them into caricatures of ignorance and backwardness - something other commentators have not been so successful with.

Other areas in which the book excels are its presentation of background details such as other trials and related controversies, its coverage of the science (showing an ability all too lacking in modern journalism - the ability to follow an argument from beginning to end) and its portrayal of the litigants, the legal team and Judge Jones who, along with Kitzmiller et al, certainly earns the title of hero in this book.

One review has claimed that Humes was biased, based on statements like this:

"Jones concluded -- correctly -- that the evidence in favour of evolution is convincing and compelling, and that the counterarguments are far less so" (page 340) . . . . . .

"Arguably, evolution has been more rigorously tested, and enjoys more evidence in its support, than any other theory in the history of science." (page 346)

Let us be clear - following evidence is not bias. Ignoring evidence while hiding behind claims of objectivity and fairness IS bias.
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105 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on March 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Few areas of American public life are as fascinating at the continuing struggle between evolutionists and creationists. It's a struggle that involves Science and Religion, Theology and Philosophy, Politics always, and, more often then not, the Law.

Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District was the latest in a long series of trials about the teaching of evolution in American Public school. The first one was the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial", in which a replacement science teacher was prosecuted for teaching evolution against state law. The teacher, John Scopes, lost, and anti-evolution laws remained on the books in many US states until the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. Ever since, the shoe was on the other foot - Kitzmiller, dubbed scopes II (or III, or IV, or V, etc), went the other way around - it featured a group of parents, upset about a legislative attempt to sneak the newest repackaging of creationism - a glossed up version marketed under the moniker of "Intelligent Design" - into biology class.

Journalist Edward Humes wrote a fascinating account of the Dover Trial, setting it in context of the historical creation/evolution divide, recent development, and the general approached of the religious right and the Bush administration - memorably described as a "War on" - science.

Early in the century, a group of newly elected members of the Dover school board decided that the then current biology curriculum was unsuitable. The reason? It was "laced with Darwinism". Those board members knew little about science, evolution, or "Intelligent Design", and cared less. What they cared about was that "[2000 years ago] a man died on a cross. Can't someone stand up for him"? Standing up for him meant bringing creationist viewpoints to "balance" evolution.
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89 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Peter Irons on January 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ed Humes has written a detailed, insightful, and even gripping account of the "intelligent design" (ID)case from Dover, Pennsylvania, which ended in December 2005 with a judicial ruling that ID was a thinly disguised form of Biblical creationism and could not be taught in Dover's ninth-grade biology classes.

As the author of a forthcoming book (Viking, May 17) on five recent legal cases that challenged religious symbols and practices in public parks, courthouses, and schools (God on Trial: Dispatches From America's Religious Battlefields), I included a chapter on the Dover case, and read the entire 6,000 pages of testimony in that trial. Ed Humes has made that trial come to life, with perceptive portraits of all the participants: plaintiffs, defendants, expert witnesses on both sides, and the federal judge, John E. Jones III, a Republican appointee of President Bush, who presided with amazing fairness and flashes of humor.

Having recently visited Dover and talked with people on both sides of the cases, I can attest that Humes has given Dover's residents a chance to express their divergent views without bias. There are few books tht match Monkey Girl in putting human faces on deep-rooted conflicts over religious values and scientific issues.

The conflict over teaching evolution in public schools goes back to the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" in 1925, and has still not ended, despite a series of judicial rulings that creationism in any form is a religious doctrine that does not belong in science classes. The opponents of evolution are well-funded and determined, but the Dover case inflicted a blow from which they might not recover. Anyone concerned about this issue will profit from reading Humes's fascinating book.
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