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Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul Paperback – February 19, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060885491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060885496
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #592,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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9 Comments 43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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31 Comments 106 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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