Review: Monkey Girl

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Monkey Girl / 978-0-06-088548-9

When all 350 pages of "Monkey Girl" arrived in the mail, I looked at this very large book a little dubiously. Although I was very interested in the Dover court trial, it seemed unlikely that my interest would be maintained through the entirety of such a large tome.

"Monkey Girl" is far from being the dry scholarly tome I had envisioned, however. Author Humes sustains the reader's interest so well, and brings the controversy around the Dover trial so brilliantly to life, that the entire book is as entertaining as it is informative. "Monkey Girl" begins with the initial stages of the Dover controversy, heightening the religious 'crusade' aspects of polarized board members who seemed more interested in 'outing' their science teachers as inferior (in their mind) Christians and people, rather than in educating their students.

As Humes builds up to the highly anticipated trial, and makes the case for Intelligent Design as a mere palette swap of Creation Science, and explains why evolution is such a robust and healthy theory, it is astonishing to see how much detail is included in this book. Fascinating material is given with regards to such topics as pseudogenes and fused chromosomes, and in such an accessible manner that readers of any levels will be able to understand. If anything, this accessibility of the material serves to underscore just how unnecessary this trial and 'controversy' were, and it is truly frustrating to hear the school board members readily admit in court that they had been totally unwilling to listen to any of the science teachers, and - indeed - refused to research either evolution OR intelligent design prior to forcing it into the classroom. One cannot help but feel that if people focused less on partisan politics and more on looking at the facts and weighing the options, our children would be better served.

"Monkey Girl" contains so many interesting gems of information (for instance, that the initial push to teach evolution in the classrooms came not from 'godless liberals', but from Republicans during the space race and communism scares - a time when we recognized that sub-standard schools did not benefit our country as a whole), that even those who are not directly interested in the Dover trial and controversy will still find interesting reading material here. If nothing else, "Monkey Girl" is a good example of how a good trial, with a good judge, really ought to unfold - it is clear that Judge John Jones was initially 'expected' to rule along party and partisan lines, and it is refreshing to see this unfairly cynical assumption turned on its head. Humes gives careful evidence that Judge Jones listened carefully and with an open mind to the evidence on trial before him, and that he sought to provide a ruling both fair and factual.

~ Ana Mardoll

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