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?
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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January 30, 2007
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Excerpt from Monkey Girl by Edward Humes
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, yet the 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.