Thursday, February 22, 2007

Book of the Month: Monkey Girl

If you want the definitive history of the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board trial, then Edward Humes' Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul is the book you need.

First off, the book is one of the most enjoyable non-fiction books I've read in a long time. It reads like a court drama in the way that Humes interweaves the various events leading up to the trial and fleshes out the people involved. Even the account of the trial itself is remarkably entertaining, especially when he discusses Eric Rothschild's cross examination of Michael Behe. It's one of the few times in an actual trial where you'll see a Hollywood style "Gotcha!" moment, and Humes describes it beautifully.

Even though Humes establishes which side of the issue he supports early on, he never demonizes those on the side of Intelligent Design. He carefully describes every major player in this drama, allowing the reader to better connect with the real person behind each name. It helps the reader understand each individual's motivation and rationale, thereby creating a clear and honest picture of what happened in Dover where both sides felt they were doing the right thing.

Additionally, Humes provides an excellent summary of the evolution wars. He ranges from the Scopes Monkey Trial onwards. For those who know little about the history of evolution and creationism in the US Court system, it really is an excellent starting point for those who want to learn more. Plus, it obviously helps reader better understand the issues and precedents surrounding the case.

In the end, Monkey Girl is the book you should get if you want to know what happened at Dover without reading the trial's transcripts. If you have an interest in the Creation/Evolution debate, I think you'll find it's one of the few histories of a civil suit trial that you can seriously call a page-turner.

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