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Monday, August 20, 2007

Book Review: Monkey Girl

Most of us atheists are already familiar with the case of the Dover Pennsylvania school board's attempt to sneak Intelligent Design into science classes and their subsequent smack down by a Federal Judge. We already know that the school board was composed of a majority of god-fearing, evolution-denying Christians who were concerned that the paltry amount of time spent teaching evolution in biology classes (which is basically zero since most teachers practice self-censorship and avoid the subject in order to placate angry parents) was going to turn their children into rabid atheists. And we all took great pleasure in reading Judge Jones' total rebuke of the school board and their religious inspired policy. So why read a book about something we already know so much about?

What is the best detective/drama television show of all time? That's right, Columbo. And what happened during the first ten minutes of every show? That's right, we find out who did it and how they did it. But did you stop watching after the opening scene because you already knew the answer? No way. You kept watching because you loved to see some smug killer who thinks he/she is above the law slowly get trapped in a web of lies created by their own hubris as Columbo methodically rips apart their alibi with his non-stop questioning. And this is the exact same pleasure you will experience reading Monkey Girl by Edward Humes. You'll get to follow a bunch of arrogant Christians as they willingly and purposefully break the law for Jesus' sake and then slowly implode trying to cover their tracks with double talk and outright lies, in a Federal courtroom nonetheless. This is Columbo in book form, and it's real.

Of course the book is much more than a story about a school board who gets their comeupance. Humes gives us a history of both the Creationist and Intelligent Design movements, a history of church/state separation issues in public schools, profiles of all the main characters. In fact, in some ways you almost find yourself feeling sorry for the lead instigator and head of the school board, Bill Buckingham, but even a painful and somewhat unsuccessful recovery from an addiction to OxyContin is no excuse for putting your own town through such humiliation and perjuring yourself in Federal Court.

I think the last paragraph of the book best sums up the anti-evolution mindset:

"I still don't know why people got so upset about it," one thoughtful student at Dover High said a few months after Jones's [sic] decision. "People are going to believe whatever they want when it comes to Darwin and God and coming from monkeys. That's why they call it belief. Facts have nothing to do with it. So why get all upset about it?"

That's right, facts have nothing to do with the Creation/Intelligent Design movement, except for the ones that you make up yourself and then later deny that you ever said them. Fortunately, the spirit of Columbo happened to be channeling himself through a Federal judge and just like the TV show, the bad guys got what was coming to them in the end. And like me, you'll have trouble putting this book down because you're going to enjoy their implosion immensely.


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