Monkey Girl - Evolution, Education, Religion, And The Battle For America's Soul


I just started reading Edward Humes' book Monkey Girl about the trial in Dover, Pennsylvania which centered around a young earth creationist led school board trying to teach ID in science class while also attempting to pressure science teachers into irresponsibly implying that evolution is less of an accepted scientific theory than it actual is. These teachers were told to focus on the gaps in the fossil record, the questionable aspects of the theory. Make sure the kids know that it is 'just a theory' rather than truthfully teaching that it is one of the three most proven theories in science to date (along side Newtonian mechanics and germ theory).

The book is difficult to read because it delves very personally into the creationist's motivations and ways of thinking, but it's also something that should be read. It's very easy to have a belief and to disregard those who don't share your beliefs as idiotic or willfully ignorant as a whole with little more motivation for their fears beyond an irrational fear of a vengeful sky daddy. While I feel like this is essentially true, I think that it's important to understand the true weight of that fear and to at least try to put yourself on the other side of the argument as much as possible.

I'm not talking about apologetics - I don't think these people deserve to re-define science, re-write history, or turn the world into some kind of one-religion theocracy simply because they're scared and we should feel sorry for them. I do, however, feel like I belong to the same race as they do and that they at least deserve my compassion. I want to understand creationists and IDers better because I truly don't understand them at all.

We see them as kooks, willfully ignorant simpletons, power hungry indoctrinators, etc. They see us as arrogant, tools of the devil, willfully defiant children of a shared creator, etc. While those labels fit the bill some of the time on either side, most religious people are not moronic sheep with cult mentalities and most atheists or people with similar humanist beliefs are not evil minded snobs. We're all people and we have different conclusions brought about by different experiences in our lives.

I recognize in myself an unshakable belief and understanding of science and evolution and I have said that it would most likely take god himself descending from the sky to make me re-consider my lack of belief in a god or gods. I know that there are some religious people that feel the exact same way about their beliefs - an unshakable belief. My beliefs are rooted in science and logic and because of that, I feel that my beliefs are far closer to the truth than religious beliefs which are rooted in faith and spirituality. What I often forget is that there are plenty of people who feel that faith and spirituality supersede logic and reason. In the minds of people who oppose my beliefs, they are just as correct as I am.

At the end of the day, I still feel that religion is pretty obviously a sham. The Bible was a work of fiction written by entirely mortal men without any divine intervention. God is an outdated human invention to explain things we previously didn't and in some cases still don't understand. Religion was at first a means to explain and then a means to control. However, I do feel that the only way people are going to ever really be able to move past this divide between belief and lack of belief is if we try to look at one another as part of the same whole. The ID side may not ever be able to do that since a lot of their beliefs push them to reject non-believers as an entirely evil and dangerous influence outright, but that doesn't mean I have to do the same in return.

This book is a hard read because it does a very good job of showing the human side of the creationist movement without apologizing for their actions or even offering excuses for their way of thinking. It simply shows them as they are - passionately dedicated people who truly believe in their view of reality at the expense of everything else. If I honestly held a real fear in my heart that my darling son might be damned to an eternal torturous hell for believing in evolution, I can't say that I wouldn't act similarly to the folks who tried (and failed) to force a curriculum which would diminish the scientific importance of evolution - regardless of what anyone else on Earth had to say.