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Monkey Girl

Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Edward Humes (Harper Collins Publishers, 2007), recounts the battle between creationists and evolutionists that was fought in the town of Dover, Pennsylvania. As with most wars, it began with a skirmish. The school board attempted to introduce Intelligent Design (ID) into the ninth grade science curriculum. The science teachers refused.

The war ended on the ninth-floor courtroom in the Ronald Reagan Federal Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after 40 days of testimony. The trial of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District became national news. Pundits from the Left and Right pontificated to national audiences as pro bono top guns from The Thomas More Law Center fought it out with lawyers from the National Center for Science Education.

The trial and its aftermath makes for fascinating reading, but author Humes provides a background for the legal maneuvering that should be of special interest to Adventists of every political persuasion and doctrinal belief. It is my hope that this review, which includes only a small sample of the rhetoric, anecdotal asides, definitions, quotations, confidential policy statements, and legal testimony included in the book, will sufficiently motivate readers to read every page.

The book is carefully researched, and the chapter notes also contain important information no matter which side of the debate floats your boat. Price is not a problem. I bought my paperback for a penny + postage from a book seller advertising on Amazon.

I am convinced that the information between the covers of Monkey Girl will better inform the creation debate now taking place in Adventist conversations and periodicals. The following are direct quotes. Explanatory introductions are clearly indicated.

When [Dover’s] science teachers [claimed that] they did not teach the origins of life, they were referring to abiogenesis–the mysterious and as yet unexplained (scientifically, at least) process by which nonliving material in Earth’s primordial environment led to the first living organism. This is what scientists consider to be the ‘origins of life,’ and the theory of evolution does not attempt to explain how it happened; Darwin’s theory assumes that life is already present, and goes on from there. P 15.

The scientific community sees the creationist critics of evolution as yahoos, religious zealots, and scientifically suspect charlatans. The creationists see the evolutionists as immoral and dishonest purveyors of a pseudoreligion called Darwinism that makes God superfluous. They vilify and abhor one another in speeches, at conferences, on websites, and in blogs. p 28.

The stakes, at least as they are outlined by Dave Reagan, something of an evangelical superstar, are just too high: It’s not about disagreements over science or philosophy, and it’s certainly no gentleman’s conflict in which the two sides can agree to disagree. This is a battle for the souls of children, nothing less. This is about being afraid you’re going to heaven, but your kids, infected by teachers preaching the false ‘religion’ of evolution, are going to burn in hell, separated from [their parents] for eternity, suffering for ever. p 24.

Humanism, to many evangelicals, is a code word that needs no explaining, as it embodies virtually all the ills plaguing society today. In more neutral quarters, humanism is defined simply as a belief in human rationality and a rejection of religious revelation as the path to truth, wisdom, and justice. p 21.

Evolution is not a religion or a philosophy…nor an outlook or a dogma. It is simply an explanation that makes sense of data–that’s what a good theory does. p 19.

Catholics generally have no problem with evolution, and a church doctrine warns against taking the Bible too literally. Catholic theologians emphasize the metaphorical nature of the Old and New Testaments, so scripture and Darwin are not on a collision course as far as the Vatican is concerned. p 36.

According to Kent Hovind, aka Dr. Dino, We are in the center of the battlefield of the greatest war in history, the battle between God and Satan. p.34.

A young man at a creationist conference admitted that he preferred to bank on ignorance. ‘I’m really afraid to learn too much about evolution, because it might make me doubt my religion. And then where would I be? What would I tell my family? My girlfriend?’ p 29.

Dave Reagan explains that there will be no trials or lawyers or Miranda warnings for sinners, blasphemers, and humanists after the second coming: Jesus will rule with an iron rod… Justice will be instant. p 25.

Darwin’s theory predicts, among other things, that a species often will be most successful if its members cooperate with, rather than attack, one another. p 47

The anti-evolution crusade…considered with the discovery of extensive fossil remains of creatures that appeared to be early ancestors of humans–more than apes but less than men, creatures who used primitive tools, had a social fabric, and looked not all that different from modern humans. Suddenly a long-standing claim of the anti-evolutionists -that there was no physical evidence of man’s descent from lower forms–appeared in jeopardy. These discoveries in the fossil record suggested that belief in biblical creation just couldn’t hold up in the modern world. Inevitably, there came a strong response against the forces of modernism from traditionalists in American society, spearheaded by a new religious movement that caught fire in the same era: fundamentalism. That movement first led to a crisis of factionalism between conservative and liberal theologies within the mainline Protestant denominations of America. The “five fundamentals” were put forth by a group of religious conservatives in 1910 at a major religious conference, where they created something of a sensation, and then were championed by many traditionalist religious leaders. They were seen as an antidote for the moral decay that modernism and evolution were said to have brought to two American…True Christians had to believe unquestionably in five things or face damnation: the inerrancy of the Bible; the literal truth of the Virgin birth and the divinity of Jesus; the doctrine of atonement through God’s grace and human faith; the resurrection of Jesus after the crucifixion as a historical fact; and the authenticity of Jesus miracles and his promise of a second coming. If you accepted the five fundamentals, then you knew evolution could not be true…and you also knew that teachers who tried to convince children that evolution was a real and true were trying to harvest souls for Satan. p 48

Irreducible complexity is the notion that certain complex biological structures at the molecular level could not have evolved, because there is no way for natural selection to assemble the various chemical ‘parts.’ p 69

To evolutionary scientists and teachers, the following two paragraphs from a confidential “wedge document” produced by the Discovery Institute revealed what appeared to be the starkly religious core of the intelligent design movement:

Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Intelligent Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialistic worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

The two governing goals of the wedge strategy: “to defeat scientific materialism and it’s destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.” pp 75, 76

When he finally published his findings in The Origin of the Species in 1859, Darwin marshaled the reams of evidence to accomplish two proofs. First, he laid out an airtight case that all life varies over time and across generations–in other words, evolution is a fact and notions of that species are fixed and immutable are incorrect. Second, the mechanism that brings about evolution is not intelligent or divine, but a gradual, undirected, natural process that Darwin called ‘natural selection.’ p 118.

In later life Darwin described himself as an agnostic, though not as an atheist, but he did not come to doubt God and religion because of his scientific research or because of his theory of evolution, as critics of evolution sometimes allege. Darwin habitually quoted scripture during the voyage of the Beagle, he was trained to be a pastor, and he considered God the ultimate lawgiver even as he theorized that religion involved as a tribal survival trait. Rather, he lost faith in God when his ten-year-old daughter, Annie, with whom he had an especially close and affectionate relationship, died in 1851, after a bout of scarlet fever. pp 120, 121.

There is no overestimating the effect that a reasonable person can have on an essentially unreasonable process. No amount of fulminating by the Discovery Institute or bluster by the board [of education] or harrumphing by the evolutionists could come close to equaling the appeal and reason displayed by this sweet young [science] teacher, who was clearly conflicted about testifying and had twice refused to be a witness. If there was a poster child for ‘teach the controversy,’ it would be Jill Gonzalez-Bravo, a former Peace Corps volunteer who played by the rules and followed the [state’s educational science] standards even when she disagreed with them, and for whom the issue was not her own beliefs, but the real needs and questions of the kids she taught. p 172.

The National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, has evolved into the Darwinian answer to ID’s Discovery Institute and to the Creationists’ Answers in Genesis outreach organization. It has amassed a quarter century of experience in the evolution wars, serving as a clearinghouse for scientists and teachers concerned with improving science education and with the defense of evolutionary theory–which NCSE equates with a defense of science in general. The NCSE is also the repository of documents and archives collected across more than two decades on creationism cases and tactics, ID arguments, and the points where they intersect. p 190.

[Thomas More] was willing to die rather than betray his faith. That is why Domino’s Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan chose More as the symbol for their Christian law firm. There are aspects of More’s background that are less well known and less celebrated, and that make him an even more interesting choice as figurehead for the Thomas More Law Center. He, too, was a zealous culture warrior in his day, vigorously persecuting heresy. As King Henry’s Lord Chancellor, More ordered six Lutherans burned at the stake as heretics and had dozens of other Protestants interrogated and tortured in his own home…Representatives of the a Thomas More Law Center and other opponents of evolution frequently criticize Charles Darwin and his ‘materialistic’ very as the principal inspiration for communism; but ironically, More’s book Utopia, which described a well-ordered, prosperous, non-Christian society with no private property, greatly resembled Karl Marx’s ideal society, and has long been an inspiration for Marxist and communist theorists. p 230.

According to Richard Thompson, “Promoting the introduction of intelligent design in public school isn’t injecting religion into the classroom. It’s helping to weed out religion–because evolution is the most dangerous religious idea of all.” p 232.

Ken Miller, the author of Darwin’s God is a devout Roman Catholic who defines science as “the systematic attempt to provide natural explanations for natural phenomena… ID, on the other hand, is neither scientific nor testable, because it looks outside natural causes for its answers. Therefore, it is fundamentally religious.” pp 264, 265.

America was not founded as a Christian nation. The Founders were adamant about this. In 1796, the Treaty of Tripoli was read aloud in the US Senate, approved unanimously without a single word of dissent, and signed by President John Adams, a signer and co-author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the greatest patriots in the nation’s history. The treaty, intended to forge a good relations with the Muslim world, included the following passage: ‘As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on a Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, she’ll ever produce an interpretation of the harmony existing between the two countries.’ p 310.

Ken Miller, again answering the question, “Does science consider issues of meaning and purpose in the universe,” responds “To be perfectly honest, no. Scientists think all the time about the meaning of their work, about the purpose of life, about the purpose of their own lives. I certainly do. But these questions, as important as they are, are not scientific questions. If I could solve the question of meaning in my life by doing an experiment in the laboratory, I assure you I would rush off and do it right now. But these questions simply lie outside the purview of science. It doesn’t say they’re not important, it doesn’t say that any answer to these is necessarily wrong, but it does say that science cannot address it. It’s a reflection of the limitations of science.” pp 266, 267.

Nick Matzke put it this way in the science blog Panda’s Thumb, while he continued to labor long after the trial, archiving the voluminous evidence collected in this case: “If the ID movement were intellectually serious, they would withdraw completely from interfering with public education, realizing that introductory science classes simply have to educate students in the basics of accepted science, and are not the right places to try to make their cases in the media” p 325.

Today, the attempt is being made to require employees of the Seventh-day Adventist to profess and teach that Genesis is literally true. The consequences of this decision are presently unclear. Most Adventists are proud of the fact that their colleges and universities have state and national accreditation. It remains unclear whether or not this required “confession of faith” would make secular accreditation problematic. What would be the reaction of church members if Adventist educational institutions were threatened with Bible College status? Stay tuned!

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