Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Monkey Girl"

Edward Humes is the author nine critically-acclaimed books and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for specialized reporting. His latest book is Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul.

Ed applied the "page 69 test" to Monkey Girl and reported the following:
Monkey Girl is about America's long war over what we should teach our children -- and what we believe -- about where we come from. The story's primary focus is an epic federal trial in Pennsylvania that pitted evolution against an upstart alternative, intelligent design, which claims there is scientific evidence of a designing intelligence in our very cells. A school board in Dover, PA, introduced "ID" into its public high school curriculum; eleven parents sued, arguing that the new policy was religious, not scientific, breaching the constitutional wall separating church and state.

Page 69 of Monkey Girl describes a pivotal moment in the rise of the intelligent design movement, when its "godfather," Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial, debated the renowned paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University in 1989. The late Gould told Johnson, "I'm going to destroy you. But it's not personal." The encounter is recalled from Johnson's point of view:

Excerpt of p. 69:

"I was nobody. I was just some law professor. He was the most prestigious Darwinist in the country at the time. He had plenty to lose."

The two attacked and parried for two hours, with each drawing blood as Johnson faulted Darwinists for drawing sweeping conclusions by extrapolating from very few data, then rigging the rules to keep out evidence of design. Gould accused Johnson of resurrecting old creationist arguments and mischaracterizing or misunderstanding a century's worth of accumulated evidence and observation that supported evolution at every turn. According to Johnson, when the heated match ended Gould was shaking with anger. The novice evolutionary critic judged the debate a draw. Gould would have the final word, however. When Darwin on Trial was published two years later, Gould wrote an early, savage review for the influential magazine Scientific American, panning everything from Johnson's scientific falsehoods to his failed logic to his "abysmal" writing style. "No wonder lawyer jokes are so popular in our culture," Gould quipped. Apparently, it was personal after all.

To Johnson and the rest of the growing coterie of intelligent design advocates, however, the debate had put them on the map -- the dangerous man had done his job.