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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature, by Robin Brande

I recently read Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature (New York: Knopf, 2007), by Robin Brande. The book is aimed at the so-called Young Adult audience, and has won some awards in that category. It is well written and entertaining.

The premise is that the protagonist, Mena Reece, has parents that attend a conservative church, but a large one, with dozens of teenagers who attend regularly. This church has a pastor who wants to persuade Mena's high school to teach Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution, in science classes. Mena has been told that she is not welcome in church, for reasons I won't go into, so she stays home and watches TV preachers, or pretends to.

Youth from Mena's church sit backwards in science class, and wear shirts attacking evolution. Mena's lab partner in freshman science, Casey, is a young genius, and emotionally mature. He has a sister, Kayla, who is a senior, also brilliant, and a budding journalist. The three of them, and Dr. Shepard, the science teacher, eventually make the IDers look silly.

There's an interesting wrinkle. Mena runs across the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-19) and puts that forth as teaching natural selection. Maybe, but to me, that's a stretch.

Let's be clear. This book is fiction. Dr. Shepard is too good a teacher to be real, and besides, she has a doctorate -- a science doctorate, and is in a high school classroom. That alone makes this book fiction. Most likely a church as large as the one in the book, which had as many complaints about modern society, would have its own high school. Casey and Kayla are just too good to be true. The church is all bad, or nearly so. The story is just too black and white. I'm not a great friend of the ID movement, but this book seems just too one-sided.

The book is a good read, and worth reading, but it has its limitations.

Thanks for reading.

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