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The Creation-Evolution Debate: Historical Perspectives

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Overview

Few issues besides evolution have so strained Americans' professed tradition of tolerance. Few historians besides Pulitzer Prize winner Edward J. Larson have so perceptively chronicled evolution's divisive presence on the American scene. This slim volume reviews the key aspects, current and historical, of the creation-evolution debate in the United States.

Larson discusses such topics as the transatlantic response to Darwinism, the American controversy over teaching evolution in public schools, and the religious views of American scientists. He recalls the theological qualms about evolution held by some leading scientists of Darwin's time. He looks at the 2006 Dover, Pennsylvania, court decision on teaching Intelligent Design and other cases leading back to the landmark 1925 Scopes trial. Drawing on surveys that Larson conducted, he discusses attitudes of American scientists toward the existence of God and the afterlife.

By looking at the changing motivations and backgrounds of the stakeholders in the creation-evolution debate—clergy, scientists, lawmakers, educators, and others—Larson promotes a more nuanced view of the question than most of us have. This is no incidental benefit for Larson's readers; it is one of the book's driving purposes. If we cede the debate to those who would frame it simplistically rather than embrace its complexity, warns Larson, we will not advance beyond the naive regard of organized religion as the enemy of intellectual freedom or the equally myopic myth of the scientist as courageous loner willing to die for the truth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In these sprightly lectures the distinguished historian of science Larson introduces us to the nineteenth-century debates over Darwinism, the Scopes trial, the rising tide of 'Intelligent Design,' and the declining beliefs of scientists. If you don't have the time or inclination to read the shelves of works on these topics, this excellent little book is your salvation."—Ronald L. Numbers, University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School

"Ever since Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, the battle over evolution has engaged churchmen and scientists alike, both pro and con. With deft and concise strokes Larson limns this fraught scene. Here the skills of a legal scholar and Pulitzer Prize-winning author are combined to bring historical context and clarity to an issue that still rends our national fabric."—Owen Gingerich, author of God's Universe

"[A] handy and timely volume . . . Designed for a broad audience . . . the writing is lucid and concise, and a general reader could easily finish it in a short afternoon in a comfy chair or a long commute on an uncomfortable train. . . . Engaging, compelling, and insightful . . . A dandy fifty-five page sketch to the debates . . . It is an excellent choice for general readers interested in a brief overview of the subject."—Journal of Southern Religion

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Edward J. Larson is University Professor in history and holds the Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University and retains a professorial appointment at the University of Georgia, where he has taught for twenty years. His many books include Summer for the Gods, winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History. Larson's articles have appeared in such publications as Nature, Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American, and the Wall Street Journal.

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