God - or Gorilla: Images of Evolution in the Jazz Age

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Overview

God—or Gorilla explores how biologists worked to explain evolution to a confused and conflicted public during the 1920s. Both scientists and anti-evolutionists deployed schematics, cartoons, photographs, sculptures, and paintings to win the battle for public acceptance of their ideas. Focusing on the use of images and popular media accounts of the struggle, Constance Areson Clark reveals how concepts of evolutionary theory changed as they were presented to, and absorbed into, popular culture.

"Clark's investigation of the images of evolution in the 1920s is a wonderful window into the place of science in the United States and how the cultural concerns of an era can shape scientific activity."— American Historical Review

"Engagingly written, well illustrated, and refreshingly free of the theory-driven jargon that often diverts attention from the task at hand, God—or Gorilla is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Scopes trial, the continuing controversy over the teaching of evolution, and the role of expertise in American society."— Journal of American History

"This highly readable book is valuable as it stands. It is also timely. The 1920s shaped pictures of evolution, and of evolutionary debate, that are still in our heads. As biologists work with illustrators to communicate science, and creationists attack textbook icons, it is helpful to reflect on the struggles of that decisive decade."— Nature

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American Studies
Significant contribution[s] to this broad interdisciplinary area, illuminating the ways in which ideas about organic evolution were contested, and charting the processes by which eugenics acquired an established place in American political and social life.

— Robin Vandome

Choice

A shining example of interdisciplinary American Studies at its very best.

Nature
This highly readable book is valuable as it stands. It is also timely. The 1920s shaped pictures of evolution, and of evolutionary debate, that are still in our heads. As biologists work with illustrators to communicate science, and creationists attack textbook icons, it is helpful to reflect on the struggles of that decisive decade.

— Nick Hopwood

American Historical Review
Clark's investigation of the images of evolution in the 1920s is a wonderful window into the place of science in the United States and how the cultural concerns of an era can shape scientific activity.

— Charles A. Israel

Journal of American History
Engagingly written, well illustrated, and refreshingly free of the theory-driven jargon that often diverts attention from the task at hand, God—or Gorilla is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Scopes trial, the continuing controversy over the teaching of evolution, and the role of expertise in American society.

— George E. Webb

American Paleontologist
Perceptive and enjoyable book.

— Warren D. Allmon

Annals of Science
Clark's study offers a novel perspective of the history of human evolutionary research and popular culture and is a valuable contribution to scholarship in this area.

— Matthew R. Goodrum

American Ethnologist
An exceedingly interesting contribution to the history of anthropology.

— Jonathan Marks

Evolution & Development
A refreshing picture of the origins of the evolution–creation dispute, and in it we can see the germ of the outlooks and arguments that largely still motivate creationism today.

— Rudolf A. Raff

British Journal for the History of Science

Clark's choice of the 1920s is perfectly suited for her brilliant study of evolutionary imagery, for the decade saw significant social, economic and political changes along with growing tensions over the question of where humans came from.

Isis
The value of this book, which is considerable, lies in its careful depiction of the scientific and cultural landscape within which the 'evolution wars' of the 1920s took place.

— A. Bowdoin Van Riper

History: Reviews of New Books
Clark's study has additional significance as a contribution to intellectual history. Readers will find familiar themes of evolution—natural selection, chance and design, and missing links—and the book shows the fate of these issues when they entered the public arena.

— J. David Hoeveler

Nature - Nick Hopwood

This highly readable book is valuable as it stands. It is also timely. The 1920s shaped pictures of evolution, and of evolutionary debate, that are still in our heads. As biologists work with illustrators to communicate science, and creationists attack textbook icons, it is helpful to reflect on the struggles of that decisive decade.

Journal of American History - George E. Webb

Engagingly written, well illustrated, and refreshingly free of the theory-driven jargon that often diverts attention from the task at hand, God—or Gorilla is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Scopes trial, the continuing controversy over the teaching of evolution, and the role of expertise in American society.

American Historical Review - Charles A. Israel

Clark's investigation of the images of evolution in the 1920s is a wonderful window into the place of science in the United States and how the cultural concerns of an era can shape scientific activity.

American Paleontologist - Warren D. Allmon

Perceptive and enjoyable book.

Journal of American Studies - Robin Vandome

Significant contribution[s] to this broad interdisciplinary area, illuminating the ways in which ideas about organic evolution were contested, and charting the processes by which eugenics acquired an established place in American political and social life.

Isis - A. Bowdoin Van Riper

The value of this book, which is considerable, lies in its careful depiction of the scientific and cultural landscape within which the 'evolution wars' of the 1920s took place.

Annals of Science - Matthew R. Goodrum

Clark's study offers a novel perspective of the history of human evolutionary research and popular culture and is a valuable contribution to scholarship in this area.

Evolution & Development - Rudolf A. Raff

A refreshing picture of the origins of the evolution–creation dispute, and in it we can see the germ of the outlooks and arguments that largely still motivate creationism today.

American Ethnologist - Jonathan Marks

An exceedingly interesting contribution to the history of anthropology.

History: Reviews of New Books - J. David Hoeveler

Clark's study has additional significance as a contribution to intellectual history. Readers will find familiar themes of evolution—natural selection, chance and design, and missing links—and the book shows the fate of these issues when they entered the public arena.

Dawn M. Digrius

Clark's choice of the 1920s is perfectly suited for her brilliant study of evolutionary imagery.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Constance Areson Clark is an associate professor of history at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

1 The Caveman and the Strenuous Life 1

2 The Museum in the Modern Babylon 17

3 Nineteen Twenty-two or Thereabouts 41

4 Saving the Phenomena 69

5 Unlikely Infidels 85

6 Stooping to Conquer, and a Hall Full of Elephants 107

7 The Pictures in Our Heads 132

8 Scientists and the Monkey Trial 162

9 Redeeming the Caveman, and the Irreverent Funny Pages 195

Conclusion 224

Notes 235

Index 281

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