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Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion / Edition 1

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Cambridge, MA 1998 Trade paperback New. lt coverwear-Book Appears Unread Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 318 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade.

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"With this authoritative and engaging book, Edward J. Larson examines the many facets of the Scopes trial and shows how its enduring legacy has crossed religious, cultural, educational, and political lines." "The "Monkey Trial," as it was playfully nicknamed, was instigated by the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge a controversial Tennessee law banning the teaching of human evolution in public schools. The Tennessee statute represented the first major victory for an intense national campaign against Darwinism, launched in the 1920s by Protestant fundamentalists and led by the famed politician and orator William Jennings Bryan. At the behest of the ACLU, a teacher named John Scopes agreed to challenge the statute, and what resulted was a trial of mythic proportions. Bryan joined the prosecutors and acclaimed criminal attorney Clarence Darrow led the defense - a dramatic legal matchup that spurred enormous media attention and later inspired the classic play Inherit the Wind." The Scopes trial marked a watershed in our national discussion of science and religion. In addition to symbolizing the clash between evolutionists and creationists, the trial helped shape the development of both popular religion and constitutional law in America, serving as a precedent for more recent legal and political battles.
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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Before the Dover, Pa., trial over intelligent design, there was the Scopes monkey trial, which historian Edward Larson retells with exquisite detail and sympathy for those on both sides.
— Jeremy Manier
New York Times Book Review
Bryan's and Darrow's ghosts still haunt us, and the Scopes trial still holds resonance, as we continue to litigate the role of religion and public life and the power of the state to prescribe what shall be taught in public schools. Read Summer for the Gods for that well-told story.
— Rodney A. Smolla
New York Review of Books
In Summer for the Gods, the first full study of the Scopes trial to be published in forty years, Larsen incisively examines the myths surrounding the Scopes trial. His treatment is fresh and authoritative, making good use of the record of the trial, the extensive newspaper and magazine coverage it received, and the private papers of several of the main figures and organizations involved in it...He restores attention to aspects of [the trial] that are commonly overlooked and that reverberate in the contentions of our own day over science and religion in the schools. The originality of his book arises in large part from its thoughtful, evenhanded treatment of both sides in the confrontation--and the seriousness with which he takes the opposing convictions about religion, science, and their relationship to the law that clashed in Dayton...Larson's account of the trial and the legal issues involved in it is particularly illuminating...[He] provides a fascinating account of how the trial became the legend that was eventually passed on by Inherit the Wind...[This is an] excellent book.
— Daniel J. Kevles
New Scientist
Edward Larson won the Pulitzer Prize in History for his excellent Summer for the Gods, an investigation into the [Scopes] trial and why it still matters. Get the paperback to get up to speed.
Times Literary Supplement
A Spencer Tracy film, Inherit the Wind, was based on the [John Scopes Trial] and has shaped popular memories of it. But, as Edward J. Larson shows in this Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, the film's sinister mood is misleading...Larson artfully separates myths from realities to tell a more complicated and convincing story. He also summarizes the continuing efforts of Tennessee and other southern states to keep creationism on the curriculum and evolution off it.
— Patrick Allitt
Providence Journal-Bulletin
This book has already won a Pulitzer Prize, but it's worth calling attention to again...Larson...finds new things to say about the famous "monkey trial" of 1925 and says them well. Among other things, he shows how the trial helped to break down the longstanding intellectual accommodation between Darwinism and Protestant theology, highlights the tensions between celebrity lawyer Clarence Darrow and the rest of John Scopes's defense team, and demonstrates how the enormously influential drama Inherit the Wind significantly warped the trial and its aftermath.
— Luther Spoehr
KLIATT - Nola Theiss
If you familiar with the movie Inherit the Wind you may expect some drama and excitement in this nonfiction work about the fight over evolution, which focuses on the Scopes trial. Instead, it is a cultural history of the US, using the issue of evolution to describe the rift between fundamentalism and science—two very different ways of seeing the world. The author describes the evolution of the science of evolution and how the fight over it being taught in high schools was contrived. Scopes wasn't even a real science teacher, but a dupe used as a stand-in so as to bring the issue to the forefront of public consciousness. Larson in a sense uses the fight over evolution as a stand-in for the larger fight over the supremacy of religion or science in American culture. His description of the actual trial is historically accurate and well researched, as evidenced by his extensive notes and index. The afterword crystallizes the three stages of the continuing debate over evolution in our schools: removing it entirely, balancing it with creationism, or teaching it as just one theory. The author concludes that as long as Americans are mesmerized by drama and theatrics, rather than science and fact, this debate will continue for a long time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674854291
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward J. Larson is a professor with a joint appointment in history and law at the University of Georgia. A graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, he received his doctorate in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is also the author of Evolution’s Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands and lives in Athens, Georgia.
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Table of Contents




1. Digging Up Controversy

2. Government by the People

3. In Defense of Individual Liberty


4. Choosing Sides

5. Jockeying for Position

6. Preliminary Rounds

7. The Trial of the Century


8. The End of an Era

9. Retelling the Tale

10. Distant Echoes



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