When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes and American Intellectuals / Edition 1

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Overview

With characteristic eloquence and insight, prominent historian Paul K. Conkin explores large, indeed cosmic issues in When All the Gods Trembled. Conkin focuses his analysis on the numerous challenges in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to age-old beliefs in the existence of a god, in a world that exhibits some extrinsic or intrinsic purpose, in the divine origin and special destiny of humans, and in transcendent moral values. By the 1920s, these challenges had created a major crisis of faith. Conkin traces the origins of Western beliefs about the gods and about human origins, beliefs shared by the three great Semitic religions. He proceeds with a searching and original analysis of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, rejecting conventional understandings of Darwin in order to probe the logical credentials of his thesis and its implications for Christian theology. From Darwin he moves to the deep rifts that developed between American orthodox, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christians on the one hand and liberals and modernists on the other. These tensions created the enormous public interest in the Scopes trial of 1925, which provides the subject of a revealing chapter. The final two chapters focus on the intellectual debates during and immediately after the famous trial. One involves a dialogue among the most representative and vocal Christian intellectuals in the 1920s—the orthodox E. Gresham Machen, the liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick, and the modernist Shailer Matthews. The last chapter includes brief vignettes of a diverse group of intellectuals who rejected any version of theism, including John Dewey, George Santayana, Harry Elmer Barnes, John Crowe Ransom, Walter Lippmann, and Joseph Wood Krutch. Conkin's survey reveals a degree of the public's disillusionment with American intellectuals during this critical period. The fundamental themes of Western civilization were crumbling, and Americans had to give up on one consoling certainty after another. The loss was great and the possible gains for humanity unsure and precarious. Yet most American intellectuals failed to provide either a deep analysis of the issues at stake or more than myths and fictions to replace the spiritual loss. While recognizing this failure, Conkin eschews any facile condemnation, appreciating how poignant and even tragic were the dilemmas faced by the first generation of intellectuals to confront a world that seemed to exhibit no preordained goal, and provide no promise of human redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

CHOICE
When All the Gods Trembled does a fine job of identifying the specific elements in the Judeo-Christian tradition that evolutionary theory tended to undermine.
Books and Culture
Conkin provides a sensitive sociocultural description of the residents of Dayton, who were humiliated by their portrayal in the national media. He is critical of the caricatures provided by those who conspired to uncover, maximize, and even manufacture a kind of 'cultural warfare.'
— Karl W. Giberson and Donald A. Yerxa
The Review Of Politics
Both satisfying and enjoyable. . . . I am glad that I had an opportunity to review When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes, and American Intellectuals.
— Michael Ruse
Journal Of Church and State
Distinguished historian Paul Conkin has given us a provocative book surveying a key period in America's intellectual history. Conkin deserves credit for writing an eminently readable overview with keen insights into important issues such as Darwinism, fundamentalism, and modernism.
— Barry Hankins, Baylor University
Georgia Historical Quarterly
Dense typesetting allows the book's short length to conceal a surprising amount of text. With a sympathetic, dense, and readable style that accepts no nonsense, Conkin provides a wide-ranging analysis in this compact, useful volume.
— Randall L. Hall, Wake Forest University
Journal Of Southern History
The real contribution of Conkin's book lies in the chapters that examine the profound issues at stake in the conflict between religious faith and scientific naturalism that the Scopes trial came to symbolize. For its recasting of the putative conflict between faith and science in these unfamiliar terms plus its remarkable incisiveness on the contributing issues, this book is recommended to anyone interested in twentieth-century American intellectual life.
Journal Of The History Of Biology
Conkin provides a useful introduction to the cultural crises of the 1920s.
The North Carolina Historical Review
A worthwhile addition to the literature of the Scopes trial and of the evolution controversy in the United States.
Journal of American History
The book is a crisp and handy guide to the story of American religious belief in the early part of the twentieth century.
The Bookwatch
A well-balanced, intellectual, and thoughtful discourse on the very serious and perplexing questions that science poses to faith When All the Gods Trembled is highly recommended reading for both students and general readers with an interest in the impact of 19th and 20th sciences on religious belief in the United States.
Journal Of American History
The book is a crisp and handy guide to the story of American religious belief in the early part of the twentieth century.
The Journal Of Southern History
The real contribution of Conkin's book lies in the chapters that examine the profound issues at stake in the conflict between religious faith and scientific naturalism that the Scopes trial came to symbolize. For its recasting of the putative conflict between faith and science in these unfamiliar terms plus its remarkable incisiveness on the contributing issues, this book is recommended to anyone interested in twentieth-century American intellectual life.
Choice
When All the Gods Trembled does a fine job of identifying the specific elements in the Judeo-Christian tradition that evolutionary theory tended to undermine.
Books & Culture
Conkin provides a sensitive sociocultural description of the residents of Dayton, who were humiliated by their portrayal in the national media. He is critical of the caricatures provided by those who conspired to uncover, maximize, and even manufacture a kind of 'cultural warfare.'
— Karl W. Giberson and Donald A. Yerxa
The Review of Politics
Both satisfying and enjoyable. . . . I am glad that I had an opportunity to review When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes, and American Intellectuals.
— Michael Ruse
Journal of Church and State
Distinguished historian Paul Conkin has given us a provocative book surveying a key period in America's intellectual history. Conkin deserves credit for writing an eminently readable overview with keen insights into important issues such as Darwinism, fundamentalism, and modernism.
— Barry Hankins, Baylor University
The Journal of Southern History
The real contribution of Conkin's book lies in the chapters that examine the profound issues at stake in the conflict between religious faith and scientific naturalism that the Scopes trial came to symbolize. For its recasting of the putative conflict between faith and science in these unfamiliar terms plus its remarkable incisiveness on the contributing issues, this book is recommended to anyone interested in twentieth-century American intellectual life.
Journal of The History of Biology
Conkin provides a useful introduction to the cultural crises of the 1920s.
Edward J. Larson
These balanced historical essays chronicle the profound impact of modern scientific and philosophical naturalism on American religious thought during the pivotal 1920s, when all the gods trembled before Darwinism and its ilk. Paul Conkin offers keen insights into the historic fundamentalist-modernist controversy and the ongoing debate over science and religion.
Books and Culture - Karl W. Giberson and Donald A. Yerxa
Conkin provides a sensitive sociocultural description of the residents of Dayton, who were humiliated by their portrayal in the national media. He is critical of the caricatures provided by those who conspired to uncover, maximize, and even manufacture a kind of 'cultural warfare.'
The Review of Politics - Michael Ruse
Both satisfying and enjoyable. . . . I am glad that I had an opportunity to review When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes, and American Intellectuals.
Journal of Church & State - Barry Hankins
Distinguished historian Paul Conkin has given us a provocative book surveying a key period in America's intellectual history. Conkin deserves credit for writing an eminently readable overview with keen insights into important issues such as Darwinism, fundamentalism, and modernism.
Vol. 10 Issue 2 July/August 1999 Science and Spirit
Three stars . . . important.
Georgia Historical Quarterly - Randall L. Hall
Dense typesetting allows the book's short length to conceal a surprising amount of text. With a sympathetic, dense, and readable style that accepts no nonsense, Conkin provides a wide-ranging analysis in this compact, useful volume.
North Carolina Historical Review
A worthwhile addition to the literature of the Scopes trial and of the evolution controversy in the United States.
Booknews
This is a paperbound reprint of a 1998 book. Six essays by Conkin (history, Vanderbilt U.) focus on the crisis of faith that came to a head in the mid-1920s. After an introduction on Christian cosmologies, three essays outline arguments against monotheistic ideas (expeditiously named the "Semitic cosmology") from bible studies and the natural sciences. A chapter on Darwin indicates that he had the most eroding impact on the Semitic cosmology, fracturing Christianity into its present camps. Chapters on the Scopes trial of 1925 and the intellectual debates of the twenties round out the volume. The book ends with thinkers who rejected any version of theism and harshly evaluated Christian modernism. No notes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780847690640
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/15/2001
  • Series: American Intellectual Culture Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul K. Conkin is distinguished professor of history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of numerous books, including most recently American Originals (A History Book Club Main Selection, ISBN 0-8078-4649-X) and The Uneasy Center (0-8078-4492-6).

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Preface Chapter 2 Introduction: Christian Cosmologies Chapter 3 What Darwin Wrought Chapter 4 Evangelicals, Fundamentals, and Modernists Chapter 5 The Scopes Trial Chapter 6 A Dialogue among Christian Intellectuals Chapter 7 Beyond Theism Chapter 8 The Gods Still Tremble: An Update Chapter 9 Index

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