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Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and ReligionEdward J. Larson
Harvard University, paperback edition. 318 pages, 1997
*** Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History ***
Jonathan Wells' recent book on the scientific Icons of Evolution has been a revelation to many that the house of Darwinism is built on a very weak and suspect foundation. In Summer for the Gods historian Ed Larson reveals that the foundation for one of the foremost cultural Icons of Evolution, the 1925 Scopes Trial, is just as suspect.
The 'Monkey Trial,' as it was nicknamed, was instigated by the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge a controversial Tennessee law banning the teaching of human evolution in public schools. What resulted was a trial of mythic proportions. Unfortunately what is remembered about the trial today is more myth than fact. Larson attributes this to two significant sources. The first is the publication in 1931 of the best-selling book Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties and the second is the wide circulation of the 1955 play and the 1960 movie release of Inherit the Wind.ï¿½ Both media accounts portray the Scopes Trial as the triumph of reason over religion, and yet judging by the debates going on today it appears that the victory cry was a bit premature. Moreover, it is interesting to learn that the fictional work Inherit the Wind was really written as a social commentary against the McCarthyism of the 50's, using the Scopes Trial to draw parallel points from another era.
If you are looking for a detailed account of the trial itself, there are better choices. But if you want to understand the historical, political and religious context of the trial, as well as the myths carried forward by the Inherit the Wind play and the movie, this book is the authoritative source. With almost 40 pages of notes and references it provides a great launching pad for diving into all the details. In fact this would make an excellent class project for a high school or college history class. Work your way through the Summer of the Gods and perhaps the transcripts from the trial and then watch Inherit the Wind starring Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelly and see how well your class does in deciphering fact from fiction.ï¿½
Although the authors of the Inherit the Wind play freely admit in the preface that the play is not history, somehow the movie has been indelibly ingrained on the American psyche as a representative account of the 1925 trial. And what teacher will refuse a book from Harvard University Press that won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History as your text?
For those looking for a brief treatment of the subject I would recommend Chapter 2 of Phillip Johnson's book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.
What People Are Saying:
Edward Larson tells the true story of the Scopes trial brilliantly, and the truth is a lot more interesting than the myth that was presented to the public in Inherit the Wind.
- Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial
Summer for the Gods is, quite simply, the best book ever written on the Scopes trial and its place in American history and myth. The tone is balanced; the research, meticulous; the prose, sparkling.
ï¿½- Ronald L. Numbers
Experts will learn much about the background and details of the Scopes trial; the general reader will be drawn into the trial as never before.ï¿½ Inherit the Wind, step aside!
ï¿½- Will Provine, Cornell
From J. Olson - Choice
From Rodney A. Smolla - The New York Times Book Review ï¿½
Table of Contents:
ï¿½Part III . .
. and After
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