Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial & America's Continuing Debate over Science & Religion

Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial & America's Continuing Debate over Science & Religion The Scopes Trial Marked A Watershed In Our National Relationship Between Science And Religion And Has Had Tremendous Impact On Our Culture Ever Since, Even Inspiring The Play And Movie, Both Titled Inherit The Wind In Addition To Symbolizing The Evolutionist Versus Creationist Debate, The Trial Helped Shape The Development Of Both Popular Religion And Religious Freedom In America Yet Despite Its Influence On The Th Century, There Are No Modern Histories Of The Trial And Its Aftermath This Book Fills That Void Not Only By Skillfully Narrating The Trial S Events, But Also By Framing It In A Broader Social Context, Showing How Its Influence Has Cut Across Religious, Cultural, Educational And Political Lines With New Material From Both The Prosecution And The Defense, Along With The Author S Astute Historical And Legal Analysis, Summer For The Gods Is Destined To Become A New Classic About A Pivotal Milestone In American History

Pulitzer Prize winning American historian and legal scholar He is university professor of history and holds the Hugh Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University He was formerly Herman E Talmadge Chair of Law and Richard B Russell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia.

[Read] ➮ Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial & America's Continuing Debate over Science & Religion By Edward J. Larson –
  • Paperback
  • 318 pages
  • Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial & America's Continuing Debate over Science & Religion
  • Edward J. Larson
  • English
  • 15 December 2019
  • 9780674854291

10 thoughts on “Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial & America's Continuing Debate over Science & Religion

  1. says:

    It seemed a propitious time to read Edward Larson s Summer for the Gods This past February, Bill Nye made the unfortunate, lose lose decision to debate young earth creationist Ken Ham at the Creationist Museum Four months earlier, Texas which has enormous sway in the textbook industry once again began working on legislation to teach the controversy, a euphemistic way of saying teach creationism alongside evolution This is all well and good, because there is literally nothing else going on in the world that demands our attention The evolution controversy manufactured and for profit is not a new phenomena It has been brewing ever since Charles Darwin wrote his impenetrable classic, On the Origin of Species, which sits unread on my bookshelf, right next to Adam Smith s The Wealth of Nations One of the first and undoubtedly most famous salvos in this ongoing and thoroughly ridiculous battle was the 1925 case of State of Tennessee vs John T Scope, familiarly known as the Scopes or Scopes Monkey Trial Undoubtedly you ve heard of the case Perhaps, like me, you sometimes drink wine and watch Turner Classic Movies and saw part of Inherit the Wind before passing out one night Summer of the Gods is the brisk 266 pages of text , readable, Pulitzer Prize winning story of this seminal case And if you re like me, and your knowledge about this event is restricted to imbibing Yellow Tail chardonnay and watching Spencer Tracey spar with Frederic March, you will be surprised by what you learn Most surprisingly, perhaps, is that the Scopes Trial began as a publicity stunt Whenever a controversial law is passed, opponents of that law will look for a test case to challenge the law s constitutionality Tennessee s law, the Butler Act, forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools The Butler Act made teaching evolution a jail able offense, a fact that made even supporters of the law uncomfortable Marinate on that, for a second A law that would put teachers in jail for teaching a subject In America Jailed in America for teaching It boggles the mind The American Civil Liberties Union offered to provide the defense of anyone charged with violating the Butler Act This would allow them to get the case before the State and ultimately United States Supreme Court, where they hoped it would be struck down as a violation of the First Amendment In Robinson s Drugstore in Dayton, Tennessee, an entrepreneurial coal company manufacturer and several other conspirators including the school superintendent decided that a trial on the law would be great for tourism With that in mind, and with all parties colluding, including the prosecutors and local judges, a teacher named John Scopes with minimal local ties, for obvious reasons was recruited to serve as the defendant He was indicted, went before the judge, and was released without bond pending trial It is unclear that Scopes ever actually violated the law In later years he denied teaching evolution subsequent to the Butler Act At his trial, the students called to testify against him with Scopes blessing were vague in the extreme If Scopes ever taught them evolution, he didn t teach it very well The run up to the trial promised everything the Dayton chamber of commerce could ve hoped for The prosecutors brought in William Jennings Bryan, a former secretary of state, presidential nominee, and ardent creationist The defense countered with a controversial choice even among other defense attorneys Clarence Darrow, a latter day cross between Richard Dawkins and Barry Scheck The defense eventually settled on a strategy of arguing that evolution and the Bible were compatible After the prosecution staged its case in chief, showing that Scopes taught evolution in violation of the law, Judge John Raulston suddenly tired of the spectacle He ruled that the defense s proposed experts were irrelevant to the narrow question of whether or not Scopes taught evolution To preserve a record for appeal, the defense made an offer of proof outside the presence of the jury Darrow also shocked everyone by calling Bryan to the stand and Bryan shocked everyone by taking the stand The Darrow Bryan examination is the most famous aspect of the Scopes trial, the part you ve heard of even if you don t know anything else about the case Interestingly, Judge Raulston eventually determined Bryan s testimony irrelevant and had it expunged from the record With its strategy thwarted, the defense conceded Scope s conviction Scopes was fined 100 and the defense appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court The high court upheld the conviction, but overturned the sentence the fine on a technicality Then, in an extremely unusual bit of dicta, they recommended that the prosecution not retry the case The purpose of this suggestion was to keep the defense from appealing to the United States Supreme Court Larson tracks these many twists and turns in clear and transparent prose He is a law professor, but writes for laypeople He is good at explaining the different legal strategies and nuances of a fairly convoluted proceeding The tone of Summer for the Gods is restrained This is not by any means a polemic Larson does not have an axe to grind Of course, I m sure there are certain readers who will find Larson s lack of bias to be a bias in and of itself It might also have made the book a bit lively Objectivity is fine subjectivity is fun If there is a bias, it is the bias of fact and history Neither Darrow or Bryan come out looking very good Darrow is portrayed as something of a jerk, gravely disliked by his putative colleagues the ACLU tried its best to get him off the case Bryan simply looks like a fool Darrow s decision to call Bryan was a sublime strategic move Even though it did not change the trial, it hurt the creationist cause Bryan s steadfast reliance on a Biblical interpretation led him to deny natural realities When you read the transcript of his examination, Bryan seems an ignorant buffoon Bryan died in his sleep shortly after the trial Darrow stated he died of a busted belly H.L Mencken allegedly remarked, We killed the son of a bitch Maybe the most stunning thing about Summer for the Gods is that it was written in 1997 It feels like it came out yesterday It is disheartening, to say the least, that this issue is still alive in 2014, and that we ve walked in a large circle since 1925, ending right back in Dayton where we started Due in part to Supreme Court rulings on the First Amendment, the nature of the debate has changed It is no longer about keeping evolution out, but of allowing alternate explanations in The competing theories movement is far subtle and nuanced than anything propounded by William Jennings Bryan That s what makes it so perfidious I don t pretend to know with any certainty how the world began On most days, I don t even care But I do know that in science, theory does not mean something scribbled on a napkin during happy hours at Applebee s It is an idea that gets put through the scientific method, that is verified through observations and experiments Evolution rightly belongs in public school science classes Creationism does not.I went to Catholic schools from fifth grade all the way through law school I learned a couple things from that First, Catholic schools are expensive Second, that the separation of church and state works, even within a parochial school The math classes I went to taught math The science classes taught science The theology classes taught theology It worked My experience does not point the way to an answer It s obvious that the solution it to maintain separation, to have different spheres for science and faith It s equally obvious, as Larson notes, that huge numbers of people view the Bible as authoritative on matters of science and on every other aspect of life For certain church leaders, the controversy is the giving tree, inspiring activism and donations and publicity Larson is probably correct in noting that the Scopes Trial is not the trial of the century, but aptly the trial of the centuries A verdict is not expected any time soon.

  2. says:

    4.5 Overall an enjoyable and easy read Excellent summary in the Afterword of the current as of 2006 status of the creation vs evolution debate.

  3. says:

    4.5 This book leads up to the Scopes Trials by explaining the issues of tension between religion and evolution well before the trial Williams Jennings Bryant is well covered The trial is covered in detail and also what impact the controversy had on the debate going forward Most readers will remember the Scopes Trial from the film Inherit the Wind, and this book makes clear what was accurate in that film and what was not Intelligent Design today is covered too It s really a comprehensive and interesting look at the trial and all of its implications on education, law, and the debate with science and religion.

  4. says:

    It s d j vu all over again , as the wag said and that s the feeling you wind up with after finishing Edward J Larson s Summer For the Gods The Scope s Trial and America s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion The arguments and counter arguments discussed in this excellent book about the famous Monkey trial of 1925 recur again and again in our own time I have no doubt that there are court cases winding their way through the judicial maze even now concerning the teaching of evolution in public schools It is a constant hot button issue for a segment of American citizens.In the 1920 s the ACLU was interested in freedom of speech and expression issues and when the Butler Act was passed in Tennessee, they became interested in developing a test case They offered to defend any teacher charged for teaching the descent of man from Darwin s Theory of Evolution Dayton, Tennessee, on the other hand, saw the offer as an opportunity to garner publicity for their town and persuaded a substitute biology teacher, John Scopes, to become the defendant Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan promptly came on board, offering their services for respectively, the defense and the prosecution Each had their own personal ax to grind The game was now on The spectacle had now begun.The book is divided neatly into Before, During, and After It covers all the issues in detail and if most of your information comes from the movie versions of this trial, you will be amazed and surprised at how much interesting this story really is Complex in its arguments and pertinent to today s headlines as well, this one is a definite Don t Miss

  5. says:

    Larson s Pulitzer Prize winning book Summer for the Gods was a very enlightening book I really like reading about the conflict between science and religion and getting the true story of this famous Trial of the Century.This book gave a great history of the Scopes Trial or the well known Monkey Trial He describes the run up to the trial and the trial and the outcome and what it has meant for American society and American culture We get an intriguing picture of some of the key players, Clarence Darrow, the defense attorney and John Scopes a young teacher teaching Evolution thrown into the trial as a test case, and Williams Jennings Bryan the attorney for the prosecution and proponent for the emerging Fundamentalist movement There is a good overview of the evolving status of creationism and evolutionism over the past century, especially in relation to school curriculum and religious revivals We also learn about the role of the ACLU which was interested in this case on the grounds of civil liberties for education, speech and expression.There is much court room drama described and thoughts and actions of the locals and the events following the decision We see the passion people have regarding scientific and religious beliefs And the debate that still exists today, now the term Intelligent Design is regularly used and debated.This book is highly recommended for those who have heard the legends of the Scopes trial and for the younger generation who might not have ever heard of it except in passing It helps to understand history and the path it takes today.

  6. says:

    In the last year, I have developed an insatiable fascination for the clash between religion and science, specifically as this encounter relates to social policy The famous Scopes trial also commonly referred to as the Monkey Trial was the most fervently hyped and widely publicized legal dispute on this matter, and Edward Larson s book does the confrontation justice The book is divided into three sections Before Larson begins by detailing the intellectual leaps that les to Charles Darwin s theories on evolution, followed by the rise of Christian fundamentalism and its rejection of the concept on religious and ethical grounds The global climate at the turn of the century leads religious groups to associate Darwinism with wanton brutality in the shape of World War I Finally, with Darwinism removing God from the picture, the Tennessee state legislature forbad it s teaching Shortly thereafter, a group of citizens from Dayton decide to test the law, using a local science teacher as their guinea pig During Aside from being a high profile debate between agnosticism and theism, the Scopes trial was also a battle of big personalities The defense counsel Clarence Darrow was an intimidating yet charming lawyer, famous for his controversial clients William Jennings Bryan, arguing for the prosecution though not as legal counsel , had three decades of political campaigns and speech circuits under his belt Bryan alone was responsible for drawing large crowds to Dayton Further, each side had their own philosophy and legal strategy Darrow wanted to frame the issue as an assault on intelligence, while Bryan aimed to keep a narrower focus, arguing that it was a matter of upholding a majoritarian statute It s this dynamic and each player s celebrity status that elevated this trial s status to that of a spectacle After Larson details the related events that have taken place since 1925 and the familiar arguments that continue to surface His style is very journalistic and uneditorial, which means it s dry and very collected, though his bias towards science isn t successfully veiled This was a great read for many reasons, the most notable of which is the narration of the trial itself with Larson s characterization of each important figure allowing for electric court room scenes to unfold brilliantly But also noteworthy are the questions his research asks What should be the statute of limitations on government by the majority Who should decide public school curricula Why are Christian fundamentalists so opposed to the Darwinian model when they readily accept the Copernican model I recommend this book for anyone interested in the intersection between politics, science and religion It is a perfect foundation for the understanding of the ensuing debate.

  7. says:

    I ve been going up to NW Wisconsin for several years now with members of the Gregory family to stay in the house once occupied by an ancestor and now used as a vacation retreat Knowing the area, I can now go up there without a book, confident that the Hayward Public Library twenty or so miles away will have titles worth purchasing That is where I purchased this history a few days ago.This writer, both a lawyer and an historian, has long specialized on matters pertaining the themes treated in this history of the Scopes Trial Author of several books about evolutionary theory, Larson brings his expertise to bear on the legal issues of the case pertaining to such matters as the separation of church and state, the first amendment to the Constitution and the gradual extension of federal liberties to the states by means of the fourteenth As an historian, he puts the trial in context, discussing not only the facts of the case, but also the context within which it occurred and the cultural repercussions it has had up to the present day In so doing, many common misconceptions are exploded.Like many cultural histories, this is a fun, and often amusing, read Larson writes well, certainly much better than the average academic historian and much, much better than one could reasonably expect of a lawyer Even if constitutional issues don t excite, even if the scientific issues of creationism versus evolutionism seems irrelevant, even if the political conundrums of individual liberties versus majoritarian rule seem inscruitable, this book will still serve as an entertaining page turner.

  8. says:

    Summer for the Gods is phenomenal The book tells a riveting story well, but it elevates itself over other histories by critically examining the public s later interpretation of the events, and showing all the effects of such interpretation also probably why it got the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History Before During and And After are its three parts, covering the build up to the prosecution, the trial itself, and the public s reaction to and later interpretation of the events The book details the 1925 Scopes monkey trial , but first situates the prosecution Early 20th century Americans were religious Religion and education hadn t really done battle because public high school was not yet widespread, but that changed quickly Tennessee s high school population was 10,000 in 1910, then grew to than 50,000 by 1925 24 The mass public education of children raised the question of what to teach them Two organizations destined to battle over such topic emerged at about the same time In 1919 the World s Christian Fundamentals Association was founded leading to the term fundamentalist to describe its adherents to fight the slide towards modernism 36 The ACLU began in 1920 82 Shortly thereafter, it started a committee on academic freedom, and while looking for a test case, discovered Tennessee s new anti evolution law, which fined public school teachers who espoused the doctrine the ACLU took out an advertisement in a Tennessee newspaper, offering free legal representation, and a Dayton teacher took the bait 82 83 The ACLU wanted to defend academic freedom, here, the right of the teacher to teach biology how he wanted, but when populist politician William Jennings Bryan offered to help the prosecution, Clarence Darrow publicly offered his services the defendant accepted and the case or at least the defense s case became about religion Darrow s agnosticism being nationally known 100 Contrary to later portrayals, Larson s description of the prosecution, and especially Bryan, suggest sincere belief and eminently reasonable principles at least in theory, not necessarily as applied to this statute , for example, Bryan frames the case as broadly about the right of the people speaking through the legislature, to control the schools which they create and support or narrowly about how Mr Scopes demands pay for teaching what the state does not want taught and demands that the state furnish him with an audience of children to which he can talk and say things contrary to law 128, 129 In essence, the anti evolution statute represented the people s ability to exercise control over their public schools.The prosecution was cut and dried, an easy factual case and one that got a conviction after only a few minutes of jury deliberations, as the defense admitted he taught evolution but the defense wanted to put on experts as part of its case After the prosecution rested, and the judge denied the defense s attempt to introduce expert witnesses, he the judge allowed them to make an offer of proof essentially, showing a later reviewing appellate court what its experts would have said But in addition to its listed experts, the defense specifically, Darrow had a trick up its sleeve Darrow s method to get Bryan on the witness stand was formalistic he presented Bryan as an expert witness on the Bible as part of the defense s case, they asserted the prosecution needed to show that teaching evolution was contrary to the Bible s teachings, because technically it prohibited only teach ing any theory that denies the Story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and teaching instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals and was able to grill him about biblical facts , providing the grist for later science makes religion look stupid articles about the trial In some sense, the prosecution itself ended in a draw although Scopes was convicted, it was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court, which used a procedural formality involving the imposition of the sentence to vacate the conviction while sustaining the law s constitutionality 221 The telling of the story of the trial is excellent, but the last third is where Larson s book moves from very good to excellent in it, he documents and critiques the evolution of later perceptions of the event Both during and after trial, elite opinion sided with the defense, and was successful in focusing portrayals on Darrow s cross examination of Bryan, and in painting the prosecution as out for blood, when in fact the maximum punishment for the misdemeanor was a fine, and Bryan had told Scopes that he would pay it for him The defense s arguments about individual liberty were fondly recalled, while the prosecution s articulation of majority power was forgotten Larson surveys later textbooks and popular historical accounts of the time, one of the first of which was poorly researched at least regarding the Scopes trial yet immensely popular and influential, with subsequent works using it as a quasi primary source, as it was written in 1931 225 Thinking that the Scopes trial represented a simple good v evil or smart v dumb, and that the good guys humiliated the bad ones, had a couple interesting effects Because that perception of the trial became so widespread in subsequent years, it drove fundamentalists essentially underground their views rejected, yet still disgusted with materialistic evolution as a worldview, they decided to stop trying to convince others, and formed their own private schools and society 236 The Supreme Court helped further this perception, announcing a significant shift in its First Amendment doctrine in a 1968 case striking down an Arkansas law similar to the one that Scopes violated and enacted around the same time In Epperson, the Court mentioned the Scopes case, using it as evidence of the legislature s purported purpose to ensure teaching of a particular religion in the school the Court disapproved, and announced that to pass muster under the Establishment Clause, a statute must have a secular purpose 260 Now, such statutes were unconstitutional Finally, the idea that science won made scientists complacent They didn t need to convince the public to accept evolution, because especially post 1968 the public appeared powerless to stop them But the public hasn t yet really accepted evolution, and they have devised creative ways to circumvent Epperson s requirement Almost sixty years post Scopes, in 1982, Americans were divided 50 50 between believing in a biblical account of creation and those believing in evolution those believing in God influenced evolution are lumped in with those believing in evolution without God And than 80% wanted to include creationist theories in public school curriculum 258 That matters because there are ways to undermine evolution without banning the teaching of it, e.g presenting creationism and evolution as two competing presumably, to a student, at least initially equally valid theories, preying on the difference between the scientific use of the term and the general one This book was published in 1997 based on recent data it looks like scientists have had some success in convincing the public, albeit of the slow and steady variety Gallup s 1999 poll pegged the creationist inclusion number at 68%, with the former 50 50 split remaining in place in 2005 only 54% of Americans wanted creationism taught in public schools This book should move to the top of your list if you re interested in learning the context of and complexities involved with a famous trial, or in developing some measure of nuance when discussing the issue of sincere religious beliefs conflicting with science, especially in the realm of publicly funded schools The fact that I would recommend this book equally to both a fervent believer and ardent atheist speaks to Larson s thoroughness and even handedness in canvassing a brutally contested terrain.

  9. says:

    A meticulously researched account of the 1925 Scopes trial I was expecting about the last aspect of the subtitle the continuing debate over science and religion , so this history wasn t what I was specifically looking for, but I still appreciated how Larson smoothly depicted the nuances of the cultural context of the trial His account was quite balanced while still depicting clearly the passions of all sides of the debate The writing was always clear, but the immense amounts of quotations without additional analysis and the nature of the trial repetitive, sides arguing past one another often dragged the reading down for me.While the very painstaking depiction of the trial was necessary, I still vastly preferred the final chapters of the book that analyzed the immediate reactions as well as the emergent mythos of the trial The Scopes trial didn t merit notice in my high school history class, and I ve never seen Inherit the Wind, but I m familiar with it being a cultural sticking point, so I appreciated the depth to which Larson was able to trace how and why misconceptions evolved yeah, yeah, pun intended.I had mistaken expectations about the extent of which the book got into the continuing debate alluded to by the subtitle, and I was a little irritated when cultural changes in regard to how fundamentalism s stand against evolution manifested were only analyzed in terms of the Scopes trial I know, I know, that s the focus of the book, but still, for example, I wanted to know about the other contributing factors that led to a shift from fundamentalists protesting the teaching of evolution in public schools to abandoning public education for home schooling or private Christian schools What were the economic and broader social changes that went into this For example, did racial integration play a part I completely understood why the book focused on just putting this in the context of antievolution, but it still felt like a pretty superficial analysis to make a point of pointing out this shift but only explaining it in the antievolution context.

  10. says:

    An excellent book that discusses, in very readable form, the historical and intellectual foundations of, and the struggle between, the rural largely Southern religious majoritarian anti modernism of William Jennings Bryan the Democratic populist of Nebraska, who ran for President in 1896, 1900, 1904, and 1908 and the modern, skeptical, rationalist and ever courageous Clarence Darrow of Chicago The fundamental divide in America still today The afterward clearly traces the rise of recent creationism and Intelligent Design theory in this context Good book.

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