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Darwinism Comes to America Paperback – December 15, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0674193123 ISBN-10: 0674193121
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Editorial Reviews


[Darwinism Comes to America] offers major new insights for our understanding of how America responded to Darwin. (Peter J. Bowler Science)

Numbers's carefully researched study helps us understand the origin of the wide-ranging attitudes towards creation and evolution found among conservative Christians today. Darwinism Comes to America is a worthy successor to The Creationists. (Eugenie C. Scott, National Center for Science Education)

In Darwin Comes to America, Ronald Numbers enriches our understanding of the origin debate by exploring the beliefs of a broader range of American scientists and religious sects than heretofore chronicled. Importantly, he extends the story into the late 1990s by including the repackaged anti-evolutionism of those championing "intellegent design." (Edward J. Larson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion)

This is an interesting, important, and concise book by a top-notch historian of science. It deals primarily with the late-19th- and early-20th-century reception of Darwinism in the United States as experienced by scientists, scientific organizations, and religious organizations...[Numbers's] underlying thesis is that the reception of Darwinism was neither as revolutionary as evolutionists say, nor as insignificant as the creationists say. Numbers argues that, in fact, there was much internal debate within both sides over the scientific meaning of "evolution" and the biblical interpretation of "creation," and therefore these was actually a constellation of views within both camps...This relatively slim volume really covers a lot of uncharted territory in six short chapters; it includes chapters on the Scopes trial and the evolutionary debate within the Seventh Day Adventist, Holiness, and Pentecostal churches. Accessible to general readers and all academic levels, this is a priority acquisition for well-established history of science and religious history collections. (R. F. White Choice)

In this short, but pithy, book, historian Ronald L. Numbers documents the reception of Darwinism in America, both within scientific circles and among the general public...Numbers does a superb job of detailing Adventist, Holiness, and Pentecostal responses to Darwinism. He shows how and why, at the time of the Scopes trial, few "biblical literalists" interpreted the Bible as claiming a recent creation in six 24-hour days, but by the late 20th century young-Earth creationism had become the dominant form of organized antievolutionism in America...Throughout the book, Numbers confronts what he calls myths or misperceptions that have infiltrated the popular consciousness of the history of Darwinism. (Laurie R. Godfrey Science Books & Films)

In this fascinating book, Numbers transforms our understanding of the reception of Darwinism in America when he shifts his attention from a few major figures to a wider sampling of America scientists. He also chronicle the fortune of the Creationist opposition to Darwinism from its inception in the late nineteenth century to the Scopes trial in 1925 and the call for equal time today. this book would be ideal for an undergraduate course on science and society. (David L. Hull, Northwestern University)

Ronald Numbers has provided an exceptionally informative overview of a fascinating episode in the history of ideas. He dissects Charles Darwin's impact on American thought with admirable scholary sophistication, and in the process he succeeds in resolving a host of issues that have been fervently debated by previous generations of intellectual historians. (Frank J. Sulloway, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Born to Rebel and Freud: Biologist of the Mind (Harvard))


Numbers's carefully researched study helps us understand the origin of the wide-ranging attitudes towards creation and evolution found among conservative Christians today. Darwinism Comes to America is a worthy successor to The Creationists.
--Eugenie C. Scott, National Center for Science Education --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674193121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674193123
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Gene R. Marlatt on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald L. Numbers has written with grace, clarity and empathy an easy-to-read, interesting, informative, fascinating book. Readers who desire to be well-versed on one of the most controversial issues of the day should both enjoy reading it and find that it dispels "myths and misconceptions that still cling" to popular, journalisitic, and scholarly knowledge about the reaction of Christians and non-believers to Darwinian evolution. Beginning in 1860 with Asa Gray, the first American Christian Darwinian, Professor Numbers charts the reaction of scholarly believers from such leading scientists as Louis Agassiz (who opposed Darwinism) to James D. Dana (who first opposed, then accepted a theistic form of evolution) to the American statesman William Jennings Bryan ( who opposed Darwinism not so much for its biological conclusions but because the survival-of-the fittest doctrine bolstered anti-democratic elitist, racist and race-exterminationist movements like German militarism and Naziism) to the theistic evolutionists and the aniti-evolutionist flood geologists of the twentieth century. Among the myths and misconceptions the author exposes is the belief that the 1960 motion picture INHERIT THE WIND is a true account of what really happened at the Monkey (Scopes) "trial of the century" in 1925. Despite the fact that most Americans only know what they know about the trial because of the film, in fact, INHERIT THE WIND is a terribly distorted, biased portrait of the trial and the issues; anyone who relies on it for historical knowledge is foolish. Another myth exposed is that creationism is no longer believed by most Americans because Darwin's views totally triumphed after the Scopes trial.Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By meadowreader on July 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Numbers' fascinating and extremely well-researched book is the story of an ongoing religious tragedy, in which a small group of radical biblical literalists have managed, as one writer put it, to take a beautiful creation myth and ruin it. Their idea is that the Bible should be considered a book of scientific fact, a position that makes scripture forever hostage to the latest scientific findings. It's a move that is sheerly breathtaking in its foolishness. By pursuing this misbegotten agenda, all the literalists can accomplish is to inflict enormous harm on the credibility of religion in its proper sphere. Well, that plus getting lots of attention for themselves, selling lots of books, and doing very nicely on the lecture circuit. With friends like these, religion needs no enemies. Their counterparts on the opposite side (e.g, Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens, et al.) are doing equally well preaching to their own choir. It's a very profitable arrangement, if you think about it, and for that very reason the lamentable charade seems destined to go on ad nauseum. Science will hardly notice, leaving religion itself and the important personal and societal functions that it serves as the only losers.

The great truths of religion do not depend on the particular facts of history or science, and it is a disastrous mistake to trivialize them in that way. To put shallow scriptural literalism in the place of the deep and timeless expressions of poetry, parable, and metaphor is about the most self-undermining move that any religion can make. John Dominic Crossen had it right when he wrote that "those ancient people told smart, metaphorical stories that we were now dumb enough to take literally." Or cynical enough. There is no excuse for this squabble otherwise.
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