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Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution Paperback – January 23, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0195154719 ISBN-10: 0195154711 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3 edition (January 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195154711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195154719
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #293,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Larson...ably illuminates the legal and constitutional issues...yet he is admirably aware that what transpires in state houses and law courts usually reflects larger social forces." ---The New Republic


"The main contribution of the book is that it traces clearly the legal controversies surrounding evolution and creationism in American high schools, but readers will also enjoy a vivid retelling of personal credos, political machinations, pedagogical developments, and other historical circumstances surrounding the vicissitudes of 'public science' in the schools."---Science


"The publication in 1985 of an important study of the persistent controversy over the theory of evolution by Edward J. Larson received scant attention in several major historical journals....Whatever the reasons for this oversight, Larson, fortuneatly, has expanded the original edition....Larson's study is written in clear, crisp prose that makes complex legal issues easily comprehensible to the nonspecialist....Few will be so naive as to believe that the court decisions of the 1980s have laid to rest the creationist-evolutionist debate." ---Isis


"The merging of several disciplines in a single scholar proves unusually rewarding to the treatment of creationism in American education. Whatever the outcome of the current cases...the need for a scholarly assessment of antecedents and prospects in this area has never been clearer." ---Journal of Law and Religion


About the Author


Edward J. Larson is the Richard B. Russell Professor of History and Professor of Law, University of Georgia.

More About the Author

Edward J. Larson is the author of seven books and the recipient of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History for his book Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. His other books include Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory; Evolution's Workshop; God and Science on the Galapagos Islands; and Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution. Larson has also written over one hundred articles, most of which address topics of law, science, or politics from an historical perspective, which have appeared in such varied journals as The Atlantic, Nature, Scientific American, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, and Virginia Law Review. He is a professor of history and law at Pepperdine University and lives in Georgia and California.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1996
Format: Paperback
Larson's book is excellent. It focuses only on the legal history
of 20th Century Creationism. The book was
quite objective and thorough and it is hard to discerne the
author's position on the matter, although one suspects he may
not be sympathetic to the Creationist cause since he is familiar
with their sometimes devious and irrational strategies for
manipulating public opinion, the courts and state legislatures
to "overrule" the scientific community in the matter of evolution.
He succeeds in amply illustrating his main thesis, namely
that the response of the courts to Creationism has been profoundly
influenced by public opinion. Well written and recently revised to
bring it up to date.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Calabrese on November 1, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution by Edward J. Larson is the definitive history of the ongoing American argument of the place of religion and science in the public schools. The author does a superb job in giving the reader the history of biology texts from the 19th century into the 20th century. The book traces the history of legislation and court cases in the ongoing controversy of the place of evolution and creation science in American education. I read this book after I read Larson's later work, Summer Of The Gods. In this earlier work Edward J. Larson is even handed and objective. He presents the facts and history of each court case in understandable terms. This book shows how both sides are really the same, fundementalists, unwilling, really, to listen to what the other side has to say. Anyone interested in this aspect of American history can do no better than to consult Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution by Edward J. Larson.

This is an issue that will not go away, despite the hopes of both sides in this fight. In light of the pending Dover, PA court case it is a good idea to keep any of Larson's books handy.
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19 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on July 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
In the Twentieth Century United States, the long war of Christianity to quell reason achieved a new intensity. There, the casualities weren't a reticent Copernicus or a timorous Galileo, but uncountable thousands of innocent schoolchildren. In that nation, supposedly founded on the separation of religion and the secular, the battleground shifted. Instead of the contestants clashing in academic debating rooms, the confrontations occured in lawcourts. Larson offers the first comprehensive survey of Christian forays into public education in the United States, and the legal disputes that ensued. He does it with a sense of detachment not easily attained in dealing with this topic.
Larson outlines the background to American forms of Christianity [which have few counterparts elsewhere], before homing in on the 1925 landmark trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Although "fundamentalism" may have germinated early in the 19th Century, it was the post WWI years that brought fruition and gave it voice, according to Larson. The voice came to be centred in the three-time Presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan. Although a "reformer" with many causes, it is his role as an anti-Darwinist that captured enduring attention. A "Biblical literalist", Bryan found all social values stemming from "the Bible". As a fundamentalist champion, once he overcame an initial reluctance, he endorsed state legistlation banning Darwin from the classroom.
The famous "Scopes trial" set in motion a sequence of enactments in various States, not all Southron ones, to prevent Darwin's Idea from polluting young minds. Many of these laws were sketchily enforced, but their very existence led to a wave of self-censorship among text-book publishers.
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Format: Paperback
Edward J. Larson (author of the excellent history of the Scopes "Monkey Trial," Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion) is a professor of history.

He states in the Introduction to this 1985 book, "This study analyzes the (creation/evolution) legal controversy both as a central manifestation of the popular response to evolutionary thought in America and as an episode in the use of law to redress the relationship of science and society."

He notes, "public opinion surveys during the period consistently found at least as many Americans believing in creation as in evolution. Most of these surveys were amateur local polls conducted by creationists to boost their cause, but a 1979 survey by the Gallup polling organization confirmed their results by finding that '[h]alf of the adults in the U.S. believe God created Adam and Eve to start the human race.'"

He concludes on the note, "Both sides then agreed on the importance of science education to any ultimate resolution of the legal controversy over creation and evolution. That is precisely why they had fought so hard over the content of public biology teaching. But this point simply underscored the dilemma: a lasting legal victory on the issue of evolutionary teaching awaited a verdict of popular opinion on evolution while that verdict was itself at least partially dependent on the content of public instruction."
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