- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (November 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674854292
- ISBN-13: 978-0674854291
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 106 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,718,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion Reprint Edition
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Bryan's and Darrow's ghosts still haunt us, and the Scopes trial still holds resonance, as we continue to litigate the role of religion and public life and the power of the state to prescribe what shall be taught in public schools. Read Summer for the Gods for that well-told story.
--Rodney A. Smolla (New York Times Book Review)
In Summer for the Gods, the first full study of the Scopes trial to be published in forty years, Larsen incisively examines the myths surrounding the Scopes trial. His treatment is fresh and authoritative, making good use of the record of the trial, the extensive newspaper and magazine coverage it received, and the private papers of several of the main figures and organizations involved in it...He restores attention to aspects of [the trial] that are commonly overlooked and that reverberate in the contentions of our own day over science and religion in the schools. The originality of his book arises in large part from its thoughtful, evenhanded treatment of both sides in the confrontation--and the seriousness with which he takes the opposing convictions about religion, science, and their relationship to the law that clashed in Dayton...Larson's account of the trial and the legal issues involved in it is particularly illuminating...[He] provides a fascinating account of how the trial became the legend that was eventually passed on by Inherit the Wind...[This is an] excellent book.
--Daniel J. Kevles (New York Review of Books)
Edward Larson won the Pulitzer Prize in History for his excellent Summer for the Gods, an investigation into the [Scopes] trial and why it still matters. Get the paperback to get up to speed. (New Scientist)
A Spencer Tracy film, Inherit the Wind, was based on the [John Scopes Trial] and has shaped popular memories of it. But, as Edward J. Larson shows in this Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, the film's sinister mood is misleading...Larson artfully separates myths from realities to tell a more complicated and convincing story. He also summarizes the continuing efforts of Tennessee and other southern states to keep creationism on the curriculum and evolution off it.
--Patrick Allitt (Times Literary Supplement)
This book has already won a Pulitzer Prize, but it's worth calling attention to again...Larson...finds new things to say about the famous "monkey trial" of 1925 and says them well. Among other things, he shows how the trial helped to break down the longstanding intellectual accommodation between Darwinism and Protestant theology, highlights the tensions between celebrity lawyer Clarence Darrow and the rest of John Scopes's defense team, and demonstrates how the enormously influential drama Inherit the Wind significantly warped the trial and its aftermath.
--Luther Spoehr (Providence Journal-Bulletin)
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.
--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. Inherit the Wind, step aside!
--Will Provine, Cornell University
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.
Before the Dover, Pa., trial over intelligent design, there was the Scopes monkey trial, which historian Edward Larson retells with exquisite detail and sympathy for those on both sides.
--Jeremy Manier (Chicago Tribune 2007-02-01)
About the Author
Edward J. Larson is Hugh & Hazel Darling Professor of Law at Pepperdine University School of Law.
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Discussing the Tennessee law and the anticipated media circus, Larson writes, “Those proud of their state’s antievolution statute feared that the upcoming trial would discredit it and Tennessee; those embarrassed by it feared that the upcoming trial would heap further ridicule on their state” (pg. 94). Further, “In a stroke, the ACLU lost control of what it initially conceived as a narrow constitutional test of the statute. With Bryan on hand, evolution would be on trial at Dayton, and pleas for individual liberty would run headlong into calls for majority rule” (pg. 100). Discussing race, Larson writes, “Relatively little comment about the trial survives from African Americans…In any event, the outcome would not affect African Americans, because Tennessee public schools enforced strict racial segregation and offered little to black students beyond elementary instruction” (pg. 122). In terms of legal strategy, Larson writes, “The prosecution maintained that the statute outlawed any teaching about human evolution regardless of what evolution meant of whether it conflicted with the Bible. This position rendered evidence on those questions irrelevant. The defense countered that the law only barred instruction in evolution that denied the biblical account of creation, and therefore such evidence was irrelevant. Indeed, it constituted the defense’s entire case” (pg. 172).
Of the fallout, Larson writes, “In a clever maneuver, the Tennessee Supreme Court managed to end the embarrassing case without overturning the locally popular law. The antievolution statute only applied to public employees acting in their official capacity, and therefore did not infringe on individual liberty, the court ruled” (pg. 220). He continues, “Partly as a result of the Scopes trial, the law came to symbolize different things to different people; it became a symbol of pride and regional identity for some Southerners” (pg. 221). According to Larson, “At the same time, the tendency of northern evolutionists to blame Southerners for the Scopes trial may have weakened antievolutionism in the North” (pg. 222). Finally, “Several of the defense expert witnesses wrote semipopular books or articles expanding on their trial affidavits. Such accounts leave the distinct impression that Scopes won the case in all but the verdict, which ‘hillbilly’ jurors withheld” (pg. 222). In terms of modern curriculum that offer evolutionary theory alongside intelligent design, Larson writes, “Defense counsel at Dayton did not endorse the idea of teaching both evolution and creationism in science courses. Darrow consistently debunked fundamentalist beliefs and never supported their inclusion in the curriculum. Hays and the ACLU argued for academic freedom to teach Darwinism but most likely did not consider the possibility that some teachers might want to cover creationism” (pg. 257).
Book thesis: A book solely about the [Scopes] trial and its place in American history; America's continuing debate over science and religion.
This book does precisely what it sets out to do: take a look at the Scopes trial and evaluate what it has meant for American society since that time. In fact, as one reads the book, one finds that Larson accomplishes exactly what he intends to with each chapter. Is it written so clearly that the reader never has to wonder where Larson will be going in the respective chapter--the chapter thesis is almost always placed at the end of the first paragraph, and summarizes to the reader the happenings during the chapter. Of course, the remainder of the chapter is not redundant, but merely substantiates the initial claim. Although one might determine the first section ("Before...") to be a bit dry, this section is crucial to understanding the remainder of the book and the significance of the trial even at the onset. Truly, the way Larson sets up the arguments for both sides of the case (chapters 2 and 3), create an immense amount of tension within me as I wrestled with the validity of both claims. It really does make sense for the majority to determine what is taught to their children, but it also makes sense to have the experts determine what should be taught in their field. So, even though the first section may be a bit dry, it is essential to understanding what this trial represents.
Of course, it represents different things to different peoples--to some it merely means money. Larson does an excellent job of pulling back the curtain to reveal the actual events that occurred; he is not influenced by later recapitulations of the trial (but in fact devotes a whole chapter to explain these and why they are misguided). His recounting is measured and accurate, and he does not allow subjective interpretation or framing of the events (indeed, throughout one is hard pressed to find evidence for which side they believe Larson himself agrees with!). The interpretation which he eventually does offer is merely more historical recounting--what people thought and believed about the trial after it was over. Larson is a careful historian who is truly interested in clearing up the dust surrounding one of America's most famous and influential trials.
For those who grew up hearing the legends of the Scopes trial, this is for you.
For those of a younger generation who have never heard "Scopes" except in passing reference, this is for you too--it helps not only understand history, but understand today and our trajectory.
(Responding to what another reviewer has said regarding Intelligent Design, Larson answers in the new Afterword.)