- Expected Jun 16, 2020
The Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Scopes Trial and the battle over evolution and creation in America's schools
In the summer of 1925, the sleepy hamlet of Dayton, Tennessee, became the setting for one of the twentieth century's most contentious courtroom dramas, pitting William Jennings Bryan and the anti-Darwinists against a teacher named John Scopes, represented by Clarence Darrow and the ACLU, in a famous debate over science, religion, and their place in public education. That trial marked the start of a battle that continues to this day in cities and states throughout the country.
Edward Larson's classic Summer for the Gods -- winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History -- is the single most authoritative account of this pivotal event. An afterword assesses the state of the battle between creationism and evolution, and points the way to how it might potentially be resolved.
The 1925 Scopes trial involving the teaching of evolution has been shaped in current consciousness largely by Frederick Lewis Allen's 1931 book Only Yesterday and the 1960 film Inherit the Wind, based on a Broadway play. Larson explains in this intriguing, lucid history that both sources contained faulty information: the book inaccurately presented fundamentalism as a vanquished foe, while the film--more a response to McCarthyism than a reconstruction of the trial--inaccurately portrayed the teacher on trial as a victim of a thoughtless mob and the prosecutor, based closely on real-life prosecutor William Jennings Bryan, as a product of that mob. The reality was more complex, reveals Larson. Bryan was both an economic progressive and Christian anti-evolutionist. The American Civil Liberties Union actively campaigned for a plaintiff in a test case, and John Scopes saw the case as a lark. Defense lawyer Clarence Darrow cared less about the ACLU agenda--free speech and academic freedom--than about jousting over the Bible and besting Bryan in court. Though Scopes was found guilty, the judge imposed a minimum fine and the Tennessee Supreme Court managed to overturn the conviction without invalidating the law. Larson, who teaches history and law at the University of Georgia, has ably put the trial--and its antecedents and aftermath--in appropriate context. Illustrations.