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Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion [Paperback]

Edward J. Larson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Nov 2006 046507510X 978-0465075102
In the summer of 1925, the sleepy hamlet of Dayton, Tennessee, became the setting for one of the 20th century's most contentious dramas: the Scopes trial that pit William Jennings Bryan and the anti-Darwinists against a teacher named John Scopes into 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 Dover, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Cobb County, Georgia, and many other cities and states throughout the country. Edward Larson's classic, Summer for the Gods, received the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1998 and is the single most authoritative account of a pivotal event whose combatants remain at odds in school districts and courtrooms. For this edition, Larson has added a new preface that assesses the state of the battle between creationism and evolution, and points the way to how it might potentially be resolved.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (2 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046507510X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465075102
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 414,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"[Larson's] careful and evenhanded analysis dispels the mythologies and caricatures in film and stage versions of the trial, leaving us with a far clearer picture of the cultural warfare that still periodically erupts in our classes and courts."

About the Author

Edward J. Larson is a professor with a joint appointment in history and law at the University of Georgia. A graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, he received his doctorate in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is also the author of Evolution's Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands and lives in Athens, Georgia.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No more monkeying with history 30 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
It's one of the defining scenes of our century. The young science teacher, John Scopes, is chased from his class by a rabid bunch of anti-evolutionists. He's thrown in jail and a show trial is set up to punish him. Then Clarence Darrow arrives ... the white knight for science and rationalism. In a brilliant oration he destroys the older fundamentalist, William Jennings Bryan, exposing him as a fool and winning the case, making the world free for evolution. One small problem.
The truth is nothing like that happy story. What you're thinking of is the plot of Inheirit the Wind, a second-rate movie that used the Scopes trial to dramatize the McCarthy hearings. Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelley weren't in Dayton for the trial, and what really happened was far from black and white.
But in the hands of Edward Larson, it's also far more interesting. Larson's book, Summer for the Gods is a brialliantly reasoned look at what led to the trial, the trial itself, and its continuing impact on society. (Okay, on American society ... but it's still interesting.) Larson manages a tremendously difficult task: he manages to be unbiased and dispassionate without becoming dull. And he walks the line masterfully. There were times when I couldn't honestly say whose "side" Larson was on ... which is kind of the point. I read a lot of history, and it's very seldom I come across something that's so even-handed. Which would be a triumph in itself, even if it weren't so darn readable. For the rest of the review, visit my web page at exn.net/printedmatter
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Edward Larson's Summer for the Gods not only gives an excellent summary of the Scopes Trial, but also provides valuable and original insights on the meaning of the trial. In doing an undergraduate paper in the fall of 1996 on the topic and its place in the history of fundamentalism, I would have loved to have had Larson's work. Its fairness, thoroughness, and "readability" exceed any of the sources that were available to me. I also lament that I purchased and read Summer for the Gods AFTER I taught the Scopes Trial to my United States History class. His chapter on "Retelling the tale", in which he critiques the most popular accounts of the trial, would have strongly reinforced my dubunking of the Inherit the Wind myth that many of my students brought with them from American Literature. Though far from an expert on the Scopes Trial, I know enough to know that Larson's work is to be recommended to historians, all educators, and anyone who appreciates well-written history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Was Expecting 14 Jan 2008
Format:Paperback
I was looking for a book to educate me on the Scope's Monkey Trial but I didn't want to have to read a lot of books to understand the subject. I read all the UK and US Amazon reviews and was surprised how few books were given good reviews by the public. Despite reading all the reviews, I found this book was nothing like what I was expecting. The author gives a thorough introduction to the subject such that when he finally reaches the trial; you have a thorough understanding of what is happening and why. What I found strange was that the author treats the trial as a nonentity and consequently skips through it in a very superficial way; when you read the book you understand why. The text is laboriously detailed in places which I found made it difficult to hold my concentration. The book is very educational , very enjoyable to read despite the immense detail in places. To be completely fair to the book, it is not really about the Scope's Monkey Trial; it is about the American culture clash between the religious fundamentalists and the liberal educational establishment. For non-Americans it is an introduction to another facet to the complex religious bigotry which is rife in America to this day. When America was an English/British colony, they took guidance from the mother country. When they separated , they seem to have retreated in their shell and are an insight into English religious bigotry in the middle ages. We all know how pig-headed the English religious establishment was in the middle ages; this book paints these American fundamentalists as identical. Despite the attempts to play down the importance of religious fundamentalist anti-evolution beliefs in America; it is clear that it still accounts for about 40% of the population. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No more monkeying with history 30 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
It's one of the defining scenes of our century. The young science teacher, John Scopes, is chased from his class by a rabid bunch of anti-evolutionists. He's thrown in jail and a show trial is set up to punish him. Then Clarence Darrow arrives ... the white knight for science and rationalism. In a brilliant oration he destroys the older fundamentalist, William Jennings Bryan, exposing him as a fool and winning the case, making the world free for evolution. One small problem.
The truth is nothing like that happy story. What you're thinking of is the plot of Inheirit the Wind, a second-rate movie that used the Scopes trial to dramatize the McCarthy hearings. Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelley weren't in Dayton for the trial, and what really happened was far from black and white.
But in the hands of Edward Larson, it's also far more interesting. Larson's book, Summer for the Gods is a brialliantly reasoned look at what led to the trial, the trial itself, and its continuing impact on society. (Okay, on American society ... but it's still interesting.) Larson manages a tremendously difficult task: he manages to be unbiased and dispassionate without becoming dull. And he walks the line masterfully. There were times when I couldn't honestly say whose "side" Larson was on ... which is kind of the point. I read a lot of history, and it's very seldom I come across something that's so even-handed. Which would be a triumph in itself, even if it weren't so darn readable. For the rest of the review, visit my web page at exn.net/printedmatter
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars details
too much about lots of different people, makes the narrative patchy. good for rererence. why the hell should i write six more words in order to submit this comment?
Published 14 months ago by Martin Crosfill
5.0 out of 5 stars 2010, and still depressed
Have just finished this wonderful book. Not only does it give an accurate portrayal of events and the chief protagonists, not only does it debunk the "Inherit the Wind" myths... Read more
Published on 30 Oct 2010 by K. Harbottle
5.0 out of 5 stars A saddening account of how our society is controlled
This book is a good account of a historical event but, more importantly, provides some insights into the very essence of the strongest force that shape the American society:... Read more
Published on 27 July 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book-Well Written-Very Intelligent
This is a short review. This is an excellent book. It is smart and entertaining. It is a critical look at the importance of this event in the history of the United States. Read more
Published on 8 April 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars a great book dealing with a hot topic in american society
As a school teacher, I understand the flack concerning the teaching of evolution in the schools. Larson does a terrific job in covering all aspects of the trial and eliminates all... Read more
Published on 10 Mar 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars A lively and timely account of the Scopes Trial
Like many of my generation, I learned of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial through the Lawrence and Lee play, "Inherit the Wind." Edward J. Read more
Published on 16 Nov 1998
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Timely
What get's lost in reading about this case and discussing its absurdities is the timeliness of the subject matter. Read more
Published on 22 Sep 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a "Law and Order" episode, except with no girls
Being young and familiar only with recent education issues, I'd assumed that anti-evolution folks were always hard-right conservatives and that pro-evolution folks were always more... Read more
Published on 7 July 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars "Mr. Deeds Meets Jerry Falwell" - NOT
Titled to suggest "Mr. Deeds Meets Jerry Falwell", this history is really a fulcrum to leverage issues as diverse as the services performed by the ACLU and the disservice... Read more
Published on 16 May 1998
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