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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No more monkeying with history
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...
Published on 30 Mar 1999

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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


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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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Larson succinctly captures the momentous issues "Scopes", 1 Dec 1998
By A Customer
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
By 
Mr. J. Hudson - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (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. It is astonishing to realise that America parades itself around the world condemning religious fundamentalism and yet is unable to control or solve the problem within its own borders. The book makes no attempt to cover the subject of Darwin's Origin of the Species; although I don't think you have to read it to understand this book. I would strongly recommend this book to non-Americans as an insight into the character of the American religious fundamentalists (in every other country; these people are called fanatics ) but also as an aid to understanding the American character in general.
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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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great book dealing with a hot topic in american society, 10 Mar 1999
By A Customer
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 the false ideas that were portrayed in "Inherit the Wind." I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the debate between Science and Religion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lively and timely account of the Scopes Trial, 16 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Like many of my generation, I learned of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial through the Lawrence and Lee play, "Inherit the Wind." Edward J. Larson's Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion is a fine and lively historical account of the trial and its aftermath. Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, Larson's book sets the battle between fundamentalist religion and the "modern" science of Darwinism in both an historical and cultural context. In the 1920s, several states attempted to pass anti-evolution laws, and Tennessee finally succeeded in 1925. Thereafter, the ACLU found a test plaintiff in teacher John Scopes, and a test venue in the sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee, which hoped to use the trial to "get on the map" and increase tourism. Using newspaper accounts, memoirs, and other contemporaneous sources, Larson displays in vivid detail both the seriousness and naivete of the battle between religion and science, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. He also argues, convincingly for me, that the trial did not -- contrary to the Lawrence and Lee depiction -- leave Bryan a broken man (although he died within a week of the verdict). Going beyond the trial and its immediate aftermath, the final section of this book examines how later historians and writers -- including Lawrence and Lee -- have interpreted and often mis-interpreted the trial for later generations. In particular, Larson argues that "Inherit the Wind", like the Arthur Miller classic "The Crucible", must be viewed as both a product of and attack upon the McCarthy era of the 1950's. This is an insightful and enjoyable account.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a "Law and Order" episode, except with no girls, 7 July 1998
By A Customer
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 liberal. But this book reminded me that, historically, evolutionary thought was strongly associated with eugenicists, war hawks, and capitalists intent on exploiting the poor. It was a surprise to learn that Bryan, the anti-evolution guy, was progressive on many issues, including labor and the poor. This book was wonderful at describing common assumptions, and then surprising us. For example, I never realized that Scopes wasn't even a biology teacher, that the Scopes Trial involved a North-South feud, nor that a minister led daily prayers in the courtroom! The legal strategies were also explained very clearly. I learned a great deal from this book and recommend it to anyone interested in issues like community control of education and the separation of church and state.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Timely, 22 Sep 1998
By A Customer
What get's lost in reading about this case and discussing its absurdities is the timeliness of the subject matter. Larson concludes his well-researched book with the revelation to many out there that anti-intellectualism and fundamentalism is still an issue that faces this country that has currently seen a recent conservative backlash. The issues of school prayer and censorship still belabor our legal systems and Larson does a great job in showing the connections between the legacy of the Scopes trial and the misconception by American intellectuals regarding the premature death of 'fundamentalism'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Mr. Deeds Meets Jerry Falwell" - NOT, 16 May 1998
By A Customer
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 20th century historians have done the reputation of William Bryan. The Amazon.com reviewer and others have overlooked Larsons rare prose style which leaches out the emotion ordinarily attending the struggle between evolutionists and creationists. Not really written for the broad audience that ordinarily attracts the Pulitzer prize.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and insightful, 12 May 1998
By A Customer
The Scopes trial has become mythical; Larson demonstrates the difference between myth and reality. The book is well-written, insightful, and well researched, drawing on obscure Tennessee Bar Association documents and other sources ignored by many other writers. An excellent book.
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