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Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion Paperback – Oct 2 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (Oct. 3 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046507510X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465075102
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #289,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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If you haven't seen the film version of Inherit the Wind, you might have read it in high school. And even people who have never heard of either the movie or the play probably know something about the events that inspired them: The 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," during which Darwin's theory of evolution was essentially put on trial before the nation. Inherit the Wind paints a romantic picture of John Scopes as a principled biology teacher driven to present scientific theory to his students, even in the teeth of a Tennessee state law prohibiting the teaching of anything other than creationism. The truth, it turns out, was something quite different. In his fascinating history of the Scopes trial, Summer for the Gods, Edward J. Larson makes it abundantly clear that Truth and the Purity of Science had very little to do with the Scopes case. Tennessee had passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution, and the American Civil Liberties Union responded by advertising statewide for a high-school teacher willing to defy the law. Communities all across Tennessee saw an opportunity to put themselves on the map by hosting such a controversial trial, but it was the town of Dayton that came up with a sacrificial victim: John Scopes, a man who knew little about evolution and wasn't even the class's regular teacher. Chosen by the city fathers, Scopes obligingly broke the law and was carted off to jail to await trial.

What happened next was a bizarre mix of theatrics and law, enacted by William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow for the defense. Though Darrow lost the trial, he made his point--and his career--by calling Bryan, a noted Bible expert, as a witness for the defense. Summer for the Gods is a remarkable retelling of the trial and the events leading up to it, proof positive that truth is stranger than science. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Few courtroom dramas have captured the nation's attention so fully as that played out in 1925 when Tennessee prosecuted John Scopes for teaching evolutionary science in the classroom. Seventy years later, Larson gives us the drama again, tense and gripping: the populist rhetoric of Scopes' chief accuser, William Jennings Bryan; the mordant wit of his defender, Clarence Darrow; the caustic satire of the trial's most prominent chronicler, H. L. Mencken. But as a legal and historical scholar, Larson moves beyond the titanic personalities to limn the national and cultural forces that collided in that Dayton courtroom: agnosticism versus faith; North versus South; liberalism versus conservatism; cosmopolitanism versus localism. 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. Bryce Christensen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
This was a surprisingly good book. At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to finish it. The first half of the book focuses on the history of the theory of evolution and its conflict with Christianity. Larson delves much deeper than the simplistic science vs religion and explains some of the nuances in the debate over evolution and its compatibility with various Protestant denominations. I was getting a little bored, but as soon as he heads into the real story of the trial, the book really picks up. I found it a very fascinating look at probably the most famous and misunderstood trials of the twentieth century in America. Finding out that the whole trial was a set-up and that Scopes wasn't really put on trial for teaching evolution, but rather volunteered to be the guinea pig, really disappointed me in a way. That the trial was in a way a publicity stunt shocked me. Being older, though, I think I found more complexity in the issues. The themes of evolution vs fundamentalism and the tyranny of the majority over the freedom of the individual are far from the simple right or wrong that popular culture, such as the movie "Inherit the Wind," seem to portray. I enjoyed that aspect of the book because I love discovering the real story behind famous events. Larson strives to be as impartial as he can be, but it is obvious that his tendency is to sympathize more in favor of the defendant than the prosecution. Understanding Creationism seems to get a bit shortchanged. But it is a fascinating read for any history fan. I would recommend.
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Format: Paperback
This the ultimate book on the Scopes trail and its depressing impact upon the US. If you are expecting a straight read about the forces of repression and ignorance battling the forces of science, reason, and tolerance you will be sadly disappointed. The Scopes trail had nothing to do with basic biology. It was a battle of lawyers, made for and persued by them for their own, at times rather personal motives.
This books chronicles the advent of trial in the Chemists Shop in Dayton Tenessee when a few leading citizens --- neither clever or passionate Darwinians, nor particularly blathering, foaming at the mouth fundamentalists --- unabashed opportunists who wanted to put an declining town on the map with the trial of the century. Scopes over sodas with both sides decides that he will "have a go" at making it a test case as to whether evolution can be taught in Tennessee -- so much for the repression.
From these humble beginnings starts a third rate farce with everyone wanting to get in on the act. Some were legitimate entities, such as the ACLU lawyers -- very dedicated and committed people -- perhaps the true heros of this saga. But others such as Darrow and Bryan, although obviously acting from deeply held emotions offered no basis to defend their beliefs. Darrow offerred little evidence of what we would know as natural selection, and Bryan could not defend his belief in a Biblical interpretation of the creation ofthe earth as given in Genesis.
The real argument became a legal one with Bryan defending the rights of the majority to teach whatever taxpayers thought they wanted to teach (whether it was correct or not!
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Format: Paperback
Edward Larson has done us a favor by writing on an often both neglected and misunderstood piece of history in the Scopes trial. The author handles all involved with an even hand minus the kid gloves so often used in the name of 'objective' journalism. Criticism (and praise)is given to all parties when it is deserved.
One glaring problem. The reader quickly picks up that, in Larsons view,- and I tend to agree- the case became more about evolution versus creationism than about whether Scopes violated the Tennessee antievolution law or even the constitutionality of the law itself. So the problem becomes that, in Larsons desire to give us a journalistic account of the trial, he never comments on the issues of law involved. For instance, we know that the defense read the antievolution law to prohibit teaching evolution ONLY if it's account differs with the bible. The defense's challenge was that evolution can be taught in accordance with biblical creationism. Hence, Scopes broke no law. Although the scholars to prove this were never able to testify, it would've been nice to hear comments on legal issues like this one.
I also could've done without some of the tedium of the pre-trial explanation. Some of the detail was repetitive. I'm not sure how many times we needed to be reminded of the fact that the ACLU did not want Darrow's name associated with the trial.
Still, this is a great read that moves like a legal-thriller of the first rate. At last, an author has found a way to give scholarly treatment and serious attention to a trial looked on by many as a joke.
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This is the story of the infamous Scopes trial (aka the monkey trial). It starts with a history of the event and the major players and then goes into a fairly detailed description of what happened and who said what (the trial was a huge event, bigger than OJ). It's funny the whole got started in an ice cream parlor. It is a great book, especially since some states are still struggling with teaching evolution. As somebody that is firmly in the evolution camp and finds the words "creation science" to be one of the world's best oxymorons, this book is quite humorous. The transcripts of Clarence Darrow grilling Bryan about the bible are worth the price of the book. Clarence Darrow would have been a really interesting man to meet. The trial took place in the 1920's and still today this is a relavent issue someplaces. I'd recommend this book to anybody, maybe not a super creationist but those guys would be too busy rereading the bible and filling web pages with gibberish to bother reading it.
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