Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Larson - Summer for the Gods

Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. New York: BasicBooks, 1997.

Split into 3 parts, Larson surveys the before, during, and after of the Scopes Trial, rightly marking it as a pivotal and representative moment in the clash between traditional, literal theology and science and modernity. Larson uses his knowledge of law and history to trace the legal arguments of the two sides in the test case brought through the efforts of the resurgent ACLU. "While the prosecution wished to defend the right of legislatures to control the schools and their curriculum and to discredit the theory of evolution, defense attorneys sought to defend individual freedom and scientific authority and to discount biblical literalism." (JAH review)

Larson raises other conflicts revealed by the case. North-South, rural economies-New South urban, changes in evangelicalism, Progressive era transformation.

Larson traces the resonance of the case through history, through literature and the play "Inherit the Wind." Cases finally reached the Supreme Court in the 1960s where Justice Fortas, who grew up in Tenn in the 1920s, fought for the overturn of the laws. Evangelicals retreated from the debate until the 1980s.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this book. It's a wonderful read, and it helps to explain a lot about how Americans deal with religious and scientific issues.