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Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial & America's Continuing Debate Over Science & Religion

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,111 ratings  ·  100 reviews
The 1925 Scopes Trial marked a watershed in our national relationship between science and religion and has had tremendous impact on our culture ever since, even inspiring the play and movie, both titled "Inherit the Wind." In addition to symbolizing the evolutionist versus creationist debate, the trial helped shape the development of both popular religion and religious fre ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published November 15th 1998 by Harvard University Press (first published June 26th 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,105)
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Matt
It seemed a propitious time to read Edward Larson’s Summer for the Gods. This past February, Bill Nye made the (unfortunate, lose-lose) decision to debate young earth creationist Ken Ham at the Creationist Museum . Four months earlier, Texas – which has enormous sway in the textbook industry – once again began working on legislation to “teach the controversy,” a euphemistic way of saying “teach creationism” alongside evolution.

This is all well and good, because there is literally nothing else g
...more
Erik Graff
May 07, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I've been going up to NW Wisconsin for several years now with members of the Gregory family to stay in the house once occupied by an ancestor and now used as a vacation retreat. Knowing the area, I can now go up there without a book, confident that the Hayward Public Library twenty or so miles away will have titles worth purchasing. That is where I purchased this history a few days ago.

This writer, both a lawyer and an historian, has long specialized on matters pertaining the themes treated in t
...more
Daniel Solera
In the last year, I have developed an insatiable fascination for the clash between religion and science, specifically as this encounter relates to social policy. The famous Scopes trial (also commonly referred to as "the Monkey Trial") was the most fervently hyped and widely publicized legal dispute on this matter, and Edward Larson's book does the confrontation justice.

The book is divided into three sections:

Before:
Larson begins by detailing the intellectual leaps that les to Charles Darwin's t
...more
AC
An excellent book that discusses, in very readable form, the historical and intellectual foundations of, and the struggle between, the rural (largely Southern) religious majoritarian anti-modernism of William Jennings Bryan (the Democratic populist of Nebraska, who ran for President in 1896, 1900, 1904, and 1908) and the modern, skeptical, rationalist and ever-courageous Clarence Darrow of Chicago. The fundamental divide in America still today. The afterward clearly traces the rise of recent cre ...more
Michael
Summer for the Gods is phenomenal. The book tells a riveting story well, but it elevates itself over other histories by critically examining the public's later interpretation of the events, and showing all the effects of such interpretation (also probably why it got the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History). “Before” “During” and “And After” are its three parts, covering the build-up to the prosecution, the trial itself, and the public’s reaction to and later interpretation of the events.

The book det
...more
Mike Hankins
Many courtroom cases have been billed to the public as the “trial of the century” over the last hundred years, but as Edward Larson demonstrates, few have truly had as lasting an impact on American culture and political debates as the Scopes Trial of 1925. While much fiction and non-fiction has been written on the trial, Larson delves deep into primary sources to get at the more complex truth behind this courtroom battle. With superb craft, Larson is able to then contextualize the trial within t ...more
Don Incognito
If you happened to have read the play Inherit the Wind, and let it create your impression of the Scopes Monkey Trial, you particularly need to read this book. This is the story of how the Scopes Monkey trial REALLY happened. There are key details that the play doesn't even try to tell you.

I'll just mention the two biggest revelations:

-The events leading to the Scopes trial were a farce. The town of Dayton, Tennessee was struggling, and the town leaders, gathering in a downtown drugstore, convinc
...more
Megan
A meticulously researched account of the 1925 Scopes trial. I was expecting more about the last aspect of the subtitle (the continuing debate over science and religion), so this history wasn't what I was specifically looking for, but I still appreciated how Larson smoothly depicted the nuances of the cultural context of the trial. His account was quite balanced while still depicting clearly the passions of all sides of the debate. The writing was always clear, but the immense amounts of quotatio ...more
Chanel Earl
Jun 16, 2010 Chanel Earl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chanel by: Martin
I expected this book to give me a great picture of the Scopes Monkey Trial; my expectations were met. I didn’t expect to be treated to a detailed history of the larger debate between science and religion in general, but I am so glad that this book had a larger scope than I envisioned. The information about “the trial” was wonderful but what I really enjoyed was how Larson set this trial into historical context.

I have always been bothered by the “war” between science and religion. It seems to me
...more
Emmanuel Boston
May 15, 2012 Emmanuel Boston rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teachers, Professors, Politicians (Republican and Democrat)
Recommended to Emmanuel by: Dr. Anthony Chute
Larson’s Pulitzer Prize winning work is careful, clear, and revealing.

Book thesis: A book solely about the [Scopes] trial and its place in American history; America’s continuing debate over science and religion.

This book does precisely what it sets out to do: take a look at the Scopes trial and evaluate what it has meant for American society since that time. In fact, as one reads the book, one finds that Larson accomplishes exactly what he intends to with each chapter. Is it written so clearly
...more
Dan
If you have been reading my blog over the past year or so, you are aware that I have had more than a passing fascination with the battles in the American courts over the teaching of Intelligent Design, aka Creationism, in high school science class. Having read multiple books on the famous 2005 case in Dover, PA I decided that I would turn some of my attention to the trial with which it is most often compared, the 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, TN.

I ran across Edward J. Larson's Pulitzer prize winn
...more
Dave Bernard
Edward J Larson’s Summer for the Gods is an account of the culture wars taking place in the 1920s. It’s a story of a trial that marked the formal meeting ground for Protestant majoritarianism’s attempts to conform the nation and the defense of individual liberties by minority groups and Individualists. A paradigm shift amongst intellectuals (exemplified by Lost Generation writers, the disintegration of European liberalism and American progressivism) mixed with an emerging American consumerism, k ...more
Willis
I had heard of the Scopes Trial but knew very little about what actually happened there so I found this to be very interesting. It was a quick read and it debunks many of the myths surrounded the trial. For example, some have thought that Scopes (the high school teacher who was charged with teaching evolution) was persecuted by others, when nothing could be further from the truth. The trial was a publicity ploy by folks in the town of Dayton to stir up tourism to the town, as Scopes was "arreste ...more
John David
The Scope Trial (occasionally referred to with both contempt and fondness as “The Monkey Trial”) has a life of its own, and much of that life has little or nothing to do with what actually occurred in Dayton, Tennessee during the summer of 1925 when William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow met to defend the merits of the case. Lawrence and Lee’s 1955 play “Inherit the Wind” and the film based off it five years later form much of the basis for popular (but ultimately false) ideas about the tria ...more
Ollie
Like most people, I first heard about the Spokes Monkey trial from an episode of Drunk History. Don't we all? Of course, the whole event sounds so interesting to me that I looked into it more closely and decided to actually learn about it from someone who isn't drunk.

Summer for the Gods did just that. In it, Edward Larson paints a somewhat clear picture about how the Spokes Money trial went down. The book is divided into three sections. The first with information about what was going on before t
...more
Michael
I didn't have much prior knowledge of the Scopes trial, so this book served as my education. It's well-researched and presents the origins of the case, the trial itself along with all of the major players, and what's happened since the trial with regard to the issue of the battle of individual freedom vs the majority as it relates to evolution. I didn't realize how wrong the media has presented the trial and its meaning, which was surprising. Sometimes I found this book enlightening and interest ...more
Roxanne Russell
I've been meaning to read this book for 15 years. Ever since the first day of law school, when Professor Larson was introduced as a Pulitzer winning author. As an aside I have two strong memories of him as a Property Law Prof: 1) he reprimanded a student for pulling her hair back into a ponytail while he was lecturing, and 2) he liked to use the word "tony." I could hear his irregularly modulated voice and high pitched tones of excitement as I read this book.
This is a thorough recounting, not o
...more
Eric_W
By the late nineteenth century, Darwin's evolutionary theories had been widely accepted by Christian fundamentalists.. The had adopted a form of Lamarckian explanation for changes in form. In fact, James Orr, well-known theologian, wrote in The Fundamentals, " Assume God – as many devout evolutionists do– to be immanent in the evolutionary process, and His intelligence and purpose to be expressed in it; then evolution, so far from conflicting with theism, may become a new and heightened form of ...more
Jessica
If you've ever wanted a very in-depth account of the Scopes trial then this book is for you. And according to Mr. Larson, if you've gotten your information from Inherit the Wind then you have a completely wrong notion about what really happened during and after the trial. While popular conception is that Darrow came out the victor, despite losing the trial, Mr. Larson states that both sides were equally victorious, or defeated, depending on your outlook. The main problem with this book for me (o ...more
Craig Werner
Deserved its Pulitzer Prize. Larson organizes his history of the Scopes Trial focusing on the prelude, the trial itself and the aftermath with a new afterword dealing with the status of the "evolution vs. creation" debate, especially involving public schools, in the early 21st century. Like Ronald Numbers' larger history The Creationists, Summer for the Gods presents the arguments of "both sides" in terms that would be recognizable and acceptable to the adherents. The quotes reflect the deeper i ...more
Jesse
Summer for the Gods is exactly what it advertises: a book about the Scopes trial. In all likelihood, it is exactly what you would want out of a book on the Scopes trial. The book is divided into three broad sections---before, during, and after the trial---and Larson uses those sections to provide historical context around everything.

Larson writes, before the trial, about the adoption of Darwin's ideas in their first few decades: the comparisons between Lamarckian evolution and a Mendelian unders
...more
Wes Metz
Summer for the Gods is the story of the Scopes 'monkey trial' in 1925, when Dayton, Tennessee charged high school teacher John Scopes with teaching about Darwin's theory of evolution in biology class, an act which was illegal under Tennessee law. The trial became a national circus, with presidential candidate and devout Christian William Jennings Bryan prosecuting, and famous atheist attorney Clarence Darrow on defense. The book is exhaustive in its examination of the arrest, trial, and convicti ...more
Michael
Feb 02, 2009 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: law specialists, fundamentalists, and evolutionists
I recently heard an interview with Larsen done by the always enlightening Lewis Lapham. Larsen wouldn't shut up for five seconds, such was his energy in talking about history in whatever context. This to me had always been the mark of a fine scholar.

It's hard to believe that this is the same Larsen I heard. _Summer of the Gods_, it must be said, is probably the definitive account of the Scopes Trial. It is incredibly balanced, almost to a fault. The research that went into its writing is astound
...more
Angela
The "Scopes Monkey Trial" has fascinated me for years. Like many others, however, the majority of my knowledge came from the movie/play "Inherit The Wind."

This book clearly and in great detail gives us the story of the actual trial, including many quotes from the trial transcript and contemporary newspaper accounts and editorials. It explains the political atmosphere of the "Roaring Twenties" and delineates the chain of events and political thinking that led to the enactment of the Tennessee ant
...more
Joy Gerbode
This was an absolutely wonderful book ... the only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because my personal rating system only gives 5 to books I will re-read and re-read. I might need to revise my rating system. Anyway, this book was about the trial in Tennessee in 1925 over whether evolution could be taught in the schools. The issue was not really set before the court, nor did they decide on it ... but Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan had a terrific argument over whether God created ma ...more
Jc
This is a great, and quite complete, history of the Scopes trial. It is not trying to prove a political or religious point, nor make heroes of one or another of the actors. Instead, it tries to, and succeeds in, creating a neutral, factual report of what actually occurred. Of special note is Larson's detailed discussion of the political and social background that lead to the trial event. And while it is serious history, it is also written in a way that makes it an enjoyable read.
Robert
Well written and fascinating historical (and sociological) account of the Scopes (monkey) trial and its after math in American society. A trial which brought together William Jennings Bryan (former Democratic presidential candidate and a fundamentalist) and Clarence Darrow (an avowed agnostic and the most famous defense attorney of his era). If you want to know about Scopes, don't watch Spencer Tracy's Inherit the Wind, read this book.

Glenn
Shows how history is distorted by pop culture. The Scopes trial was nothing like "Inherit the Wind". This is a balanced book that anyone who is interested in the "evolution vs Bible" debate should read as a primer. Basically each side trying to legally silence the other and how the pendulum has shifted over the last century, with public schools the foil.
Britlyn Husmann
Larson does an excellent job of presenting a clean view of the actual case and properly contextualizing it and then proceeding to dismantle the mythology and falsehoods that media portrayals have attributed to all facets of the trial. His analysis of various accounts of the trial, such as "Only Yesterday" and the play (and eventual film) "Inherit the Wind", reflect that the creators of these accounts took huge liberties with the details of the trial (in the case of "Inherit the Wind", this was d ...more
Dave
The book itself is very good and quite informative. I think that Larson did a fine job in that:

* He provided necessary context for the trial, but only provided what was directly relevant
* He presented the events leading up to, during, and after the trial while treating all sides fairly

I was somewhat disappointed a bit by the lack of excitement in the actual historical events. The trial has been reworked in other media to such a fashion that the reality of the actual events are fairly anti-climat
...more
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“Clarence Darrow," the New York Times proclaimed in its lead story, "bearded the lion of Fundamentalism today, faced William Jennings Bryan and a court room filled with believers of the literal word of the Bible and with a hunch of his shoulders and a thumb in his suspenders defied every belief they hold sacred.” 0 likes
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