Megan's Reviews > Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial & America's Continuing Debate over Science & Religion

Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson
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Feb 03, 12

bookshelves: 3-stars, non-fiction, science
Read from January 21 to February 03, 2012

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 quotations without additional analysis and the nature of the trial (repetitive, sides arguing past one another) often dragged the reading down for me.

While the very painstaking depiction of the trial was necessary, I still vastly preferred the final chapters of the book that analyzed the immediate reactions as well as the emergent mythos of the trial. The Scopes trial didn't merit notice in my high school history class, and I've never seen Inherit the Wind, but I'm familiar with it being a cultural sticking point, so I appreciated the depth to which Larson was able to trace how and why misconceptions evolved (yeah, yeah, pun intended).

I had mistaken expectations about the extent of which the book got into the continuing debate alluded to by the subtitle, and I was a little irritated when cultural changes in regard to how fundamentalism's stand against evolution manifested were only analyzed in terms of the Scopes trial. I know, I know, that's the focus of the book, but still, for example, I wanted to know about the other contributing factors that led to a shift from fundamentalists protesting the teaching of evolution in public schools to abandoning public education for home schooling or private Christian schools. What were the economic and broader social changes that went into this? For example, did racial integration play a part? I completely understood why the book focused on just putting this in the context of antievolution, but it still felt like a pretty superficial analysis to make a point of pointing out this shift but only explaining it in the antievolution context.
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