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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,661 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
In the summer of 1925, the sleepy hamlet of Dayton, Tennessee, became the setting for one of the 20th century's most contentious dramas: the Scopes trial that pit William Jennings Bryan and the anti-Darwinists against a teacher named John Scopes into a famous debate over science, religion, and their place in public education That trial marked the start of a battle that con ...more
Paperback, 330 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Basic Books (first published June 26th 1997)
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Michael Mencken would offer a firsthand account, but a biased and heavily snarky one. Larson is a historian, exploring the origins of the debate, the run-up…moreMencken would offer a firsthand account, but a biased and heavily snarky one. Larson is a historian, exploring the origins of the debate, the run-up to the trial, and so forth in a very approachable but thorough way.(less)
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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
Susan O
4.5 - Overall an enjoyable and easy read. Excellent summary in the Afterword of the current (as of 2006) status of the creation vs. evolution debate.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 This book leads up to the Scopes Trials by explaining the issues of tension between religion and evolution well before the trial. Williams Jennings Bryant is well covered. The trial is covered in detail and also what impact the controversy had on the debate going forward. Most readers will remember the Scopes Trial from the film Inherit the Wind, and this book makes clear what was accurate in that film and what was not. Intelligent Design today is covered too. It's really a comprehensive and ...more
"It's déjà vu all over again.", as the wag said and that's the feeling you wind up with after finishing Edward J. Larson's Summer For the Gods: The Scope's Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. The arguments and counter-arguments discussed in this excellent book about the famous "Monkey" trial of 1925 recur again and again in our own time. I have no doubt that there are court cases winding their way through the judicial maze even now concerning the teaching of evolutio ...more
Helga Cohen
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Larson’s Pulitzer Prize winning book “Summer for the Gods” was a very enlightening book. I really like reading about the conflict between science and religion and getting the true story of this famous “Trial of the Century”.
This book gave a great history of the Scopes Trial or the well-known “Monkey Trial”. He describes the run-up to the trial and the trial and the outcome and what it has meant for American society and American culture. We get an intriguing picture of some of the key players, Cl
Daniel Solera
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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:

Larson begins by detailing the intellectual leaps that les to Charles Darwin's
Erik Graff
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: law-related
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
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
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Luke Koran
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even the biggest young history enthusiast out there learns something new every once and again. This book was such an occasion. And boy, was it a joyous occasion! After only seeing (and never really getting a basic understanding of) the term "Monkey Trial" on occasion while passing through a thick history textbook during high school, I took great pleasure during my collegiate studies when my professor assigned our class to read this book about this famed "The Trial of the Century." We even got to ...more
Matt McCormick
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A interesting and often dramatic account of not only the Scopes Trail but the belief systems which ultimately contended in small town of Dayton Tennessee in 1925. In the build-up to the trail Larson describes the rise of Fundamentalist Christianity, the populist and, more importantly, majoritarian movements lead by William Jennings Bryan and finally the advent of groups like the ACLU advocating for individual rights.
Larson remains objective throughout the narrative while conveying a description
Mike Hankins
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, religion
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
Emmanuel Boston
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Chanel Earl
Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Don Incognito
Oct 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Cindy Leighton
Always fascinated by the interplay of science and culture - throw in a good legal battle and I am hooked. This very well researched and written discussion of the Scopes "monkey" trial of 1925 and the continuing debate over what should be taught in our schools and how is very interesting reading and very relevant. I live in Kansas where as recently as 2005 creationists reigned on our state school board and "intelligent Design" was added to our state educational standards.

I think most interesting
Apr 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, favorites
Every spare moment I have lately has been spent reading this fascinating book. Summer for the Gods offers an engaging, thought provoking and evenhanded historical account of the intersection of religion, science, law and politics in America.

Larson provides a front row seat at this pivotal case, delving deep into the divergent worldviews that caused a cultural and political fissure that remains to this day. Majoritarian rule, individual liberty, academic freedom, and the separation of church and
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dave Bernard
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Cody Scott
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Summer of the Gods is an amazingly detailed account of the famous Scopes Trial. Edward Larson does a great job outlining exactly what happened in the famous trial of what is now interpreted as Religion vs Science in an unbiased and fascinating balance of narrative and deep research. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of the climax of the battle of evolution in the US. Even though the battle still rages on today, it seems that truth will prevail as long as we approac ...more
Peter Lindstrom
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If nothing else, Larson's book should remind us the need to create simple national narratives or black-and-history is fraught with danger. But his book is more than that: an account of how "Inherit the Wind" is really about McCarthyism in the 1950s and not America's religious debates in 1920's as well as a history of the early 20th century American schism between modernists vs. the anti-evolution faction (and how the latter actually grew stronger, as opposed to disappearing, after the Scopes tri ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible book - one of the most compelling non-fiction accounts I've read. Very deserved of the Pulitzer Prize it won, for it is clear that Larson invested a countless number of hours to write this book, with astounding levels of detail on every page. In addition to that, it also abounds in emotion - you really feel personal connections to Bryan, Darrow, and their teams.

The final section of the book takes a different tone. Whereas before, we see a blow-by-blow account of every speech of the t
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this for my Science and Religion class. This book discusses, in very readable form, the historical and intellectual foundations of the struggle between, the rural (largely Southern) religious majoritarian anti-modernism of William Jennings Bryan (the Democratic populist of Nebraska) and the modern, skeptical, rationalist Clarence Darrow of Chicago. The fundamental divide in America still today. The afterward clearly traces the rise of recent creationism and Intelligent Design theory in th ...more
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Separated into 3 sections: Before, During, and After the trial, it explores the social, religious, political, and to a much lesser extent scientific antecedents and consequences of the trial. I think the text would have benefited by greater detail of the actual trial. The transcript of the interchange between Bryan and Darrow appeared to me to be brief and disappointingly superficial in the intellectual depth of the debate.
Like many others, I thought the film Inherit the Wind was largely a fictionalized depiction of the Scopes Monkey Trial. This book brings to light the real background and of the antievolution statutes as being the right of a state legislature to determine what may be taught in its schools vs. the academic freedom of teachers. It was interesting to learn about the legal wranglings and the more recent aftermath of, not the facts of the trial, but the mythology of it.
Martin Genet
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in The Scopes Monkey trial, then this is the book to read. It gives a fascinating glimpse into the politics and mores of the 1920's and what really happened during that hot summer. The film Inherit the Wind although very good has dramatically distorted the actual facts behind the famous trial. This book will tell you what really happened and it wont disappoint. Meticulously researched and well written.
Joe Gaspard
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nearly 100 years have passed since the Scopes trial, and not much has really changed. Creationism is still a thing, and many states require their science textbooks to downplay evolution. This book gives detailed background on all the major characters in the trial (Darrow, Bryan, and the ACLU) and shows that neither the defense (Darrow, et al) nor the prosecution (Bryan, et al) were all in agreement on what their respective positions should be. Bryan certainly gets a much more sympathetic treatme ...more
Laurie Hale
Feb 25, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author was a professor of mine at the University of Georgia and I'd wanted to read this book since then. I should have ignored that feeling. I do not understand why it won the Pulitzer Price. It was so boring! I struggled to finish and did not enjoy any of it. It read like a dissertation, and I found myself repeatedly checking how many pages I had left to suffer through.
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NonFiction Pulitzers: Summer for the Gods: Buddy Read February 2018 98 25 Mar 21, 2018 08:18PM  
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Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and legal scholar. He is university professor of history and holds the Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at Pepperdine University. He was formerly Herman E. Talmadge Chair of Law and Richard B. Russell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia.
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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.” 1 likes
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