Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion





Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion

Discussion of the Content of the Book

The scope of the book is partially related to its title. In the book, Edward Larson expresses his disappointment relating to the persecution of John Scopes. The high school teacher was persecuted for teaching theories of evolution to students in public schools. Anti-evolution activists argued that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution provoked Christian beliefs, social values and ruined morality. Therefore, the subtitle title, The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion, was used by Larson to narrate how Scope became a victim of unfair persecutions spearheaded by anti-evolution activists. However, the relationship between the content in the book to the main title, Summer of the Gods, is unclear.

Larson’s main objective in the book was to encourage anti-evolutionists to co-exist with people who have different views reading man’s existence. He has cited archeological evidences that support the ideas and views held by evolutionists. His arguments might have convinced a section of anti-evolutionists but it is not certain whether in completely changed their perspective on the issue. The book was intended for conservative Christians who are unwilling to co-exist with people holding views different from theirs. Both general readers and scholars have been targeted by Larson in the book. Larson incorporated literature reviews and narratives to express his sentiments.

Criticism of the Work

Larson is completely biased in his book. He has provided significant literature review and expressed his personal opinion without issuing any sources that support anti-evolutionists. In a non-biased literature, authors are required to issue arguments raised by both proponent and opponents before expression their stance on the issue. This is not the case in the book, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. The author seems to have been overcome by emotions and neglected any evidences and literature, such as the Bible, which support the arguments made by anti-evolution activists.

Apart from mentioning that conservative Christians were opposed to the theories of evolution because they contravened their spiritual and societal values, Larson failed to mention or quote their evidences from material, such as the Bible, which outlines the creation of the earth and its contents including human beings. In chapter seven, The Trial of the Century, Larson simply quotes William Jennings Bryan stating that Christians believe man came from above, but evolutionists believe that he must have come from below (177). To make his literature less biased, Larson should have included proponents and opponents’ evidences in his book. For example, in the above case, Larson would have researched for sources that support Bryan’s arguments concerning the story of divine creation.

Larson has used a few primary sources in his book. He carried out a brief research about the history of each person named in the book. The major actors in the trial included Scope (the accused), Clarence Darrow (lawyer of the accused) and Bryan (politician and chief persecutor). Pertinent secondary sources have been significantly used in the book. Even though there were very few written materials, such as Scope’s autobiography or bibliography, Larson wrote his book by drawing his inspiration and ideas from court documents and newspaper article, especially Biltmore Sun. His work is a primary narrative because it is solely based on Scope’s trial. Larson provides a brief description of Scope’s history then narrates his trial throughout the book.

Despite the author’s biasness surrounding the subject, the book made significant contribution the evolution. By expressing Scope’s trial in a narrative, Larson points out the effect of ideological intolerance. Scope became a victim of blinded faith because the people who were campaigning for his prosecution ignored the evidences that supported his defense. Larson points out the need for people to practice ideological tolerance despite of their beliefs or societal alliances. He argues that conservative Christians and evolutionists should be able to co-exist in the society despite their ideological deference. However, his central thesis in the book is irrelevant in the modern society.

Currently, people are allowed to express their views and ideologies without being threatened by anti-evolutionists. These developments have enabled archeologists and historians to make huge milestones towards tracing the history of man and stages of evolution. Furthermore, teachings of theories of evolution in schools are no longer forbidden by any state in the United Sates. Nonetheless, the book provides insights of past atrocities that were carried out not so long ago. It narrates the ordeals evolutionists went through during that period.

The book is slightly different from other related works. Almost all literature that support evolution, state the need for the society to recognize and embrace other theories that explain man’s history and existence. Larson took a different perspective to express the same argument. In a narration he refers to as, Trial of the Century, Larson explains the negative effects of ideological intolerance by describing how a victim suffered at the hands of anti-evolutionists.



Work Cited

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

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