Good Example Of Book Review On Summer For The Gods: Book Review
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“Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion,” by Edward J. Larson is, in a word, dramatic. Larson denotes possibly one of the most dramatic moments in legal, as well as religious history, as he outlines the Scopes “Monkey Trials” of 1925, aligning them with such pivotal legal moments as the Jon Benet Ramsey hearing, and the O.J. Simpson trials. John Scopes, as many know, was a high school teacher who was prosecuted for being in violation of a state law that had banned teaching evolution to students in public schools; Scopes taught it anyway. Larson summarizes the cultural history of the case, both legally, and religiously, in his book. Though it leaves the readers wanting in technical courtroom dramatics, the primary point of his book is to show the reader the case was a contrivance from its conception
Larson uses the book to demonstrate that from the beginning the case built against Scope was a mere contraption brought on by power hungry city leaders and Right Wing Ultra-Conservatives in an effort to maintain control. Immediately following the passing of the anti-evolution law in Tennessee, the American Civil Liberties Union publically announced its intention to challenge the law. They did so aggressively, taking up public advertisement space wherever they could by it, and announcing they would defend any teacher who would public defy the law in further efforts to see it overturned. Dayton, Tennessee leaders saw the controversy not as an outlet for moral righteousness, but as an opportunity to supercharge their city and gain notoriety throughout the country. Cities throughout Tennessee literally competed for the trial, as if they were on a gameshow. Larson claims it was stated by many people in Dayton that Scopes did not know much about evolution to begin with, furthering the allegations that he was a mere pawn in this game. Moreover, he was not the regular biology teacher, which was later confirmed during the trials, and was only put up to testing the law by city leaders. Dayton’s local prosecutor arranged for the arrest despite these facts and Dayton had its three-ring circus.
The book goes on to explain the entrance of William Jennings Bryan, who is often described as a pacifist, a progressive liberal, and a religious, right-wing fundamentalist. This combination is difficult to understand and almost never heard of. Bryan was asked to assist with Scopes prosecution, despite his odd arrangement of views. Several different lawyers volunteered their time and energy on behalf of the defense, led by Clarence Darrow. The cluster of varying views and opinions resulted in a media circus, which is part for the course when religion and politics are involved. The case boiled down to science versus religion which was, essential, what Larson intended his book to be about. Scopes’ case about the “Monkey Trials” were simply a good example about the dichotomy between the two, as well as what happens when the two meet. Furthermore, the “Monkey Trials” proved good at exemplifying how useful the battle between religion and science can be at benefitting many who are only interested in power, as the trials also touched on individual liberty versus majority rule. It should never have been about this, however. Evolution should have always been taught in public schools and to not do so was a clear invitation for not only corruption, but also drama. Leaders and lawmakers in Tennessee did not appear to have any stake in whether children learned about religion or science. Their primary concern appeared only to be whether the state was being noticed. Regardless, the trial consisted of the state arguing teachers should teach what Tennessee taxpayers demanded, which was a strong enough argument to grant victory during 1925. It took nine minutes for Scope to be convicted.
Though Darrow officially lost the case, his examination of Bryan was widely viewed as a career success. Bryan had been called as a witness, which was peculiar in the first place. However, even more peculiar was that the Dayton judge had refused the defense’s request to call scientific experts to the stand to explain the theory of evolution. While leaders and lawmakers primarily only appeared concerned with power and being noticed, the judge’s firm denial on having scientific experts in his courtroom speaks volumes on where the thoughts of many were at during the trials; some were genuinely concerned with the minds of the children, however wrong they may have been. The judge, a man of supposed education himself, was determined to keep science away from a case that was purely based on religion versus science. Consequently, while the judge may not have been consumed with power, he was still just as determined as Tennessee state leaders to see Scopes convicted, if only driven by a different motivation. As a result, Darrow called Bryan to the stand and, unable to allow a scientific expert in the courtroom, he attacked the only available people in the room for their overbearing religious views and intolerance. Officially, Bryan was asked to testify as an official expert on religious matters, specifically the Bible. After intense cross-examination, in what is still haled as possibly the greatest moment in courtroom history, Darrow forced Bryan to admit he had to interpret Bible passages in order to find meaning in them. Bryan was unable to defend the Bible in the manner it seemed he always believed he would be able to. If he had to interpret certain passages to give them meaning, they were open to interpretation. Anybody could interpret them to mean whatever they wanted them to mean. Therefore, religion was not inherently factual, and was not fit to be taught in schools, unlike evolution, which was widely accepted as scientific theory among the scientific community. In one cross-examination, Darrow managed to show the country how useless religion is to education.
In sum, “Summer of the Gods,” was a book about many things. As stated, to summarize it, one could call it dramatic. Essentially, it was about a false case laid against a man who had no hopes of winning. The basis was in religion, even though those who launched the lawsuit had no stake in whether children learned about religion or evolution. However, as the “Monkey Trials” went on, the country began to understand the case itself was about religion. Education was at stake, and while Tennessee taxpayers had the ignorance to vote evolution out of classrooms in 1925, Darrow made a rousing argument for why religion is simply a passing ship in the night that may mean something to somebody, but may mean something completely different so somebody else, and absolutely nothing to an individual’s education.
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