Moran (History/Univ. of Kansas; The Scopes Trial, 2002, etc.) provides a scholarly look at the antievolution “impulse,” focusing on the interactions of the social forces that animated, propelled and changed it.
The author employs an old-fashioned historiography—introduction, clearly stated thesis, chapters devoted to each aspect of the thesis, a generally impersonal tone, scholarly diction—but he does highlight some important aspects of the controversies that have raged since the Scopes Trial of 1925. After some personal comments about his arrival to teach in Kansas and his alarm about that state’s decision about the teaching of evolution, he sketches the career of Charles Darwin and shows how Darwin’s revolutionary work was received both here and abroad. He notes the importance of women in the controversies here and shows how they became more deeply involved when the debate shifted to the public-school curriculum. He looks, too, at the involvement of evangelicals and summarizes the positions of notables like Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson and J. Franklyn Norris. Regionalism, he argues, was (and remains) an important factor. In some ways the South has felt once again invaded by the North, this time by rivers of scorn that have flowed from the pens of many Northern journalists. Moran examines how evolution threatened not just the “young earthers” who accepted Genesis as history but also those who believed in the divinity of Jesus. Race has always been a factor, and the author notes the large percentage of African-Americans who believe in the literal truth of the Bible; he also explains how many were disturbed by the ape imagery that often accompanied debates about evolution. Moran ends with the continuing difficulties that science teachers and students face in American classrooms, where the issue remains prominent and divisive.
Important historical points that would glow brightly if illuminated by more narrative fire.