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The Creation-Evolution Debate

The Creation-Evolution Debate: Historical Perspectives

Edward J. Larson
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  • Book Info
    The Creation-Evolution Debate
    Book Description:

    Few issues besides evolution have so strained Americans' professed tradition of tolerance. Few historians besides Pulitzer Prize winner Edward J. Larson have so perceptively chronicled evolution's divisive presence on the American scene. This slim volume reviews the key aspects, current and historical, of the creation-evolution debate in the United States. Larson discusses such topics as the transatlantic response to Darwinism, the American controversy over teaching evolution in public schools, and the religious views of American scientists. He recalls the theological qualms about evolution held by some leading scientists of Darwin's time. He looks at the 2006 Dover, Pennsylvania, court decision on teaching Intelligent Design and other cases leading back to the landmark 1925 Scopes trial. Drawing on surveys that Larson conducted, he discusses attitudes of American scientists toward the existence of God and the afterlife. By looking at the changing motivations and backgrounds of the stakeholders in the creation-evolution debate-clergy, scientists, lawmakers, educators, and others-Larson promotes a more nuanced view of the question than most of us have. This is no incidental benefit for Larson's readers; it is one of the book's driving purposes. If we cede the debate to those who would frame it simplistically rather than embrace its complexity, warns Larson, we will not advance beyond the naive regard of organized religion as the enemy of intellectual freedom or the equally myopic myth of the scientist as courageous loner willing to die for the truth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3654-1
    Subjects: History, Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Mitchell G. Reddish

    The material in this volume derives from the 2006 George L. Shriver Lectures: Religion in American History, presented at Stetson University on January 24 and 25. The Shriver Lectures were established by Dr. George Shriver, a Stetson alumnus, to bring noted scholars to the university to speak about the influence and significance of religion in the history and development of American society. George Shriver, himself a historian of religion, spent the major part of his career in the history department at Georgia Southern University, where he won awards for both his teaching and his research. Professor Shriverʹs generous gifts to...

    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-13)

    I have read your book with more pain than pleasure,ʺ Cambridge geologist Adam Sedgwick wrote sadly to Charles Darwin within a week of receiving a prepublication copy of his former studentʹs On the Origin of Species in 1859. ʺʹTis the crown & glory of organic science that it does throʹ final cause, link material to moral…. You have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one of two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer...

    (pp. 14-36)

    The American controversy over creation and evolution is primarily fought over what is taught in U.S. public high school biology classes. Virtually no one disputes teaching the theory of evolution in public colleges and universities or using public funding to support evolutionary research in agriculture or medicine. And there is no serious debate over the core evolutionary concept of common descent among biologists. It is the minds of American high school students that are at stake, and opponents of evolutionary teaching typically ask for (1) removing evolutionary biology from the classroom, or (2) balancing it with some form of creationist...

    (pp. 37-54)

    The United States increasingly relies on science and the systemic exploitation of the natural world by scientific researchers to fuel its economy, defend its borders, and enhance the health of its people. At the same time, however, the United States remains a deeply religious country where more people than ever appear to be seeking answers to fundamental questions in the supernatural. In a growing body of research, historians, social scientists, and other commentators are exploring how these parallel developments have played out and will continue to play out in practice. Scientists and their beliefs about religion represent a key element...

  8. APPENDIX: Historical Surveys of the Religious Beliefs of American Scientists
    (pp. 55-60)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 61-66)