9780195036664 / 0195036662

Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution


Publisher:Oxford University Press, USA



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About the book:

The debate over evolutionary teaching in the public schools remains one of the most emotion-charged controversies in twentieth-century America. This book, ranging from before the Scopes trial of 1925 to the creationism disputes of the 1980s, offers the first comprehensive account of th educational and legal battles erupting from this persistent confrontation.
Analyzing the various teaching and text-book controversies as well as the statutes and court cases spawned by them Edward J. Larson concludes that public science education has never been allowed to deviate too far from public opinion. Thus, strong regional opposition in the 1920s the Darwinism resulted in bans on evolutionary teaching, while the Supreme Ccourt's overturning of those bans in 1968 came only when there seemed to be wider popular acceptance of the theory of evolution. The most recent legal efforts to secure equal time for creationism arose where public opinion appeared to favor such fairness for competing "scientific" ideas. While finding that legislators have responded more readily to public opinion than judges, Larson shows that even the courts have operated withing the boundaries set by public sentiment and have generally refused to rule on the scientific merits of either side's argument.
As Larson observes, the creation-evolution issues continues to resurface because it has so divided public opinion as to prevent any hope of compromise, thus driving both sides to seek legal relief. Yet, as he points, out, that very division has kept either side form accepting an unfavorable legal resolution as final--and so the controversy rages on.

About the Author:

Edward J. Larson is a practicing attorney in Seattle, Washington and a former Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. He holds a law degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconson.

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