In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement

In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement

In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement

In the Beginning: Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement

Synopsis

The current controversy over teaching evolution in the public schools has grabbed front-page headlines and topped news broadcasts all across the United States. In the Beginning investigates the movement that has ignited debate in state legislatures and at school board meetings. Reaching back to the origins of antievolutionism in the 1920s, and continuing to the promotion of intelligent design today, Michael Lienesch analyzes one of the most formidable political movements of the twentieth century.

Excerpt

I suppose I should not have been surprised ten or so years ago when my son, then in middle school, reported at the dinner table on what had happened that day in his science class. The lesson had been on scientific classification and how it is used to group members of the animal and plant kingdoms into phyla, classes, orders, families, and so forth. At the end, he put up his hand to ask whether the fact that gorillas and humans were both members of the hominid family meant that they were related to one another. The question was innocent enough, and he was not trying to be controversial. After all, he had already learned a little about evolution in school, to say nothing of all those PBS nature shows, and it must have seemed to him that everyone believed in it, or at least everyone in our liberal (albeit southern) college town. Besides, it was in the textbook and was a standard component of the science curriculum in his award-winning public school. So the response of the teacher—a seasoned veteran with more than two decades of experience in the classroom—confused him, and it surprised me. Without missing a beat, she had looked my son straight in the eye and answered evenly: “If you believe in evolution, the answer is yes.”

If you believe in evolution,…” I should not have been surprised because at the time I was beginning to write this book, and I was already well aware that evolution was a sensitive topic, particularly in the public schools. As early as 1982, when George Gallup began to ask questions about creation and evolution in his national opinion surveys, polls had consistently shown that almost half of all American adults believed in the creation story as told in the Book of Genesis, in which God made the world in seven days less than ten thousand years ago. In 1988 the Williamsburg Charter Survey had reported that seven often Americans thought that public schools should teach both creation and evolution, and the responses were consistent across all regions, education levels, and age groups, including high school students. Studies from the same time showed that significant numbers of biology teachers—in some states approaching one-third— were teaching creationism alongside evolution in their classrooms. Among those teachers who emphasized evolution, many were reporting resistance from students, parents, and church pastors who demanded that students be allowed to leave the classroom during discussion of the topic. By the mid-1990s, when my son was in middle school, efforts were under way in several states to restrict the . . .

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