Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom

Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom

Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom

Going Ape: Florida's Battles over Evolution in the Classroom

Synopsis

"William Jennings Bryan launched the creationist crusade from his home in Florida, and the state has been a battlefield in the evolution wars ever since. In Going Ape, Haught provides the definitive blow-by-blow account of the Sunshine State's ninety-year struggle over the teaching of evolution."--Glenn Branch, deputy director, National Center for Science Education "A fascinating and important account of the battles over evolution in one of the nation's largest states."--Michael Ruse, author of The Gaia Hypothesis "A compelling read about key issues of our time that have stirred deep passions and fervent protests for over a century."--Edgar Canter Brown Jr., coauthor of The Supreme Court of Florida, 1917-1972 For nearly a century, Florida has been a key battleground for the teaching of evolution in public schools. Before he successfully prosecuted Tennessee teacher John Scopes in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, William Jennings Bryan was a prominent anti-evolution agitator in Florida. More than ninety years later, tensions still run high on both sides of the issue, erupting regularly and sometimes spectacularly.

Florida is a bellwether in the creationism versus evolution debate because it reflects the makeup of the country as a whole. With its lively mix of young and old, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, Florida is an agglomeration of national opinions; more purple than red or blue. Brandon Haught tells the riveting story of the intense conflicts over teaching evolution in Florida, revealing how not just this state, but the entire country has been Going Ape over this hot-button issue.

These seemingly ceaseless battles feature some of the most colorful culture warriors imaginable: a real estate tycoon throwing his fortune into campaigns in Miami; lawmakers attempting to insert the mandatory teaching of creationism into bills; and pastors and school board members squabbling in front of the national media that invariably descends on their small towns. Yet the majority of participants have been average people, and Haught expertly portrays the sense of moral duty that drives their passions, regardless of their position on the issue.

Personally involved in the Florida evolution dispute since 2006 as a founding board member of Florida Citizens for Science, Haught is uniquely poised to present this dramatic conflict from an insider's point-of-view. His eye for rich detail enlivens this engrossing saga as it stretches across the decades of the twentieth century and into the present. Given a social climate where the teaching of evolution continues to sharply divide neighbors and communities, Going Ape is a must-read for anyone concerned with the future of public education.

Excerpt

I believe that the doctrine that man
is descended from a beast, a doctrine
unsupported by any scientific fact, and
directly contrary to the Bible account of
the creation, is the greatest menace fac
ing the church today.

William Jennings Bryan, 1923

“As a trained biologist I never even realized that there was anything controversial about evolution,” said Dr. C. Francis Byers, recalling his time as a new biology professor in the 1920s at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “It came as a surprise to me to be suddenly, as a young instructor, introduced into an environment where it could be even a fighting word, let alone a dangerous one.”

Byers had witnessed the genesis of a war over the teaching of evolution in Florida’s schools that has lasted ninety years and still engulfs the state with undiminished strength. Over the years it has featured some of the most tenacious culture warriors imaginable. Many governors, state legislators, school board members, and teachers have endured raucous battles in the local and national spotlights, some by choice and others unwittingly.

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