Review Quotes

Randall Balmer, author of The Making of Evangelicalism
“Building on exhaustive research and probing into such diverse enterprises as textbook production and marketing, public education, and state-level politics, Adam R. Shapiro has situated the Scopes trial within a much broader context than any scholar before him. Trying Biology also demonstrates how ideologues have used differing interpretations of the Scopes trial to advance their agendas. By situating the trial within this much broader framework, the author has significantly enlarged our understanding of the conversations between religion and science in twentieth-century America.”


Ronald L. Numbers, University of Wisconsin–Madison
“For decades scholars have been debating how the Scopes trial influenced American biology textbooks. In this meticulously documented and persuasively argued new book, Adam R. Shapiro gives the definitive answer: the antievolution movement that began in the early 1920s had a profound effect on the presentation of evolution; the trial in 1925, very little.”


Jonathan Zimmerman, New York University
“How did American children learn about evolution? From biology textbooks, of course. Adam R. Shapiro has provided our first truly historical account of the textbook industry and its complicated relationship to evolution instruction in public schools. As Shapiro shows, the Scopes trial was as much about the texts that we read—and the schools where we read them—as it was about Charles Darwin or the Book of Genesis. Shapiro’s study is itself a textbook case of careful historical analysis, casting new light on an old controversy. His own readers will surely get a fresh view of the controversy over evolution, and of American education writ large.”


Jeffrey P. Moran, author of American Genesis: The Antievolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science
“Adam Shapiro’s Trying Biology provides a useful corrective to the stale argument that the Scopes Trial and the antievolution movement in general embodied an eternal conflict between science and religion. Shapiro’s account of the battles among textbook authors, publishers, salesmen, and school boards not only adds welcome nuance to our understanding of the trial’s causes and consequences, it provides an enlightening and even entertaining look at the crucial role that money and politics have played in the evolution of biology teaching in America. Trying Biology belongs on the short shelf of essential books on Scopes and antievolutionism.”


Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, University of Florida
Trying Biology is a wonderfully lucid exploration of how the Scopes ‘monkey’ trial became one of the signature events in the history of science and religion in America. In its focus on how textbooks of biology were published, marketed, sold, and adopted in various political contexts, it provides us with a provocative and novel understanding of how textbooks shaped public understanding of biology and continue to be a political flashpoint of biology education in America. It will prove essential reading for anyone interested in the history of biology, in American education, and in the complex relations between science and religion in America.”

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