Breaking Bad is officially over. And oh what a glorious run it was. But more on that in a later post (maybe). I have to remind myself that this is actually a blog that I keep up for a class . . . so back to history!
Today’s assignment: blog about part 1 of Summer for the Gods, specifically to what extent my own experiences affect how I read and understood part 1. The book goes over the Scopes Monkey trial from 1925, and part one is all about the lead-up to it, which is basically all about the different sides butting heads over the evolution issue while other factors of the time are happening, like the effects of WWI and the Red Scare (which apparently first showed up in 1919? Who knew. I always associated it with the fifties).
As for me, I actually have a little background experience with this topic. Last fall, I took a seminar class called Religion and Science in America: The Evolution/Creation Debate. It was an awesome class, and of course, instead of leaving it with a better sense of what I felt was right or wrong, I was more ambiguous about the debate than before. It’s because I learned so much about the topic; there are so many different aspects to the debate with much more depth than appears on the surface that it is impossible to pick a side. I mean, regarding teaching evolution in schools with no creation? That’s an easy answer for me: go for it. But that topic only covered about one class day during the semester. Nothing is in clear black and white.
Also, I’m actually not completely sure if evolution was taught in my small, rural, Central Texas school or not. I mean, we sure didn’t teach creationism. There was a Bible History elective for that. We learned about genetics and how traits are passed down through generations, and also a bit of taxonomy, but nothing specific about the road of human evolution. So I guess genetics kind of counts, because you can pretty much infer from that that evolution is actually a thing. Like Punnett squares and such. That seems like evolution to me.
It wasn’t until my first semester at UT in a Physical Anthropology 101 class that I learned the actual details of human evolution. To clarify, I wasn’t completely oblivious before that; even though I didn’t specifically learn about some of the stuff in school, like Lucy, I read National Geographic and such. So I had an idea of what was going on. But in this anthro class I learned all about the human family tree and variability and the like. So even though my high school did teach the basics of genetics and inferred evolution, I now feel like I have a much better understanding of it all after the Fall 2012 semester at UT.
But back to Summer for the Gods. What was especially interesting to me about those times, specifically from around 1900-1930, there seems to be so much government involvement that people were actually semi-okay with. There’s the obvious example, like banning evolution being taught in public schools, but there were also banned books and organizational propaganda. In one instance, an organization tried to mail out antiwar fliers (for WWI) and they were confiscated. There was so much government intervention on the public opinion regarding the Great War. Pretty much any public figure or organization who was publicly against U.S. involvement was quickly quieted in favor of a high national morale. It wasn’t until after WWI that people actually realized how truly awful it was, and how some of the blame for it was associated with Darwinism? Please. Wait until eugenics becomes a thing.