Teaching evolution in the public schools has been a perennial problem in America. From the courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925, to modern fights over "intelligent design" and creation science, evolution and its critics have battled over the role of science and religion in American public life. But the antievolution controversies are not merely political problems. In American Genesis, Jeffrey P. Moran explores the ways in which the evolution struggles also have reverberated beyond the confines of legislatures and courthouses. In addition to offering a careful analysis of antievolutionism's ideological and strategic development, this wide-ranging social history argues that evolution's reception has been shaped by four peculiarly American forces: a diverse population, regional divisions, a sometimes shaky Protestant dominance, and a tradition of democratic populism. In each area, the battles over evolution exposed and polarized existing divisions. Using extensive research in newspapers, periodicals, and archives, Moran investigates the critical influence that gender ideals have had in antievolutionism, as well as the complex role women play in modern controversies.
Similarly, he analyzes the unexamined relationship between African Americans and antievolution. Moran's reading of regional differences explains how fundamentalism, a movement born in the North, came to flourish primarily in the South. Throughout the nation, Moran argues, antievolutionist ideology has retained strong continuities from its roots in the early twentieth century, despite its modern packaging as creation science or Intelligent Design. Finally, Moran balances scholars' understandable focus on the unfamiliar territory of antievolutionism by considering the self-conceptions and preconceptions of modern scientists as activists, teachers, and bystanders in the struggle.