The Species Maker: A Novel
Published by: University Of Alabama Press
Imprint: University of Alabama Press
Published: October 2021
Imprint: University of Alabama Press
Page Count: 384 Pages
Illustrations: 1 B&W figure
Dimensions: 152.00 x 228.00
384 Pages, 152.00 x 228.00 x 30.40 mm, 1 B&W figure
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A historical novel about the role of science in modern life, set against the backdrop of the 1925 Scopes Trial
When William Jennings Bryan began a campaign to get evolution out of American schools in the 1920s, entomologist Martin Sullivan sought refuge from the tumult in his research. Although the theory of evolution provides the foundation for his scientific work, he prefers the careful methods of observation and classification to the passion of public debate. But when Martin takes a job teaching college biology in Seattle, he finds it increasingly difficult to retreat to the haven of science. His students are taking sides in the debate over whether religion and evolution can be reconciled. Socialists are using evolution to justify revolution. Politicians are citing Darwin in defense of anti-immigration laws. And Martin's own colleagues are insisting that only eugenic reforms will save the world. As anti-evolution legislation spreads across the country and passions flare on all sides, the effort to apply science to marriage laws and mate choice even begins to touch the lives of those he loves. By the time the state of Tennessee puts John T. Scopes on trial for teaching evolution in the summer of 1925, Martin can no longer ignore the debates that surround him and must take a stand in the fight over the role of science in American society.
Although set a hundred years ago, The Species Maker wrestles with many issues that continue to confront scientists and science watchers in the present day. Kristin Johnson draws on her experiences in the classroom and extensive knowledge of the history of science to depict what it might have been like for a careful scientist to watch the heated debates over teaching evolution in the United States in the 1920s.
Visit www.thespeciesmaker.com for supplemental material including historical essays, links to online primary sources, a glossary, and guiding questions useful for the classroom or book clubs.
"The way in which the story is woven within the author's deep knowledge of scientific, religious, and popular discussions in the 1920s on evolutionary theory and the genetics and eugenics is magnificent. Professor Johnson gives life to historical people, as well as to the Seattle, Tacoma, and Friday Harbor environment in which the action takes place. The grounding of the characters and their debates in the horrors of the First World War, left-wing labor unrest, the Leopold and Loeb criminal case, and the Scopes Trial is captivating. Readers will quickly see implications for current scientific debates about human evolution, genetic engineering, and public support of science."
-Mary Jo Nye, Professor Emerita of History, Oregon State University
"As someone who grew up in Tennessee in the time when teaching evolution in the schools remained illegal, I keep imagining the day when we no longer need to explain all the ways that evolution and religion can be compatible. That time has not yet come. Kristin Johnson suggests that we can approach the topic in a different way. She reveals tensions and struggles surrounding competing ideas and personal commitments from the past through the life of a taxonomist. Rather than a polemic or a traditional history of the sort that tends to polarize audiences, her creative approach invites in a diversity of readers who will each find ways to interact with the story. She sets the book up with additional readings for teachers and students, and this volume provides a promising experiment in innovative communication about science."
-Jane Maienschein, author of Embryos under the Microscope: The Diverging Meanings of Life
"The Species Maker is a brilliant piece of work giving the reader a much deeper understanding of the era of the Scopes Trial, recreating the many layers of thinking that played out on both sides of the conflict over evolution."
-John S. Haller Jr., author of Fictions of Certitude: Science, Faith, and the Search for Meaning, 1840-1920