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HOME > PAST ISSUE > May-June 2005 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Science and Religious Fundamentalism in the 1920s

Religious pamphlets by leading scientists of the Scopes era provide insight into public debates about science and religion

Edward Davis

Figure 1. In July 1925...Click to Enlarge Image

In response to William Jennings Bryan's efforts to ban the teaching of evolution, several leading scientists joined forces with liberal Protestant clergy in the early 1920s to popularize their "modernist" religious views through a series of pamphlets. Published by a correspondence school operated by the University of Chicago Divinity School, the pamphlets were underwritten by the AAAS and dozens of individual scientists in partnership with John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Copies of various pamphlets were sent to every state and federal legislator and every high school principal in the country, yet they are virtually unknown today. Author Edward B. Davis, a historian of science, tells how he found the pamphlets, sketches their history and analyzes their role in debates over the relationship between science and religion in the 1920s.


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