In the Beginning

Fundamentalism, the Scopes Trial, and the Making of the Antievolution Movement

By Michael Lienesch

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-6191-2
    Published: September 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8211-0
    Published: April 2007
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8400-3
    Published: April 2007

H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series

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The current controversy over teaching evolution in the public schools has grabbed front-page headlines and topped news broadcasts all across the United States. In the Beginning investigates the movement that has ignited debate in state legislatures and at school board meetings. Reaching back to the origins of antievolutionism in the 1920s, and continuing to the promotion of intelligent design today, Michael Lienesch skillfully analyzes one of the most formidable political movements of the twentieth century.

Applying extensive original sources and social movement theory, Lienesch begins with fundamentalism, describing how early twentieth-century fundamentalists worked to form a collective identity, to develop their own institutions, and to turn evolution from an idea into an issue. He traces the emerging antievolution movement through the 1920s, examining debates over Darwinism that took place on college campuses and in state legislatures throughout the country. With fresh insights and analysis, Lienesch retells the story of the 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial and reinterprets its meaning. In tracking the movement from that time to today, he explores the rise of creation science in the 1960s, the alliance with the New Christian Right in the 1980s, and the development of the theory of intelligent design in our own time. He concludes by speculating on its place in the politics of the twenty-first century. In the Beginning is essential for understanding the past, present, and future debates over the teaching of evolution.

About the Author

Michael Lienesch is professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His previous books include Redeeming America: Piety and Politics in the New Christian Right (UNC Press).
For more information about Michael Lienesch, visit the Author Page.


"Lienesch is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the successive waves of anti-Darwinism, right up to intelligent design."--The Nation

"An informative, important contribution to scholarship."--American Historical Review

"This book could be a case study of how social theory can be fruitfully applied to historical work to uncover what might otherwise be hidden. . . . Lienesch's valuable book helps us understand why [creationism] continues as a social movement in American society."--Journal of American History

"Brings new insight to the movement and succeeds in making political theory comprehensible through concrete application. . . . A wonderful model of applying political theory to real historical events to retell a familiar tale in new and enlightening ways. Lienesch succeeds marvelously at writing a book that historians, political scientists, and an interested public alike can read for enjoyment and edification."--Journal of Southern History

"A valuable addition to our knowledge of the development of the fundamentalist and antievolution movement."--Southern Historian

"Valuable for clarifying how the antievolution movement developed."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion