Episode 65: Darwinism and the Scopes “Monkey Trial”

Host: Joan Neuberger, editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Adam Shapiro, Lecturer in Cultural and Intellectual History, Birkbeck University, London

561px-Origin_of_Species_title_pageControversies over the theory of evolution are well documented in American society: according to a Gallup poll conducted in the late 1990s, 44% of the American public rejects it in favor of the Biblical account of creation. Has this always been the case? Did Charles Darwin and early proponents of evolution encounter the same objections when the theory was first proposed in the late 19th century? And did evolution come out of nowhere as a radical new idea, taking the world by surprise? Not necessarily, as it turns out.

In an episode recorded on location in London, Adam Shapiro from Birkbeck University describes how evolution was first received in the United States, and the debates that led up to its most famous test–the Scopes “Monkey Trial” held in Dayton, Tennessee, in the 1920s.

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Episode 18: Eugenics

Host: Joan Neuberger, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Philippa Levine, Professor; Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professorship in the Humanities; Co-Director British Studies Program

Harry H. Laughlin, The Second International Exhibition of Eugenics held September 22 to October 22, 1921, in connection with the Second International Congress of Eugenics in the American Museum of Natural History, New York (Baltimore: William & Wilkins Co., 1923).

Early in the twentieth century, governments all over the world thought they had found a rational, efficient, and scientific solution to the related problems of poverty, crime, and hereditary illness.  Scientists hoped they might be able to help societies control the social problems that arose from these phenomena. All over the world, the science-turned-social-policy known as eugenics became a base-line around which social services and welfare legislation were organized.

Philippa Levine, co-editor of a newly published book on the history of eugenics, explains the appeal and wide-reaching effects of the eugenics movement, which at its best inspired access to pre-natal care, access to clean water, and the eradication of harmful diseases, but at its worst led to compulsory sterilization laws, and the horrific experiments of the Nazi death camps.

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