In the course of three lectures given at Stetson University in 2006 and collected in The Creation-Evolution Debate Edward J. Larson gives an overview of the history of the theory of evolution, focusing primarily on Darwin; he traces the development of opponents and proponents of the theory, suggesting both social and political reasons (not to mention scientific ones) why these lines of disagreement developed, and he assesses the attitudes of modern scientists towards religion and God.
Larson draws in these lectures from a deep and considerable body of knowledge about the nature of evolution and its history as a scientific theory. He has the advantage of being a historian who understands scientific concepts. He is an excellent writer, as clear a writer as one can imagine.
Clarity of thought is one of Larson's main strengths. He clearly sides with evolution and its proponents, but his discussion is balanced and fair. Although he notes that fundamentalist Christianity is at the core of the movement against evolution, he points out that many Christians accept evolution as a fact and don't see a conflict between evolution and their faith. The opposition between science and religion is not as clear cut as some would have it. In a sense it is more along the lines of fundamentalist Christianity vs. everyone else. He notes that Christianity in general has had a long history of advocacy for science and even for evolution. But the rise of fundamentalism in the early 20th century displaced moderation in the Protestant mainstream and therefore led to polarization. His discussion of the history of "creation science" and of the argument for intelligent design is especially cogent and interesting.
Larson notes in his third lecture that over a period of years religious attitudes of scientists have remained fairly stable Currently, some 40% of American scientists believe in a god and in the possibility of life after death. Among the most distinguished scientists, members of the National Academy of Sciences (the standard Larson uses for distinction), these figures are much lower. Larson seems to see a possibility for peaceful co-existence between science and faith. Because the conflict between evolution and religion has been construed (in part because of the Scopes trial in the 1920s) as a "battle" the idea of a rapprochement between the two is not as widely recognized as it should be.
In a nation based on reason and the notion that enlightened and educated voters will make intelligent choices, the national movement against evolution is a serious reason for concern. It is also a movement against reason and the basic principles of the Enlightenment and for that reason a basic threat against democracy.