In the summer of 1925, the quaint little town of Dayton, Tennessee would become the stage for the event that would soon become known as the “trial of the century” (Moran 2). What began as a test case to challenge the recently passed Butler Bill by the Tennessean legislature would quickly become about so much more than anyone would have imagined, especially high school biology teacher John Thomas Scopes. Religion versus science, Bryan versus Darrow, modernism versus fundamentalism, the Jazz Age, culture, urbanism, regionalism; all of the conflicts and issues present during this time would each have a major impact on The Scopes “Monkey” Trial.
Charles Darwin, the Father of Evolution, was a British scientist who laid the foundations of the theory of evolution, transforming the thinking of the entire world about the living things around us (Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)). After working on his theory for nearly 20 years, he published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. As soon as the book was released, the controversy began with each sides gaining followers until the climax on July 10, 1925. The idea that animals could “evolve” and change into new species, including humans, was one that challenged not only how people thought about the natural world, but challenged the story of the creation from the Bible itself. Even though Darwin himself never said that humans “evolved” from apes, everyone took it as a logical extension of his new theory. It went against the idea of argument for design that had unified theology and science for decades (Moran 5). This new threat to Christianity and the social culture of the time was one that would transform state laws on their educational curriculum.
In January of 1925, a...
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... times and the changing of social norms. Clarence Darrow and those on the defense were fighting for more freedom. The believed that the Butler Laws were imposing religious matters on them when they did not want it. They wanted to be able to have science and religion work together in a way that one does not out rule the other; that they are coequal and cover different questions. No matter which way you spin the results from this trial, the only true winners were the monkeys.
“Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882).” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/histori_figures/darwin_charles.shtml. “First Amendment.” Lll / Legal Information Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014. http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment. Moran, Jeffrey P.. The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Palgrave, 2002. Print.
The “Monkey Trial” in 1925 was one of the most famous clashes in history between the Bible and evolution. The concept of the play was based on the Scopes Trial, but characters, actions, and words were altered. During the trial, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow went to court to try John Scopes for illegally teaching evolution, causing major complications in Dayton, Tennessee. In the play Inherit the Wind, the character, Henry Drummond, parallels his real-life counterpart, Clarence Darrow, through ¬his appearance, beliefs, and actions.
The Scopes Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee vs. Scopes but given the nickname “The Monkey Trial”, has been credited as starting the popular legal dispute between evolution and creationism in the court, and its impact in the 20’s was immeasurable.
John Scopes, a substitute biology teacher was arrested and charged with violating the Butler Act, a Tennessee law which prohibited teachers from teaching the Darwin Theory of Evolution in a science-related course. The American Civil Liberties Union created a plan to find a teacher willing to teach evolution in order to test the Butler Act, which forbade the essence that anyone teaching any theory that shunned the Biblical story of creationism. Scopes agreed to be arrested and have the case be taken to court. However, Scopes had simply reviewed the textbook chapter on evolution. The traditionalists would see this as a threat to their interests and the issue hit the country stronger than a tornado. Everyone was glued to their radios—it was the first broadcasted radio trial--except the campers and hundreds of reporters near the Dayton, Tennessee courthouse. Traditionalists would be outraged by the appearance of speakeasies, flappers, illegal boozing, popular activities of the Roaring Twenties and especially the Darwinian Theory. Their strong Christian beliefs from the Holy Bible stated how God created the world and man and woman. A traditionalist’s beliefs would not accept the idea of evolution because the Bible said that Man did not evolve but was created by God—the Divine Creation in one day.
The Scopes trial, writes Edward Larson, to most Americans embodies “the timeless debate over science and religion.” (265) Written by historians, judges, and playwrights, the history of the Scopes trial has caused Americans to perceive “the relationship between science and religion in . . . simple terms: either Darwin or the Bible was true.” (265) The road to the trial began when Tennessee passed the Butler Act in 1925 banning the teaching of evolution in secondary schools. It was only a matter of time before a young biology teacher, John T. Scopes, prompted by the ACLU tested the law. Spectators and newspapermen came from allover to witness whether science or religion would win the day. Yet below all the hype, the trial had a deeper meaning. In Summer for the Gods, Edward Larson argues that a more significant battle was waged between individual liberty and majoritarian democracy. Even though the rural fundamentalist majority legally banned teaching evolution in 1925, the rise of modernism, started long before the trial, raised a critical question for rural Americans: should they publicly impose their religious beliefs upon individuals who believed more and more in science.
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) were already aware that the Act was likely to become law because it had been passed by the lower house of the Tennessee legislature by a landslide (in January, 1925). After a few false starts, the ACLU sent a press release to several Tennessee newspapers, such as the Chattanooga Daily Times, announcing that they would provide legal assistance, etc. for a school teacher in Tennessee who would be willing to stand trial for having taught evolution in a public school so that a test case could be mounted to challenge the constitutional validity of the Act.
The argument of whether or not humans evolved from monkeys is constantly tossed around in our society with the emergence of more and more scientific discoveries. Evolution across such a broad spectrum is known as macroevolution, or changes that happen at or above the species level. Both popular and academic discourses debate the religious and moral issues associated with macroevolution and its propositions. The main person behind the idea of evolution was Charles Darwin who theorized that everything comes from a common ancestor. In the magazine article “Was Darwin Wrong?” featured in a 2004 issue of National Geographic, David Quammen discusses whether or not Darwin’s findings in evolution theory were correct. This article was targeted for
In Charles Darwin’s life he had helped make a significant advancement in the way mankind viewed the world. With his observations, he played a part in shifting the model of evolution into his peers’ minds. Darwin’s theory on natural selection impacted the areas of science and religion because it questioned and challenged the Bible; and anything that challenged the Bible in Darwin’s era was sure to create contention with the church. Members of the Church took offense to Darwin’s Origins of Species because it unswervingly contradicted the teachings of the book of Genesis in the Bible. (Zhao, 2009) Natural selection changed the way people thought. Where the Bible teaches that “all organisms have been in an unchanging state since the great flood, and that everything twas molded in God’s will.” (Zhao, 2009) Darwin’s geological journey to the Galapagos Islands is where he was first able to get the observations he needed to prove how various species change over t...
On March 13, 1925 an act was passed by the state of Tennessee stating, “That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” This act written by Rep. John Washington Butler, calling for a ban of the teaching of evolution, was written after Butler read a speech by ex-Secretary of State and leader in the anti-evolution movement William Jennings Bryan titled “Is the Bible true?”.
Keith Henson a writer in evolutionary psychology once said that “Evolution acts slowly. Our psychological characteristics today are those that promoted reproductive success in the ancestral environment.” Evolution was first introduced by a naturalist by the name of Charles Darwin. Darwin had written an autobiography, at the age of 50, On the Origin of Species (1859) explaining how species evolve through time by natural selection; this theory became known as Darwinism. “Verlyn Klinkenborg, who writes editorials and vignettes on science and nature for the “New York Times”” (Muller 706) questions Darwin’s theory in one of his essays he wrote called Darwin at 200: The Ongoing Force of His Unconventional Idea. Both articles talk about the theory of Darwinism, but the authors’ use different writing techniques and were written in different time periods. Darwin himself writes to inform us on what the theory is, where as Klinkenborg goes on to explain why Darwinism is just a theory. Today, evolution is still a very controversial topic among many. It comes up in several topics that are discussed everyday such as in politics, religion and education.
In Dayton, Tennessee in May of 1925, John Scopes was prompted by the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU) to defy the Butler act, a law that was passed earlier that May. The Act declared it unlawful “for any teacher in any of the Universities, No...
When Darwin's work first appeared in the scientific journal in 1859, his theories created controversies and church officials consider evolution to be equivalent to atheism, thinking it replaces God or otherwise rules out God’s involvement in the development of life.
Although the naturalistic models of origins have existed for many centuries, only since the work of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) has biological evolution become propagated into society due to the Christian worldview of his time. The critical break from the concept of fixed species began with the theory of evolution by natural selection formulated by Darwin. Influenced by Thomas Malthus, Darwin surmised that population growth would lead to a “struggle for existence” where favorable variations would prevail as others perished. Each generation, many offspring fail to survive to an age of reproduction due to limited resources, explaining the diversity of organisms from a common ancestry through the working of natural laws. At the end of 1859, Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species led to widespread acceptance of Darwinian evolution.