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Tennessee Vs. John Scopes: The Monkey Trial

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Essay title: Tennessee Vs. John Scopes: The Monkey Trial

Tennessee vs. John Scopes: The monkey trial

It was the year 1925 and in the town of Dayton, Tennessee a trial that would decide whether evolution would be taught in public schools. The trial was titled as Tennessee vs. John Scopes and is commonly known as the “monkey trial”. This trial took place from July 10, 1925-July 25, 1925 (Douglas, On-line). The event the created this well renowned trail was the infringing of the Butler Act. This act, passed by the state of Tennessee, prohibited the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities and public schools of Tennessee on March 13, 1925. This act was known as the Butler act.

It all started when The American Civil Liberties Union advertised in newspapers to locate a teacher in Tennessee who would be willing to test the Butler Act in the courts. Of course, the ACLU would pay all expenses. Dayton resident, George Rappleyea, saw an ACLU advertisement in a Chattanooga newspaper and persuaded his friend John Scopes to accept the offer. The only catch was that Scopes was not a science teacher and had never actually taught evolution. Scopes was a math teacher and football coach who had filled in for the sick biology teacher for two weeks at the end of the school year. With Scopes' permission, Rappleyea immediately notified the ACLU that Professor J.T. Scopes, teacher of science Rhea County High School, will be arrested and charged with teaching evolution (Menton, On-line).

The Scopes trial began on July 10th, 1925 and lasted eight days. The trial became a major media event covered by over 200 newsmen. It was the first trial to be covered by a national radio broadcast, and the first to receive international coverage. Sixty telegraph operators sent daily reports over the newly laid transatlantic cable. Dayton became a spectacle as spectators, soap box orators, and vendors converged on the little town from all over America. Much of this attention resulted from the fact that two of America's most famous lawyers faced off on a deeply divisive religious and philosophical issue. How did humans come into being, and what control should parents have over how this subject is handled in our public schools (Menton, On-line). The chief lawyer for the prosecution was William Jennings Bryan, a popular speaker who is widely regarded as one of America's greatest orators. Bryan was a leader in the Democratic Party for nearly 30 years, and served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson. Bryan was a conservative Christian who developed a strong interest in the creation-evolution controversy. He clearly favored creation, but was inquisitive enough about evolution to have read Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Bryan was knowledgeable enough of the scientific evidence to carry on a correspondence-debate with distinguished evolutionists of his day such as Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn. Bryan publicly declared that he did not oppose the teaching of evolution in the public schools as long as it was dealt with as a theory rather than a fact (Menton, On-line). The chief lawyer for the defense, Clarence Darrow, was a well-known criminal lawyer who specialized in defending unpopular people and causes. Darrow was an outspoken ungodly man who was eager to discredit Biblical Christianity and promote evolutionism. Darrow made it clear in his autobiography, The Story of My Life, that his only purpose in participating in the Scopes trial was to make the country aware of evolutionary beliefs, and to publicly ridicule the beliefs and perceived intentions of fundamentalist Christians. Darrow could be very hostile in his treatment of the opposition and was cited for contempt of court during the Scopes trial for repeatedly interrupting and insulting Judge Raulston (The Scopes Monkey Trial-July 10-25, 1925, On-line). The only question in the trial was whether or not John Scopes taught that man evolved from lower orders of animals. The defense mainly sought to promote evolutionism and discredit the Biblical account of creation. The question of Scopes' guilt or innocence was of no concern to his defense. In fact, the lawyers for the defense actually had to coach Scopes' students to claim they were taught evolution. To make evolution believable to the jury, the defense and its witnesses often equated

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