Scopes Trial

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* History of Evolutionary Thought
4-25-2012
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* During the 1920’s there was considerable dispute between traditional beliefs and modernization. After World War 1, fundamentalism soared in popularity, particularly in the South and Midwest. These fundamentalists believed that the bible should be interpreted literally, and saw the Darwin theory of evolution as a threat to Christianity. One way the fundamentalists could affect how people saw the theory of evolution was by attacking the education system in Tennessee. A former teacher, John Butler, wrote a bill outlawing the teaching of any theory of evolution contrary to the Bible. Butler felt teaching of evolution threatened the family and to cast doubt on the Bible was to undermine the foundations of the State. This bill was passed in 1925 and became Tennessee state law. It is now known as the Butler Act.

Scopes was a twenty four year old teacher at Rhea County High School in Dayton. He was described as a modest, friendly, helpful, and shy. There is a discrepancy as to why he agreed to participate in this trial. When Scopes agreed, he told how he had taught from Hunter’s Civic Biology, the Tennessee approved textbook that contained a chapter on the evolution of man and Darwin’s theory of natural selection. He also admitted that every other teacher taught from that book as well. * Scopes believed that schools should not be told by the government what they should teach, and admitted to being against the Butler Act. Following more discussion, Scopes agreed to be arrested. Members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed to defend anyone willing to stand up against the Butler Act. The ACLU was behind John Scopes and were determined to make the trial a grand affair.

On May 10, 1925, Scopes was given a preliminary hearing before three judges. He was charged with teaching the theory of evolution to his class on April 24. The ACLU bailed out John Scopes so they could meet...
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