DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION WAS
the focus of arguments in 1925 when Clarence Darrow faced William Jennings Bryan to defend Tennessee school teacher John Scopes in what came to be called the Monkey Trial. The teaching of evolution is again at the center of a public debate -- this time over whether or not the concept of intelligent design belongs in the science curricula of public schools. Some highlights from our coverage over the years:
It started in a drug-store conversation; Scopes told Rappelyea that he was still using a Biology text book containing an explanation of the theory of evolution which had once been approved by state authorities and not yet recalled, though Tennessee's anti-evolution act had been the law for a month. Rappelyea swore out a warrant, 'to test the law.' But it turned out an infectious jest. Laws tending to infringe upon the freedom of mankind's intellectual liberty had been cropping up all over the country lately....
From "Rappelyea's Razzberry"
Jun. 1, 1925
Two days before the trial, Lawyer William Jennings Bryan, chief of the prosecution, lumbered off a train from Florida. The populace, Bryan's to a moron, yowled a welcome. Going to the house he had rented, Bryan took off his coat, wandered the streets in his shirt sleeves, a panoramic smile of blessing upon his perspiring countenance, an impressive pith helmet covering the bald, pink dome of his head.
From The Great Trial
Jul. 20, 1925
The afternoon's session was held out-of-doors and a great crowd gathered. A treat was had by all. Mr. Darrow called the opposing
counsel Mr. Bryan as a witness to prove that the Bible need not be taken literally, questioned him about Jonah and the whale, Joshua and
the Sun, whence Mrs. Cain, the Deluge, the Tower of Babel. Mr. Darrow bellowed his purpose to 'show up Fundamentalism, to prevent bigots
and ignoramuses from controlling education in the U. S.' Mr. Bryan shook his fist, roared back his purpose 'to protect the Word of God
from the greatest atheist and agnostic in the United States.'
From The Great Trial
Jul. 27, 1925
The death of William Jennings Bryan furnished Tennessee's anti-Evolution case with a climax. In the trial itself, there was no climax....Though the trial lasted a fortnight, costing over $25,000, the schoolboys' testimony was practically all the farmer-jurors were permitted to hear in the courtroom. It alone constituted the basis for their verdict of 'Guilty.'
From The Great Trial
Aug. 3, 1925
Last week Teacher Scopes' lawyers filed with the Supreme Court of Tennessee a brief appealing his conviction. It outlined the final argument in the case. It tried to contest the issue which the prosecution first raised and then eluded in the first trial — the religious issue. It endeavored not only to reverse Teacher Scopes' judgment but to overthrow the Tennessee anti-evolution law, which latter was the original purpose of Scopes and his defenders, together with the vaguer purpose of educating the public upon the fact of evolution.
From The Great Trial
Jan. 18, 1926
Lawyer Malone spoke out: 'We did not go there to save Scopes from an excessive fine. Nobody cared whether he was fined $100 or $1,000. . . . Our object in going to Tennessee was first, to expose the ignorance and intolerance which had produced such a law and, secondly, to test its constitutionality by ultimately carrying it to the United States Supreme Court.'
Jan. 24, 1927
Only in 1967 did Tennessee's legislature repeal its anti-evolution law. And in two other states—Arkansas and Mississippi—similar statutes remain in effect. They did, that is, until last week. Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Arkansas law prohibiting public school teaching of 'the theory that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals' is clearly unconstitutional. That ruling should put an end to the issue in Mississippi as well.
From Making Darwin Legal
Nov. 22, 1968
For nearly a decade, beginning in the 1960s, some Californians who adhered to the biblical view of creation sought to have that theory represented along with evolution in the state's public school science textbooks. In 1972 the state finally decided against requiring textbooks to include religious creation theory, but adopted a compromise measure, ordering that textbooks should not reflect a 'scientismic' bias—i.e., the assumption that the scientific approach is the only one possible.
From The Bible: The Believers Gain
Dec. 30, 1974
At least half a dozen top scientific organizations have issued statements warning that scientific creationism is not scientific. Should school boards and legislatures yield to the creationists' innocuous-sounding request for equal time? The answer seems to be no—not if they want pupils to learn biology, as the subject is understood today. The relation of science and morality is an important matter. Creationism may belong in social studies or the history of religion, but it should not be pushed into biology classes or textbooks, especially not by legislative fiat.
From Putting Darwin Back in the Dock
By Kenneth M. Pierce
Mar. 16, 1981
Once again, science and religion collided last week. This time the battleground was the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Justices decreed that a Louisiana law requiring that creationism be taught along with evolution in the public schools was unconstitutional.
From Memories of The Monkey Trial
By Alain L. Sanders
Jun. 29, 1987
Last week California's board of education adopted new teaching and textbook guidelines and, responding to Fundamentalist pressure, removed a reference to evolution as 'scientific fact.' But overall the document strongly supports teaching of evolution. California accounts for 11% of all U.S. textbook sales, and the guidelines could have wide impact.
From Facts Of Life
By Richard Ostling
Nov. 20, 1989
As a college freshman in 1925, I was sure that the Scopes trial, in which Clarence Darrow in effect made a monkey of William Jennings Bryan, had put an end to any serious debate. Even earlier, President Woodrow Wilson had confidently declared as much, and no important politician contradicted him, until, in 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan won cheers from the religious right by announcing, 'Evolution is only a theory' -- meaning, of course, a mere hypothesis.
From Dissent, Dogma and Darwin's Dog
By Philip Dunne
Jan. 15, 1990
Polls consistently show that nearly half of all Americans reject Darwin's theory of evolution. They prefer to believe, against all scientific evidence, the Old Testament account of how God created the world in seven days. The Constitution protects their right to express that view, of course. But in decisions dating back at least 30 years, courts have ruled that the separation of church and state forbids religious groups to make the Bible part of the public-school curriculum.
From Dumping on Darwin
By Michael Lemonick
Mar. 18, 1996
That is why the Kansas school board decision on evolution is so significant. Not because Kansas is the beginning of a creationist wave--as science, creationism is too fundamentally frivolous and evolution too intellectually powerful--but because the Kansas decision is an important cultural indicator. It represents the reaction of people of faith to the fact that all legitimate expressions of that faith in their children's public schooling are blocked by the new secular ethos.
From The Real Message of Creationism
By Charles Krauthammer
Nov. 22, 1999
A look at where the Discovery Institute gets much of its money and at the religious beliefs of many scientists who support I.D. makes it reasonable to suspect that Scott's assertion is correct: intelligent design is just a smoke screen for those who think evolution is somehow ungodly. And that appalls the many scientists and science teachers who believe in evolution and also believe in God.
From Stealth Attack On Evolution
By Michael D. Lemonick, Noah Isackson and Jeffrey Ressner
Jan. 31, 2005
What we are witnessing now is a frontier violation by the forces of religion. This new attack claims that because there are gaps in evolution, they therefore must be filled by a divine intelligent designer. How many times do we have to rerun the Scopes 'monkey trial'? There are gaps in science everywhere. Are we to fill them all with divinity?
From Let's Have No More Monkey Trials
By Charles Krauthammer
Aug. 01, 2005
Statewide curriculum standards for science are a relatively new target for Darwin doubters, one that has a broader impact than local school-board decisions. In addition, by working at the state level, intelligent-design advocates can largely avoid dealing with unpolished local activists who make rash religious statements that don't hold up in court.
From The Evolution Wars
By Claudia Wallis
Aug. 15, 2005
Many who reject evolution in favor of divine creation claim that the fossil record doesn't contain the so-called transitional species anticipated by Darwin's theory. This ancient, walking fish is yet more evidence that such an argument is simply wrong.
From Darwin Would Have Loved It
By Michael J. Novacek
Apr. 09, 2006
Standing up in a crowded Hilton-hotel conference room in Alexandria, Va., the inquisitive Ph.D.-M.D. candidate asked Francis Collins, who mapped the human genome, about an attempt to reconcile science and faith: Did Collins think it possible that all species are products of evolution--except for humanity, which God created separately?
From Reconciling God and Science
By David Van Biema
Jul. 10, 2006
Controversy surrounding evolution has had a similarly long shelf life. In 1925, Tennessee made it unlawful for public schools to contradict the "Divine creation of man" by teaching that man instead "descended from a lower order of animals." John T. Scopes, a high school biology teacher in Dayton, taught just that to bring the law into court.
From Matters of Morality
By Richard Brookhiser
Jul. 26, 2007