History: The Scopes Trial
June 9, 2010
The Scopes Trial is the stuff of legends. We all know the story. A young handsome high school science teacher with a passion for knowledge sought to teach the theory of evolution to a group of students in a small southern town. The crazy fundamentalist town turned against the teacher and he was put on trial for teaching evolution. The trial begins with a backwards southern lawyer mocking the whole idea of evolution. Then the reasoned and intellectual defense carefully and respectfully picks apart the poorly constructed arguments of the prosecution.
Unfortunately, this whole story is false. A myth. Most of our knowledge of the trial comes from the film Inherit the Wind. That is not what the trial was about at all.
The first thing that we all must recognize is that the most ardent atheists today would disagree with the text book that the teacher (not the science teacher – the man on trial was a gym teacher subbing for the science teacher) was teaching from. It would certainly not be approved to be used and most atheists would seek to fire any teacher that attempted to use it. Why? The book was full of very racist and sickening appeals to eugenics.
The author ranked the races according to how high each had reached on the evolutionary scale:
“[There are] five races or varieties of man…the Ethiopian or Negro type…the Malay or brown race…the American Indian…the Mongolian or yellow race…and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.” (emphasis added)
Here is an example of an appeal to eugenics:
“If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might not be improved by applying to them the laws of selection.” He goes on to suggest that we should use eugenics not only to get rid of disease but “feeble-mindedness” and “immorality.” He concludes by saying the “The science of being well born is called eugenics.”
The second thing that should be recognized is that the schools did allow the teaching of evolution. They only asked that teachers not apply it to humans. So a teacher could talk all day about how every other animal in the animal kingdom evolved.
Third, Creationism was not being taught in the school.
There are many other myths surrounding the Scopes trial that can be found here. I would highly recommend you read it. Given that our understanding of history often shapes our future it is important that everyone understands what really happened at this trial that is so important in current discussions between Christianity and academia.