The Scopes Trial is a legal case that was filed in 1925 where a teacher was prosecuted for profaning against a law, which prohibited teaching evolution in public schools. The event took place at Dayton town in Tennessee. Although the accused was not very sure if he had taught the subject in school, he went ahead and convicted himself so as to attract respondents in the case. The trial was later on called Scopes Monkey Trial. It was a serious clash between evolutionists, who believed that evolution could exist in tandem with religion, and creationists, who believed that the Bible had power over human understanding. The trial resulted in what is currently supposed to be a legendary penetrating stalemate between irreligious radical Clarence Darrow and a devout majoritarian William Bryan (Iannone). This article will review the case and draw more attention to the importance of the trial in this debatable issue in the 1920’s.
The Scopes Trial played a pivotal role in the debate between Christianity and modern science. It will be of paramount importance to look at how the situation was some years before the trial. The author starts his book by showcasing the controversy between religion and science in the American society (Larson 17). The debate progressed into a conflict between religion and science; hence, it turned into the trial. During this time, the subject of evolution gained an overwhelming public awareness. Discovery of fossils in the 1920s paved a way for strong evidence of evolution and as a result, it triggered a reaction from anti-evolutionists. Anti-evolutionists were fundamental Christians, who believed in the Genesis account of creation of humans. A few years before the trial, fundamentalists reacted to the new proof of fossilized remains in a number of ways (Larson 8). For instance, John Straton, who was the leader of fundamentalists, condemned the Piltdown Man as a scam. As a matter of fact, this fossil was later on proved to be fake. Darwinism and evolutionary theory were inclined to the beliefs that the Earth is millions of years old and that man is descended from apes. This is an opinion that was greatly rejected by fundamentalists led by William Bryan, who bitterly ridiculed those who believed in the evolutionary theory.
Christians were definitely opposed to Darwinism and as a result, they joined hands to advocate for the basics of their traditional faith. Their ideas were contrary to the alleged heresy of modern science, and therefore, they gave forth to fundamentalist movement.
Most of the people who supported Scope’s ideologies, and those who were inclined to Darwinism believed in the possibility of a middle ground. They believed that the Bible’s narrative of creation and evolution could agree in one way or another. They suggested that evolution could be taken as God’s technique of creation and that the story of creation in Genesis is symbolic (Iannone). This belief continued to be held by many people until the time of Scopes Trial. It can be seen that the trial was very significant because it brought the belief of possibility of a middle ground to an end.
The concept of middle ground was essentially lost in the dispute when Clarence became the leader of Scope’s team of respondents. Clarence was intensely opposed to Christianity and religion in general. He was a major determinist who believed that humans had descended from apes through the process of evolution and that they cannot be responsible for their actions (Iannone). According to the author, Clarence did not understand evolution but seized the opportunity for his own selfish gains. He needed support for his social opinions and more so, to challenge the Christian faith.
The questions that Clarence Darrow asked William Bryan during the trial process were meant to challenge Christian faith. For instance, he asked Bryan questions about Cain’s wife, Jonah’s nightmare and the relatively longer day during Joshua’s time. Bryan did not have immediate answers to these questions, and as a result, those who were following the cross-examination had a feeling that Christianity and the Bible could not be trusted. Bryan did not have a strong understanding of the story of creation recorded in Genesis. The prosecution side complained that there was no relationship between the story of evolution and the questions that were directed to Bryan (Larson 207). However, the author explained that the questions were equally important in the trial because they confronted the biblical thoroughness. Larsen argues that the authority and truth of the Bible were addressed through these questions.
The Trial helped to demonstrate the manner in which American society searched for truth. They either based it on the Bible or knowledge from science. At that time, divisions arose between the enlightened people in the society, Christians who were a little bit more tolerant, and those who were conservative (Iannone). Also, after the trial, there were political confrontations between staunch creationists and evolutionists owing to which evolution could be taught in public schools in California and Arizona states. Later on, fundamentalists and other Christians throughout America sought for related anti-evolutionary legislations in the respective states.
There is something else significant that was brought out during the trial. It was found out that people like Bryan, who was influential and popular, ought to show powerful evidence because he did not understand the Bible and Christian beliefs well. During the cross-examination, he ended up making Christianity and the Bible both ridiculed and challenged. He was later on found to declare an immature and unbiblical perspective of mankind as principally good, upon which he based his awesome conviction and political opinion (Larson 207).
Following the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the Bible warns people against putting their trust in man. This is because the heart of man is deceitful as explained in the Bible by prophet Jeremiah. Bryan’s comment was unbiblical. For example, after conceding defeat in elections, he said that the people themselves are the ones who give and take away. He even concluded by blessing names of the people. This is a coined version of the biblical message of God as the supreme one who gives and takes away.
It is apparent that the historical truths surrounding the Scopes Trial were more intricate than the current understanding of the same issues. This book ascertains much of what was published earlier on the subject of evolution and Christian narrative of creation. The trail also helped to show how other evolutionists were unhappy for Clarence’s anti-Christian stance (Larson 207). They welcomed a more refined margin that would help avoid isolating the religious public. As a matter of fact, there were several religious scientists, who believed in both God and evolution. However, they could not be allowed to showcase their testimony during the cross-examination because it would reveal their secrets and weaknesses (Iannone).
Bryan was proved right in many other instances that were based on the outcome of the Scopes Trial. Initially, the American civil groups were not opposed to universal Christian outlook in public schools, provided it was not inclined to any specific clique. Nevertheless, these groups were forced not to spread their religious outlook in the public education by the end of Scopes Trial. We can say that Bryan was an activist for the common people. The trial made him hated by most of the people who believed in liberalism.
This book has been very well structured. It helped a great deal in resolving the controversial tussle between religion and science through the example of the Scopes Trial. The trial is a crucial historic moment in the creation versus evolution debate. Today, the American society can appreciate the significant role played by the trial, and the effects of the debate on evolution.