November 16, 2000
Take Home Essay
In the book ?Summer for the Gods? by Edward J. Larson, the ideas of evolution and if it should be taught in the schools are at question. The book talks about the so-called Monkey Trial that took place in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925. The whole debate of whether evolution should be taught in schools was in question and school -teacher John Scopes was on trial for teaching his students about evolution.
The Scopes Trial was extremely controversial for it?s time. The whole theory of evolution was just coming into play and many schools had it as a topic of discussion for their science classes. Evolution in general was still not set in stone but many scientists did support the theory and thought it was safe to teach in public school. John Scopes was one such teacher, he thought he would go along with what many had begun to do. It was a very simple topic to many but extremely sensitive to those who were very religious. Evolution went against the notion that god created man. So this is why the trial turned into such a national topic cause the outcome would change the face of how evolution was taught for many years to come.
The trial had many key people and players. One such group that took a major stance for the defense was the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It was one of the first test cases that the ACLU took part in. The ACLU was known for helping people whose civil rights were in jeopardy. They had Clarence Darrow come down to Tennessee to defend John Scopes. The American Civil Liberties goal during that summer was to make sure and fight for the separation of church and state. Religion should not be a factor when it comes to school issues. Religion was a very separate issue and the defense was going to show that. They also argued that freedom of speech was being violated, Scopes had the right to say as he pleased and by putting him on trial, you were violating that right. The ACLU saw this trial as a stepping stone for many other trials they were apart of in the future to come. They became one of the primary organizations that do fight for people civil rights and liberties. The trial in essence put them on the map.
William Jennings Bryan was out to accomplish one goal: Win this trial. He was a Populist leader who fought for the people. He was a big supporter of the anti-evolutionary laws. In his last years his activities were mostly devoted to the American religious movement known as fundamentalism. So when the Scopes case came up, he got actively involved as the associate prosecutor. Bryan goal was to show that evolution went against the Bible?s word that god had created man, and it should not be allowed to be in the schools. He wanted people to support his cause since he was very popular amongst the American people. He ultimately did win the case, but came against some strong opinions afterwards and ultimately passed on only five days after the conclusion of the trial.
Clarence Darrow was the attorney hired for the defense. He was one of America?s leading criminal lawyers. He was a worker for the ACLU. Darrow said that the choice of academic freedom was being challenged and that by having this trial legislature had indicated a religious preference, completely violating the separation of church and state. Darrow wanted to prove that the evolutionary theory was consistent with certain interpretations of the bible. He showed that in a very dramatic cross-examination of Bryan, which Bryan proved to have very little scientific understanding. Darrow ultimately lost the case, but he was known as a very powerful and good lawyer in the Scopes Case.
The Scopes Trial did have many things at stake. The most important was the whole separation between the church and the state. Even though it proved to go in favor of the State of Tennessee, it made a very lasting impression on how evolution would be taught in schools in the future. The major consequence that the Scopes Trail produced was the Butler Act, this said that evolution was not to be taught in the schools. It was a very huge step in keeping evolution out of the school system. The act was a stern way of saying that church and state are one in the same. Not until 1967 did this law finally get repealed. This trial was a very important case that even today is still discussed. Scopes was eventually set cleared of the charges on a technicality and church and state are now separated and we still hold Freedom of Speech very high. It can be said that Bryan did win the case overall and got what he wanted, as did the state of Tennessee. Darrow and Scopes were the two who were the true victors in the end cause evolution as we know it proved to be a very vital and valuable tool for today?s learning process.