Scopes trial

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Scopes trial,

Tennessee legal case involving the teaching of evolution in public schools. A statute was passed (Mar., 1925) in Tennessee that prohibited the teaching in public schools of theories contrary to accepted interpretation of the biblical account of human creation. John T. Scopes, a biology teacher, was tried (July, 1925) for teaching DarwinismDarwinism,
concept of evolution developed in the mid-19th cent. by Charles Robert Darwin. Darwin's meticulously documented observations led him to question the then current belief in special creation of each species.
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 in a Dayton, Tenn., public school. Clarence DarrowDarrow, Clarence Seward,
1857–1938, American lawyer, b. Kinsman, Ohio. He first practiced law in Ashtabula, Ohio. In 1887 he moved to Chicago, where he was corporation counsel for several years and conducted the cases that the city brought to reduce transit rates.
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 was one of Scopes's attorneys, while William Jennings BryanBryan, William Jennings
, 1860–1925, American political leader, b. Salem, Ill. Although the nation consistently rejected him for the presidency, it eventually adopted many of the reforms he urged—the graduated federal income tax, popular election of senators, woman
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 aided the state prosecutor. Darrow argued that academic freedom was being violated and claimed that the legislature had indicated a religious preference, violating the separation of church and state. He also maintained that the evolutionary theory was consistent with certain interpretations of the Bible, and in an especially dramatic session he sharply questioned Bryan on the latter's literal interpretation. Scopes was convicted, partly because of the defense, which refused to plead any of the technical defenses available, fearing an acquittal on a technical rather than a constitutional basis. Scopes was, however, later released by the state supreme court on a technicality. Although the outcry over the case tended to discourage enactment of similar legislation in other states, the law was not repealed until 1967.

Bibliography

See R. Ginger, Six Days or Forever? (1958, repr. 1969); S. N. Grebstein, Monkey Trial (1960); J. T. Scopes, Center of the Storm (1967); L. S. de Camp, The Great Monkey Trial (1968); E. J. Larson, The Summer for the Gods (1997).

Scopes trial

concerning the teaching of evolution in public schools (1925). [Am. Hist.: Allen, 142–146]