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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Scopes himself played a rather small role in the case: the trial was reduced to a verbal contest between Darrow and Bryan. When Judge John Raulston refused to admit expert testimony on the validity of evolutionary theory, Darrow lost his best defense. He decided that if he was not permitted to validate Darwin, his best shot was to attack the literal interpretation of the Bible. The climax of the trial came when Darrow asked Bryan to take the stand as an expert on the Bible. Darrow hammered Bryan with tough questions on his strict acceptance of several Bible's stories from the creation of Eve from Adam's rib to the swallowing of Jonah by a whale.
Do you know how that estimate of the year the flood occurred was arrived at?
The American Civil Liberties Union was behind the Scopes trial
While on the witness stand, William Jennings Bryan frustrated Darrow by not directly answering the defense attorney's questions. Bryan was a Christian, but he did not necessarily interpret the Bible literally. He would not give in, however, to Darrow on the subject of miracles.
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Bryan believed that miracles happen, though he could not explain how. The "Great Commoner" felt it important for an articulate defender of the Bible to speak on its behalf. At one point in the testimony, Bryan claimed that the defense had "no other purpose than ridiculing every Christian who believes in the Bible. Bryan was not opposed to science. He was well regarded in some scientific cricles and belonged to several national science organizations. The key to Clarence Darrow's defense strategy was to have scientists testify.
On the trial's sixth day, Judge Raulston stated, "It is not within the province of the court under these issues to decide and determine which is true, the story of divine creation as taught in the Bible, or the story of the creation of man as taught by evolution. Darrow's scientific experts were barred from testifying. By day's end, the sardonic Darrow had been charged with contempt of court.
The trial's seventh day featured charged exchanges between Darrow and Bryan, who was on the stand. But on the trial's eight day, Judge Raulston ruled that Bryan's testimony would not be allowed to stand on the record. It was clear to Darrow that all was lost in this courtroom.
In order to appeal the case to a higher court, Darrow asked the jury to find his client guilty. On July 21, , it did. It is interesting to speculate how history would have played out had Bryan been able to examine Darrow on the witness stand, which was Bryan's intention. But the trial concluded before Bryan had the chance.
The jury sided with the law.
The Scopes Trial: Frequently Rebutted Assertions
Clearly, Scopes was in violation of Tennessee statute by teaching that humans evolved from apes. But the battle that played out before the nation proved a victory for supporters of evolutionary theory. A later court dismissed the fine imposed on Scopes, though in the short term, the antievolution law was upheld. Fundamental Christians were down but not out.
47b. The Monkey Trial
Through the radio airwaves, ministers such as Billy Sunday reached audiences of thousands. Aimee Semple McPherson of California preached her fundamentalist message over loudspeakers to arena-sized crowds. At one point, she used a giant electric sports scoreboard to illustrate the triumph of good over evil, foreshadowing generations of televangelists who would follow her lead.
Clearly, the s did not see the end to these conflicts or the answers to their major questions. Report broken link. American History 1.
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The Iroquois Tribes 2. The House of Burgesses 3. Witchcraft in Salem 4. The Ideas of Benjamin Franklin 5. Life in the Plantation South 6. A New African-American Culture 7.
The Treaty of Paris and Its Impact 9. The Intolerable Acts The Declaration of Independence Yorktown and the Treaty of Paris When Does the Revolution End? The Age of Atlantic Revolutions The Economic Crisis of the s Constitution Through Compromise The Antifederalists' Victory in Defeat Native American Resilience and Violence in the West The Life and Times of John Adams Jeffersonian America: A Second Revolution?
Gabriel's Rebellion: Another View of Virginia in In March , the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill that banned the teaching of evolution in all educational institutions throughout the state. The Butler Act set off alarm bells around the country. The ACLU responded immediately with an offer to defend any teacher prosecuted under the law. John Scopes, a young popular high school science teacher, agreed to stand as defendant in a test case to challenge the law.
He was arrested on May 7, , and charged with teaching the theory of evolution. They sought to demonstrate that the Tennessee law was unconstitutional because it made the Bible, a religious document, the standard of truth in a public institution. The prosecution was led by William Jennings Bryan, a former Secretary of State, presidential candidate, and the most famous fundamentalist Christian spokesperson in the country.
State of Tennessee v. Scopes | American Civil Liberties Union
His strategy was quite simple: to prove John Scopes guilty of violating Tennessee law. The Scopes trial turned out to be one of the most sensational cases in 20th century America; it riveted public attention and made millions of Americans aware of the ACLU for the first time. Approximately people and more than newspapers packed the courtroom daily.