1927 January 30

Professors, Scientists, and Fundamentalists Battle Over Evolution, Freedom to Teach


In the wake of the Tennessee Supreme Court decision overturning the conviction of John T. Scopes in the famous “Monkey Trial” involving a Tennessee law outlawing the teaching of evolution (January 15, 1927), the debate over the issue heated up across the country. College professors, scientists, and religious fundamentalists continued to fight over whether Tennessee-style laws were legitimate public policy or unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The famous Monkey Trial began on July 10, 1925, and became both a national and international event. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution, but an appeals court overturned the conviction on a technicality (the judge erred in imposing the sentence).  By this day, Minnesota, North Dakota, Missouri, Alabama, and Arkansas had passed anti-evolution laws. A law had been defeated in West Virginia.

Forty years later, on November 12, 1968, the Supreme Court declared the Arkansas anti-evolution law unconstitutional in Epperson v. Arkansas.

Inherit the Wind is a play and a movie based on the famous Scopes trial (see April 21, 1955). While many parts of the plot are inventions and are overly melodramatic, much of the cross-examination of the Bryan character (played by Frederick March) by the Darrow character (played by Spencer Tracy is taken directly from the trial transcript and is riveting.

Learn more: Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (1997)

Watch a documentary on the Scopes Monkey Trial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVD4TjxnJ0M

Learn more about the conflict between science and religion: http://ncse.com/

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!