It was one of the most influential, transformative court cases of the 20th century.
The Scopes Trial–or “Monkey Trial” as some called it–focused on a Tennessee high school teacher named John Scopes. He was charged with teaching evolution. The only problem? He didn’t know if he actually taught the origins theory. Nevertheless, to force a case against the Tennessee Butler Act that prohibited teaching evolution, Scopes incriminated himself.
The July 1925 trial was a media circus in small town America (Dayton, TN). The whole point was to stage a trumped up “injustice” to show how backward folks (like small town, rural Tennesseans) were holding back the progress of true science. Never mind that much of the science used by Scopes’ attorney Clarence Darrow to defend evolutionary theory was later found to be erroneous. For example, the introduction of “Nebraska Man” was later discovered to be built entirely from the tooth of an extinct pig.
In the end, famed celebrity prosecutor William Jennings Bryan persuaded the jury to convict John Scopes and he was fined $100 (about $1500 today). Later that guilty verdict was overturned.
Ultimately, this famous trial positioned the religious right (creationists) against the secular left (evolutionists) in an ongoing battle that remains to this day. In fact, today the origins position is almost entirely reversed. And while not illegal, it’s creationism and “creation science” that’s censored, dismissed and not taught in our nation’s public schools.
Nevertheless the whole controversy started 96 years ago, on this date, in 1925.