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A Case of Stalled Evolution

Seventy-five years ago this month legal and intellectual titans collided in Dayton, Tennessee to begin what would go down in history as the “trial of the century.” Fundamentalist orator and three-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan squared off with defense attorney par excellence Clarence Darrow, over whether high school teacher John T. Scopes had violated the law when he taught his students that they had descended from a common ancestor with modern apes millions of years ago.

Scopes, Bryan charged, was in violation of the 1925 Butler Act that made it “unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the state … to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” After days of legal wrangling in the sweltering July heat in this, the first trial ever broadcast on radio and covered by every major newspaper in the land, Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 because, of course, he had broken the law. (continue reading…)

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