Scopes Trial

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 Darwinism in a Dayton, Tenn., public school. Clarence Darrow was one of Scopes's attorneys, while William Jennings Bryan 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the outcry over the case tended to discourage enactment of similar legislation in other states, the law was not repealed until 1967.

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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion
Edward J. Larson.
Basic Books, 1997
Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America
Gail Kennedy.
D. C. Heath, 1957
Librarian’s tip: "The Scopes Trial" begins on p. 35
Darwinism in the Press: The Evolution of An Idea
Edward Caudill.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The Scopes Trial: The Press Confirms Empiricism"
American Genesis: The Antievolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science
Jeffrey P. Moran.
Oxford University Press, 2012
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Monkeys and Mothers - Gender and the Antievolution Impulse"
The Press on Trial: Crimes and Trials as Media Events
Lloyd Chiasson Jr.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "The Case of John Scopes (1925) "In the Beginning . . ."
The Creation/Evolution Controversy: A Battle for Cultural Power
Kary Doyle Smout.
Praeger, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Bryan and the Scopes 'monkey' Trial"
Clarence Darrow: The Creation of An American Myth
Richard J. Jensen.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Educating the Masses: Darrow in Tennessee" and "Speech at Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tennessee, 1925"
William Jennings Bryan: Orator of Small-Town America
Donald K. Springen.
Greenwood Press, 1991
The World of Law: A Treasury of Great Writing about and in the Law, Short Stories, Plays, Essays, Accounts, Letters, Opinions, Pleas, Transcripts of Testimony; from Biblical Times to the Present
Ephraim London.
Simon & Schuster, vol.2, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "The Scopes Trial" by H. L. Mencken begins on p. 66
Selected Articles on Evolution
Edith M. Phelps.
H. W. Wilson, 1926
Librarian’s tip: "Argument Prepared for the Scopes Trial" begins on p. 146
Where Darwin Meets the Bible: Creationists and Evolutionists in America
Larry A. Witham.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Scopes Trial in multiple chapters
The South Is Another Land: Essays on the Twentieth-Century South
Bruce Clayton; John A. Salmond.
Greenwood Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "After Scopes: Evolution in the South"
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