Mankind in the Making: The Story of Human Evolution

Mankind in the Making: The Story of Human Evolution

Mankind in the Making: The Story of Human Evolution

Mankind in the Making: The Story of Human Evolution

Excerpt

A HIGH SCHOOL boy in a physics course asked his teacher about evolution. The teacher, John Thomas Scopes, described it in a few sentences. This was rash. For the place was Rhea County, Tennessee, and the time was late in April 1925, a bare month after the governor of the state had signed a new law forbidding the teaching of evolution in the public schools. And so Scopes found himself indicted, charged with having unlawfully and willfully taught a theory that man had descended from a lower order of animals, thus denying the story of divine creation.

Around the country storm clouds began to gather. William Jennings Bryan, retired presidential candidate and superlative speaker, came up from Florida to aid the prosecution and the anti-evolutionists. The famous liberals, Clarence Darrow and Dudley Field Malone, joined the defense. Through a hot July the case of Scopes, Genesis, and evolution was argued, vividly if not scientifically, by men who could hardly have been better equipped to do it before the American public.

The trial, of course, was a trial of Scopes, not of evolution. Had Scopes broken the law? Scopes had, on the testimony of a couple of schoolboys, who managed to recall a few dim vestiges of what he had told them. Scopes was sentenced to pay a fine of $100. Nevertheless, over Scopes' head the grand issues resounded so mightily that the trial became in fact the last major engagement of the two forces. The anti-evolutionists won the trial, but lost the battle and the war. For the acceptability of evolution ceased to be argued by the general public from then on.

It had been a useless war. The losers, fighting always from the purest of religious motives, defended the unity of the Bible against the unity of nature, feeling that talk of evolution was defiance of the word of God. The framers of the 1925 law in Tennessee said as much. But most of the world has come to the conclusion that it is a greater defiance to ignore the fabulous complexities of the known universe, living and inert, all obeying the same natural laws, ordained God only knows how or when. For such people, Genesis is a religious . . .

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