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the outcry over the case tended to discourage enactment of similar legislation in other states, the law was not repealed until 1967.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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Scopes Trial: Selected full-text books and articles

Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America By Gail Kennedy D. C. Heath, 1957
Librarian's tip: "The Scopes Trial" begins on p. 35
American Genesis: The Antievolution Controversies from Scopes to Creation Science By 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 By Lloyd Chiasson Jr Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "The Case of John Scopes (1925) "In the Beginning . . ."
Selected Articles on Evolution By 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 By Larry A. Witham Oxford University Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Scopes Trial in multiple chapters
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