Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America

By Gail Kennedy | Go to book overview

Arthur Garfield Hays:


THE SCOPES TRIAL

THE sleepy town of Dayton, Tennessee, snuggled in the hills. Robinson's Drug Store was on the main street, a broad quiet village center flanked by the Aqua Hotel, a moving picture theater, a barber shop where one could get a hot bath, a livery stable and establishments of like character. George Rappelyea, a mining engineer, the live-wire of the town, Thomas Scopes, a young tow-headed High School teacher, and three lawyers, gathered in the drug store, discussed the Anti-Evolution law recently passed by the legislature. They read the wording of the Statute as printed in the Chattanooga Times:

"Be it enacted by the general assembly of the State of Tennessee that it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the universities, normals and all other public schools of the State, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds 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."

Suddenly Rappelyea pushed aside the paper and smote Mr. Robinson's glasstopped table.* Here was a chance to put Dayton on the map! Would Scopes agree to place himself and his munificent school-teaching job in jeopardy? Scopes would. Here was a magnificent opportunity to test an obnoxious law. The sensational character of the undertaking, which would make Dayton world famous, was not an unwelcome feature. No time was to be lost. Other communities, once they caught the idea, would compete for the attraction of a trial involving science, the Bible and Tennessee. Scopes, a bit amused by it all, marched resignedly to the sacrifice. He intimated to his class that there might be something in the theory of evolution. He was arrested when his friends pointed out to the local constabulary just what he meant.

The stage was set. William Jennings Bryan, then resident in Florida, long a proponent of restrictive law to induce faith, and responsible more than any other for the Tennessee Statute, volunteered his services to the prosecution. Opportunity could grant no more. The exultant Rappelyea sent an S.O.S. for legal aid to the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. Clarence Darrow, Dudley Field Malone and myself answered the request to join Dr. John Randolph Neal, a lawyer of Tennessee, in the defense. The luster of Bainbridge Colby shone on us for a time, but be was unable to accompany us southward.

Scopes was indicted. The show was on. At once Dayton took on the character of a revivalist-circus. Thither swarmed ballyhoo artists, hot dog venders, lemonade merchants, preachers, professional atheists, college students, Greenwich Village radicals, out-of-work coal miners, I.W.W.'s, Single Taxers, "libertarians," revivalists of all shades and sects, hinterland "Soothsayers," Holy Rollers, an

From Let Freedom Ring by Arthur Garfield Hays. By permission of LIVERIGHT Publishers, Copyright 1955 Jane Butler, pp. 25-30, 37-39, 42-56, and 67-83.

____________________
*
The American Civil Liberties Union had announced that it would back any school teacher who would test the law.

-35-

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Evolution and Religion: The Conflict between Science and Theology in Modern America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents xiii
  • The Clash of Issues xiv
  • The Christian Epic 1
  • The Coming of Darwinism 3
  • The Two Revelations 14
  • A Diary of Evolution 21
  • A Reply to Mr. Bryan in The Name of Religion 30
  • The Scopes Trial 35
  • Four Dialogues 52
  • The New Orthodoxy 70
  • The Truth in Myths 82
  • The New Failure of Nerve 88
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading 97
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