Sunday, August 7, 2016

Equal Time for Both Sides in Scopes Monkey Trial

Do people still question the reality of evolution? I mean ... it's 2016. It's not really possible that people believe Adam and Eve were riding around on dinosaurs, right? OK, that was a bit snarky, I'll admit. The issue of evolution, intelligent design, creationism and the inevitable conflict between science and religion still exists even in the era of Mars landings and genetically-modified organisms. One place, however, that is surprisingly at peace with the conflict is the town of Dayton, TN, site of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. The town has long had a statue of orator and creation defender William Jennings Bryan, and it is now planning to add a complementary statue of Bryan's antagonist Clarence Darrow. This development is a modest sign of civility in our factured political times, and AP writer Travis Loller recently offered some insight and perspective on one of the most engaging and controversial legal issues of our time. 

Still, townspeople are resigned to the idea of a Darrow statue, said Christian writer Rachel Held Evans, a Bryan College alumna. "I think there is a sense that, 'Oh, it's only fair. We have our side, and they have their side. We have our statue, and they have their statue," she said.
Ed Larson, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the trial called "Summer for the Gods," said that Dayton has historically been hospitable to both sides, and that outrage over the teaching of evolution in 1925 was manufactured. The trial is often remembered as the persecution of teacher Scopes for teaching evolution, which Tennessee had outlawed, but it actually began as a publicity stunt for Dayton, Larson said.
Larsen explained that locals had responded to a newspaper advertisement by the American Civil Liberties Union looking for someone to test Tennessee's anti-evolution law in court. No one had complained about Scopes or his teaching; he was recruited to be the defendant, Larson said. Scopes never spent time in jail and was offered his job back after the trial, Larsen said — and Bryan even offered to pay his fine.

No comments: