Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Myths Of The Scopes Monkey Trial

Clarence Darrow And William Jennings Bryan

  There was a popular play and movie that came out in 1955 and 1960 respectively, called Inherit The Wind which portrayed the so-called Dayton Monkey trial of 1925 as a battle between dumb redneck religious zealots of Dayton Tennessee and the intelligent forward thinking progressives fighting for intellectual freedom in the classroom. The facts of the Dayton Monkey trial paint a totally different picture. The following points brought out by the play and movie are totally false. This is a perfect example of how liberals are allowed to influence popular opinion regarding historical events.

  Myth One - The State of Tennessee passed a statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution. Myth Two The statute gave unfair advantage to Christian Fundamentalists. Myth Three - Violation of the Butler Act came with a fine and imprisonment. The Butler Act was a 1925 Tennessee law prohibiting public school teachers from denying the Biblical account of man's origin. It was enacted as Tennessee Code Annotated Title 49 (Education) Section 1922, having been signed into law by Tennessee governor Austin Peay. The law also prevented the teaching of the evolution of man from what it referred to as lower orders of animals in place of the Biblical account. Myth Four - Tennessee biology textbooks only taught the Christian account of creation. Myth Five - John Scopes was the victim of a Christian witch hunt. Myth Six - Scopes was physically and mentally mistreated by the citizens of Dayton. Myth Seven- Scopes was unrepresented by council until the day before his trial. Myth Eight- William Jennings Bryan, who was part of the prosecution team was adamantly opposed to the teaching of evolution in public schools. There are many more myths that I could list but this post would never end. The bottom line is that William Jennings Bryan was opposed to the teaching of eugenics. This was his major concern in the Scopes Trial. Specifically—and this is very important to understanding both the Butler Act and the trial—Bryan opposed those applications of Darwinism to mankind that were rapidly gaining popularity and were contained in Prof. Hunter’s Civic Biology.

  These teachings included (1) that mankind can be described in terms of five “races” of differing evolutionary status with the Caucasian race being the most advanced, followed by the “yellow” race, etc.—, (2) that public houses for the poor and asylums for the sick or insane make no sense from an evolutionary perspective and should be at least reconsidered if not dramatically curtailed— , (3) that certain “parasitic” elements of the human population should not have children (“If such people were lower animals,” Hunter writes, “we would probably kill them off”) and, in some cases, such reproduction should be forcibly prevented (“Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe”)__, (4) that society’s business classes should be given generous economic latitude (known as “hands off” or “laissez faire” capitalism) to further advance the most successful members of the human species—, and (5) that the gap between the monkeys and the most evolved apes is akin to the gap between those apes and the lowest human “savages”—.

  The above teachings were favorably referred to as “eugenics”—a term invented by Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton—and generally pertain to the active management of the gene pool of the human species by more evolved experts over a less evolved citizenry. This was scary stuff gaining momentum in the 1920s and, as noted below, was no longer confined to theoretical discussions in Ivory Towers. Statutes permitting sterilizations by force, laws forbidding marriages between people of different races (miscegenation), immigration quotas favoring Northern Europeans (Caucasians), and economic policies benefiting the most successful capitalists, were all popular policies advanced by elitists (university professors, industrialists, Planned Parenthood, liberal ministers, etc.) who self-consciously and persuasively invoked the “scientific” principles of Darwinism. Eugenics would later influence the racial theories of Adolph Hitler. We all know how that worked out. As for whether or not the rural residents of Tennessee were a bunch of bigoted rednecks, the following quote is from Scopes himself. “I have often said that there is more intolerance in higher education than in all the mountains of Tennessee.”
Clarence Darrow Addressing The Court

William Jennings Bryan Addressing The Court

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