Overview of the Scopes Monkey Trials

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Overview of the Scopes Monkey Trials

In the 1920’s, there were four states that passed a law banning the teaching of the principles of Darwinian evolution in public schools. Tennessee was one of these four states. In 1925, a high school biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, John Scopes, decided to test the law. He assigned his students readings about Darwinism, which directly violated the law. Because of his actions, Scopes was arrested and placed on trial. At the time, this was a major trial. It involved several distinguished lawyers, including William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. Darrow represented Scopes, while Bryan argued for prosecution. After the trial, Scopes was expelled from teaching and was fined a small fee of $100. However, the trial attracted a lot of attention to evolution. The public started to consider Darwin’s theory of evolution rather than creationism. Laws against the teaching of evolution continued until 1967, when the United States Supreme Court abolished them.

The Scopes Monkey Trial, as it came to be called, started the pendulum of two lifestyles- the conservative lifestyle and the liberal lifestyle. There were still those who were against the teaching of evolution in schools, known as the conservatives, and then there were those who were for Darwinism and the teaching of evolution, known as the liberals. The pendulum, a result of the trial, is constantly swinging back and forth from conservative to liberal. It is the major and important events that occur throughout history that change the movement of the pendulum, for the pendulum represents the public opinion and it these events that change the views of the public.


• Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000
• World Book Encyclopedia 1997
• World Book Encyclopedia 1993
• http://www.pagewise.com
• http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/scopes.htm

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