As has become all too common with regard to famous and infamous trials, the popular perception of what transpired in the courtroom comes not from the transcript of the court proceeding itself, but rather from the motion picture and/or stage play that was based -- often loosely -- on the trial. ~ Alan Dershowitz 

It is only to the theory of the evolution of man from a lower type that the Act before us was intended to apply, and much of the discussion we have heard is beside this case. ~ Chief Justice Green

The eugenics movement, which advocated sterilization of "unfit" and "inferior" stock, was at its zenith, and it took its impetus from Darwin's theory of natural selection. German militarism, which had just led to the disastrous world war, drew inspiration from Darwin's ideas on survival of the fittest. The anti-immigration movement, which had succeeded in closing American ports of entry to "inferior racial stock," was ground in a mistaken belief that certain ethnic groups had evolved more fully than others. The Jim Crow laws, which maintained racial segregation, were rationalized on grounds of the racial inferiority of blacks.

Indeed, the very book -- Hunter's Civic Biology -- from which John T. Scopes taught Darwin's theory of evolution to high school students in Dayton, Tennessee... made it clear that biology had direct political implications for civic society. In discussing the "five races" of man, the text assured the all-white legally segregated high school students taught by Scopes that "the highest type of all, the Caucasians, [are] represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America." The book, the avowed goal of which was the improvement of the future human race, then proposed certain eugenic remedies. ~ Alan Dershowitz     see also: A Civic Biology  2  see also: Haeckel

The Scopes trial is surrounded by misconceptions, and their exposure provides as good a way as any for recounting the basic story. In the heroic version, John Scopes was persecuted, Darrow rose to Scope's defense and smote the antediluvian Bryan, and the antievolution movement then dwindled or ground to at least a temporary halt. All three parts of this story are false.  ~ Stephen Jay Gould 

The myth that the Monkey Trial was a defeat for the traditionalist forces only began to take shape in the following decade, and was eventually enshrined in the popular imagination in Inherit the Wind. According to the myth, the fundamentalists were exposed as country hicks out of touch with the modern world, and retreated into the hills. In fact, the anti-evolution campaign continued to be active for the rest of the decade and faded away only because it became clear that the practical level it had been successful. If only three states passed anti-evolution legislation, the schools nevertheless stopped teaching the subject. To avoid confrontation, publishers ensured that the textbooks used in the nation's schools no longer contained references to evolution. For all intents and purposes, Bryan's campaign had succeeded.  ~ Peter Bowler  

From a legal standpoint the outcome was inconclusive, but as presented to the world by the sarcastic journalist H. L. Mencken, and later by Broadway and Hollywood, the "monkey trial" was a public relations triumph for Darwinism.

The scientific establishment was not exactly covering itself with glory at the time, however. Although he did not appear at the trial, the principal spokesman for evolution during the 1920s was Henry Fairfield Osborn, Director of the American Museum of Natural History. Osborn relied heavily upon the notorious Piltdown Man fossil, now known to be a fraud, and he was delighted to confirm the discovery of  a supposedly pre-human fossil tooth by the paleontologist Harold Cooke in Bryan's home state of Nebraska. Thereafter Osborn prominently featured "Nebraska Man" (scientific designation: Hesperopithecus harloldcookii) in his antifundamentalist newspaper articles and radio broadcasts, until the tooth was discovered to be from a peccary, a kind of pig. If Osborn had been cross-examined by a lawyer as clever as Clarence Darrow, and satirized by a columnist as ruthless as H. L. Mencken, he would have looked as silly as Bryan. ~ Phillip Johnson     see also: Nebraska Man

Court cases don't decide anything. If you look at the Scopes trial, who won that trial? It wasn't the evolutionists. The Tennessee law was upheld (barring evolution) and yet in the popular imagination Scopes is the hero. Inherit the Wind the movie which is really bogus history based on the Scopes trial has carried the day. These issues go much deeper than any decision by a judge. ~ William Dembski      see aso: Judge John Jones

We give the atheist too much latitude; we allow him to ask all the questions and we try to answer them. I know of no reason why the Christian should take upon himself the difficult task of answering all questions and give to the atheist the easy task of asking them. Any one can ask questions, but not every question can be answered. If I am to discuss creation with an atheist it will be on condition that we ask questions about. He may ask the first one if he wishes, but he shall not ask a second one until he answers my first.  ~ William Jennings Bryan  (1922)

Mr. Hays -- The defense desires to call Mr. Bryan as a witness, and, of course, the only question here is whether Mr. Scopes taught what these children said he taught, we recognize what Mr. Bryan says as a witness would not be very valuable. We think there are other questions involved, and we should want to take Mr. Bryan’s testimony for the purposes of our record, even if your honor thinks it is not admissible in general, so we wish to call him now.

Mr. Bryan -- If your honor please, I insist that Mr. Darrow can be put on the stand, and Mr. Malone and Mr. Hays. 
The Court -- Call anybody you desire. Ask them any questions you wish.
Mr. Bryan -- Then we will call all three of them.

The reason I am answering is not for the benefit of the superior court. It is to keep these gentlemen from saying I was afraid to meet them and let them question me, and I want the Christian world to know that any atheist, agnostic, unbeliever, can question me any time as to my belief in God, and I will answer him.
  ~ William Jennings Bryan

Mr. Bryan -- Your honor, I think I can shorten this testimony. The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur at the Bible, but I will answer his question. I will answer it all at once, and I have no objection in the world, I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in a God, is trying to use a court in Tennessee --
Mr. Darrow -- I object to that.
Mr. Bryan -- (Continuing) to slur at it, and while it will require time, I am willing to take it.
Mr. Darrow -- I object to your statement. I am exempting you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes. 
The Court -- Court is adjourned until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.

At the conclusion of your decision to expunge the testimony given by me upon the record I didn’t have time to ask you a question. I fully agree with the court that the testimony taken yesterday was not legitimate or proper. I simply want the court to understand that I was not in a position to raise an objection at that time myself nor was I willing to have it raised for me without asserting my willingness to be cross-examined. I also stated that if I was to take the witness stand I would ask that the others take the witness stand also, that I might put certain questions to them. Now the testimony was ended and I assume that you expunged the questions as well as the answers. … I shall have to trust the justness of the press, which reported what was said yesterday, to report what I will say, not to the court, but to the press in answer to the charge scattered broadcast over the world and I shall also avail myself of the opportunity to give to the press, not to the court, the questions that I would have asked had I been permitted to call the attorneys on the other side.  ~ William Jennings Bryan

The majority is not trying to establish a religion or to teach it -- it is trying to protect itself from the effort of an insolent minority to force irreligion upon the children under the guise of teaching science.  ~ William Jennings Bryan

Christianity has been the greatest patron learning has ever had. But Christians know that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ now just as it has been in the past, and they therefore oppose the teaching of guesses that encourage godlessness among the students.  ~ William Jennings Bryan

Our first indictment against evolution is that it disputes the truth of the Bible account of man's creation and shakes faith in the Bible as the Word of God. This indictment we prove by comparing the processes  described as evolutionary with the text of Genesis. It not only contradicts the Mosaic record as to the beginning of human life, but it disputes the Bible doctrine of reproduction according to kind -- the greatest scientific principle known.

Our second indictment is that the evolutionary hypothesis, carried to its logical conclusion, disputes every vital truth of the Bible. Its tendency natural, if not inevitable, is to lead those who really accept it, first to agnosticism and then to atheism. Evolutionists attack the truth of the Bible, not openly at first, but by using weasel-words like "poetical," "symbolical," and "allegorical" to suck the meaning out of the inspired record or man's creation.  ~ William Jennings Bryan

The world needs a Savior more than it ever did before, and there is only one Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. It is this Name that evolution degrades, for, carried to its logical conclusion, it robs Christ of the glory of a virgin birth, of the majesty of His deity and mission and of the triumph of His resurrection.  ~ William Jennings Bryan


The Scopes Monkey Trial  by Andrew Bradbury

Tennessee vs John Scopes  by Doug Linder

The Truth About Inherit the Wind  by Carol Iannone

World's Most Famous Court Trial  by Richard Cornelius

Trial Coverage  by H.L. Mencken

Inherit the Wind by David Menton  GBS  IMDb

The People v. Clarence Darrow by Geoffrey Cowan


The Monkey Trial

John Scopes


Monkey Business by Marvin Olasky and John Perry  Amazon  GBS

Summer of the Gods by Edward Larson  Amazon  GBS

The World's Most Famous Court Trial  Amazon  GBS  HTML 2


Evolutionism and atheism

Common Objections  

What is the evidence

Intelligent Design  

Theory or fact?  

Scientists and bias  

Science and Religion  

Evolutionism and scripture


Are Creationists honest?

Audio Video  


Works Cited