The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial was a show trial pitting science against faith. The upcoming March for Science shows that science has become a faith.
In 1925, the “Scopes Monkey Trial” transfixed America. It wasn’t actually a “real” case, insofar as substitute teacher John T. Scopes did not even know whether he had taught evolution in a Tennessee classroom, an act that would have violated a Tennessee law mandating that Tennessee schools stop teaching evolution in favor of the Biblical creation story.
The ACLU, which sponsored the case, actually suborned perjury in order to make it appear that Scopes had violated the law. Tired, old Williams Jennings Bryan, of “cross of gold” fame, appeared as the prosecutor, squaring off against a still-vital Clarence Darrow. Bryan was so old and tired, in fact, that he died only five days after the trial — which took place during a punishing Tennessee summer in an oppressively hot court room — came to an end.
Based upon the ACLU’s false testimony, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Scopes. It had to. The law was the law and Scopes and the ACLU made damn sure there was massive evidence showing that Scopes violated the law.
The verdict, of course, was irrelevant. The point of the trial , which made it into every major and most minor American newspapers, was to put the “religion versus science” debate before the American people in such a way that science was sure to win. That win was something of a foregone conclusion.
In the post-WWI Roaring Twenties, America was an increasingly secular nation and one, moreover, fascinated by scientific progress in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With Darrow pushing science, and America’s newspapers anxious to join in, the case never actually took place in the Court. It was always a media phenomenon.
Now, in the 21st Century, with Trump working to rein in an out-of-control EPA, one that is far exceeding its mandate and the actual laws of the United States of America, Progressives are looking for a Scopes Trial re-do. They’re hoping to use modern media — the internet and television — to convince ordinary Americans that we’re witnessing an epic battle between bright, clean, modern science, on the one hand, and dark, hate-filled, ill-informed faith on the other. Take, for example, this email from the American Geophysical Union, which a reader was kind enough to send me: