TheScopes trial was the case against John Scopes, a biology teacher in DaytonTennessee. Scopes was charged for defying Tennessee’s newly placed Butler Act. This case is whatcatapulted the dispute of creationism versus evolution and how it should betaught in schools. The outcome of this 1925 trial impacted the rest of the 19thcentury extensively, however as the 20th century neared, the effectbecame less prevalent. John Scopes was a local biology teacher and was arrested for teachingevolution, the “Scopes Monkey Trial” was the case against him. Thegrounds for John Scopes’ arrest was that he violated the Butler Act. TheTennessee Butler Act was a law that banned public school teachers from denyingthe Bible’s account of man’s origin. “The publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 was taken bymany as a radical challenge to the biblical accounts of humankind’sorigin.
” (Darity). The new popularity of Charles Darwin’s theory ofevolution was seen as a threat to many religious groups. This case betweenClarence Darrow who was Scopes’ defense attorney, and William Jennings Bryanwho represented the defense for anti-evolution quickly became a media frenzyand was soon heard about throughout the country.In response to the Butler Act, citizens of Dayton who disagreed with theact, premeditatedly created a situation where they “persuaded substituteteacher John Scopes to purposefully break the law” (Darrow, 54-64) in order to shedlight on a law they saw unfit in their community. This trial became the centerof arguments for pro-evolutionists and anti-evolutionists. While this case wasone of the largest “wars between science and fundamentalist Christianity”(Grabiner, 832-837) public opinion during the time suggests that although theoutcome favored Bryan’s side of the case, people’s opinions leaned towardspro-evolution.
Rising popularity of fundamentalistideas spread quickly during the 1920s. Fundamentalists wanted to extend theirreligious beliefs after the movement to outlaw liquor was successful. Once theyhad a “win”, fundamentalists moved onto their next task, to outlaw discussionof evolution in schools. Preachers used theatrical techniques in an attempt tolink the ideas of evolution to crude ideas and topics, “Preachers claimed thatDarwin’s ideas promoted the four P’s: prostitution, perversion, pornography,and permissiveness” (Moore, 790–796). Whilenothing of Darwin’s theory allude to any of these topics, many people feltthreatened. Fundamentalists used fear-mongering techniques to produce the ideathat pro-evolutionists were wrong and immoral.Unlike fundamentalists, biblical literalists used different tactics toget their anti-evolution ideas across. While fundamentalists aggressivelyattacked the morals of pro-evolutionists, biblical literalists took intoaccount the growing popularity and support of evolution.
As scientific evidencegrew stronger, biblical literalists started to ease their way into the idea by”borrowing” the language scientists used “to present the biblical story ofcreation in a new, more respectable guise.” (Gilbert).Even though people stopped aggressively trying to outlaw the teaching ofevolution in schools, this did not mean it was allowed to be taught. Evolutioncontinued to be a subject rarely touched by high school teachers until the late1960’s and most textbooks removed any information about evolution as a whole. Many textbook authors during thetime claimed that evolution was too advanced for high school students. Despite theseclaims, biology textbooks of the early 1900’s discussed the topic uncensored.After Scopes was convicted, people were wary of the subject, and reluctant todiscuss it in the classroom, and discuss the issue in general.
Fundamentalistshad the idea of targeting what they felt the “source” of the problem was, whichwas the teachers. Once they targeted them, many moved onto other methods of expellingthe topic from classrooms. “John C. Walton Oklahoma’s governor at the time (aprogressive Democrat) signed America’s first anti-evolution law; that lawordered free textbooks to public schools whose teachers would not mentionevolution” (Moore, 790–796). Many statestook different approaches on how they would rid their schools of evolution, oneof the most aggressive tactics was ordered by Texas’ first female governorMiriam Ferguson who instructed her “state’s textbook commission to cut out(with scissors) the pages containing discussions of the theory of evolutionfrom its high school biology textbooks” (Moore, 790–796).
George Hunter is the author of the biology textbook John Scopes usedwhen charged. Because of the verdict of the case Hunter changed the name of thetextbook to disassociate it with the trial, the textbook was now called New Civic Biology. Driven by the fear oflosing sales Hunter rewrote the textbook. His new edition took out the sectionon evolution, deleted visual representations of the evolution of species, anddownplayed Darwin’s ideas of the development of species. Hunter’s new textbookwas not the only resource that purged the word evolution from it, many othersfollowed suit. By 1929 when practically all textbooks eradicated the topic ofevolution, fundamentalist preacher, George McReady Price agreed that “‘virtuallyall textbooks on the market have been revised to meet the needs of theFundamentalists.
‘” (Moore, 790–796). Theseconditions stayed the same, not until the 40s did Darwin’s ideas start toslowly reappear.Evolution slowly seeped back into curriculum during the 40s but with acatch, this time it was not just Darwin’s scientific theory that found itselfback into high school textbooks, but a biblical theory section was added too,these sections either proceeded or followed the evolution section. Althoughreappearing into books for public consumption, the most popularly boughttextbooks remained the ones without evolution discussed in them. Theseevolution-including textbooks were unpopular, books that spoke about evolutionconservatively remained popular. And “By 1942 fewer than half of the scienceteachers in the United States taught evolution” (Moore, 790–796). Textbook publishers were too afraid todiscuss the topic in their books and avoided the subject as a whole to avoidattacks from fundamentalists.
If evolution was included at all it would beincluded as an “afterthought or parenthetically” (Moore, 790–796). Avoiding the topic of evolutioncontinued into the 50s, mentions of the topic remained vague. “‘The evidencesupporting evolution received even less coverage in books published in the1950s than it had in those published in the 1940s (Skoog 1979)'” (Moore, 790–796). The legitimacy of evolution as an ideadiminished even more as the 50s continued, and the concept of biology wasn’teven acknowledged as a major concept.
President Eisenhower passed the NationalDefense Education Act of 1958 in hopes of enhancing the teaching of sciencefor high school students, this act “encouraged the National Science Foundation(NSF) to fund and develop state-of-the-art science textbooks.” (Moore, 790–796). The Biological Sciences CurriculumStudy (BSCS) was formed in 1958, parallel to the creation of the National Defense Education Act. BSCS wasfunded by the National Science Foundation, “BSCS was determined to base itstextbooks on the best science available rather than on the consensus-driven,bland “evolutionless” biology that typified most other textbooks” (Moore, 790–796). BSCS isequated with pioneering a pro-evolution revolution. BSCS stressed the importanceof bringing back Darwin’s ideas to high school textbooks and is known to have”put evolution back in the biology classroom” (Moore, 790–796). Feedback against the BSCS and theiractions were harsh. “the BSCS books were denounced in newspapers, in churchsermons, and at hearings of the Texas Textbook Commission” (Moore, 790–796).
The Attacks against the non-profitorganization caused them to modify some of the discussion in the books,although modified, it remained a central topic in the books. By 1970 BSCSbiology textbooks were used in over half American high schools. A populartextbook produced by the “Creation Research Society promoted what came to beknown as the “two-model approach” (i.e., the evolution model and the creationmodel)” (Moore, 790–796).
Becauseof the growing support for evolutionists from all angles, creationists had tochange their attack tactics. This change of tactics led to many textbooksincluding the “two-model approach”. Another new influx ofcomplaints from creationists flooded textbook companies. Publishers during the late70s had to, again, respond to outrage and reduce the coverage of evolution intheir books.
In 1981 biology teacher Frank Spica claimed “‘The creationistshave won. They’ve not passed any legislation, but they’ve got the textbookschanged'” (Moore, 790–796). Along withthe new wave of criticism, courtrooms in the early 80s saw several casesquestion the use of evolution-based textbooks in high school classrooms. In1980 several states endorsed the “de facto endorsement” in which high schoolswould teach both theories equally, while several states continued to teach thecreationist theory exclusively.
As the 2000s came closer, biology textbooks gradually included moreevolution in their chapters. Today, evolution is taught as a major concept inmost of the nation’s schools. Although taught “many publishers often resort toeuphemisms such as “change” and “development” to ease emphasis on the topic.” (Moore, 790–796). While textbooks have increased theamount of coverage, and level of knowledge of the topic in their books,teachers themselves have been left in the dust. Because most current teachersgrew up in an era of a restricted teaching of evolution, “many biologyteachers—regardless of the textbook they use—teach the subject of evolutioneither poorly or apologetically.
Other biology teachers do not teach evolutionat all, because they do not know enough about the topic, because they areintimidated by anti-evolution politicians or administrators.” (Moore, 790–796). In spite of that fact, for most of thenation’s biology teachers “evolution based textbooks are an important part ofthe curriculum” (Moore, 790–796) and theircollege educations have supplied them with a substantial education on thetopic. While guidelines on how evolution was taught shifted dramaticallythroughout the 19th century, it wasn’t until the 20th centurystarted approaching where the greater population agreed that evolution was anessential concept to be taught in schools. While small effects of this triallinger still today the greater impact this trial had was on curriculum duringthe 19th century.