In the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, in some of the hottest weather of the year, two heavyweights or oration and law met over the teaching of a quiet teacher of slight build named John Thomas Scopes. It was one of the worst events in the church’s collective history. While it did not kill people like the Salem witch trials or the Inquisition, it effectively alienated the religious institution from the scientific community.
To be fair to my fundamentalist forefathers, it was a circus show to begin with. The ALCU staged most of it by picking a fight through the likes of Scopes. I rather think that Scopes had no idea what the ALCU had cooked up for him, but such is life.
Still, even though baited and prodded by the ALCU and others, Scopes did indeed break the law (Butler Act of 1925), by teaching evolution in his classroom. The funny thing is that no one ever thought that the law would be enforced. Not even the governor of Tennessee planned to actually enforce the law he signed.
Yet the stage was set and the big guns came in to town for a trial starting on the 1oth of July, 1925. I think that Bryan thought he was winning (indeed he did get the ruling as a fine was levied against Scopes), but in hindsight, he lost before he started, just like the modern evangelicals are losing with the issue of homosexual marriage.
The Scopes Monkey Trial ended in the death of Bryan (he passed five days after the trial), the end of Scopes’ teaching career (he went on to study geology), and almost zero pressure on evolutionary scientists while it further alienated Christianity from science. It was not worth it.
We must be better…do better. And we will.