This one-credit course, taught by Bill J. Leonard at Wake Forest School of Divinity, explores the history of the famous Scopes “Monkey” Trial as it occurred in Dayton, Tennessee, in the summer of 1925. The trial took place after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) convinced Dayton public school teacher, John Scopes, to intentionally violate the Tennessee anti-evolution law in order to provoke a legal confrontation.
When Tennessee v. Scopes came to trial, the ACLU secured the services of nationally-known attorney and public agnostic, Clarence Darrow, to defend the teacher.
Supporters of the law enlisted William Jennings Bryan, populist Democratic presidential candidate, conservative Presbyterian, and master orator, as part of the state’s legal team. The trial highlighted debates over the nature of science and religion, public education, fundamentalism and liberalism, and populist politics in early 20th century America.
Ninety years later, Tennessee v. Scopes remains a much mythologized case study in the early stages of controversies that continue to rage over Darwinism, Creationism, Secularism, Evangelicalism, Politics, and Protestant privilege in 21st century America. This course explores those issues with particular concern for the science/religion debates then and now.
Seminary: Wake Forest School of Divinity
Keywords: Evolution, Scopes Trial, creationism, history of science, Darwinism, church and society