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Anniversary

Today marks the 83rd anniversary of John Scope’s loss in Dayton regarding his teaching of Evolution, instead of the biblical account of creation. If you want a rehash of the typical debate go to Fark and clink on the forum link. For my part, I would rather discuss whether or not the man was actually guilty. By guilty, I don’t mean to ask whether he did anything wrong but whether or not he actually <i>broke the law</i>.

This isn’t as easy an issue as it may seem. There are many facts that get ignored because of the outrageousness of the case in general. Did Scopes break the law? While let us first look at the law. The law was the Butler Bill introduced in 1925 by State Representative John Washington Butler it prohibited, <u>”any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”</u>

Again, this could easily degenerate into an argument over the validity of this law win the face of the first Amendment, but let’s ignore that for now and take on the issue at hand. What we need is a theory that “denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the bible…” The operative phrase here is “<i>as taught in the bible</i>” because there are some Evolutionary scientists that still believe in God and are religious. They would view evolution as the tool of the divine. Even those people would be in violation of the Butler bill.

This law is pretty specific, in fact it is so specific that if any person were teaching anything else than the Usherrist view (that the Earth was created on October 23rd, 4004 b.c.) they would be in violation of the law. So our bar is pretty set for a definition of breaking of the Butler Bill. Now we just have to see whether or suspect did it.

(Yes I’m going to try and outdo the famous Clarence Darrow)

Going right to the horse’s mouth, John Scopes was a football coach and science teacher, however he admitted that he only taught biology as a substitute and he couldn’t even be sure that he covered that subject. What this means is that Scopes very well could never have taught the subject because he was only a sub, he might have taught cell walls and plants on the days he was in. Nevertheless he volunteered.

Volunteered? you ask. Yes, the town leaders of Dayton, Tennessee answered an ad placed in the local newspapers by the ACLU looking for someone willing to challenge the law. Those town leaders knew what publicity the trial would bring to the town and thought that it would jump start the local economy. He could not recollect whether or not he taught it. No witnesses, no cross examination, nothing. I think we could find some reasonable doubt and get Scopes off, or at least a mistrial.

That however wasn’t Darrow’s point. When Judge Raulston refused to declare the law unconstitutional on the first day of the trial, Darrow needed a guilty verdict so they could appeal to a higher court. In 1927 the Tennessee Supreme Court strikes down the law as being unconstitutional despite Judge Raulston’s claim that the Butler Bill “gives no preference to any particular religion or mode of worship.” The Supreme Court also overturned Scopes’ conviction on technical grounds stating that the jury should have set the fine (100$) and not the judge. So he ends up being innocent anyway.

Amazing that we needed to have that trial along with all of the others in order to teach science in the science classes.

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