June 15, 2024

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June 15, 2024

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The 1925 Trial That Helped The World Teach Generations Of Children That The Bible Cannot Be Trusted

Scopes trial,Ken ham

Most people have a totally wrong understanding of the Scopes trial in 1925 and its consequences. The media and most educational institutions have misrepresented the truth of what happened at that trial.

The Scopes trial took place during a hot July in 1925 in the little town of Dayton, Tennessee.

The leadership of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New York City initiated the Scopes trial. The ACLU became alarmed over “antievolution” bills that were being introduced in the legislatures of 20 states in the early 1920s. These bills were all very similar and forbade public schools to teach the evolution of man but generally ignored the evolution of anything else.

The ACLU hoped that a test case might overthrow these bills or at least make them unenforceable. They chose to pursue their case in Tennessee, where the state legislature had unanimously passed the Butler Act. This act declared that it shall be “unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals, and all other public schools of the state which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach 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.”

Most people think the act was to stop the teaching of evolution, but it was only the teaching of the evolution of man that it concerned.

The ACLU placed advertisements in Tennessee newspapers that read in part: “We are looking for a Tennessee teacher who is willing to accept our services in testing this law in the courts.” George Rappleyea, a mine operator in Dayton, read the ACLU ad in a Chattanooga newspaper and decided that he would like to see such a trial held in Dayton.

Rappleyea approached a young friend named John Scopes who had taught math and coached the football team for one year at the local Rhea County high school. Scopes had no background in science and had little interest or understanding of evolution. Indeed, the only qualification Scopes had as a science teacher was that he filled in for an ill biology teacher the last two weeks of the school year.

Although Scopes never taught evolution during his two weeks as a biology teacher, and thus really didn’t violate the Butler Act, it was considered sufficient that the class textbook, Hunter’s Civic Biology, did cover the evolution of man. For example, the Hunter textbook speculated that in his early history, “Man must have been little better than one of the lower animals” and concluded, “At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man . . . the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.” Sadly, this sort of blatant racism in the name of evolution was enthusiastically endorsed by most of the academic world as well as by many Christian groups.

After the ACLU agreed to accept John Scopes for their test case and pay all expenses, he was arrested for teaching the evolution of man and immediately released on a $1,000 bond. The Dayton lawyer who served the warrant for Scopes’ arrest was Sue Hicks (the subject of the Johnny Cash hit song “A Boy Named Sue,” by the way). It was also Hicks who came up with the idea of calling upon the popular Christian lawyer/politician William Jennings Bryan to serve as head of the prosecution of John Scopes. When the ACLU chose the famous criminal lawyer and outspoken atheist/agnostic Clarence Darrow to head the defense team for John Scopes, a high visibility trial was virtually guaranteed.

Bryan was well informed about the creation/evolution controversy and regularly corresponded with scientists of his time on the evidence for and against evolution. While Bryan was a staunch creationist and a strong critic of biological evolution, he accepted geological evolution and an old age for the earth.

Clarence Darrow’s agnostic convictions led him to believe that man’s actions were ultimately just the result of body chemistry, and that concepts of good and evil were essentially meaningless. In his autobiography, The Story of My Life, Darrow explained his purpose for participating in the Scopes trial: “My object and my only object, was to focus the attention of the country on the program of Mr. Bryan and the other Fundamentalists in America.”

Technically, the only legal issue in the Scopes trial was: did John Scopes violate the Butler Act by teaching that man descended from a lower order of animals? For both Bryan and Darrow, however, the real issue wasn’t Scopes’ guilt or innocence, but rather should evolution be taught as fact in the public schools? Darrow had hoped to have a number of evolutionist scientists testify in the court to the “fact” of evolution, but this wasn’t permitted by the judge because the evidence for evolution was technically not at issue in the trial, and Darrow refused to allow his evolutionists to be cross-examined by the prosecution. As a result, most of the testimony by the scientists at the trial was written and filed into record—none was heard by the jury.

Anyone taking the time to read the transcript of the Scopes trial (The World’s Most Famous Court Trial, Bryan College) will note that Darrow and his defense team of lawyers knew little about evolution and failed in their efforts to establish why it was necessary to teach evolution in the classroom. They lamely attempted to justify its reality and importance by equating evolution with human embryology. For example, the development of the embryo from a single cell (the fertilized egg) was often cited as evidence that all life came (evolved?) from a single cell. Even the evolutionary expert Dr. Maynard Metcalf of Johns Hopkins University confused evolution with human embryonic development and the aging process!

Much of Darrow’s efforts at the trial amounted to a caustic diatribe against the Bible and Christianity.

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On the seventh day of the trial, Darrow challenged Bryan to take the witness stand as an expert on the Bible. Going against the advice of his co-counsel, Bryan foolishly agreed to this outrageous and unprecedented arrangement, with the agreement that Darrow would in turn take his turn at the witness stand to be questioned on his agnostic and evolutionary views.

In his questioning, Darrow sarcastically and often inaccurately recounted several miracles of the Old Testament such as Eve and the serpent, Jonah and the whale, Joshua’s long day, Noah’s flood, confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel, and biblical inspiration. Darrow ridiculed Bryan for his belief and defense of these miracles, but Bryan steadfastly stuck with the clear words of Scripture, forcing Darrow to openly deny the Word of God.

Darrow achieved his goal of making the Bible subject to reinterpretation consistent with the ever-changing scientific and philosophical speculations of man.

Then came the turning point. Darrow raised the matter of a six-day creation. Bryan denied that the Bible says God created everything in six ordinary days of approximately 24 hours. When Darrow asked, “Does the statement ‘the morning and the evening were the first day,’ and ‘the morning and the evening were the second day’ mean anything to you?” Bryan replied, “I do not see that there is any necessity for constructing the words, ‘the evening and the morning,’ as meaning necessarily a 24-hour day.”

When Darrow asked, “Creation might have been going on for a very long time?” Bryan replied, “It might have continued for millions of years.” With the help of Bryan’s compromise on the days of creation, Darrow achieved his goal of making the Bible subject to reinterpretation consistent with the ever-changing scientific and philosophical speculations of man.

That’s when Darrow knew he had won, because he had managed to get the Christian to admit, in front of a worldwide audience, that he couldn’t defend the Bible’s history (e.g., Cain’s wife), and didn’t take the Bible as written (the days of creation), and instead accepted the world’s teaching (millions of years). Thus, Bryan (unwittingly) had undermined biblical authority and paved the way for secular philosophy to pervade the culture and education system.

Sadly, most Christians today have, like Bryan, accepted the world’s teaching and rejected the plain words of the Bible regarding history. Thus, they have helped the world teach generations of children that the Bible cannot be trusted in Genesis. After years of such indoctrination, a generation has now arisen that is also (logically) rejecting the morality based on the Bible.

Don’t be like William Jennings Bryan and compromise God’s Word and not be able to defend the Christian faith:

1 Peter‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”


Ken Ham is an author, speaker, and the founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis and its two popular attractions: the acclaimed Creation Museum and the internationally known Ark Encounter.

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