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The Scopes Trial : What is the Scopes Trial? Read here Also see : Images here

In half the states, fundamentalists had succeeded in pushing bills through to outlaw the teaching of Darwinian biology or the view of creation put forward by Darwin. It was against the law to teach any other view than that put forward in the Bible. To challenge these laws a test case was planned, and John Scopes became the defendant in what came to be known as the "Monkey Trial." Clarence Darrow, a famous lawyer, volunteered to defend him. The trial should have focused on the right of the public to insist on what and what not will be taught in the public schools. Instead, the debate came to be focused on whether the Bible was literally true, the position that William Jennings Bryan championed.

As a result of Bryan's decision to debate the Bible instead of the public's right to decide curriculum, popular interest was as great in that day as it has been in the recent trial in Los Angeles. It was the topic of conversation in such far-flung locales as Italy, Russia, India, and China. The atmosphere outside the courthouse was a carnival. Hot dog vendors, sold food and drink the multitudes who came to hear Bryan spare with Darrow, and copies of Darwin's book were available under the counter in brown-cover. Much as the hair styles of Marcia Clarke became the talk of the nation, when the Judge's daughter wore rolled stocking to court one day, it became a feature news story, and other women were encouraged to "roll'em girls, roll'em."

Darrow and H.L. Menken, the most famous journalist of his day, helped to spread the image of the fundamentalists as hicks. And Bryan was their willing accomplice. Bryan has been referred to by George Marsden as the "George Custer of fundamentalism." He allowed himself to be tricked into taking the stand to defend God and the Bible. Darrow had a field day, mercilessly laying bare the flaws in Bryan's understanding of Scripture. In fact, it is widely assumed that Darrow and Scopes won the trial, but such was not the case. Bryan and the Fundamentalists won technically. Scopes lost and was fined $100. But the truth was in winning, Bryan lost the sympathy of many, because he managed to make belief in the inerrancy of Scripture seem so foolish, most people were afraid that they would appear as foolish as Bryan if they claimed to believe in it. Indeed, many Christians became indifferent to the issues Bryan and the Fundamentalists raised. Most became convinced that it was more important to do something about social problems than to argue about whether it had rained for forty days and nights in the days of Noah. Fundamentalism would not soon recover from this "victory."

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