Dr. Jerry Bergman
One of the most distorted historical events in American history was the Scopes “monkey” Trial.
Professor Giberson claims the Scopes Trial is “probably the best-known legal confrontation in history.”
The common conclusion goes something like the following History Channel claim: “The Scopes Trial, also known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was the 1925 prosecution of science teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution in a Tennessee public school, which a recent bill had made illegal.” In fact, the bill only prohibited teaching human evolution, not evolution.
One reason many Christians believed that teaching human evolution was a problem because, in the 1920s, one of the major proofs of human evolution was the existence of what was then widely believed to be inferior human races, specifically Blacks. The Bible is clear. There is only one race, the human race.
John Scope used a biology textbook titled Hunter’s Civic Biology which openly taught racism. Examples include the following statement: “there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other … the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.”
Hunter then added that we can improve the human race by “The science of being well-born called eugenics.” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz noted that the eugenics movement “took its impetus from Darwin’s theory of natural selection.”
Dershowitz correctly noted persons actively advocating evolution in 1925 when the Scopes Trial occurred included “racists, militarists, and nationalists” who used evolution “to push some pretty horrible programs,” including forced sterilizations of “inferior people”.
Darwin explained in detail how a race with superior qualities, those selected by natural selection, would normally destroy the weaker, less-evolved, races.
When natural selection ceases, evolution also ceases. Hitler stressed this point repeatedly in his book titled Mein Kampf (meaning “My Struggle” or “My Battle”).
William Jennings Bryan volunteered to argue in court for the prosecution in the Scopes trial. A major concern of Bryan was the degradation of humans by the racism motivated by evolution.
Bryan’s belief was that all humans are the offspring of the first human couple, Adam, and Eve. Thus, all humans are of the same race, the human race.
Evolution, on the other hand, as the Hunter text illustrated, requires racial differences for survival of the fittest to function.
If all humans are equal, evolution cannot work. The Hunter text illustrated Bryan’s concern for the reason that it was “laced with the racism of the day.”
For this correct observation, Bryan has been maligned ever since. Derided as a “fundamentalist” he was actually a liberal Democrat.
He ran three times for President as a Democrat and was defeated each time by Republicans.
Professor Marvin Olasky observed that “Hunter’s view of eugenics, widely accepted early in the twentieth century, was a common deduction drawn from and associated with Darwinian theory.”
Hunter openly advocated the solution to what he saw as the main social problem in society, namely genetically-inferior persons.
Many Tennesseans, especially African Americans, also objected to the implications of the entire evolutionary doctrine that were made explicit in the Hunter science text that was required by their state.
The Hunter text actually taught that it was our civic duty to apply eugenics to achieve racial improvement.
As Scopes Trial historian Tontonoz concluded, “eugenics was quickly becoming a scientific religion in America: this was the context in which Bryan opposed the teaching of evolution in public schools.”
It is clear from his writings that Bryan was very concerned about racism and eugenics, and this concern was a major reason why he opposed teaching human evolution.
Thus, in the 1920s, Bryan’s opposers were fighting to maintain, not only the teaching of racism in the public schools, but also the preservation of racism and eugenics in American society.
In fact, in his study of the trial, author Dennis Sewell wrote: “The Scopes Monkey Trial was more about racism, not God. Almost everything we think we know about the Dayton spectacle is wrong.”
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,800 publications in 12 languages and 60 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries.