The key historical event leading to the general acceptance of evolution in America was not the publication of Darwin’s book in 1859. The defining moment for evolution was the publicity surrounding the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1923. What most people know about the creation position is colored by the fictional dramatization of the trial called Inherit the Wind.
This Broadway play was first released in 1955 and a movie of the same name was released in 1960. The play is so popular in high schools that it has its own internet site which claims that the drama “is performed almost every night somewhere in the world.” Yet both the movie and the play are pure propaganda for an atheist worldview and grossly distort true historical events.
The one-sided publicity surrounding the Scopes Monkey Trial makes the truth of the trial relatively unknown. In 1923 Tennessee had a symbolic law which outlawed the teaching of evolution by public funds. The purpose of this law was to gain public support for science education by assuring citizens that public education would not be used to undermine religious beliefs. (Sadly, educators today have little concern about undermining religion by replacing it with a religious belief in Darwinism.)
The ACLU advertised for a defendant willing to contest this law and found John Scopes and local supporters in Dayton, Tennessee. Scopes had briefly taught biology as a substitute teacher and was willing to serve as defendant in the case (although he later admitted that he had never taught evolution). The town welcomed both the famous defense attorney, Clarence Darrow (to defend evolution), and the great orator and three time presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan, who acted as prosecuting attorney (to defend the Biblical record of history). John Scopes was never ridiculed or vilified nor did he spend a single hour in jail. Clarence Darrow’s goal, like the modern ACLU, was to rid public education of the evidence for and acknowledgment of God’s existence.
William Jennings Byran was not allowed to cross-examine the experts brought in to defend evolution so many of their statements entered the record unchallenged. Bryan was also grilled on his limited knowledge of where the Bible overlaps science but Darrow ended the trial with a clever legal maneuver before the evidence for evolution was questioned. Darrow was a brilliant attorney who made Byran’s defense of the Bible sound ridiculous and the trial ended before Bryan had time for an adequate defense. As a result, the media was able to portray the creation position as total foolishness. In retrospect, those defending the evolution position were even more foolish as they confidently cited the fraudulent Piltdown man and the single tooth of Nebraska man (it turned out to be a pigs tooth) as proof that apes had turned into people. However, it is the media which determines public opinion, and the media had decided that creation was bigoted religion and evolution was scientific truth.
In the drama, Inherit the Wind, Christians are portrayed as narrow-minded religious bigots and Scopes is portrayed as an open-minded defender of truth and freedom. The drama itself is bigoted propaganda, yet it is so powerfully done that most people accept to some degree this distorted portrayal of creationists.
Although Inherit the Wind seems to be a drama about the freedom to think, it paints Christians as hypocrites in order to discredit the creation position. Not surprisingly, this type of evolution propaganda has not expounded free thinking but narrowed it. Scientific evidence for creation is not allowed in public school classrooms while fabrications such as Inherit the Wind, which portrays Christianity as narrow-minded bigotry, are welcomed.
The irony of Inherit the Wind is profound. The drama which is suppose to encourage free thinking is used to form public opinion in such a way as to exclude the possibility of allowing evidence for creation into schools – thus limiting “free thinking”.