Darwin and Evolution

Season 1 Episode 5

The Monkey Trial

Aired Unknown Mar 19, 2009 on ESPN
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Episode Summary

The Monkey Trial
It's the spring of 1925, and the Tennessee legislature passes a law prohibiting educators from teaching anything other than Creationism in schools. The fledgling American Civil Liberties Union runs ads in local newspapers, hoping to find someone willing to challenge the law. Its advertisements draw the curiousity of a Dayton, Tennessee businessman, who is more interested in the economic boom that a high-profile trial could bring to local merchants rather than the fight for justice. ACLU representatives settle on 25-year-old John Thomas Scopes as their legal guinea pig. Scopes is a math and gym teacher at Rhea Country High School who occasionally fills in as a substitute biology teacher. Not a staunch defender of Darwinism, he only briefly teaches it because it is part of the text he uses for class. Scopes is arrested for violating Tennessee law and the trial is set for July. The ACLU thinks the affair will be a small procedural matter but soon discovers that the trial will become a platform about the role of God in society and education. The great orator, three-time presidential candidate and self-proclaimed Bible expert William Jennings Bryan volunteers to argue the prosecution's case. To Scopes' defense comes Clarence Darrow, the nation's most celebrated lawyer and an avowed agnostic. What was once a simple case evolves into a trial of the century. An intense heatwave bears down on Dayton, Tennessee in the summer of 1925. Making matters worse is the carnival atmosphere surrounding the trial. Reporters from around the world descend on this tiny town in the buckle of the Bible belt to watch these two great figures argue the case. Chicago radio station WGN broadcasts the trial live, the first time that has ever been done. Newsreel footage is rushed to SRO crowds at movie theaters.moreless

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