Salvation and Evolution: The Scopes Trial, 1925 and Beyond

Course Description

This one-credit course explores the history of the famous Scopes “Monkey” Trial as it occurred in Dayton, Tennessee, in the summer of 1925. The trial took place after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) convinced Dayton public school teacher, John Scopes, to intentionally violate the Tennessee anti-evolution law in order to provoke a legal confrontation.

When Tennessee v. Scopes came to trial, the ACLU secured the services of nationally-known attorney and public agnostic, Clarence Darrow, to defend the teacher.

Supporters of the law enlisted William Jennings Bryan, populist Democratic presidential candidate, conservative Presbyterian, and master orator, as part of the state’s legal team. The trial highlighted debates over the nature of science and religion, public education, fundamentalism and liberalism, and populist politics in early 20th century America.

Ninety years later, Tennessee v. Scopes remains a much mythologized case study in the early stages of controversies that continue to rage over Darwinism, Creationism, Secularism, Evangelicalism, Politics, and Protestant privilege in 21st century America. This course explores those issues with particular concern for the science/religion debates then and now.

  • Course Categories: Church History, General Theology
  • Science Topics: History & Philosophy of Science, Life Sciences, Physics and Cosmos
  • Seminaries: Wake Forest University School of Divinity
  • Syllabus: Salvation and Evolution: The Scopes Trial, 1925 and Beyond
  • Tags:
    evolution, Scopes Trial, creationism, history of science, Darwinism, Church & Society

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In furtherance of the AAAS mission of advancing science in service to society, AAAS|DoSER’s role in the Science for Seminaries project is to support efforts to integrate science into seminary education. AAAS|DoSER does not advise on or endorse the theological content of the participating seminaries.