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Evolution Revolution

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1912: Piltdown Man
(Rise of Evolution) (Evolution Challenged)

Is Piltdown Man a "missing link"? Both critics and proponents of evolution eagerly await the discovery of a "missing link" between humans and other primates. The fossil skull called Piltdown Man seems to be this link. The New York Times hails the find of Piltdown Man with the headline "Darwin Theory is Proved True." The find at first bolsters the argument for human evolution -- in the 1920s, a model of the skull is even brought to the Scopes trial by the defense -- but in the 1950s the fossil is revealed as a fake.

c. 1913: Flood Geology
(Evolution Challenged)

Flood geology has few proponents. Many, if not most, conservative Christians of the day accept that Earth may be millions of years old. Yet the seeds for the young-Earth creationist movement are sown. A Seventh-day Adventist named George McCready Price, in his book The Fundamentals of Geology, argues that virtually all fossil-bearing rock on Earth can be attributed to the one year of Noah's flood. This idea will not be widely accepted by fundamentalists for 50 years.

1914-1918: WWI
(Evolution Challenged)

WWI spurs anti-evolution crusade. Horror at The Great War plays a pivotal role in bringing together various strands of conservative Christians into a united fundamentalist movement and helps launch an anti-evolution crusade. Critics of evolution link German military aggression to the Darwinian idea of "survival of the fittest, " even though there is no clear relationship between the spread of evolutionary ideas and the war. One anti-evolutionist notes: "The Germans who poisoned the wells and springs of Northern France and Belgium ... were angels compared to the textbook writers and publishers who are poisoning the books used in our schools."

1915: Bible in School
(Battle in the Schools)

Bible reading required in public schools. Most public schools in the U.S. have long included Bible reading, but the new fundamentalist movement now brings a slew of legal statutes in the South to ensure the practice. In Tennessee, the legislature notes that 10 Bible verses must be read daily, yet it prohibits comment on the readings in order to avoid discrimination between Christian faiths.

1919: WCFA
(Evolution Challenged)

Conservative Christians flock to the WCFA. Some 6,000 conservative Christians attend the inaugural conference of the World's Christian Fundamentals Association, or WCFA. Around this time, the term "fundamentalist" is coined to describe Christians who are turning away from what they perceive as dangerous "modernist" trends. The Baptist reverend William Bell Riley, who helps found the WCFA, proclaims that "modernist" Christianity is "the new infidelity." While modernist Protestants seek to incorporate the findings of science with Christian doctrine, fundamentalists begin to rally against the science they see as the greatest threat to their faith: Darwinian evolution.

c. 1920: Bryan's Crusade
(Evolution Challenged)

William Jennings Bryan launches anti-evolution crusade. In The Menace of Darwinism and a series of other speeches, Bryan rallies against the teaching of evolution. Known as "the Great Commoner," Bryan is one of the most influential politicians in America. He has run for president three times on the Democratic ticket. Now, the last great campaign of his life is against evolution. "What shall it profit a man," he writes, "if he shall gain all the learning of the schools and lose his faith in God?" Historian Edward Larson later notes, "It took William Jennings Bryan to turn the fundamentalist movement into a popular crusade against teaching evolution."

1923: First Anti-Evolution Bills
(Battle in the Schools)

First anti-evolution bills passed. Spurred by William Jennings Bryan and a growing grassroots movement, six Southern and border states consider anti-evolution proposals. Two measures pass. In Oklahoma, a ban is placed on public school textbooks that teach the "Materialist Conception of History (i.e.) the Darwin Theory of Creation." In Florida, a non-binding resolution declares, "It is improper and subversive to the best interest of the people" for public schools "to teach as true Darwinism or any hypothesis that links man in blood relationship to any form of lower life." Many anti-evolutionists abhor the idea that humans are closely related to apes and other animals. There is "demoralization involved in accepting a brute ancestry," notes William Jennings Bryan.

-> Go to 1925


Intro | 1635 | 1700 | 1800 | 1825 | 1850 | 1860 | 1875 | 1900
1910 | 1925 | 1930 | 1950 | 1960 | 1970 | 1980 | 1990 | 2000

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