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Evolution Revolution

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


1925: Man-like Ape
(Rise of Evolution) (Evolution Challenged)

Taungs "man-like ape" stirs fury. Raymond Dart announces that a prehistoric "man-like ape" has been found in a limestone quarry at Taungs, South Africa. The fossils are found along with the skull of an ancient baboon that has a mysterious opening. Dart speculates that the clever "man-like ape" killed the baboon and extracted its brain for food. The implication -- that humans evolved through fierce hunting -- horrifies anti-evolutionists. One critic writes to Dart: "You ... have become one of the Devil's best arguments in sending souls to grope in the darkness." In later decades, Raymond Dart's analysis will be questioned by paleontologists who see the fossils as evidence that early human ancestors were scavengers rather than hunters. Neither interpretation appeals to anti-evolutionists.

spring 1925: Tennessee Law
(Battle in the Schools)

Tennessee law bans teaching human evolution. By an overwhelming majority, the Tennessee legislature passes a bill that makes it a misdemeanor for public school teachers "to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man had descended from a lower order of animal." Backers of the bill argue that taxpayers have a right to control their children's education, and that most taxpayers oppose teaching human evolution. Governor Austin Peay, a self-described "old-fashioned Baptist," signs the bill into law. The law draws comment from around the nation. The American Civil Liberties Union puts out an ad calling for volunteers to challenge it. In Dayton, Tenn., a group of community leaders take notice of the ACLU's ad for volunteers to challenge the law. They recruit the support of science teacher John Scopes.

summer 1925: Scopes Trial
(Battle in the Schools)

Scopes trial puts controversy on center stage. This legendary test case over the teaching of human evolution makes headlines around the world. William Jennings Bryan, who leads the prosecution against John Scopes, sees it as a battle to uphold Christianity and the right of majority rule. Lead defense attorney Clarence Darrow, a self-proclaimed agnostic, views it as a battle against social conservatism more than a fight for Darwinism. Despite the myth later promoted, the trial is not a decisive win for Darrow. Both sides claim victory in the court of public opinion, and the trial spurs on the anti-evolutionist crusade.

c. 1925: Textbooks Censored
(Battle in the Schools)

Biology textbooks censored. Fearing loss of sales in the South and West, publishers remove references to evolution from biology textbooks, including George William Hunter's A Civic Biology, the book at issue in the Scopes trial. The teaching of evolution is curbed around the country.

1925-1930: Anti-Evolution Bills Spread
(Evolution Challenged) (Battle in the Schools)

Anti-evolution bills spread. In the years following the Scopes trial, some 35 new anti-evolution bills are proposed in 20 states, and three states pass laws. By the 1930s, many areas in which fundamentalists hold political sway have passed some form of restriction on teaching evolution. Some involve administrative rulings; others are school board resolutions. Almost all the South and some of the West are affected. Once in place, no Southern anti-evolution legislation is repealed for 40 years.

-> Go to 1930


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

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