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Evolution Revolution

Intro | 1635 | 1700 | 1800 | 1825 | 1850 | 1860 | 1875 | 1900
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c. 1931: Scopes Myth
(Rise of Evolution) (Evolution Challenged)

Scopes trial becomes Scopes myth. A popular-yet-inaccurate history of the 1920s called Only Yesterday promotes a cartoonlike tale of the Scopes trial. The trial is reduced to a simplistic battle between scientific rationalism and blind, dogmatic faith. In addition, author Frederick Lewis Allen mistakenly judges that Scopes was a decisive defeat for fundamentalism. The true details of what took place in Dayton increasingly become obscure. Many Americans' view of "the monkey trial" is shaped by satire rather than sound history.

c. 1940: Neo-Darwinism
(Rise of Evolution)

Neo-Darwinism adds new facts to Darwin's theory. By the early 1940s, the science of genetics has offered profound new insights into evolution. Scientists now understand that random genetic mutations can cause changes in the traits of organisms, and that such inherited changes are then spread throughout a population by the mechanism Darwin called natural selection. "Neo-Darwinism" is an updated theory of evolution combining modern genetics with Darwin's 19th century theory. And a broad new model of the evolutionary process, termed the "evolutionary synthesis," becomes the foundation of biology. Most scientists maintain this model provides a sufficient explanation for data on the fossil record and the diversity of living things.

c. 1942: Evolution Shunned
(Battle in the Schools)

Evolution shunned in U.S. schools. With textbooks effectively censored by commercial concerns and many anti-evolutionist rulings and regulations in place, the teaching of evolution hits a low point. In high school science classes, particularly in the South, one of the greatest obstacles to teaching evolution may be self-censorship. Many teachers and administrators fear offending parents and community leaders. One concerned scientist later estimates that less than half of all high school science teachers in the early 1940s taught anything about evolution.

c. 1945: DDT
(Rise of Evolution)

DDT resistance is evidence of rapid evolution. In the first of many cases to come, a powerful insecticide spurs the evolution of insects resistant to its onslaught. DDT is widely used in the early 1940s, primarily to battle the mosquito that spreads malaria. Just as Darwinian theory would predict, those insects with traits that allow them to survive increase in numbers. Soon, DDT resistance in insects is widespread. The same type of phenomenon soon will be seen with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

1947-48: Supreme Court on Religion
(Battle in the Schools)

Supreme Court bans religion in public schools. For much of American history, the constitutional limit on the establishment of religion was interpreted to mean only that government should not give explicit preference to any denomination. But in 1947, the Supreme Court rules that neither a state nor the federal government "can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another." A subsequent case in 1948, McCullum v. Board of Education, bans religious instruction in public schools.

-> Go to 1950


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

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