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Two Sides of the Scopes' Trial of 1920 - Essay Example

3 pages
578 words
George Washington University
Type of paper: 
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In July 1925, John T. Scopes was brought on trial for teaching Darwinism which had been outlawed in many states including Tennessee. Christian teachings were to be upheld in schools and none on Darwinism and his evolution theory. The debate surrounding the Scopes trial is a representation of the different ways in which freedom was viewed in the 1920s. One side defined freedom based on religious beliefs while the other side defined it on the grounds of liberty brought about by civilization. The religious argument upheld the teachings of the Bible as the sole truth and allowed no provision for any other alternative opinion. Since the state government held this belief, it explains the introduction and implementation of the anti-evolution laws. On the other hand, the argument in support of Darwinism is of the opinion that liberty should be exercised since it is in this value that America was founded. With this regard, Darrow argues that men of science and learning who do not share in the Christian beliefs should be allowed to exercise their beliefs and, therefore, allowed to teach evolution which they support.

The Scope trial mirrors the trends in the American society during the 1920s. This was a period when the country was still going through transitions as regards democracy and liberalization. The state government held the rights to dictate what ought to be done or upheld and what doesnt depending on the beliefs of those in leadership, for instance, governors. The general public is forced to adhere to the set rules even if they do not share the same sentiments. Religion, precisely Christianity, forms the basis on which the education system is run. This is regardless of whether the people affiliate themselves with other religions. As the defense attorney for Scopes, Clarence Darrow, puts it, what was on trial was civilization and not Scopes as a person. He felt that the American foundation of liberty was being compromised by the prejudice of religion. He regarded this path as narrow, mean, intolerable, and brainless.

The decision of the jury of convicting Scopes guilty of the offense arraigned against him was based on the act of breaking the law and not necessarily the teachings of evolutions and the truths, or lack of, in them. This shows the strict adherence to the law and the consequences thereof for breaking it regardless of the reasons behind it. Additionally, the Supreme Court action of waiving Scopes fine of $100 on the grounds of technicality gave both sides a sense of victory in the case. This can be seen as an indication of inclusiveness of all parties such that both sides and their opinions can feel accommodated. The staunch arguments of Darrow and the attack on the anti-evolution law can be seen as an avenue to a more democratic America that is not bound by intellectual or religious control. The America of today is more accommodative and is not biased on individualistic opinions and beliefs, but rather on liberalization and democracy.

In conclusion, although the debate between fundamentalism and modernism continues today, the degree to which civilization and liberalization have developed is significant. The scope of governance is not confined to personal opinions but rather on inclusiveness and democracy. The Scopes trial is a mirror of the trends in the American society in the 1920s with each one standing for what they believe, yet the laws taking effect on whoever did break them irrespective of his or her belief or opinion.


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