Misremembering History: The Scopes Monkey Trial

 

Rather than the often repeated adage that the victors write the history of an event, the story of anything is actually determined by the unswerving adoption of one version of it, and the telling of that version by a determined cadre of writers. In time, the version with the most persistent adherents becomes the “truth.” – David & Jeanne Heidler in Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010)

I still recall my entire family getting in the car for the drive to Hartford, Connecticut. It was the late 1950s, and my father was taking us to pick up a monkey. My father had a small role as an Italian organ-grinder in a play put on by a local community theater group. The director wanted to use a prop monkey, but dad insisted on the real thing. We housed that monkey for the next week; I remember it as nasty and mean-tempered, but the audience loved it and my father in his bit part (he always had a knack for showmanship). The play was Inherit The Wind. Last week was the 90th anniversary of the start of the trial (July 10, 1925) on which the play was based, an event that became popularly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Seeing the play and, later, the movie, I accepted its narrative of the forces of enlightenment, reason, heroism, and tolerance (represented by Spencer Tracey in the movie, playing a character based on Clarence Darrow) against the forces of narrow-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, repression, and unthinking old-fashioned religion (represented by Frederic March playing a character based on William Jennings Bryan); a morality play of liberal versus conservative. The play is still staged frequently by regional theaters (here’s a recent Wisconsin production), has gone through several Broadway revivals, most recently in 2007, with Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy. There was even a London production, in 2009, with Kevin Spacey. In most cases, it is widely accepted by audiences as historically accurate.

It was only much later, prompted by reading Edward Larson’s Summer For The Gods and doing related research that I appreciated how much more complex and interesting the real story was. American history is much more fascinating and instructive when you don’t try to neatly shoehorn it into boxes labeled “liberal,” “conservative,” “progressive,” and “reactionary” as Inherit The Wind did, aided by influential mid-2oth century historians and literary critics such as Richard Hofstadter. Throughout our history, you’ll see prominent people with a constellation of political views that are unrecognizable in today’s categories. As I learned, the main character in this drama, William Jennings Bryan, would not neatly fit into any political classification in modern-day America.

The Background

Dayton in 1925

The early 20th century saw an explosion in the growth of public high schools. In 1890, there were fewer than 200,000 public high-school students nationwide; by 1920, there were more than two million. In Tennessee, where the trial took place there were fewer than 10,000 in 1910, but more than 50,000 by 1920. What were they to be taught?

At the same time, battles were heating up between Darwinists and some religious denominations over the teaching of evolution. State legislative fights over its inclusion in educational curriculum became common.

Legislative efforts barring the teaching of evolutionary theory were successful in a small number of states, including Tennessee, which passed its law in early 1925. It was part of a larger package of laws in a massive education reform bill that laid the foundation for state-supported public schools. It was signed into law by progressive Governor Peay. Violation of the ban on teaching evolution carried a $100 fine, but no jail. Bryan supported the bill, but unsuccessfully lobbied against having any fine attached to violating the evolution provision, though no one at the time expected any prosecutions under the statute.

John Scopes

Looking for a test case, the American Civil Liberties Union placed advertisements in Tennessee papers offering to defend anyone prosecuted under the Act. Leading citizens of the town of Dayton decided to take them up on it. While some were interested in challenging the law, many others just saw it as a good opportunity to create publicity and generate business for the town. Rather than showcasing a contentious, divided populace, as portrayed in the play, the actual trial took place in a festive atmosphere, according to reporters like H.L. Mencken. The key players in Dayton recruited John Scopes, a young, part-time schoolteacher, to be the defendant and agreed to pay any penalty imposed on him.

Dayton was a small town in East Tennessee, and part of the only Republican enclave in the state. Bryan won every southern state in each of his three presidential runs, but never carried Rhea County where Dayton was located. The town was also heavily Methodist in a state dominated by Baptists (the Baptist Convention, meeting in Memphis just before the trial, refused to add an anti-evolution plank to the denomination’s statement of faith).

Once the ACLU came into the case, Bryan — the country’s leading opponent of the teaching of evolution — agreed to become part of the prosecution’s team. And through some very complicated machinations, Clarence Darrow, the most famous criminal defense lawyer in America, joined the defense team. When this happened, the trial became the biggest story in the country, and was also followed heavily in Europe. A deluge of reporters descended on Dayton.

Why Evolution? Why Bryan?

In 1925, 65-year-old William Jennings Bryan was well known to every American, having run unsuccessfully three times as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate (1896, 1900, and 1908). A remarkable orator — his “Cross of Gold” speech at the 1896 convention secured him the nomination — he is considered to have been the first populist to run for President. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson appointed him Secretary of State, a post he resigned in 1915 when the pacifist Bryan became convinced Wilson was maneuvering the country into entering the First World War.

Bryan campaigned successfully in support of four constitutional amendments: direct election of senators, the Federal income tax, women’s suffrage, and Prohibition. He certainly doesn’t sound like a man who fits the image created by Inherit The Wind. So why, in the 1920s, did he undertake leadership of the crusade against the teaching of Darwinism, and why did he think it was consistent with his other views?

The first, and probably subsidiary reason, was Bryan’s belief in “popular sovereignty.” Bryan had always campaigned against big business and the banks and on behalf of the common people. When the Supreme Court overturned some of the early progressive labor laws, Bryan supported (unsuccessful) legislation to limit judicial review, and backed the Progressive use of popular referendums. He believed the people were entitled to what they wanted, and he saw the evolution issue in the same way. According to Bryan:

It is no infringement on their freedom of conscience or freedom of speech to say that, while as individuals they are at liberty to think as they please and say what they like, they have no right to demand pay for teaching that which parents and the taxpayer do not want taught.

The deeper reason was Bryan’s concerns about the implications of Darwinism. Bryan was a committed Christian, pacifist, and believer in the dignity of every human being. He rejected evolutionary theory as a matter of religious faith, but also believed Darwinism and its doctrine of “survival of the fittest” threatened the dignity and perhaps even the very existence of the weakest of the human flock. Bryan saw a direct connection between the excesses of capitalism and militarism — which he had denounced throughout his career — and Darwinism, which, as early as 1904, he had called “the merciless law by which the strong crowd out and kill off the weak.”

The concerns Bryan raised in 1904 were reinforced by recent events. The slaughter of WWI appalled Bryan. He saw German militarism as Darwinian selection in action; this was a common view at the time, as reflected in the words of Vernon Kellogg in his book Headquarters Nights: “Natural selection based on violent and fatal competitive struggle is the gospel of the German intellectuals.”

Bryan saw the modernist wing of the Progressives, led by Woodrow Wilson, as willing to go down this same road. It is striking to see how much Darwinism was “in the air” of politics at the time. Woodrow Wilson’s key 1912 campaign speech, “What is Progress?” espoused a Darwinian approach to American government:

Now, it came to me, as this interesting man talked, that the Constitution of the United States had been made under the dominion of the Newtonian Theory. You have only to read the papers of the The Federalist to see that fact written on every page. They speak of the “checks and balances” of the Constitution, and use to express their idea the simile of the organization of the universe, and particularly of the solar system — how by the attraction of gravitation the various parts are held in their orbits; and then they proceed to represent Congress, the Judiciary, and the President as a sort of imitation of the solar system. …

Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop. All that progressives ask or desire is permission — in an era when “development” “evolution,” is the scientific word — to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine. [emphasis added]

The new science of eugenics troubled Bryan, as did WWI. The high school textbook used by John Scopes was A Civic Biology by George William Hunter, in which he defined eugenics as “the science of improving the human race by better heredity.” Hunter wrote,

If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading … Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibility of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race.

The prior edition of Hunter’s textbook had contained language specifically citing biological deficiencies of African races.

Eugenics had many scientist adherents in the United States and England who believed that the human race could be made better via selective breeding to create a better and more progressive world. One of those scientists, A.E. Wiggam, expressed the connection between the teaching of evolution and eugenics:

“until we can convince the common man of the fact of evolution … I fear we cannot convince him of the profound ethical and religious significance of the thing we call eugenics.”

Holmes

During the 1920s and 30s, the eugenics movement gained momentum. By 1935, more than 30 states had laws mandating sexual segregation and sterilization of persons regarded as eugenically unfit. The most notorious expression of support for eugenics came in 1927 from the leading Social Darwinist on the Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who in his opinion for the Court upholding Oklahoma’s sterilization law wrote, “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” The only dissenting vote was cast by Pierce Butler, the lone Catholic on the Court.

Within a few years, WWII and the revulsion against Nazi law and experimentation would put an end to the eugenics movement (though a revival of eugenics under another name is conceivable with modern advances in biology and genetics). The heyday of both the eugenics movement and the rise of anti-evolutionary forces led to the Dayton trial in 1925.  Bryan expressed his pithy view of the whole matter when commenting on the latest discovery of purported early human remains: “Men who would not cross the street to save a soul have traveled across the world in search of skeletons.”

The Trial and its Aftermath

The ACLU and Darrow differed on trial strategy. The ACLU wanted to approach it as a free speech case, but that was not Darrow’s interest. As a militant atheist who did not believe in free will, he wanted to use the trial as an opportunity to directly assault Christianity and its beliefs about the creation of the universe and the human race. This discomfited many ACLU supporters, but — through a complicated series
of maneuvers — Darrow seized control of the defense strategy and was cleverly able to lure Bryan to the stand, where he cross-examined him viciously on Biblical inconsistencies. (Darrow might have been a terrible person, but you’d want him defending you if you were on trial). This prompted a Congregational Church official who supported the legal challenge to send a note to the ACLU: “May I express the earnest opinion that not five percent of the ministers in this liberal denomination have any sympathy with Mr Darrow’s conduct of the case.”

Edwin Mims of Vanderbilt University, another supporter of the ACLU, wrote, “When Clarence Darrow is put forth as the champion of the forces of enlightenment to fight the battle for scientific knowledge, one feels almost persuaded to become a Fundamentalist.”

The jury quickly returned a verdict finding Scopes guilty. Bryan offered to pay the $100 fine, and the local school board offered to renew his contract for another year, but Scopes decided to go to graduate school, attending the University of Chicago and becoming a petroleum engineer.

Five days after the end of the trial, William Jennings Bryan passed away while taking his afternoon nap.

Published in Culture, Education, History, Science & Technology
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  1. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Thanks, Mark, for a very enlightening post.

    • #1
  2. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Excellent. Thanks.

    • #2
  3. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    What strikes me about this is the fact that there were many stripes of progressive at the turn of the century, none of them particularly nice.

    Bryan has a great deal of mischief to be laid at his feet what with his advocacy of the various progressive Amendments.

    It’s also interesting to note that we have a sort of soft eugenics now – bans on incestuous marriage are a direct attempt to prevent dilution of the gene pool being one example. The Flynn effect also provides evidence that we may have been practicing a sort of eugenics without meaning to do so.

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Thanks. There is a lot of information there that I had not known about.

    It was maybe 2-3 years before he died that I asked my grandfather who he voted for in his first presidential election.  I about fell off my chair when he said, firmly, “William Jennings Bryan.”  It didn’t fit what I thought I knew about my grandfather’s politics, and I was too stupid to ask more about it.   I’ve since figured out, matching Grandpa’s age and the years when Bryan ran, that that would have been the 1908 election.

    Grandpa died in 1980, and I’ve learned since then that there were a lot of forces and trends that are continuous with those of the present, but which sorted themselves out very into partisan sides very differently back in the eras of agrarian protest and of the early progressive movement.

    Shouldn’t this article include a list of sources, or a bibliography for further reading?

    • #4
  5. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    Excellent post, Mark. Very professional layout and telling of the story.

    Because I read Godless by Ann Coulter, most of this doesn’t surprise me. Have you read Ann’s book? Great read and she digs into the actual case vs the play, too.

    • #5
  6. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Larry Koler:Excellent post, Mark. Very professional layout and telling of the story.

    Because I read Godless by Ann Coulter, most of this doesn’t surprise me. Have you read Ann’s book? Great read and she digs into the actual case vs the play, too.

    Hadn’t read the Coulter book.  The Edward Larson book was my starting point.  Most of the rest of the research was going back to sources cited by Larson as well as internet searches to try to find original documents, such as the Wilson speech.

    • #6
  7. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Sorry Billy, most of what you have stated is a positive picture of Bryan who was an uneducated and bigoted fundamentalist. He also believed that every word he preached came to him from G-d. He believed every word in the bible came straight out of G-d’s mouth, and demanded it be taught in all schools that received any government money and science be kept out. Darrow was not an atheist, he was agnostic. Darrow wasn’t fighting to keep evolution in the schools, but to keep religion out, as well as freedom of speech. I am right now reading “Clarence Darrow For The Defense” a biography by Irving Stone. I am also in the middle of the Scope trial and haven’t finished it yet, but some of Darrow’s speeches are astounding. He did not argue against Christianity. He argued against Bryan’s fundamentalist version of Christianity in the schools, and for the 1st amendment, freedom of speech and worship.

    Stone’s sources were Clarence Darrow’s private correspondence, family documents, manuscripts, legal briefs, notebooks and unpublished memoirs. And from Mrs. Darrow; the back files of court reports, congressional reports, etc. The entire collection of Clarence Darrow’s private papers, as well as all correspondence with the author, is in the possession of Leo M. Cherne, of the Research Institute of America, 292 Madison Avenue, NYC, where it may be seen or studied by anyone who is interested. Feb. 27, 1941.

    • #7
  8. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    Kay of MT: Sorry Billy, most of what you have stated is a positive picture of Bryan

    Are you reading the same post that I am? He says he’s a progressive, a pacifist, he inveighed against capitalism, and was behind some pretty terrible constitutional amendments (Say what you will about suffrage, the other three are stinkers.)

    • #8
  9. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    Majestyk: It’s also interesting to note that we have a sort of soft eugenics now – bans on incestuous marriage are a direct attempt to prevent dilution of the gene pool being one example. The Flynn effect also provides evidence that we may have been practicing a sort of eugenics without meaning to do so.

    There’s also a long tradition of revulsion against close incestuous relationships. The same passage in Leviticus that famously condemns homosexual acts also bans incest. It doesn’t condemn relationships between first cousins though.

    Not that that sort of tradition—

    You know what? Nevermind.

    • #9
  10. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Thanks, Mark,  this is a nice post.

    I don’t know about the best sources of further information, other than Larsen’s book, but there are articles at  Smithsonian Magazine  with a good collection of photos.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/evolution-on-trial-78744219/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/archives/date-posted/2011/07/08/

    Wikipedia seems to have an adequate entry for the Scopes Trial; just remember, it is Wikipedia.

    Yes, the popular understanding comes from  Inherit the Wind.  The play in turn was highly influenced by the reporting on the trial by H.L. Mencken, an ardent anti-Christian ‘sophisticate’ who delighted in portraying Dayton, Tennessee as some awful hellhole, using some scenes that may have come from anti-Southern vaudeville sketches, since they were never verified or corroborated.   You can get a sample of his writing here:

    http://bactra.org/Mencken/the-hills-of-zion/

    The Wikipedia entry for  Inherit the Wind  is lacking.   Corrective info can be found at this anti-Evolution site, so use care:

    https://answersingenesis.org/scopes-trial/inherit-the-wind/

    • #10
  11. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Kay of MT:. ..  most of what you have stated is a positive picture of Bryan who was an uneducated and bigoted fundamentalist. . . . Darrow was not an atheist, he was agnostic.

    Kay, appreciate the comment (which I had to truncate for this response).  Let me explain a bit more about why I wrote this.  I’d read the 1941 Stone biography when a teenager and it reinforced the view I had from seeing Inherit The Wind.  It was reading the Larson book that caused me to go back and reexamine the story, both in the late 90s and then again in 2012 when I wrote the piece on which today’s post is based.  I’m comfortable with my characterization of Darrow, including of him being one of the great criminal defense lawyers in American history and also an atheist.

    Regarding Bryan, he was a fundamentalist but there was a whole other part of the story that had been obscured in the popular view and that is why I wrote the piece.  While I certainly don’t agree with many of his political views I’ve tried to factually portray them as best I can.  People are complex; we are not all one thing all the time.

    I’m not a Christian and support the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools but feel history has been done a disservice through the method decried by the Heidlers in the quote at the start.

    • #11
  12. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Mark: I’m not a Christian and support the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools but feel history has been done a disservice through the method decried by the Heidlers in the quote at the start.

    I’m not a Christian either, and not at all sure I support evolution anymore, since the recent studies by biologist. They cannot find that “G-d spark” which started it all. The Hadron Collider didn’t find it in their first run, and the second run is just since April is up and running as it shut down in Sept 2 years ago.

    I had never read Clarence Darrow before, and am stunned at how little is changed except who is responsible. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s the Republicans were being blamed for all the poverty and unjust laws, etc. Today it’s the Democrats being blamed. But the situation on the ground is the same. Very little change for the common people. Still the same old, same old, people with power, irregardless of their stripes out for themselves, to make money which gives them power. Madam Clinton one of the worse.

    • #12
  13. user_1050 Member
    user_1050
    @MattBartle

    A few years ago I read Scopes’ memoir  and found it quite interesting:

    http://www.amazon.com/Center-Storm-Memoirs-John-Scopes/dp/0030603404

    Most of it is about his adventures after the trial.

    • #13
  14. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OmegaPaladin

    I am familiar with this story.  There was never actually any questioning of evolutionary experts, since Darrow did not present a defense.   Bryan was actually quite friendly with Scopes, and recognized him from a political rally years back.  Bryan had hoped to nail down Darrow using some of the arguments from his defense of nihilist killers a few years back.

    Evolution is a vastly overrated theory that is likely never going to have a solid explanation for the origin of life.  The first form of life would have to be vastly more complex and information-rich than any random assortment of molecules.  Quite frankly, it is kept in place mostly as a fortress wall to keep out hordes of rampaging fundamentalists, and because it makes for easier taxonomy.

    • #14
  15. user_549556 Member
    user_549556
    @VinceGuerra

    Great post. Thank you.

    • #15
  16. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Very informative.

    • #16
  17. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    OmegaPaladin:Evolution is a vastly overrated theory that is likely never going to have a solid explanation for the origin of life. The first form of life would have to be vastly more complex and information-rich than any random assortment of molecules. Quite frankly, it is kept in place mostly as a fortress wall to keep out hordes of rampaging fundamentalists, and because it makes for easier taxonomy.

    Frankly, it is kept in place because it has a rich history of being able to explain the various species that we find in the fossil record.  The internal mechanism by which it works is obviously open for debate – but the fact that it happened is not.

    The “rampaging fundamentalists” you’re talking about may as well have Jesus riding around on a Velociraptor as their replacement theory.

    • #17
  18. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Weeping

    Interesting read. Thanks for putting in the time to share it.

    • #18
  19. twvolck Inactive
    twvolck
    @twvolck

    My recollection — from reading, as I was not around for the Scopes trial — is that there was no jury verdict because, after cross examining Bryan, Darrow pleaded his client guilty.  Perhaps ungenerously, some writers have claimed that he did that to avoid being cross examined himself by Bryan.  Does anyone know whether this is so?

    • #19
  20. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OmegaPaladin

    Majestyk:

    OmegaPaladin:Evolution is a vastly overrated theory that is likely never going to have a solid explanation for the origin of life. The first form of life would have to be vastly more complex and information-rich than any random assortment of molecules. Quite frankly, it is kept in place mostly as a fortress wall to keep out hordes of rampaging fundamentalists, and because it makes for easier taxonomy.

    Frankly, it is kept in place because it has a rich history of being able to explain the various species that we find in the fossil record. The internal mechanism by which it works is obviously open for debate – but the fact that it happened is not.

    The “rampaging fundamentalists” you’re talking about may as well have Jesus riding around on a Velociraptor as their replacement theory.

    Jesus riding a velociraptor is an awesome mental image.   If the young earth crowd actually advocated that, I’d have to sign up regardless of radioactive half-lives.

    I am curious about the explanation of fossil species.  What exactly do you mean?  Are you talking about transitional forms like Archaeopteryx?

    I tend to stick to debating the origin of life, since the life I know most about tends to be rather small for fossils.  Also, because it is an incredibly complex problem.  A self-replicating ribozyme is much, much less complicated than any of the bacteria on our keyboards, but even this simplest item contains informational specification.

    • #20
  21. Old Buckeye Inactive
    Old Buckeye
    @OldBuckeye

    I’m about 30 miles from Dayton, and the town still milks the trial for entertainment value. I just saw that the  Scopes Trial Play & Festival is returning to the Rhea County Courthouse the next two weekends.

    • #21
  22. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Majestyk: Frankly, it is kept in place because it has a rich history of being able to explain the various species that we find in the fossil record. The internal mechanism by which it works is obviously open for debate – but the fact that it happened is not.

    Um, agree with your first sentence, but exactly what about the internal mechanism do you find to be open for debate, other than the fact that anything is open for debate?   Personally I find the mechanism to be the one thing that IS settled as well as anything in science can be.

    • #22
  23. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    The Reticulator:

    Majestyk: Frankly, it is kept in place because it has a rich history of being able to explain the various species that we find in the fossil record. The internal mechanism by which it works is obviously open for debate – but the fact that it happened is not.

    Um, agree with your first sentence, but exactly what about the internal mechanism do you find to be open for debate, other than the fact that anything is open for debate? Personally I find the mechanism to be the one thing that IS settled as well as anything in science can be.

    I find compelling the idea that it’s difficult to explain through speciation (such as exists throughout the vast majority of the fossil record) events like the Cambrian Explosion, where you see a lot of different body plans erupt in a very brief period of time (geologically speaking.)

    The fact that evolution occurs is beyond doubt.  How it occurs and the speed with which it occurs are interesting questions as well.

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Majestyk: I find compelling the idea that it’s difficult to explain through speciation (such as exists throughout the vast majority of the fossil record) events like the Cambrian Explosion, where you see a lot of different body plans erupt in a very brief period of time (geologically speaking.) The fact that evolution occurs is beyond doubt. How it occurs and the speed with which it occurs are interesting questions as well.

    Well, yes, the speed is an interesting question.  But do you know of mechanisms other than mutation (including recombination) and natural selection?

    • #24
  25. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    OmegaPaladin:

    Jesus riding a velociraptor is an awesome mental image. If the young earth crowd actually advocated that, I’d have to sign up regardless of radioactive half-lives.

    I am curious about the explanation of fossil species. What exactly do you mean? Are you talking about transitional forms like Archaeopteryx?

    I tend to stick to debating the origin of life, since the life I know most about tends to be rather small for fossils. Also, because it is an incredibly complex problem. A self-replicating ribozyme is much, much less complicated than any of the bacteria on our keyboards, but even this simplest item contains informational specification.

    Well, there is this…  Of course, as you and everybody else knows, there were no carnivorous dinosaurs.  Really.  They come right up to the edge of saying that man lived beside dinosaurs, so yeah.  Young earth creationists. Jesus riding velociraptors.  I actually didn’t think such people existed – that they were sort of an urban legend.  Oh well.

    On the topic of transitional species, as a scientific endeavor paleontology had to actually make some testable predictions, so some people got together and funded an expedition to Ellesmere Island back in 2004, the goal of which was to find one such.  They did.

    The issue of the first replicator is a thorny one.  It being “Thorny” does not grant people all sorts of latitude to posit magic as an answer to the question, though.

    • #25
  26. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    The Reticulator:

    Majestyk: I find compelling the idea that it’s difficult to explain through speciation (such as exists throughout the vast majority of the fossil record) events like the Cambrian Explosion, where you see a lot of different body plans erupt in a very brief period of time (geologically speaking.) The fact that evolution occurs is beyond doubt. How it occurs and the speed with which it occurs are interesting questions as well.

    Well, yes, the speed is an interesting question. But do you know of mechanisms other than mutation (including recombination) and natural selection?

    I’m no biologist, so I have no clue whether other mechanisms have been proposed.  If you read anonymous’s posts on the topic, it does seem likely to me that the fact of radioisotope burn-rates (particularly of biologically absorbed atoms such as iodine) push evolution to a slower rate as time goes forward, so the time in which we would have seen the quickest divergence and speciation was in a window between when such radioisotopes were “too hot” (i.e., they caused too many destructive mutation) and some time later when their concentrations dropped off and consequently, so did the mutation rate.

    • #26
  27. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Majestyk: I’m no biologist, so I have no clue whether other mechanisms have been proposed. If you read anonymous’s posts on the topic, it does seem likely to me that the fact of radioisotope burn-rates (particularly of biologically absorbed atoms such as iodine) push evolution to a slower rate as time goes forward, so the time in which we would have seen the quickest divergence and speciation was in a window between when such radioisotopes were “too hot” (i.e., they caused too many destructive mutation) and some time later when their concentrations dropped off and consequently, so did the mutation rate.

    I didn’t know anonymous had posted on this topic.

    • #27
  28. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    The Reticulator:

    I didn’t know anonymous had posted on this topic.

    Here you go.

    Also, I mis-spoke earlier – I meant to say Potassium not Iodine earlier.

    • #28
  29. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    twvolck (View Comment):
    My recollection — from reading, as I was not around for the Scopes trial — is that there was no jury verdict because, after cross examining Bryan, Darrow pleaded his client guilty. Perhaps ungenerously, some writers have claimed that he did that to avoid being cross examined himself by Bryan. Does anyone know whether this is so?

    That was indeed correct.

    Darrow got Bryan to agree to testify in exchange for Bryan getting to examine Darrow as an expert on evolution.  Bryan actually planned to use Darrow’s previous high profile defense work against him, to make the case that evolution was a dangerous idea.

    Furthermore, several of the expert witnesses on evolution had some glaring weak spots in their work, but in fact no evidence on the theory of evolution was presented.

     

     

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