The Scopes Trial and America’s Multiple Modernities

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
7:00–8:30 p.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Michael Lienesch

Professor of Political Science
University Professor of Distinguished Teaching
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

In July of 1925, the Tennessee jury in the Scopes “monkey” trial delivered its verdict, finding high school science teacher John T. Scopes guilty of teaching evolution. In a larger sense, however, the jury is still out. While we await the latest verdict, we can explore some questions that place the famous trial in the context of its times and ours.

Why did so many Americans object to a theory so strongly supported by the scientific community? Why did so many see evolution as a threat to Bible-based religion? How were issues of race, class, gender, and region involved in the debates over the teaching of evolution? How and why do those debates continue to reverberate? What is their status today? And what do they tell us about the complex character of modern America?

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Assigned Readings

  1. William Jennings Bryan, “Darwinism in the Public Schools” (excerpt)
  2. T. T. Martin, Hell and the High Schools (excerpt)
  3. Edwin Grant Conklin, “Science and the Faith of the Modern” (excerpt)
  4. Selected Readings: The Scopes Trial and Race, Gender, Class, and Region” (excerpt)
  5. Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, trial transcript, July 20, 1925 (excerpt)
  6. Michael Lienesch, “The Persistent Presence of Creationism

Seminar Recording