The Scopes trial and its heritage

The influence of fundamental Christian ideology on public life in the US

Hausarbeit, 2012

8 Seiten, Note: 15 Punkte


Table of Contents

1. One Nation under God

2. Scopes Trial
2.1 Creationism / Intelligent Design
2.2 Evolution / Scientists
2.3 Initial Situation and Background
2.4 The Verdict

3. Influence on public life
3.1 Education
3.2 Tea Party

4. Indivisible with liberty and justice for all

5. Literaturverzeichnis

1. One Nation under God

„I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God , indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.“

This pledge commonly marks the beginning of the school day of every American student.

The phrase “under god” shows the influence of the Christian church on public life in the United States. A religious pledge is imposed upon the American students by the state. This is the classical materialization of the conflicting priorities of state and church. The first time this conflict broke fresh ground in public however did not concern the pledge but rather the traditional clash of the theories of evolution and creationism. It was a conflict between those who endorse the creation myth, propped by the church and those who support the biological evolution supported by science and studies. This conflict reached the public life through the courtrooms of the famous Scopes Trial about 90 years ago. Although the Scopes trial took place in the 1920’s the conflict has not lost any momentum and is as current as ever. Especially the two-party-system in the USA and the establishment of the tea party movement have contributed to the gaining gap between the conflicting perspectives, which has conceivably the potential to destroy the idea of the United States as a melting pot of all philosophies and religions.

2. Scopes Trial

The Scopes Trial marked the first outbreak of the creation-evolution controversy in public. It was the first noticeable division between two parties who support the evolution theory or the creation story.
It is also fission between the traditional south and the contemporary north. The conflict between north and south reflected on to the churches where a collision was unstoppable among theological liberals and a rising movement of fundamentalist protestants.[1]

2.1. Creationism / Intelligent Design

Before Darwin came up with his evolution theory there was just the belief in creation story. No one scrutinized the truth of the bible and even if people did not believe it they never said anything because they were too scared to be tortured. The discussion started when Historians made appraisals how old the earth could be. Some geologists started theories, which advertised that the earth has to be older than it is said in the bible. It started a big discussion, which is still going on, hundred years later.[2]

2.2. Evolution / Scientists

The evolution movement was a result of Darwin’s publication of On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. It was a: ,,Radical revision in the status and content of Christianity.”[3]

Darwin was the first who said that creatures are not a: ,,Fixed platonic ideal, but rather a shifting, fluctuating population of closely related organisms.[4]

It was still an unsolved conflict because accepting the evolution did not mean accepting Darwin’s theory.

2.3. Initial Situation and Background

The clash of the theories formed in February 1925 when John Washington Butler enforced the Butler Act, which was an anti-evolution law in Tennessee. The Butler Act proclaimed it illegal to teach evolutional theories in public schools or theories, which contradicted the creational approach. It was the only act that had criminal sanctions included.

The ’’American Civil Liberties Union’’ (ACLU) offered to pay the legal costs for everyone who was accused and persecuted because of that act. In Dayton, Tennessee, they won John Thomas Scopes as a contender to provoke a trial

On the 24th of April, John Scopes taught his biology class the evolution theory. He was arrested on May 7th.

2.4. The Verdict

The Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes was a huge spectacle covered by famous journalists and more than nine hundred people attended the trial. Scopes was found guilty and fined with 100$ but the provoked trial did not miss the intended objective: It drew a lot of attention and created national publicity about the creation-evolution controversy The verdict itself was eventually overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court and never brought back to trial. Over time all states allowed evolution to be taught in public school.

The Scopes Trial did not stop the debate over teaching the evolution in high school but it was a repercussion for the scientists because of all fifteen states which had anti-evolution laws only two (Arkansas, Mississippi) enacted laws that allowed to teach evolutional theory in school.

3. Influence on public life

The influence of the conflict on public life has been tremendous. The conflict influences politics, education and the daily life.


[1] Moran, Jeffrey P. (2003), The Scopes Trial: A Brief History With Documents, Bedford.

[2] Robinson, B.A. (2011-04-05), A brief history of the conflict between evolution and creation science, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.

[3] Moran, Jeffrey P. (2003), The Scopes Trial: A Brief History With Documents, Bedford.

[4] Darwin, Charles (1859), On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle of Life

Harvard University Press, 1964.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 8 Seiten


The Scopes trial and its heritage
The influence of fundamental Christian ideology on public life in the US
15 Punkte
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
453 KB
Eine überzeugende Arbeit auf sehr hohem Niveau.
scopes trial, fundamental christian ideology, public life, hausarbeit, heritage
Arbeit zitieren
Moritz Dittmar (Autor:in), 2012, The Scopes trial and its heritage, München, GRIN Verlag,


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