Photos from the Scopes "Monkey" trial -- public domain images from the Smithsonian

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32 Responses to “Photos from the Scopes "Monkey" trial -- public domain images from the Smithsonian”

  1. iamcantaloupe says:

    Curious how the blurb mentions that scopes was tried and convicted of teaching evolution, but makes no mention that his punishment was a mere $100 fine, hardly the sentence which the prosecution was hoping for.

  2. jbang says:

    Over 80 years have passed and the same sad arguments are still being put forth. Progress, indeed. My faith in humanity, specifically the United State’s breed of, is so rapidly diminishing that i’m surprised there’s any left.

    As for this link and the photos – amazing! It’s great that this piece of history has been preserved. Let’s hope it still holds some lessons.

  3. Brainspore says:

    Every time I see something that makes me wonder if the ongoing battle for science and reason is being lost I think of how far we’ve come in the last 80 years or so. Yes, there are still plenty of powerful dunces who deny evolution- but at least now they are widely recognized for the simpletons they are.

    In 1925 people got in trouble because they were teaching evolution in public schools. Today they get in trouble if they teach creationism. Science marches forward, even if it stumbles now and then.

  4. Wigwam Jones says:

    @ #5

    The entire trial was a bit of a put-up job, as I understand it. They wanted to put the law on trial, Scopes agreed to be a defendant, and was friends with the original prosecution team (before Bryan was named Special Prosecutor). Scopes even encouraged his students to testify to the Grand Jury that he had taught evolution to them in violation of state law – it is not clear that he ever did, though the state-required textbook had evolution teaching in it.

    The jury was directed to convict Scopes, and the sentence was imposed. This was all according to the defense’s plans. It was the appeal that left the defense furious – the conviction was overturned, but on a technicality – the judge had chosen the sentence ($100) instead of the jury, as required by state law. They did not rule on the constitutionality of states forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools. The state itself later reformed their own laws regarding teaching creationism.

    So the whole thing was a bit of a let-down. Had it not been for the appearances of Darrow and Bryan, it would not have been so widely covered and would not have made much of a dent in history.

  5. Wigwam Jones says:

    @ #6

    Some saw – and perhaps still see – the evolution-vs-creationism issue as a state’s rights issue as opposed to the face-value argument of evolution over creationism. In other words, some think individual states have the right to teach children what they will in public schools, according to local standards and beliefs.

    Being Catholic, I am relieved to hear that the Pope says evolution is a-OK and completely fine to believe in, since I do believe in evolution anyway. The fact that the flu changes every year by mutation is proof enough for me.

    But of course, there is the small issue of what happened to create life, and before that, the universe (because hey, no universe, no life, and no life, no evolution). Some things science still has no answer for. But I remain hopeful.

  6. sammich says:

    I see clear evidence here that we are all, in fact, descended from Harold Lloyd.

  7. Wigwam Jones says:

    @ #80 JBANG

    Is there any public school in the US in which creationism is taught as fact, and evolution dismissed as a myth? Are there any states which have laws requiring the teaching of creationism in public schools? If not, then yes, I’d say that’s progress.

    There are people who wish to reverse this, some have filed lawsuits over the (creationism in a new box) concept of ‘Intelligent Design’. To the best of my knowledge, none have succeeded to date. I honestly don’t expect that they will.

    The reason that there are local school boards is because public education is supposed to support local standards. This is nearly unique in US governance, as school boards almost always (there are exceptions) exist outside of state, county, and local governance. This is a concept that the US has embraced for a very long time. As a people, we WANT the school system to reflect local standards.

    This normally works well, until we get situations like the Intelligent Design thing. Then people want to impose solutions from outside.

    While I agree that Intelligent Design is not science and should not be taught as science, I find myself in favor of local communities deciding what is and is not acceptable to themselves. I admit it is a conundrum.

  8. WarLord says:

    Know whats sad about this?

    This ought to be ancient history but with the sheer smug stupidity of the likes of Pahlin and the rightist war on science with intelligent design et al its just exactly like time stood still

    History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes…

  9. Takuan says:

    should local communities then decide other matters once they get control of school curriculum? Say, basic rights by skin color?

  10. Wigwam Jones says:

    @ #23 Takuan

    should local communities then decide other matters once they get control of school curriculum? Say, basic rights by skin color?

    I would prefer to remain on the topic of public education and the rights of local school boards to determine what is appropriate to be taught in local public schools.

  11. Takuan says:

    what concepts of basic human rights should be taught in local public schools? Those of their village? Or those of the laws of the nation?

  12. Wigwam Jones says:

    what concepts of basic human rights should be taught in local public schools? Those of their village? Or those of the laws of the nation?

    In my opinion, you just want to fight. I’d rather not, if you don’t mind.

    Community standards cannot supersede federal laws. However, federal laws try not to encroach on recognized community standards. They are two very different concepts, and are applied to different sets of circumstances. Occasionally, the two clash, and the results are generally sorted out in the court system.

  13. footage says:

    And here’s the Prelinger Library copy of the textbook that Mr. Scopes taught from:

    http://www.archive.org/details/civicbiologypres00huntrich

    Darwin appears toward the end.

    Rick

  14. Takuan says:

    in what instance could a local community win a court battle against the federal laws? In this instance the issue is freedom from religion, not education. Freedom from religion is a basic human right. No small community should be permitted to flout that.

  15. Wigwam Jones says:

    @ #11

    Rick, cool link. Thanks!

  16. Wigwam Jones says:

    in what instance could a local community win a court battle against the federal laws?

    Local laws on obscenity, for one.

    In this instance the issue is freedom from religion, not education. Freedom from religion is a basic human right. No small community should be permitted to flout that.

    I am not aware of any public school system in the US that does.

    There are ongoing battles in courts around the nation over issues such as The Pledge of Allegiance, moments of silence (and whether or not they are analogous to prayer), public school sporting event benedictions, and extra-curricular clubs and organizations that are religious in nature and make use of school property and equipment after-hours. I suspect such court challenges will continue for some time into the future.

  17. Anonymous says:

    New photos were just added to this photostream! Check it out again: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/sets/72157607580371997/

  18. Brainspore says:

    #8:

    Some saw – and perhaps still see – the evolution-vs-creationism issue as a state’s rights issue as opposed to the face-value argument of evolution over creationism.

    I understand that point of view to an extent. But I also think that many people (including a shocking number of present-day Tennesseans) saw the trial as a vindication of creationism over evolution.

    Personally I see the trial as one indication of the mainstream scientific (or anti-scientific) beliefs of the time. That a teacher could once have been prosecuted for discussing evolution in a public school science class seems shocking today no matter what the trial was “really” about.

  19. Brainspore says:

    One of my all-time favorite Daily Show clips (lest anyone doubt my assertion about present-day Tennesseans):

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=125212&title=Evolution-Schmevolution—A-Heritage-Tour

  20. Digital Artz says:

    Why do I feel all of this BS is returning soon
    to our courts??

  21. Takuan says:

    any school system that makes creationism a part of the curriculum is imposing religion by force on the students. If public schools are bound to separation of church and state there is no room whatsoever for creationism. This is entirely and utterly a matter of religion. Any public school giving even one moment of school time to creationism is in clear violation of this principle.

    There is good reason for this separation since every organized religion has at its core the kernel of no room for non-believers. “Convert or die” lurks just under the surface and must be firmly guarded against. It is easy to make the argument that creationism is a hate crime.

  22. E0157H7 says:

    Maybe if there’s a second one, it’ll bring back the boater hat. I like boater hats.

  23. Bookyloo says:

    ah yes. Present-day Tennesseeans.

    I work in a bookstore. One of the bigger book distribution houses in the US is based in TN. One of the books they distribute is H.L. Mencken’s account of the Scopes trial, “A Religious Orgy In Tennessee.”

    while back, we placed an order, which had a curious “error”: the Mencken book was missing. But, a book we didn’t order, by a megachurch pastor, was in the box instead.

    HMMMMM…

  24. Menlo Bob says:

    The Scopes Trial came about because a group of Dayton Tennessee residents answered an ad placed by the ACLU and solicited the help of a local teacher to participate. Both lawyers were paid by the ACLU. Interestingly, both Scopes and William Jennings Bryan came from Salem Illinois. At the conclusion of the trial Scopes was awarded a scholarship by Dayton residents to study geology at the University of Chicago. The University rejected Scopes based on their disagreement with his opinions. If the trial were held today both sides would disagree with the racist sentiments expressed in the textbook upheld by the ACLU at the time.

  25. Wigwam Jones says:

    @ Takuan

    any school system that makes creationism a part of the curriculum is imposing religion by force on the students.

    I will agree if you mean teaching creationism in place of evolution. But I’ve said that. Why are you trying to pick a fight over something no one in this thread has said?

    However, I did take a class called “World’s Great Religions” when I was in high school (1977 or so) and it was taught as a Sociology class. I enjoyed it and would continue to have no objection to creation myths being taught in that manner. It was taught along with all the other creation myths, and without emphasis or even a hint of prejudice towards one religion or another.

    If public schools are bound to separation of church and state there is no room whatsoever for creationism.

    Except taught as part of Sociology, American History, and so on, I agree. But then, I have been agreeing. You are looking for a fight, as I’ve said.

    This is entirely and utterly a matter of religion. Any public school giving even one moment of school time to creationism is in clear violation of this principle.

    Right. And I believe I said – I can think of no public school system in America that does that.

    Do you have some examples?

    There is good reason for this separation since every organized religion has at its core the kernel of no room for non-believers. “Convert or die” lurks just under the surface and must be firmly guarded against. It is easy to make the argument that creationism is a hate crime.

    Actually, the Bahai faith allows for no ‘one right way’, as does Wicca and a number of other non-Judeo-Christian religions.

    I don’t know what your problem is. I told you I did not want to fight with you, and I actually agree with you about the notion of creationism being taught in place of evolution in public schools. Apparently that’s not enough. Don’t know what you want, so I’ll bid you good evening.

  26. Takuan says:

    simple statements of plain fact does not constitute challenge – except to those who deny them. I note you use “pick a fight” several times and then segue into “what your problem is”. I further note your public avowal of intent to annoy those needing annoying. Good, but bring your game up to local standard if you please.

  27. PaulR says:

    But, but, but I thought that the OJ Simpson trial was the “Trial of the Century”!

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22trial+of+the+century%22+cnn&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

    First link, natch.

  28. Pathman says:

    No; until recent idiocies this put paid to any non-evolutionism at any level…

  29. Wigwam Jones says:

    I am named for Bryan (no, now Wigwam Jones, my birth name). He died shortly after the trial (which he lost). The trial was a defining moment in our nation’s history, and Bryan was an interesting character – a four-time candidate for president, and a staunch defender of the Gold Standard. He was a populist in a time of populists, known as “The Great Commoner.” Ironic how times have come around again.

    With regard to Smithsonian’s posting of photos on Flickr, I think it is terrific – so many of those photos, so carefully preserved and/or restored, are salted away and would never be seen except by historians and sociologists but for Flickr.

    You might also be interested in the Flickr feeds of the George Eastman House:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/george_eastman_house/

    And the UK’s National Media Museum:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmediamuseum/

    I have spent a lot of time thinking about the use of vernacular photography to future historians, and I have come to the realization that without context, such photos are often useless.

    Consider the family photo album, and what happens when there is a loose photo that has come out from the pages. It’s literally come undone from time and context as well, if the photo is old enough. Who is the person pictured? How are we related to him (or her or them)? Where was it taken, and when? What was the occasion?

    It is for this reason that I try to post many of my photos to Flickr, and to include tags and appropriate metadata about each photo, including GPS data. I am learning to write scripts that insert appropriate Exif data (and IPTC and XMP) metadata fields into the photograph, which then become searchable on Flickr and by extension, the world’s search engines.

    Perhaps some future historians will find use for a photo of a John Deere combine doing harvesting:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wigwam/2892831493/

    And perhaps not. But it’s better than a loose photo in an album that has no context anymore, or a glass-plate negative stored in the bowels of a museum, lost to all but those few who know precisely where and how to search their archives.

    So I see this type of thing as a huge step forward towards compiling the future memory of our generation for those who come after us.

    Unless there’s a huge EMP in the next Robot Wars, of course, which would pretty much suck.

  30. novalis says:

    “Unidentified Man” my ass! That’s the Ninth Doctor!

  31. Purly says:

    I love their short ties.

  32. Wigwam Jones says:

    ah yes. Present-day Tennesseeans

    Amazingly enough, there are people who hold generalized prejudices about people who live in other locations everywhere.

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