The Science of Sustainability

Science Event Pick: The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial

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Photo Credit: Evolve2009.orgThe first movie I ever remember watching was the immortal "Inherit the Wind" about the famous 1925 Scopes monkey trial. The defendant, John Scopes, was science teacher in Tennessee who intentionally violated the Butler Act which forbade the teaching of evolution in schools. I couldn't have been more than 6, my brother forced me to watch the movie because "evolution" was so important. Now, I was 6…the only things important things in my life were candy & Bugs Bunny.

I vividly remember the biting sarcasm of Darrow, as he deftly examined William Jennings Bryan on the Bible. There were so many great scenes defending science and moreover, bringing the dialogue of science & religion into public view. Many consider the trial as the turning point in the debate between creation and evolution. 84 years later, the debate rages on with controversies still ongoing in Delaware and Kansas.

On January 22nd, there will be a staged re-enactment of the legendary trial that brought the debate to the forefront. The play will feature content based entirely on the transcripts of the trial (minus the blistering heat from the trial). Good ol' Ed Asner (of Mary Tyler Moore Show fame) will be starring.

The play is sponsored by Evolve2009, a city-wide celebration of Charles Darwin's accomplishments and impact on science & society. It also happens to be his 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the "Origin of Species". Evolve2009 is putting on many events throughout the next month ranging from lectures to tours with an evolution perspective.

The play is being held at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, January 22nd @ 8PM. Tickets: JCCSF Members $45.00 | Public $50.00 | Student $30.00. For more info, check out the event website.

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Kishore Hari

About the Author ()

Kishore Hari is the founder Down to a Science, a science cafe based in San Francisco. He is most passionate about making science discussion fun and accessible for adults, the kind of discussion that leads to positive change in the world. Professionally, he is a water treatment consultant in San Francisco. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Kishore came to the Bay Area to get a chemistry degree from UC Berkeley. He now specializes in residential water treatment, working with companies such as PUR, Brita, and Camelbak.
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  • http://www.allegedmovie.com Fred

    For those interested in the REAL story of the Scopes Trial as contrasted with the Hollywood history in "Inherit the Wind," see the website http://www.themonkeytrial.com or download the original trial transcript. For starters, contrary to what's stated in the above article, the State of Tennesee never outlawed teaching the theory of evolution in the public schools or anywhere else; it DID outlaw the teaching in the public schools that ONE SPECIES (out of an estimated 2,000,000) evolved: namely that mankind evolved from a lower order of animal (monkeys). This aspect of Darwinism was contained in the biology text that John Scopes allegedly (but never actually) taught from where the races of mankind are ranked from the lowest (Negro) to the highest (Caucasian). Sick stuff to teach kids but very popular at the time. The biology text also contained plenty of "eugenics" — the idea that mankind should be bred to weed out the weak and purify the strong. You might want to also look at the 2010 movie on this trial starring Brian Dennehy as Charles Darwin, Sen. Fred Thompson as William Jennings Bryan, and Colm Meany as H.L. Mencken. Fun!