December 28, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Historic Scopes Trial Photos Uncovered

Dozens of photos of the 1925 Scopes Trial, never before published, were uncovered in Smithsonian archives by independent historian Marcel C. LaFollette, reported Science News.1  One photo shows the famous scene of Clarence Darrow interrogating William Jennings Bryan on the witness stand; another shows a close up of John Scopes.  LaFollette is writing a new book on the Scopes Trial based on the photographs.  They were taken by Watson Davis, managing editor at the time of Science Service, the publisher of what is now Science News.
    The article by Ivars Peterson states that Science Service was a help to Darrow and was helped by the trial – in fact, the trial launched it to prominence:

The Scopes trial was important to Science Service financially.  Newspapers paid for articles from the trial, and these funds helped support the struggling organization.
    Science Service also played a role behind the scenes, aiding Darrow’s defense team.  The Science Service staff helped coordinate the gathering of scientific experts on evolution to testify at the trial. It also distributed a series of articles, written by prominent scientists, explaining and defending evolution.


1Ivars Peterson, “Archival Science: Rediscovered photos provide a look inside the 1925 Scopes evolution trial,” Science News, Week of Dec. 24, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 26/27 , p. 408.

It’s important to know about the Scopes Trial because so much political hay was made out of it.  The hay machine grinds on to this day.  Maybe Science Service provided the eminent rhetorician Dudley Field Malone (see loaded words in the Baloney Detector), or the scholarly scientist Maynard Metcalf (see equivocation), or the logician Horatio Hockett Newman (see either-or fallacy).  Maybe Watson Davis helped provide boilerplate for The New Republic (see fear-mongering).  The reporting about evolution in Science News hasn’t changed much.  In this same issue, Bruce Bower, in an attempt at being funny, wrote a scathing satire against intelligent design, so biased and full of his own hot air it is not even remotely credible or amusing.
    The reality of the Scopes Trial was far different than most of the reporting on it.  This has come to light recently in several books by historians like Edward J. Larson and Marvin Olasky.  Worst of all was the parody Inherit the Wind, so factually inaccurate as to be evil (see The Monkey Trial).  Yet Inherit the Wind established the modern stereotype about what happened that hot summer in Dayton, Tennessee.  These photographs are valuable for helping visualize the setting, but the words spoken about the issue at hand are what matters.  One lesson of the trial is that a win in court can be a loss in the public arena.  Maybe that will work against the Darwinists this time in the case of Judge Jones’s Dover decision (see comments by William Dembski in Science & Theology News).

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