December 6, 2023 | Jerry Bergman

New Book on Scopes Trial Exposes Racism

This is the first book documenting
the fact that the Scopes Trial
was, at its heart, about racism

New Book Published This Month:
The Other Side of the Scopes Trial

Ed. note: The centennial of the Scopes Trial will occur in 2025, and will likely become a media circus. Many evolutionists and materialists will celebrate what they consider the demise of creationism and the triumph of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Dr Bergman’s new well-researched book offers a pre-emptive strike against the “Inherit the Wind” narrative, showing the real issues in 1925 which Darwinians would rather ignore.

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

In my library are 54 books on the Scopes Trial, plus another 102 that contain a chapter, or a significant section, on the Scopes Trial. Of these books, the importance of eugenics, specifically its causation of racism, was largely ignored. In a Google Books search for Scopes Trial and racism, only one book came up, my new book.[1]

Eugenics and the Scopes Trial

The Scopes Trial was about supporting the teaching of evolution in the public schools. It was this position that the ACLU, the vast majority of the media, and the defense, all aggressively supported. The fact is, mainline evolution in 1925 was linked to eugenics which was then bluntly racist. As Scopes Trial expert, Professor Jeffery Moran writes, in 1925,

evolutionists of the time …. largely supported eugenics and the belief that African Americans, and other minorities, were less evolved than their white counterparts. In fact, the well-regarded textbook John Scopes used in his classroom promoted eugenics…. evolutionists’ historical connection to racist ideology in the manner of intelligence tests, craniometry, and physical anthropology [is well-documented].[2]

Furthermore, a measure of eugenics’ popularity is indicated in the Wikipedia page on the subject of eugenics:

Eugenics, the set of beliefs and practices which aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population, played a significant role in the history and culture of the United States from the late 19th century into the mid-20th century. The cause became increasingly promoted by intellectuals of the Progressive Era.[3]

Clarence Darrow (left), sponsored by the ACLU, vs William Jennings Bryan (right) at the Scopes Trial.

Darwin and Eugenics

Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, developed the idea of eugenics and

Galton’s new science spread like a wildfire in the United Kingdom and the United States and in 1907 Indiana passed the first law allowing “undesirables and defectives,” such as the “mentally retarded,” to be involuntarily sterilized. This is considered to be the first such eugenic “law” to be passed in the world. By 1909, California had passed laws permitting the sterilization of “undesirables.” Terms, such as mental hygiene, racial hygiene, social hygiene, and racial and human betterment became prevalent. Unbelievably, the US was a hotbed of racial purists striving to protect their master race at the time.[4]

Thus teaching evolution in the 1920s was de facto teaching racism, a fact widely acknowledged. Proof that the core of the trial was about racism was covered in several journal articles and briefly in at least one book on the trial: The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents.[5] Retired Harvard Professor of Law, Alan Dershowitz, wrote that German militarism

drew inspiration from Darwin’s survival of the fittest. The anti-immigration movement, which had succeeded in closing American ports of entry to “inferior  racial stock,” was grounded in a mistaken belief that certain ethnic groups had evolved more fully than others. The very book—Hunter’s Civic Biology—from which John T. Scopes taught Darwin’s theory of evolution to high school students in Dayton, Tennessee, contained dangerous misapplications of that theory. It explicitly accepted the naturalistic fallacy and repeatedly drew moral instruction from nature. Indeed, its very title, Civic Biology, made it clear that biology had direct political implications for civic society.[6]

Dennis Sewell, author of The Political Gene: How Darwin’s Ideas Changed Politics, wrote:

The Scopes Monkey Trial was about racism, not god. Almost everything we think we know about the Dayton spectacle is wrong.[7]

My 213-page book on the Scopes Trial carefully documents this claim.

Evolutionist Attempts to Refute This Fact

Evolutionist Jerry Coyne wrote that he had “visited John Scopes’s grave in Paducah, Kentucky, and praised him, saying that I would have liked to shake his hand.”[8]

Evolutionist and atheist Jerry Coyne visiting the grave of a man he admired greatly, John T. Scopes. Scopes was only 70 when he died. On his tombstone was written, “A Man of Courage.” His wife, who lived to be 85, was buried beside him.

In response to Coyne’s post, an Intelligent Design supporter noted the racist aspects of the biology textbook at issue in the case. Neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Egnor wrote:

Coyne’s hero taught the schoolchildren of Dayton from a textbook with rancid eugenic racist hate, which was part and parcel of evolutionary theory during the first century of Darwinian ascendancy and remains today the subtext of the Darwinian understanding of man. The good folks of Tennessee, and the citizens of many communities across the country, wanted no such venom taught to their children.[9]

The Real John T. Scopes, and the Real Scopes Trial

John T. Scopes

One way evolutionists such as Jerry Coyne attempt to rebut Egnor is by correctly noting that no evidence exists that Scopes was a racist or taught racism.[10] But that is beside the point. Actually, Scopes didn’t teach evolution either. His college major was Law and his minor was Geology. At the Dayton High School where the Scopes Trial took place he taught physics, math, and was the football  coach. He also did some substitute teaching.

That Scopes himself was a racist is not the claim being made. The claim is that the core of the trial was in support of  teaching human evolution, and a central tenet of human evolution then was eugenics, thus racism.

The Real William Jennings Bryan

Critics of the link between the Scopes Trial and racism ignore the fact that Bryan, the prosecutor of Scopes, was a lifelong Democrat who supported many leftist causes. He did not accept the young earth view, nor conservative politics, and his main concern was the fact that human evolution degraded people, especially commoners and minorities, a group he championed for his entire life.

The underlying reason for the Scopes Trial was opposition to Christianity, especially creationism and Intelligent Design. This is made clear in the majority of the written material on the trial. Evolutionists and eugenicists exploited the trial to discredit a worldview that they opposed on ideological grounds.

The Fame and Shame of Eugenics

One reason why so many books and articles largely, or totally, have ignored the connection of the Scopes Trial with eugenics is because eugenics was widely accepted by leading academics until the 1950s. During the Scopes Trial eugenics flourished. To oppose it would have been counterproductive to their goal of supporting Darwinism.

Four years before the Scopes Trial, the American Eugenics Society (AES) was formed after the success of the 1921 Second International Congress on Eugenics in New York. AES founders included leading authors and academics, including Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Irving Fisher, Charles Davenport, Henry Crampton, and one of the leading opponents of William Jennings Bryan, Henry Fairfield Osborn. The organization thrived by promoting the euphemism “racial betterment.” The AES sponsored exhibits that featured statistics on the births of “undesirable” or “desirable” children at the fairs and festivals.

Eugenics Quarterly was established in 1916 as Eugenical News until 1953 when it was renamed Eugenics Quarterly and launched by the American Eugenics Society as a scholarly journal focused on eugenics and related subjects. In 1926, the society published A Eugenics Catechism, arguing eugenics was supported by the Bible, and therefore should be promoted by Christians, which it often was.[11] The journal, although it covered the same material, was renamed Social Biology in 1969 as a result of the term “eugenics” falling out of fashion.[12]

Click image for link to Amazon.

Summary

The central role of eugenics and racism in the Scopes Trial was ignored partly because eugenics was widely accepted when the trial occurred. A more important reason, though, was the deliberate focus then and now on exploiting the trial to degrade conservative Christianity and those who took their religion seriously, often derided then as “fundamentalists.”

Evolutionists have for the last century successfully used the Scopes Trial to justify their opposition to the inclusion of information opposing evolution in schools and secular society. A major reason why they avoid mentioning the racist aspects of the trial is because it detracts from their main goal of promoting the evolutionary worldview and marginalizing Darwin skeptics. For documentation, see my new book. Scroll down to see the book description on Amazon.

References

[1] https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&q=scopes+trial+was+about+racism.

[2] Moran, Jeffrey P. “Reading race into the Scopes Trial: African-American elites, Science, and Fundamentalism. The Journal of American History 90(3):891-911. https://daily.jstor.org/how-african-americans-supported-evolution-in-the-1925-scopes-trial/, December 2023.

[3] “Eugenics in the United States.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Emphasis added. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics_in_the_United_States#:~:text=Eugenics%2C%20the%20set%20of%20beliefs,intellectuals%20of%20the%20Progressive%20Era, 5 October 2023.

[4] Grenon, Ingrid and Joav Merrick. 2014. Intellectual and developmental disabilities: eugenics. Frontiers in Public Health. 2(1).

[5] Moran, Jeffery. The Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents, Second Edition. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY, 2003.

[6] Dershowitz, Alan. Introduction  (to the Scopes  Trial). Notable Trials Library,  Birmingham,  AL, p.2, 1990.

[7] Sewell, Dennis. “The Scopes Monkey Trial was about racism, not God.” https://unherd.com/2019/11/americas-great-victory-for-science-and-scientific-racism/, 2013.

[8] Coyne, Gerry: Why John Scopes wasn’t a racist, and other lessons from the “Monkey Trial.” From his blog “Why Evolution Is True,” 17 Dec 2013. https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2013/12/17/why-john-scopes-wasnt-a-racist-and-other-lessons-from-the-monkey-trial/

[9] Egnor, Michael. “Do admirers of John Scopes embrace what their hero actually taught?  Evolution News. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_Biology, 6 December 2013.

[10] Coyne, Gerry, 2013.

[11] Rosen, Christine. Preaching Eugenics.  New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.

[12] Matsuura, H. Overcoming the history of eugenics in demography call for contributions from historians, ethicists, and human rights scholars. Biodemography and Social Biology 68(1):1–2, 2023.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,800 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 60 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

 

About The Other Side of the Scopes Monkey Trial:

The enormous amount of literature on the Scopes Trial focuses on the religious elements of the trial. It almost totally ignored the importance of racism as taught in the text that Scopes used to teach biology. Bryan was not concerned about evolution in general, but specifically human evolution. He believed that Darwin’s theory, as applied to humans, encouraged the oppression of certain oppressed groups. Taking evolution’s philosophy to its logical conclusion meant justifying “survival of the fittest” in social matters. This philosophy he learned from his extensive reading about WWI was a major factor influencing the Germans to fight in the first World War. Furthermore, Bryan believed the citizens of Tennessee had a right to determine what their children were taught in the public schools.

Another fact that is rarely mentioned is the main fossil evidence cited in the trial documents, and the press, in support of human evolution has been discredited by evolutionists including Neanderthal man, Piltdown man, Java man, and Nebraska man. Scopes was not a biology teacher, but rather taught math. His college degree was not in biology, but law. He was not put on the stand to testify in his trial, probably because he never taught evolution and could not honestly answer questions about teaching it. This book covers the so-called trial of the century, telling the real story of a sham brought on by the ACLU to further their political and anti-Christian goals.

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