Reflections on the Scopes trial from HNN


The History News Network commemorated the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Scopes trial — which ended on July 21, 1925 — by commissioning two essays to mark the occasion.

In his essay, David N. Reznick, a professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species (Princeton University Press, 2009), reflects on the persistence of public controversy about evolution. He writes, "the theory of evolution has been a consistent target of religiously motivated propaganda campaigns. ... The arguments against evolution have changed little over the decades. ... All of these arguments have been refuted, but they persist." He concluded by encouraging his colleagues in the humanities to expand their efforts "dealing with the relationship between science and religion as a topic for the humanities classroom, rather than the science classroom."

Responding to Reznick, Everett Hamner, a professor of English at Western Illinois University, enthusiastically endorsed the thought that "alongside scientific colleagues, we humanists can do a major service when we directly engage the relationship between science and religion." His suggestions for doing so: carefully distinguish between science and scientism; humanize Darwin and other scientists; question bifurcations of the religious and the secular; and cultivate more careful readings of scriptures, not their dismissal. His essay ended with a list of suggested readings, including NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction (second edition: University of California Press, 2009).

The History News Network is a project of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, featuring essays offering historical perspective on current events.