Science and religion
Science and Religion
Science and religion have been the basis of many intense debates. Some believe in religion and believe that God is the creator of all life forms, while others believe that through evolution life was formed, as we know it today. Both options have a series of good points as well as faults. Problems also arise when someone brings up the question of whether or not religion or evolution should be taught in the classroom or if faith healing should be lawed against and become an act of a suiscide. Science and religion will always be the topic of heated debates because of the lack of knowledge we have to prove either theory to be correct.
Back in the early 1900's a law was formed called the Butler Act. This act was enacted in 1925 in Tennessee forbidding public school teachers from saying that man did not originate in a biblical sense. The law also prevented the teaching of evolution through the idea that man came from an animal being morphed through century to century into a human being. However, the law didn't prohibit the teaching of evolutionary theory for other species of plants or animals. Overall the law basically stated that the theory of humanity through evolution could not be taught (about.com).
On April 7th, 1925 a high school biology teacher and football coach from Dayton, Tennessee broke that law. A man named John T. Scopes decided to teach his students about evolution that day. Scope taught a lesson on evolution from a book named On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Chares Darwin was the creator of the theory of evolution. Scopes was convicted on the violation of violating the Butler Act on July 10, 1925. This trial was also known as Scopes Vs. State. The trial created a media frenzy. Everyone wanted to know how the judge would prosecute this high school teacher as well as why he decided to teach such a controversial subject. During the trial it became more of an argument about mostly whether or not the theory of evolution was valid or not and if it was compatible with parts of the bible and if the law, the Butler Act was an incorrect. As the trial came to a close the judge needed to rule on whether or not Scopes was guilty of teaching evolution in his classroom. Since Scopes clearly was violating the Butler Act he was convicted of a misdemeanor and put on a $100 bale sentence (about.com).
“The Scopes Monkey Trial” was so much more than just a man being prosecuted with a $100 bale sentence. People tuned in all over the country as the first US trial ever to be broadcasted over the national radio was taking place. Scopes during the trial became an increasingly willing participant, even incriminating himself and urging his students to testify against him. In the trial three of his students did actually testify against Scopes saying that it was an inappropriate act that he taught his students about evolution. The trial caused so much media buzz mostly because of the people involved in the trial itself. Many outsiders were brought in from both sides to defend and protect. The trial became more of an act of trying to figure out whether evolution should or shouldn't be taught in a classroom setting (history.com).
One of the members brought in from the defense side was a popular British novelist named H.G. Wells. Other members of the defense side included zoologists from John Hopkins University. The Judge however would not let these men testify in person but would allow written statements from all of them to be considered in the actual trial. For the opposite side a pastor brought in a man named William Jennings Bryan to act as the organizations counsel. A media sensation was born because of the controversy of the subject at hand and how everyone in the trial had their own opinion. After the trial a man named Paul Patterson paid the $100 bail for Scopes and interviewed him for his newspaper the Baltimore Sun.
Overall even though Scopes lost his trial it still felt like a victory for him and everyone on his team. Scope was able to get his beliefs out for the whole country to hear and by the amount of newscasters and reporters at the trial that wasnt a problem at all. After Scopes was convicted he spoke to everyone in the courtroom for the first time in the entire trial. “ Your honor, I fell that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statue. I will continue in the future, as I have tin the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom - that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust” (Worlds Most Famous Court Trial 313).
The Aftermath of the trial seemed to be the most profound thing about it. Even 85 years later the trial is noteworthy for the legal, scientific, religious, philosophical and political questions it raised experts say. The trial is still known as the “trial of the century” because of the high profile players involved, the overwhelming media attention and the issues raised which are still being raised to this day. "As a case it is not as much a legal landmark as much as a social landmark. It was a clash between traditionalism and its values and modernism and its values" (Douglas Linder).
The Scopes trial didn't go beyond Tennessee but the evolution versus religion debate continued on. It was not until 1968 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on this grand debate. In Epperson v. Arkansas, the court ruled that evolution could be taught in public schools because it is a science, but not creationism because it constitutes religion, Linder said. “The wall between church and state can be found in the establishment clause of the First Amendment” (Linder). The issue once again reached the nation's highest court in 1987 in a Louisiana case called Edwards v. Aguilar. In this case the court ruled that the state-mandated teaching of evolution and creationism side-by-side is unconstitutional because teaching creationism meant the state was promoting religion. However, the trials did not end the debate of science versus religion. The two subjects are still brought up in heated debates currently.
Teaching science in the classrooms did not really occur until the Cold War, when the United States saw the launch of the Sputnik artificial satellite as a sign that the Soviet Union was heightening their knowledge of science. The United States did not want to fall behind the Soviets so there was a massive amount of effort and money put into updating and improving science education across all levels which included the theory of evolution. The evolutionary theory was given a greater role in both science textbooks and classroom discussions (about.com).
Fundamentalists however, discouraged this idea and preached daily that the United States was making a massive mistake. They were already horrified at the image having an absence of God so when their children brought home the new science text books in which evolution played a huge role things went from bad to worse.
For scientists the increased emphasis on evolution was part of the solution to the problem raging on about whether to believe in the religious view or the scientifical view on the birth of mankind. For fundamentalists, it was simply bringing the problem closer to America where it could spread and cause America to become just as “unreligious” and “unmoral” as the Soviets were. Fundamentalists reacted accordingly, putting in all effort to stop the teaching distribution of textbooks where evolution was praised upon (about.com).
At first, their work involved more laws outlawing the teaching of evolution, but this idea in the end failed because the courts were not willing to let laws which were obviously passed in order to preserve a particular religious belief. There were so many religions out there that just teaching a certain religious belief in one textbook would cause even more problems and ultimately cause more chaos then intended. Now scientists were able to validate their understanding and theory of evolution and contribute its ideas into modern science. The Supreme Court's 1968 decision in Epperson v. Arkansas put the final say on laws discriminating against teaching evolution in the classroom across the country (about.com).
Finally an idea called "Balanced Treatment" was now put into play which required more than just evolutionary theory to be taught in science classes but both ideas instead so everyone could come to their own decision on what they personally wanted to believe. Ultimately courts have rejected the teaching of any form of creationism. Creationism can be discussed in other classes such as a history class for example but cannot be explained in an actual science class because it is ultimately a religious and political idea (about.com).