x Preface the $38,4 million Discovery Center for Science and Earth History (in Dal- las, est. 2019) lure more than a million visitors per year. Elsewhere, even Galápagos—the Ecuadorian islands that retroactively shaped Darwin’s views about life’s diversity—has a creation museum. Most of these museums include exhibits and sell documentaries and books about the controversy’s “ground zero”—the Scopes Trial. In this landmark trial, which happened in 1925 in tiny Dayton, Tennessee, high school teacher and coach John Thomas Scopes (1900–1970) was tried for violating a newly passed state law banning the teaching of human evolu- tion. Unlike much of the rest of the country, Dayton was not overly con- cerned about evolution, and none of the trial’s instigators were overly outspoken about evolution, science, or religion. Local residents liked “Coach Scopes,” who was a “hero to the students” praised as “the best football coach that Dayton ever had.”4 So why, then, was there a trial, and why did it happen in Dayton, of all places? Instead of the trial erupting from theological or scientific disputes, John Scopes’s famous trial began as a publicity stunt to help the area’s struggling economy. As Chattanooga attorney (and former Congressman) Foster Brown (1852–1937) noted at the time, the Scopes Trial was “not a fight for evolution or against evolution, but a fight against obscurity.”5 When William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925 a famous Christian and for- mer politician) and Clarence Darrow (1857–1938 a famous agnostic and often-vilified attorney) joined the case, the trial immediately became a religion-and-media-soaked spectacle that captivated the country. At times, the coverage of the trial became more important than what had happened during the actual trial. The media, led by cynic H. L. Mencken (1880–1956), made the trial a media event before the term “media event” was coined.6 By the time the trial started, everyone was talking about what was hap- pening in Dayton. Some of the claims were fantastic Bryan—a three-time candidate for president—considered the trial a “turning point for Christi- anity,” and, from his pulpit in New York City, fundamentalist leader John Roach Straton (1875–1929) claimed that “we are at a turning of the ways in this country” as he likened Bryan to “a human expression of Christ,” and Scopes’s defender Clarence Darrow to “the Devil.”7 Countless people equated Scopes’s alleged crime—that is, his teaching of human evolution from a state-approved textbook—with producing anarchy and war, cor- rupting children, destroying love, and leaving people with nothing to live for.8 Newspapers across the country provided daily front-page updates and analyses of the trial, along with countless cartoons of monkeys—for example, showing monkeys thanking people for disavowing any relation
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