Saturday, January 28, 2006


The Best-known Misdemeanor Trial in American History

Holley Horrell has an interesting report in The Chronicle Online, the independent daily at Duke University, on a lecture by Edward Larson, author of Summer for the Gods, a history of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The article -- and Larson's lecture, “From Dayton to Dover: A Brief History of the Controversy over Teaching Evolution” -- detail three distinct phases in the history of opposition to evolution. The Scopes Trial (that's the best-known misdemeanor trial) was the central event of the first phase when the creationist strategy was focused on barring the teaching of evolution in public schools.

During the second phase, marked by the publication Henry Morris' 1961 book The Genesis Flood, says Larsen, "the focus of anti-evolution proponents shifted from trying to ban the teaching of the subject toward demanding balanced treatment of both sides."

In the third phase:
... anti-evolution groups adopted a new argument—that Darwinism is just one theory among many. Leading players Philip Johnson and Michael Behe argued for the legitimacy of intelligent design. Larson stressed that when questioned, Behe conceded that there is virtually no scientific content in their theories.

According to Horrell, "[a]udience members of the packed lecture hall responded to Larson’s even-handed treatment of the topic."


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