I. The Trial of the Century

The 1925 State v. Scopes[1] evolution-creation trial in Dayton, Tennessee, has been called “the world’s most famous court trial,” [2] and it was a trial that certainly did arrest the world’s attention. As William Jennings Bryan, the special prosecutor in the trial, noted, “We are told that more words have been sent across the ocean by cable to Europe and Australia about this trial than has been sent by cable in regard to anything else happening in the United States.” [3] Indeed, few other trials have produced such crowded courtrooms and worldwide media attention or have resulted in as many full-length movies and reenactments of its proceedings as has this trial.

Bryan believed that the trial had “stirred the world” because “this cause . . . goes deep. It is because it extends wide, and because it reaches into the future beyond the power of man to see. Here has been fought out a little case of little consequence as a case, but the world is interested because it raises an issue.” [4] Award-winning historian Henry Steele Commager described how that “issue” became a sensationalized spectacle:…..

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