Remembering Scopes, Reading Darwin
Eighty-five years ago today, Tennessee high school teacher John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution and fined $100 for violating the Butler Act, which made it illegal for school teachers to question or teach against the biblical explanation of the origin of life. Though much has changed in the last nearly nine decades, evolution is still put on trial and Charles Darwin’s theories often subjected to intense scrutiny and debate.
But how many people—especially those who disagree with him—have ever taken the time to read Darwin’s work? In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the seminal On the Origin of Species (which was commemorated in 2009), the New York Times launched an innovative interactive feature, which allows users to read samples from the classic text as well as annotations from prominent scientists. Several of our authors are represented. John Thompson, author of The Coevolutionary Process and The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolution and editor of our Interspecific Interactions series, contributed his thoughts about Darwin’s description of the natural selection process. William B. Provine, author of The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics and Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology, talked about his marked-up copy of On the Origin of Species and how difficult it is to select just one favorite passage from a book he’s been teaching from for forty years. And Robert J. Richards, author of numerous books, including, most recently, Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought, reflected on two of his favorite passages.
Today marks an important moment in the ongoing fight to teach science in public schools. And after you spend some time with Darwin, be sure to browse all of our books on evolutionary science, as well as those that consider the reverberations of the Scopes trial from an legal, educational, and scientific perspective.