The Scopes trial will never be the same. I mean the trial immortalized in Inherit the Wind,' with its Southerners clutching in vain to their cozy scientific illiteracy and mechanically literal faith in the Bible, its idiotic intolerant Southerners destined to fall to the gale winds of modernity, liberalism, secularism, and skepticism embodied by a heroic ACLU and the inimitable Clarence Darrow. So what if Scopes got convicted? Surely the trial made a laughingstock of everything Tennessee stood for in banning the teaching of evolution from the public schools. And in a touch worthy of a gruesome morality play, William Jennings Bryan, a bloated buffoon skewered by Darrow on the stand, staggered off to die five days later. For a very long time now, we've been invited to think of the Scopes trial as a last gasp of illiberal stupidity before the inexorable march of civil liberties and modern science. You don't have to know a great deal about the trial itself to surmise that something is misfiring badly in this triumphalist history. For one thing, the fundamentalists allegedly dispatched in those sleepy Tennessee hills seem to be doing rather nicely, thank you very much. Crusades against teaching evolution in public schools - and for teaching that curious creature, neither fish nor fowl, dubbed "creation science" - seem to be sweeping the nation. The ACLU has fallen on hard times. Recall George Bush sneering, in his most majestically nasal manner, that Michael Dukakis had dared to confess - to publicly confess! - that he was "a cardcarrying member of the ACLU." And the enchanting likes of William Kunstler, Johnnie Cochran, and Alan Dershowitz make it hard to feel unconditionally fond of Darrow's public success. If liberalism and the rest are destined to triumph, they sure seem to be taking their sweet time about it. Could it be a case of the tortoise and the hare? The real story of the Scopes trial, it turns out, is more interesting, more mischievous, and more perverse than the complacent received wisdom. A historian of science and a lawyer, Professor Larson 2 has written a devastatingly good book, Summer for the Gods. I found myself wishing only that his legal and political analysis were more sharply etched.
Herzog, Donald J. "Liberalism Stumbles in Tennessee." Review of Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, by E. J. Larson. Mich. L. Rev. 96, no. 6 (1998): 1898-909.