The Scopes trial quiz

Deciphering fact from fiction

How well do you know the facts about the 1925 Scopes trial, America’s most famous trial of the past century? Is your knowledge mostly based on the Hollywood depiction of the “monkey trial,” or is it based on the actual accounts as recorded in the transcripts and other historical accounts? Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz.

  1. The name of the 1925 Act that banned the teaching of evolutionary theory in all Tennessee public schools was the Scopes Act.
    (False. It was the Butler Act.)

  2. The play Inherit the Wind (as well as the film and television versions) is a historical account of the Scopes trial.
    (False. Inherit the Wind takes considerable theatrical liberties to portray the trial as a moral triumph of “science” (evolutionism) over Christian “fundamentalism” (creationism).

  3. At issue during the trial was a law that had been passed by the Tennessee State Legislature which prohibited the teaching of human evolution, but not animals and plant evolution.
    (True. The Butler Act forbid public school teachers in Tennessee to deny the literal biblical account of man’s origin and to teach in its place the evolution of man from lower animals. The law did not prohibit the teaching of evolution of any other species of plant or animal.)

  4. The whole idea of suing a teacher for teaching evolution in a public school came from the citizens of Dayton, Tennessee who were depicted in Inherit the Wind to be greedy, ignorant, close-minded, and even threatening to the defense lawyers, the news media and outsiders.
    (False. The idea was conceived by the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] in New York City.)

  5. John Scopes maintained to his death in 1970 that he never taught evolution while teaching biology.
    (True. Scopes, who was not even a science teacher, never taught evolution during the two weeks he substituted for the biology teacher but rather simply reviewed for the final exam using a book that contained evolution content which wasn’t even discussed.)

  6. John Scopes was the persecuted school teacher who was immediately jailed for teaching evolution when his classroom was invaded. He remained in jail throughout the trial.
    (False. His classroom was never invaded as depicted in Inherit the Wind, and he was never jailed or in danger of imprisonment.)

  7. The students of John Scopes were coached by the defense team to perjure themselves by saying they were taught evolution in the classroom.
    (True. Famous evolutionist attorney Clarence Darrow, who was supposed to defend his client from a law that forbid the teaching of evolution, coached the students to lie and claim that Scopes taught evolution, when in fact he didn’t.)

  8. Throughout the trial, the definition of the term “evolution” was so muddled by the defense and its witnesses that it seems unlikely that any of the jurors could have known exactly what evolution is and is not.
    (True. Evolution was repeatedly confused with such ideas like embryology and aging.)

  9. After giving a weak defense of Christianity on the stand by not being able to answer the question about where Cain found his wife and admitting that he didn’t believe in six literal creation days but accepted an old earth, Bryan gave a convincing closing argument to a world-wide audience.
    (False. After ridiculing Bryan on the stand for his acceptance of the miracles and teachings of the Bible, Darrow asked the judge to instruct the jury to find his own client—Scopes—guilty as charged. This brought the trial to a speedy conclusion and spared Darrow from taking the witness stand to be questioned by Bryan. It thus also prevented Bryan from giving his closing argument. It was only after the trial that Bryan was able to publish his closing argument.)

  10. The jury returned its guilty verdict after nine minutes of deliberation. Scopes was fined $100, which both Bryan and the ACLU offered to pay for him.

  11. John Scopes’ guilt or innocence was never a primary concern of any of the participants in the trial.
    (True. The purpose of bringing this case to trial was to declare the Butler Act unconstitutional, expose “fundamentalist” Christian views on the subject of origins through a mocking press corps and to focus the attention of the world on evolution.)

Source: Menton, David, Inherit the Wind: A Hollywood History of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial, www.scopestrial.org