Why did many people in Tennessee support the Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of evolution? (Read each source below, then answer the questions in the notebook. Ask your teacher for an inquiry organizer worksheet to help you think about the ways that the sources support and contradict each other.)


READ: Textbook, A Civic Biology

Head Note: The excerpt below is from the biology textbook used by the State of Tennessee in 1925. The Butler Act made it illegal to teach from textbooks like this one. John Scopes could not remember if he actually taught the section on evolution from this textbook, but volunteered to say that he did in order to challenge the legality of Butler Act. Pay attention to how the textbook explains the theory of evolution.

The Doctrine of Evolution.

We have now learned that animal forms may be arranged so as to begin with very simple one-celled forms and culminate with a group which contains man himself. . . . The great English scientist, Charles Darwin . . . explained the theory of evolution. This is the belief that simple forms of life on the earth slowly and gradually gave rise to those more complex and that thus the most complex forms came into existence.

Manís Place in Nature.

If we attempt to classify man, we see at once he must be placed with the vertebrate animals because of his possession of a vertebral column. . . . Anatomically we find that we must place man with the apelike mammals, because of those numerous points of structural likeness. The group of mammals which includes the monkeys, apes, and man we call the primates.

Evolution of Man.

Undoubtedly there once lived upon the earth races of men who were much lower in their mental organization than the present inhabitants. If we follow the early history of man upon the earth, we find that at first he must have been little better than one of the lower animals. . . . Gradually he must have learned to use weapons, and thus kill his prey, first using rough stone implements for this purpose. . . . Man then began to cultivate the fields, and to have a fixed place of abode other than a cave. The beginnings of civilization were long ago, but even today the earth is not entirely civilized.

Source: Excerpt from widely-used biology textbook, A Civic Biology, written in 1914 by George W. Hunter, a biology teacher from New York City.

USE THE NOTEBOOK (instructions):


These definitions should help with reading comprehension.

  • culminate: reach the highest point in development

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