Fundamentalism vs Science
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Fundamentalism vs. Science
Fundamentalism was a conservative movement among Protestants in the United States, which began in the late nineteenth century. It emphasized literal interpretation of the Bible, and among other things, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the physical resurrection, the second coming, and the resurrection of believers. In the twenties, no one challenged this. It was the principle belief of a white, anglo-saxon, protestant society. However, some people believed in Darwin's theory of evolution, as opposed to "Creation". This mere idea was the basis of many conflicts between religion and science in the nineteen-twenties.
Fundamentalism spread in the nineteen-twenties. It was strongest in rural areas, particularily in California, in the border states, and in the South. In these areas, the Bible was the law of the land, and its infallibility was key to most studies. Controversy over this issue grew most intense in the secular sphere when Fundamentalist leaders urged many states to pass legislation forbidding the teaching of Charles Darwin's Theory Of Evolution in public schools. Several southern and border states, among them Tennessee, passed such laws.
In 1925, John T. Scopes, a high school Biology teacher, was arrested for a violation of the Butler Act, the Tennessee statute that forbade the teaching of Evolution. The trial itself received worldwide publicity and was conducted in a circus-like atmosphere. The press dubbed it the "Monkey Trial" because evolution meant that human beings were descended from monkeys. Clarence Darrow, one of America's leading criminal lawyers, appeared to defend Scopes, and former U.S. secretary of state William Jennings Bryan acted as prosecution. The defense argued for the scientific validity of evolution and against the constitutionality of the Butler Act. It did not, however, deny that Scopes had broken the law. John T. Scopes was eventually convicted and fined one-hundred dollars, but the verdict was later reversed on technical grounds by the state supreme court. The Butler act remained in the books until 1967, when, in a similar case, the supreme court favored Darwin's Theory Of Evolution once again, and any such laws were deemed unconstitutional.It was now a choice - Evolution or Creation.
The Fundamentalists were still strong after the Scopes case in 1925, however. They rejected any form of science that clashed with their strict religious beliefs, and weren't afraid to let people know their opinions. They soon began to believe that science was working against them, trying to prove their religious "facts" untrue. Not the case, of course, but it was true that many topics once explained solely by religion now had different viewpoints and outlooks.
Fundamentalism lost momentum in the early 1930's. The main reasons were the acceptance by most Americans of modern scientific theories and methods,more liberal religious doctrines, and the lack of an effective national organization to lead the Fundamentalist associations. With no appointed leaders left to support them, the Fundamentalists' numbers, in the 1920's, eventually dwindled to next to nothing. Science in no way took over religion, but a forced opinion to the masses on subjects such as Evolution were no longer a situation that needed to be dealt with.
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Scopes Trial, Education in Tennessee, Creationism, Rhea County, Tennessee, William Jennings Bryan, Butler Act, Fundamentalism, Clarence Darrow, Relationship between religion and science, John T. Scopes, Creation and evolution in public education, Christian fundamentalism
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