July 15, 1925, Dayton, Tennessee, USA
John Thomas Scopes was on trial for teaching evolution in a Tennessee state funded school, in violation of the Butler Act. This was his attorney's spirited defense. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 which was later overturned on a technicality.
What I don't understand is this, your Honor, the prosectution inside and outside of the court has been ready to try the case and this is the case. What is the issue that has gained the attention, not only of the American people, but people everywhere? Is it a mere technical question as to whether the defendant Scopes taught the paragraph in the book of science? You think, your Honor, that the News Association in London, which sent you that very complimentary telegram you were good enough to me to show me in this case, because the issue is whether John Scopes taught a couple of paragraphs out of his book? Oh, no, the issue is as broad as Mr. Brayn has published it and why the fear? If the issue is as broad as they make it, why the fear of meeting the issue? Why, where issues are drawn by evidence, where the truth and nothing but the truth are scrutinized and where statements can be answered by expert witnesses on the other side -- what is the psychology of fear? I don't understand it. My old chief -- I never saw him back away from a great issue before. I feel that the prosectution here is filled with a needless fear. I believe that if they withdraw their objection and hear the evidence of our experts their minds would not only improve but their souls would be purified.
I believe and we believe that men who are God-fearing, who are giving their lives to study and observation, to the teaching of the young -- are the teachers and scientists of this country in a combination to destroy the morals of the children to whom they have dedicated their lives? Are preachers the only ones in America who care about our youth? Is the church the the only source of morality in this country? And I would like to say something for the children of the country. We have no fears about the young people of America. They are a pretty smart generation. Any teacher who teaches the boys or the girls today an incredible theory -- we need not worry about those children of this generation paying much attention to it. The children of this generation are pretty wise. People, as a matter of fact I feel that the children of this generation are probably much wiser than many of their elders. The least that this generation can do, your Honor, is to give the next generation all the facts, all the available data, all the theories, all the information that learning, that study, that observations has produced -- give it to the children in the hope of heaven that they will make a better world of this than we have been able to make it. We have just had a war with twenty million dead. Civilization is not so proud of the work of the adults. Civilization need not be so proud of what the grown-ups have done. For God's sake let the chidren have their minds kept open -- close no doors to their knowledge; shut no door from them. Make the distinction between theology and science. let them have both. let them both be taught. Let them both live....
We want everything we have to say on religion and on science told and we are ready to submit our theories to the direct and cross-examination of the prosecution. We have come in here ready for a battle. We have come in here for this duel.
I don't know anything about dueling, your Honor. It is against the law of God. It is against the church. It is against the law of Tennessee, but does the opposition mean by duel that our defendant shall be strapped to a board and they alone shall carry the sword? Is our only weapon the witnesses who shall testify to the accuracy of our theory -- is our weapon to be taken from us, so that the duel will be entirely one-sided? That isn't my idea of a duel. Moreover it isn't going to be a duel.
There is never a duel with the truth. The truth always wins and we are not afraid of it. The truth is no coward. The truth does not need the law. The truth does not need the forces of government. The truth does not need Mr. Bryan. the truth is imperishable, eternal, and immortal and needs no human agency to support it. We are ready to tell the truth as we understand it and we do not fear all the truth that they can present as facts. We are ready. We are ready. We feel we stand with progress. We feel we stand with science. we feel we stand with intelligence. We feel we stand with fundamental freedom in America We are not afraid. Where is the fear? We meet it! Where is the fear? We defy it! We ask your honor to admit the evidence as a matter of correct law, as a matter of sound procedure and as a matter of justice to the defense in this case. (Profound and continued applause.)
(The bailiff raps for order.)