The Trial of the Century

Gregg Jarrett

Imagine a scene in a local drugstore, in the insignificant town of Dayton, Tennessee. Local business man have gathered with a plan to put Dayton back on the map. What if they can find a willing school teacher that can challenge the Butler Act from 1925, that prohibits public school teachers from denying the book of Genesis account of mankind’s origin. And what if you can find such a teacher? Then you have the Scopes Trial of 1925, where the teacher (Scopes) is indicted for teaching the theory of Evolution.

According to Jarrett, this is the famous ‘Trial of the Century’, not only due to its cause, but also the podium for a showdown between William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, two heavyweights where the famous exchange between Darrow and Bryan went into the history books. What was at stake? According to Darrow, just as people should be permitted to exercise religion freely, they should be allowed to learn science freely. Darrow’s defence of Scopes posed a vital question: if science was to be excluded by law, where was man to gain his wealth of knowledge?

Unfortunately, the presiding judge, John T. Raulston, was biased towards the prosecution and frequently clashed with Darrow. The fact that the judge was presiding under a sign that read ‘Read your bible daily’ and every morning the trial was started with a prayer, were tell-tale signs. Soon Darrow realized his efforts were wasted in Dayton even though Scopes never told his students that the theory of evolution denies the story of the divine creation of man as thought in the bible, as the statute prohibited. But the wakening of the country exceeded their hopes. For a few days in the stifling heat in July 1925, all eyes were upon the trial.

After eight days of trial, it took the jury only nine minutes to deliberate. Scopes was found guilty on July 21 and ordered by judge Raulston to pay a $100 fine. Although the verdict was later overturned on a technicality.

While this book primarily focuses on the Scopes Monkey Trial, the author also expresses admiration for Clarence Darrow, whom he considers one of the greatest lawyers in history. If your intention is to delve into the trial itself, you can safely skip the initial chapters, which serve as mini biographies of the main adversaries. Despite this initial hurdle, I found the book increasingly engaging as it progressed.

Jarrett concludes that the debate and deliberation surrounding evolution persist fiercely. Even today, some American biology teachers cautiously avoid mentioning Darwin’s foundational theory, despite its universal inclusion in textbooks. Therefore, Darrow’s defense in the Scopes Trial remains relevant and essential. In this light, the Scopes Monkey Trial truly deserves the moniker of the trial of the century.

While I remain unsure if this trial truly deserves such a grandiose title, I must acknowledge that Jarrett’s account of the trial is undeniably entertaining, although I could have done without the extensive introduction.

  • Gregg Jarrett

    The Trial of the Century

    ISBN: 9781982198572 | Pages: 304 pages | Publication date: May 30, 2023

    Buy on Amazon


This book delves into the Scopes Monkey Trial, a historic event that took place in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. It explores the efforts of local businessmen to challenge the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools. The trial became a national sensation as renowned lawyers William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow squared off in a showdown of ideologies. The author examines the trial's significance and its impact on the ongoing debate between science and religion. While the book initially provides biographies of the main players, it ultimately offers an engaging account of the trial and its enduring relevance in today's society.

— Bill
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