The Traditionalist vs. the Modernist We live in a society that is continuously surrounded with conflict between religion and way of life. From the very beginning of time, there has always been a battle between the values of religion and those of the individual. During the era of Jesus, they were in a dilemma of following the basic laws of Judaism that had already become outdated by about two thousand years or those of the Romans. Since the development of science in more recent years, issues such as these have come even more into light and relevance.
Today the world fights topics such as homosexual marriages and abortion.
In 1925, these conflicting ideas were different but on a similar topic, evolution. In the case of Tennessee vs. John Scopes, “the Monkey Trial,” the recent discoveries of Charles Darwin had brought into question, are we related to monkeys? Even though the Butler Act was not scientific and not based on truth, its purpose was to maintain the traditional lifestyles that had been practiced for centuries.
The early twenties were a time of drastic change in the mind of individuals. During this era there was an establishment of two different groups of people, the traditionalist and the modernist.
The traditionalist group was older individuals that felt that everything that was valuable and important previously in life was coming to an end. Modernist were those individuals that were younger and did not care about the judgments and opinions of society. Their main concern was not to undermine themselves and their intelligence. A modernist during the 20s stated, “now granted that we may and must teach science in our colleges, this teaching must be done by scientist neither priest nor prophet nor apostle nor even our Lord himself ever made the slightest contribution to our knowledge of natural science” (Larson 52).
These were the people that were dedicated in learning the nature of science and not taking the teachings of society to be true. This division between these two groups exploded when the trial came to light. A situation that had occurred with a biology teacher in a small town in Tennessee had become a major media highlight at that time and received much coverage by reporters. This had become a larger battle between science and religion. Religion had always taught that society descended from the lives of two individuals, Adam and Eve. Recent research by Darwin had suggested otherwise.
Through his research with finches in the Galapagos Islands, he had determined that all creatures of the world were somehow interrelated and had evolved from a common ancestor. The ancestor that he had determined for human beings was a primitive ape. When individuals of the traditionalist movement heard of such accusations, they were outraged. They felt that people that were agreeing with the notions of Darwin were trying to undermine the beliefs of over thousands of years of traditions and therefore had become an atheist let a lone an outcast.
In February of 1925, a bill had been enacted by President William Jennings Bryan and John Butler, a farmer and later political runnee for state representative, that made it unlawful “to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals” (Linder). John Butler was a major cause of the Scopes trial due to his personal beliefs and upbringing, a source of his great anger for the idea of evolution.
Butler had been a heavily devoted practicing Baptist that during one visit by a preacher to his congregation, he had a sort of revelation about the issue of evolution. The preacher had indicated that he encountered a woman that had gone to take a biology course at a nearby university in Tennessee and that when she returned, “she was no longer a Christian. ” “The Theory of evolution had destroyed her faith in God” (Linder). This truly influenced Butler that day.
He returned to his farm where he saw the lives of his three children and how biology could change them. He felt that if his children studied the beliefs of biology, they would become atheists and not be in favor with God. He further saw the epidemic that had been arising in a school that he had taught at periodically. Biology was being taught there along with other schools. Butler saw that biology would be a spreading problem and that it would ruin the lives of many. To stop this epidemic, he suggested the Butler Act that would put a stop to the problem.
He supported the notion that evolution “replaced the solid, land-based values of his neighbors with more cosmopolitan and irreligious values” (Linder). This is definitely a traditionalist perspective on such an issue. With recent development and enacting of the Butler Act, a group arose to combat the problems with this traditionalist movement and act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fought “laws that they felt as a threat to freedom and individual liberty in American society” (Larson 60).
The ACLU organization committed themselves to protecting free speech and academic freedom for all people. Around the time of the Scopes Trial, the ACLU offered to help any Tennessee schoolteacher to challenge the Butler Act in court. These people saw it as a chance to strike down the new law. They were supporting the advancement of science and other views of society instead of ones previously taught. Individuals had the freedom to use their intellect to the best of their ability to further enhance the knowledge of themselves and the world.
This group symbolizes the values of the modernist movement in its full respects. The Scopes trial was not only a conflict between evolution and religion but between the modernist and traditionalist movements that had developed in the 1920s. This was a battle between traditions that had been practiced for centuries with new and rising aspects of science especially with respect to evolution. The Butler Act was later established by John Butler to stop the spread of these notions of evolution and again return to the values of the past.
He had determined that evolution was leading people astray from there essential beliefs, those in God. The ACLU rose to counteract this movement and to support those that sought advancement in knowledge and in society. The Butler Act was an attempt to establish religious beliefs and traditions as the main concern for every human, however, it failed and science has now become the basis of society. | |
Cite this Scopes Monkey Trial
Scopes Monkey Trial. (2018, Jan 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/scopes-monkey-trial/