Maynard M. Metcalf, a balding
from John Hopkins University, and the five other defense scientists in
began each morning of trial with a breakfast at The Mansion on the edge
town, followed by a drive to the courthouse.
They spent evenings sitting around a large table
the day’s proceedings and plans for the next day. These
discussions made plain that Arthur Garfield
Hays managed the defense effort while Darrow, in the words of the
geological expert, “was the ‘front’ for our side.”
When he was not busying himself with
chores such as repairing the old
house’s fickle plumbing system, George Rappalyea joined in the
The defense experts came to
prosecution rests its case on Wednesday morning, July 15.
Clarence Darrow calls Metcalf as the
defense’s first witness as the afternoon session begins.
(The choice of Metcalf reflects the belief of
defense lawyers that Metcalf could best demonstrate that an intelligent
could be both an evolutionist and a Christian—thus supporting the
contention that the teaching of evolution does not “deny” the Biblical
a heavy-set man with an egg-shaped face and rimless glasses, takes his
the witness chair. As he does so,
William Jennings Bryan rises from his seat at the prosecution table,
and plants himself less than ten feet in front of Metcalf, and glares
surprised scientist. Then, without a
word of explanation for his strange behavior,
ignores his adversary’s gesture and begins his examination of Metcalf. After establishing Metcalf’s scientific
credentials, Darrow moves on to his religious activities.
Metcalf testifies that he taught Bible
classes for three years at his Congregational Church in
asks Metcalf when he first learned of the theory of evolution. He replies that “night after night” as a
child he would discuss “evolutionary subjects” with his older brother
went to sleep at night.” Metcalf
concludes, “I guess I had been brought up on it.”
asks Metcalf, “Do you know any scientific man in the world that is not
evolutionist?” Attorney General Thomas
Stewart leaps to his feet to object, and Raulston sustains the
objection. “I do not think you can bring
one witness to
prove what others believe,” the judge explains.
Hays insists that the question was relevant to
defense’s contention that the theory of evolution was generally
therefore the ban on its teaching was not “a reasonable exercise” of
power. Hays argues, “Our whole case
depends upon proving that evolution is a reasonable scientific theory.” Raulston refuses to reconsider his ruling,
but allows Metcalf to privately tell the court reporter and attorneys
answer would have been to Darrow’s question.
Metcalf says that he knew “practically all of the
and geologists of this country” that had studied evolution. “I am absolutely convinced from personal
knowledge that any one of these men feel and believe, as a matter of
that evolution is a fact.” Their
disagreements, he maintains, relate only “to the exact method by which
evolution had been brought about.”
worried that the jury might read Metcalf’s answer in a newspaper, asks
“this part of the record” not be turned over to reporters.
Judge Raulston grants the prosecution’s
then renews a general objection to Metcalf’s testimony: “I am objecting
general question as to what evolution is.”
Stewart complains that scientific testimony on the nature
presents a question for judges to consider, not juries.
“We are excepting, your honor, to everything
that pertains to evolution or tends to show that there might or might
not be a
conflict between the story of divine creation and evolution.” Stewart
judge to exclude the jury while the prosecution argues its objection. Darrow asks how the jury, “only one of whom
ever read about evolution,” could intelligently decide the case without
expert testimony. Judge Raulston, after
listening to the hotter and hotter protests from the prosecution,
jury until the next morning after warning them not to “linger in the
yard” where they might hear Metcalf’s testimony over the public address
system. The jury foreperson assures
Raulston that “not a single jurymen has heard a single word pass over
the jury absent, Raulston says that he considers the question of the
admissibility of the scientific evidence “the most difficult thing the
going to pass on.” He asks whether the
attorneys could argue the question in the hours that remain that
afternoon. Both sides are
skeptical. Stewart expresses his
willingness, however, to “get on it.”
Darrow complains, “All of us are tired.”
continues with his questions. Metcalf
proves a confident and compelling witness.
He asserts with equivocation, “We are in possession of
knowledge to directly and fully answer the question: ‘Has evolution
occurred?’” He admits that “there are
dozens of theories of evolution”—including some that are “almost wholly
absurd”—but says that the differences relate to the “the methods by
evolution has been brought about.” Asked
to define evolution, Metcalf says, “It means the change of an organism
character into a different character.”
Metcalf adds, “By character I mean its structure, or its
its function, or its method of development from the egg or anything
else.” Darrow asks
Metcalf if he could estimate how long the process of evolution
had been going on. Metcalf says
“no.” The difficulty comes, he says, from
the several episodes of mass extinctions that seem to have occurred. “We do no know how many times” these
cataclysmic events “may have wiped out practically all” faunas and
floras, and as a result we are not “in a
position to say
when the earliest organisms appeared upon the earth.”
Darrow wonders what Metcalf thought about
Bishop Ussher’s estimate of 6,000 years since the dawn of life. Metcalf says he’d be more comfortable with “a
very modest guess” of 600,000,000 years.
asks Metcalf if he knew “where animal life began.”
The scientist replies that it “probably”
began “at the borderline between the water and the land where
conditions were a
little more complex.” He indicates,
however, that most of life’s early history on earth took place in the
that for “long periods in the earth’s history there was probably no
as land life.” Metcalf explains that
“terrestrial life” presented “conditions of difficulty” not found in
uniform conditions of the ocean.
Darrow turns to the most controversial of subjects: the origin of man. Metcalf begins by noting that man is “not a
very highly evolved animal in his body—he isn’t as highly specialized
great many organisms.” He expresses
confidence to “a tremendous probability” that man evolved from other
species. He contends that fossil
evidence suggests earlier, more primitive varieties of man, just as
evidence suggests other species had similar histories.
The series is “so convincing,” Metcalf
concludes, “that I think it entirely impossible for any normal human
was conversant with the phenomena to have even for a moment the least
that man evolved.
H. L. Mencken, in his daily report from
saw Metcalf’s testimony as a triumphant moment for the forces of
“It went whooping into the radio and it went banging into the face of
however, Mencken recognized formidable power that
moves to exclude the scientific testimony.
“The state moves to exclude the testimony of the
counsel for the defendant claim that they may be able to show that
there is no
conflict between science or religion, or in question, the story of
creation of man.” Stewart asserted the
act “interprets itself.” He accuses the
defense of trying “to prove what is the law is not the law.”
Dr. Metcalf and the other scientists sit patiently watching, attorneys
the balance of the day arguing over the admissibility of their
testimony. In between arguments, Judge
meeting with a courthouse employee, expresses concern that the large
might become too enthusiastic and cause
the floor of the second-story courtroom to collapse.
“I do not want to alarm you,” Raulston says,
“but I do know that the floor is heavily weighted and the least
cause something to happen, and applause might start the trouble.” Despite the judge’s warnings, attorneys make
no effort to tone down their eloquence and at several points in the
proceedings, the crowd responds with hearty applause.
Garfield Hays argues that evolution “is just as well substantiated” as
Copernican theory that the earth revolves around the sun and that the
has the right to present experts to show that. “The
eyes of the country, in fact of the
world are upon you here,” Hays, tells the judge, and “your honor…knows
necessary to properly introduce” evidence on the meaning of evolution.
McKenzie for the prosecution insists, “We have done crossed the
Rubicon.” After Judge Raulston upheld the
constitutionality of the act, McKenzie argues, “That never left
anything on the
face of the earth to determine, except as to the guilt or innocence of
defendant at bar in violating that act.” McKenzie
testifies as to his personal belief
in Genesis and challenges Hays, “Do you believe in the story of divine
creation?” Hays answered curtly, “That is none of your business.”
Jennings Bryan weighs in with a speech for the prosecution—his first
content to limit his attack to the question of expert testimony,
Attorney-general Stewart has the last
word. To the delight and applause of
Stewart claims that the scientific evidence the defense hoped to
“strikes at the very vitals of civilization and of Christianity and is
to a chance to prove by the word or mouth of man that man originated at
bottom of the sea.” The very notion,
Stewart insists, “is as absurd and as ridiculous as to say that a man
half monkey, half man.” He
pleads for Judge Raulston to avoid “the
never-ending controversy,” the “babble of song,” that would follow if
defense had its way.
========================================================================================The next day, Judge Raulston announced his ruling on the admissibility of further expert testimony. In his opinion, Raulston said that he found the meaning of the Butler Act clear to “the ordinary, non-expert mind.” The law contained no ambiguous words or complex terms that required the guidance of experts. As a result, Raulston concluded, “the court is content to sustain the motion of the attorney-general to exclude the expert testimony.”
Hays immediately rose to
announce the intention of
the defense to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Hays called the ruling “a denial of justice” that was
element of Anglo-Saxon procedure and jurisprudence.”
Raulston agreed to allow the defense
to submit, in
affidavit form, a summary of the testimony the excluded experts would
presented had they been given a chance.
Then, in a surprise ruling, he indicated that if the
such statements from experts, the prosecution would be allowed to
cross-examine. Darrow responded angrily:
“I do not understand why every request of the state and every
suggestion of the
prosecution should meet with an endless waste of time, and a bare
anything that is perfectly competent on our part should be immediately
overruled.” Raulston gave Darrow a
chance to temper his remarks, “I hope you do not mean to reflect upon
court?” Darrow, with his back to the
judge and looking out a courtroom window, then uttered the words that
earn him the first contempt citation of his long career, “Well, your
the right to hope.” The judge, stunned,
answered, “I have the right to do something else, perhaps.”
Notes on Other Defense Experts
Fay Cooper ColeDr. Cole was an anthropologist from the University of Chicago. He was prepared to testify that the effective study of anthropology depends upon an understanding of the doctrine of evolution. In his affidavit, Cole detailed the history of man, using the discoveries of the bones of beings as far back as 1891 (Java Man). Using such examples, Dr. Cole reasoned that man has taken on many variations over time, and that human development would be difficult to explain without referring to the various similarities in the animal kingdom.
Cole noted that numerous muscles and organs in the human body that he argued have no apparent physical uses (i.e. muscles behind the ears). He argued that at sometime in the development of man, these "useless" parts had a function.
Witherton C. CurtisDr. Curtis was a zoologist at the University of Missouri. The defense believed he would make a good witness because he tended to emphasize the spiritual rather than the material influences of science. Curtis said in his affidavit that evolution should be defined as the doctrine of how things have changed in the past, and how they are changing in the present. Dr. Curtis claimed that the doctrine of evolution could be divided into three categories: cosmic, geologic, and organic. Curtis argued that evolution is a necessary instrument in the search for answers to important cosmological, geological, and biological questions.
Charles Hubbard JuddCharles Hubbard Judd was the Director of the School of Education and head of the Department of Education at the University of Chicago for sixteen years prior to the Scopes trial. He was prepared to testify that the public school system would suffer if legislatures prohibited instruction about evolution. Mr. Judd asserted in his affidavit filed with the court that it would be impossible to carry on the work in most of the departments of higher learning of the State of Tennessee without teaching the doctrine of evolution as the "...fundamental basis for the understanding of all human institutions."
Jacob G. LipmanAs a specialist in the studies of various types of soil, Mr. Lipman was prepared to testify there is a direct relationship between the soil and plants and animals in the evolution of organic life. Lipman's affidavit suggested that without the doctrine of evolution, agriculture could not provide an effective service to mankind: "The material of plant and animal bodies is used over and over again, and the processes of decay must go on in order that the carbon, nitrogen, sulfur phosphorus, lime, and other elements locked up in the bodies of plants may be released for the countless generation of living things....Man has learned to use this knowledge to improve his condition, and in following the laws laid down by the divine Creator, he has been able to form more perfect forms of plant and animal life."
Kirtley F. MatherKirtley Mather was serving as the Chairman of the Department of Geology of Harvard University at the time of the Scopes trial. He offered extensive testimony on how geologists are able to accurately tell the history of various animal and plant life by discovering and researching fossil remains. He testified that in many of the rocks they find, there are fossil remains of both plant and animals that are as old as the rocks from which they are found. Mr. Mather then traced out a chronological time line of the oldest rocks and the fossils found.
Mather argued that evolution is not trying to replace religion, but merely serves as another approach to finding out how mankind and the rest of the living world came about.
Maynard M. MetcalfAt the time of the trial, Dr. Metcalf was engaged in private research at Johns Hopkins University, specializing in zoology. Speaking in support of the doctrine of evolution, Dr. Metcalf offered some rather strong opinions: "Teaching in any field that deals with living things is disgracefully, yet criminally, inadequate if it omits emphasis upon evolution...Such teaching would be criminal malpractice just as truly as would be a physician's failure to following established sound methods of treatment because of fear of persecution by ignorant neighbors." Metcalf contended in testimony presented without the jury being present that, "The fact of evolution is as fully established as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun."
Wilbur A. NelsonAs the state geologist of Tennessee, Wilbur Nelson was prepared to relate his testimony in the Scopes trial to the surrounding regions of Tennessee and the Mississippi River Valley. In his affidavit, he asserted that Tennessee could not have taught geology for ninety-seven years prior to this trial without stressing the doctrine of evolution as a foundation for this field of study. Geology, he testified, is the study of the earth and its age, along with the rocks and buried life contained therein. He argued that the theory of evolution was an important tool for geologists attempting to determine the age of the earth and length of geologic periods.
Horatio Hackett NewmanProfessor Newman was a zoologist at the University of Chicago. In his affidavit, he argued that science does not allow any intermediate positions. He believed that you must choose between the changing world (i.e. evolution) or fixity and unchangeabilty. "Once you admit a changing world,...you admit the essence of evolution." Newman suggested that evolution's triumph over other theories of creation depends upon its strength, coherency, and abundance.