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BRYAN, EVOLUTION AND THE SCOPES TRIAL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

Lord’s Day Evening, September 10, 2000

"If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods,

then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you"

(Joshua 24:20)

The Scopes trial of 1925 has often been called "The Monkey Trial." It was the most famous trial of the twentieth century. It marked a great turning away of America from Biblical Christianity.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ran a newspaper advertisement offering to pay a teacher willing to make a test case of the recently passed anti-evolution law in the state of Tennessee.

Two businessmen in Dayton, Tennessee read the advertisement and decided that having the trial in their town would boost business. They brought in John T. Scopes, a teacher in the public school, and he agreed to act as the law-breaking villain. He was served a warrant for teaching evolution and the date of the trial was set. What people did not know was that (1) Scopes never actually taught evolution. It was all made up. And (2) he was a paid stooge for the newly founded ACLU.

Three-time presidential candidate, and Secretary of State during Wilson’s presidency, William Jennings Bryan accepted an invitation to help the prosecution. Clarence Darrow, a world-famous criminal lawyer, was brought in by the ACLU to defend Scopes for teaching evolution. It should be remembered that the ACLU executive committee was run by Socialist Norman Thomas, Communist Party member Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and a conglomeration of atheists, agnostics, Communists, and socialist sympathizers. The ACLU has been an enemy of Biblical Christianity from that day to this.

The "Monkey Trial" became the most famous court case of the twentieth century. It was the first trial broadcast live, coast-to-coast, on national radio. Over 200 newspapers carried the story on the front page day after day. The reporters were out to destroy Bryan from the beginning. The cynical atheist newspaperman H. L. Mencken told Darrow, "The thing to do is to make a fool out of Bryan." Mencken called Bryan "the old buzzard," "the old mountebank (impostor)," and "a tinpot pope in the coca-cola belt" in his Baltimore Sun stories, which were reprinted by newspapers across the country. The media moguls had decided to attack Bryan rather than deal logically and scientifically with the problems presented by evolution. They had made up their minds to attack the personality of Bryan rather than deal fairly with the subject. It was to be the same kind of character assassination used later against anti-Communists like Senator Joseph McCarthy (most of what he said about Communist infiltration was true), Richard Nixon (he was correct about Alger Hiss and other Communists), and (unsuccessfully) against anti-Communist Ronald Reagan in the trumped-up Iran-Contra affair. It was the same kind of left-wing media bias that protected Bill Clinton when he gave military secrets to Red China and lied under oath, but vilified Richard Nixon for nothing more than protecting those who worked under him. The liberal media went after Bryan to destroy him, just like they went after McCarthy, Nixon, and President Reagan.

But Bryan was right and Mencken, Darrow, and the Communists and socialists in the ACLU were wrong. And I’m going to prove that to you tonight!

I. Bryan was right about the effects of evolution on our culture.

Bryan said:

"I want to speak of evolution, the idea that man, instead of being created by Almighty God by a separate act and put here for His (God’s) purpose, is just an animal developed… (Evolution) is a scientific excuse for discarding God, and for discarding His Word, and for discarding Christ. (Evolution) is a menace to the Christian religion; it is also a menace to society, and to civilization. That is why I am defending the Bible. It gives us that upon which the world must build, and there is no hope for the future if we give it up (W. J. Bryan, The Bible or Evolution? Sword of the Lord, reprinted from Moody Press, n.d., p. 11).

Now Bryan was exactly right about that. Evolution has proven to be "a menace to society, and to civilization." As Americans have given up the Bible, "there is no hope for the future." Bryan was exactly and completely right!

John D. Morris has said,

The stakes are high in the creation/evolution controversy. If creation is true, (then God) has the authority to set the rules…There is such a thing as absolute truth, right and wrong.

But what if we are evolved from apes, merely by chance mutations? No one sets the rules over our lives; there are no absolutes, no standards to live by. We can live as we choose. In evolution, only survival and reproduction are important; added to this is the lure of satisfying one’s "animal" desires. "Few animals mate for life; we are animals, so why should we limit our sexual freedom? There is no meaning to life, just do what you want" (R. M. Cornelius, Ph.D., and John D. Morris, Ph.D., Scopes: Creation on Trial, Master Books, 1999, p. 47).

And that’s exactly what has happened as a result of evolution. We have discarded God, and turned to the hollow pseudo-religion of Darwinism. And evolution is indeed "a menace to society and civilization," just as Bryan said it was. Look what has happened since evolution became the official state-backed "religion" of America back in the summer of 1925.

Since then, in just 75 years,

1. Divorce has ruined the lives of most Americans.

2. Sex without marriage is rampant.

3. Drugs, alcohol abuse, violence and crime riddle our society.

4. And suicide is the number two killer of American young people.

Are all of these connected to a belief in evolution? You bet they are! As Dr. Morris put it, "If we evolved from apes…no one sets the rules over our lives; there are no absolutes, no standards to live by. We can live as we choose" (Ibid., p. 47). And that’s what millions and millions of people are doing. They are living "any way they choose" because they have given up the Bible, they have embraced evolution, and God and the Bible have no authority in their lives.

Bryan was right. Evolution is "a menace to society, and to civilization." That was a tremendously profound insight for him to have way back in 1925. In the seventy-five years since then, Bryan’s sociological insight has proven true again and again.

The violence in our schools proves him right. The filth and violence in rap music proves him right. The "sex revolution" and the ruin of the American home proves him right. "Evolution is a menace to society, and to civilization."

And you cannot be an evolutionist and a Bible Christian. They are mutually exclusive. The Bible says,

"If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods (the strange gods of evolution), then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you" (Joshua 24:20).

And that has come true in America. We have turned away from God, and the church, and God has turned against us as a nation. Leonard Ravenhill said, "America’s greatest enemy is God."

II. And then, secondly, Bryan was right about the flaws in the theory of evolution.

William Jennings Bryan was the most famous creationist of his day. Although he was not a scientist, his political eminence and oratorical ability impelled him into that role. He was born in 1860, so was 65 at the time of the Scopes trial. He had been the Democratic candidate for president in 1896, 1900, and 1908, but was defeated each time, although known as one of the finest public speakers who ever lived. He was called "The Great Commoner." He served as Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson from 1912 to 1915.

Spiritually, he was a Presbyterian, and became an opponent of evolution after realizing the great war (World War I) was a direct outgrowth of evolutionary teaching in Germany, and that evolutionary teaching in American public schools and colleges was contributing significantly to the decline of morals and Christianity in general (Cornelius and Morris, ibid., p. 29).

The following are excerpts from an article by Bryan which was published in the Reader’s Digest (vol. 4, no. 40) in August, 1925. It was published shortly after Bryan’s death, which came a few days after the Scopes trial.

Here are highlights of Mr. Bryan’s article in the Reader’s Digest:

Are those who reject evolution as an unproved hypothesis unreasonable in refusing to accept, as conclusive, the evidence offered by evolutionists in support of a proposition that links every living thing in blood relationship to every other living thing - the rose to the onion, the eagle to the mosquito, the mockingbird to the rattlesnake, the royal palm to the scrub oak, and man to all? Surely, so astounding a proposition should be supported by facts before it becomes binding upon the judgment of a rational being.

It is not unusual for evolutionists to declare that their hypothesis is as clearly established as the law of gravitation or the roundness of the earth. Yet anyone can prove that anything heavier than air, when thrown up into the air, will fall to the ground; anyone can demonstrate the roundness of the earth by traveling around it.

Flaws in the theory of evolution were then given by Mr. Bryan:

1. There are no links between any species. Again, Bryan said:

Darwin estimated the number at from two to three million (species) – the lowest estimate is one million, about a half-million of which have been tabulated...No one has ever been able to trace one single species to another. Darwin admitted that no species had ever been traced to another, but he thought his hypothesis should be accepted even though the "missing links" had not been found. He did not say link, as some seem to think, but links. If there is such a thing as evolution, it is not just one link - the link between man and the lower forms of life - that is missing, but all the millions of links between millions of species. Our case is even stronger; it has been pointed out that evolution, if there is such a force, would act so slowly that there would be an infinite number of links between each two species; or a million times a million links in all, every one of which is missing.

Thomas Huxley (a famous evolutionist) also asserted that no species had ever been traced to another; and, while a friend of Darwin, declared that until some species could be traced to another, Darwin’s hypothesis did not rise to the dignity of a theory. Prof. William Bateson (a London biologist, prominent enough to be invited to cross the Atlantic and speak to the members of the American Society for the Advancement of Science), at Toronto two years ago last December, in discussing evolution, took up every effort that had been made to discover the origin of species, and declared that every one had failed - every one! Yet he still asserted faith in evolution, showing how much easier it is for some scientists to have faith along their own line of work than along religious lines.

Why should we believe that all species come one from another when no evidence has been found to prove that any species came from another? If evolution were true, every square foot of the earth’s surface would teem with conclusive proof of change. The entire absence of proof is the strongest possible proof that evolution is a myth.

2. The second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy; the universal law of deterioration) is against evolution. Bryan said:

But those who reject evolution have another proof. Chemistry refutes all the claims of the evolutionists, and proves that there is no pushing power to be found anywhere in nature - no progressive force at work in the earth - no eternal urge lifting matter or life from any plane to a higher one. Chemistry has failed to find any trace of force active enough to raise life, step by step, up along the lines of the family tree imagined by Darwin, from "a group of marine animals, resembling the larvae of existing ascidians" to "man, the wonder and glory of the universe."

On the contrary, the only active force discovered on the planet as pointed out by Edwin Slosson, is deterioration, decay, death.

3. The "Nebraska Man" and other fossil "men" were frauds. Bryan said:

When a few bones and a piece of skull are fashioned into a supposed likeness of a prehistoric animal, described as an ape-man, the evolutionists fall down before it and worship it, although it contains a smaller percentage of fact than the one-half percent alcohol permitted in a legal beverage… Someone searching for fossils in a sand hill in Nebraska came upon a lonely tooth. The body of the animal had disappeared; not even a jaw bone survived. Professor Osborn summoned a few congenial spirits, nearly as credulous as himself, and they held a post mortem examination on this insignificant tooth. After due deliberation, they announced that the tooth was the long-looked-for missing link which the world awaited.

Give science a fact and it is invincible. But no one can guess more wildly than a scientist, when he has no compass but his imagination, and no purpose but to get away from God. Darwin uses the phrase "we may well suppose" 800 times and wins for himself a high place among the unconscious humorists…

Dr. John D. Morris points out:

It is interesting to note Mr. Bryan’s sarcastic critique of the famous tooth which Henry Fairfield Osborn, Director of the American Museum of Natural History, had publicized far and wide as the ancient "Nebraska Man." Mr. Bryan died shortly before the discovery of a more complete skeleton of the creature, revealing it to have been not an ape-man (nor an ape, nor a man!) but a pig! (Cornelius and Morris, Scopes: Creation on Trial, p. 28).

This is the "Nebraska Man" that Darrow trumpeted in the Scopes Trial. Darrow held up a picture of "Nebraska Man" and said all intelligent people believed in it. A few months after the trial it proved to be the bones of a pig!

4. The "guesses" of evolutionists prove nothing. Bryan said:

No one can guess more wildly than a scientist, when he has no compass but his imagination, and no purpose but to get away from God. Darwin used the phrase, "We may well suppose" 800 times…to explain things that are not true. For instance, he assumed that man has a brain superior to woman’s brain, and tried to explain it on the theory that our ancestors were brutes and that the males, fighting for female mates, increased their brain power. He also assumed that our ancestors were hairy animals, and tried to explain the disappearance of the hair on the theory that the females selected their companions and, because of a universal preference, selected the least hairy and thus, in the course of ages, bred the hair off. The two explanations would be funny enough, even if each did not make the other impossible - the two sexes could not do the selecting at the same time.

Evolutionists also explain to us that light, beating on the skin, brought out the eye, although the explanation does not tell us why the light waves did not continue to beat until they brought out eyes all over the body. They also tell us that the leg is a development from a wart that accidentally appeared on the belly of a legless animal; and that we dream of falling because our ancestors fell out of trees 50,000 years ago.

It is a calamity that highly educated men should while away their time in idle speculation instead of devoting themselves to the serious problems that demand solution.

That was the testimony of William Jennings Bryan. He died five days after the Scopes Trial. In those five days he had spoken to over 75,000 people, blasting evolution and upholding the Bible. In those five days he had driven hundreds of miles on rough roads, corrected the proofs of his book against evolution, and had preached to hundreds of people in an old-fashioned Methodist church.

After preaching that last Sunday morning, he lay down for a nap. He never woke. They buried him with great honor in Arlington National Cemetery. On his tombstone were the words, "He kept the faith."

Seventy-five years have come and gone since Bryan died. In those seven and a half decades Bryan has been vilified and hated by the liberal media. Hollywood has attacked him in a vicious and twisted movie, "Inherit the Wind." College teachers across America have ridiculed him to generation after generation of students - who never get to hear the other side of the story.

But today, a new generation is beginning to reevaluate Bryan and his message. Gary Wills, in his book Under God, has rescued Bryan from Darwin, Mencken and the others. Jeffrey Hart, writing in King Features Syndicate, a national newspaper venue, said this:

I think Bryan was right. What Darrow and the modernizers stood for is the culture we have, Penthouse, Madonna and Trump. And, adding up the score today, Bryan was right and Darrow, Mencken and the rest were wrong (Jeffrey Hart, King Features Syndicate, 1990).

Is his evaluation correct? Was Bryan right? Young person, you answer that question for yourself.

For seventy-five years evolution has dominated the classrooms of America. Are we better as a people than we were back then? Is America a better place under evolution than it was under the Bible? Are you happier? Are you more free from anxiety, loneliness, and violence?

I say that the daily newspaper proves Bryan right on every page. Our country is full of violence, prejudice, drugs, alcoholism, sex perversion and crime since evolution took over and the Bible was banned in our high schools and colleges. "Bryan was right and the rest were wrong!"

Young person, somebody lied to you. Somebody told you a lie. Somebody took the Bible away from you and handed you a plate of garbage in its place. And it’s time for you to go back to the Bible of the Pilgrims, back to the Bible of our nation’s founders, back to the Bible of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and William Jennings Bryan.

Throw out the plate of garbage they gave you. Throw out the slop-pail of rotted refuse given to you by H. L. Mencken, Clarence Darrow and the ACLU! Throw it out! Throw it out! Throw it out! Throw it out!

Come back to the God of our fathers! Come back to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind! Come back to the Bible! Come back to the local church! Be in this fundamental Baptist church every time the door is open! "Bryan was right and the rest were wrong!"

It was raining heavily at Arlington National Cemetery the day they buried Bryan. But just as his coffin was lowered into the grave, the dark clouds parted and a rainbow filled the sky. That may have been a sign from Heaven. They have buried God and the Bible and the dark, bitter rain of unbelief has flooded America. But someday God will send revival. The clouds of darkness, cynicism, and unbelief will part and God’s rainbow of revival will come again to our churches and our nation. Pray for that day. Until then, no matter what happens, let it be said of you, as it was of William Jennings Bryan, "He kept the faith." Let that be said of you, "He kept the faith." "She kept the faith."

Young people, you have found a church, this church, where we will love you, and go out of our way to help you find the truth and the happiness you desire. Let us be your friends - your new and best friends. Be with us every time the church door opens and we’ll become the best friends you ever had, and we’ll show you how you can be born again and find peace through God by trusting in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Come then, and join this holy band, and on to glory go,

To dwell in that celestial land, where joys immortal flow.

Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now.

He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.

("Only Trust Him," by John H. Stockton, 1813-1877)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Joshua 24:14-20

Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"

The outline of

BRYAN, EVOLUTION AND THE SCOPES TRIAL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods,

then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you"

(Joshua 24:20)

I. Bryan was right about the effects of evolution

     "It is a menace to society, and civilization."

II. Bryan was right about flaws in the theory of evolution

  • 1. There are no links between any species.

  • 2. The second law of thermodynamics is against evolution.

  • 3. The "Nebraska Man" is a fraud.

  • 4. The "guesses" of evolutionists prove nothing.