The impact of the false reporting of the 1925 Scopes trial still impacts the Darwinian evolution debate today. Here are a few of the nine lies documented at Mencken’s Mendacity at the Scopes Trial:
First, Mencken lied about the key point at issue in the Scopes Trial, which was not whether the theory of evolution could be taught in Tennessee’s public high schools, but whether the evolution of man from “lower animals” could be taught as a scientific theory to high school students, in a state where a solid majority of parents in the state of Tennessee opposed the teaching of such a theory to their children, on both moral and religious grounds.
Second, Mencken lied by omission, by failing to mention that Hunter’s Civic Biology, a pro-evolution science textbook that was cited at the trial, and which high school teachers in the state of Tennessee were actually required to use at the time, endorsed both racism and eugenics: it taught the the Caucasoid race was “the highest” races, described people with mental handicaps and genetic deformities as “true parasites“, and highly commended the practice of eugenics.
Third, Mencken mis-represented the religious views of William Jennings Bryan, depicting him as a Biblical literalist and a “fundamentalist pope,” when Bryan’s own writings showed that he was a Presbyterian of fairly liberal views, who believed in an old Earth, and who was open to the possibility that plants and animals had evolved by Darwinian natural selection, making an exception only for man.
Fourth, Mencken mendaciously attributed to Bryan the statement that man is not a mammal, when Bryan said nothing of the sort. What Bryan did object to was the portrayal of man in Hunter’s Civic Biology as an unexceptional mammal, “so indistinguishable among the mammals that they leave him there with thirty-four hundred and ninety-nine other [species of] mammals.”
Fifth, Mencken consistently portrayed Bryan as a petty, hate-filled character when others who were present, including Scopes himself, testified to his magnanimity, affability and pleasant personality.