75 Years After Scopes’ Conviction, Creationism-Evolution Drama is Recreated in Kansas Theatre


Contact: People For the American Way at Array

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Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Lawrence, Kansas, July 12, 2000 –

One of America’s most famous dramas – and two of its most famous combatants – will take center stage once again tonight, this time not in a Tennessee courtroom but in a Lawrence, Kansas theater. At 7:00 p.m. in the Lied Center on the campus of the University of Kansas, William Jennings Bryan (played by Edward Asner) and Clarence Darrow (portrayed by James Cromwell) will square off again over a topic that has bedeviled American life ever since John Scopes went on trial. The contentious question at the heart of this production is a historic one that insists on remaining current events: where did we come from and how – and what are we going to teach our children.

Last summer, Kansas catapulted into the center of this long-running debate when the state’s Board of Education voted to remove evolution from the state’s science standards and tests. Tonight’s event, created and presented by People For the American Way Foundation, combines drama and discussion as part of the organization’s educational effort to promote greater public awareness and informed debate about the issue. Although the evolution vs. creationism dispute is a national one, with several dozen states from all over the nation involved, Kansas is widely seen as playing a pivotal role.

“Kansas is today’s ground zero in the battle over evolution,” said PFAWF President Ralph G. Neas. “The school board’s removal of evolution from the standards has been hailed as a victory by creationists and copied by other states. What Kansas does will ripple out in all directions to touch the education of millions of children who have never even set foot in this state.”

The long-simmering debate over evolution vs. creation now at a full boil in Kansas has also been on the front burner recently with similar efforts in Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Texas.

In Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia legislators introduced anti-evolution bills, while Alabama mandated evolution disclaimers for biology textbooks and Louisiana tried but failed to do the same.

“ORIGINS: Exploring the Evolution-Creationism Dispute through Drama and Debate” is a new work in two parts presented at the University of Kansas’ Lied Center. Part I is the world premiere of new theatrical work recreating scenes from the 1925 Scopes trial, based on the actual historic court transcripts and on H.L. Mencken’s news coverage of the trial. It stars Edward Asner (“Lou Grant, “Mary Tyler Moore Show”) as prosecuting attorney William Jennings Bryan and James Cromwell (“Babe,” “L.A. Confidential”) as defense counsel Clarence Darrow, headlining a cast with extensive film and TV credits.

Part II of ORIGINS is a panel discussion and debate featuring national experts from all points of view in the evolution-creationism debate. The event is being presented by People For the American Way Foundation to encourage continuing community discussion and dialogue on this thorny and contentious issue.

Across the nation, the dispute over evolution vs. creationism continues to bubble up time and again. For example:

Earlier this year, Kentucky’s education department yanked the word “evolution” from its state science standards, replacing it with the phrase “change over time.”
Since the early 1990s, a Louisiana public school district has attempted to add an evolution disclaimer to its science textbooks only to be thwarted by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled last summer that the school district was intent on advancing Christianity in the public schools – a government action forbidden by the First Amendment’s principle of separation of church and state. In June, the Supreme Court declined the school district’s request to overturn the 5th Circuit’s decision.
A publicly funded charter school in Michigan is defending its curriculum, which includes discussion of creationism in science classes, against a federal lawsuit. Last year a group of parents sued the Vanguard Charter Academy, claiming the school had violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment by teaching creationism as scientific theory in biology classes. The case is pending in a federal court in Grand Rapids.
Bills pending in the Arizona and Georgia Legislatures would require teachers “to present evidence that supports and evidence that does not support the theory of evolution.”
Education officials and state lawmakers in Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico and West Virginia have fended off recent pressure by creationists to rewrite science standards or introduce religious-based textbooks, such as “Of Pandas and People,” into their science curricula.

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For more information, please follow the links below:

Public Wants Evolution, Not Creationism, in Science Class, New National Poll Shows

Read the Creationism Resource Page

Download the report, “Evolution and Creationism In Public Education: An In-depth Reading Of Public Opinion” (.pdf)

Read the One-Page Summary Chart from Creationism Poll, “Segmenting the Public: Teaching About the Origins of Mankind” (.pdf)

Read the One-Page Summary Chart from Creationism Poll, “Question: Agree or disagree: A person can believe in Evolution and still believe God created humans and guided their development?” (.pdf)

Download the report, “Sabotaging Science: Creationist Strategy in the 1990s”(.pdf)