My post title is from a Scalia dissent from a cert. denial, in a case called Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education v. Freiler, where the court below found an Establishment Clause violation in a school board resolution that required teachers to preface their teaching of evolution with this statement:
“It is hereby recognized by the Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, that the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.
“It is further recognized by the Board of Education that it is the basic right and privilege of each student to form his/her own opinion or maintain beliefs taught by parents on this very important matter of the origin of life and matter. Students are urged to exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion.”
Scalia ended his dissent this way:
In Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), we invalidated a statute that forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools; in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), we invalidated a statute that required the teaching of creationism whenever evolution was also taught; today we permit a Court of Appeals to push the much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial one step further. We stand by in silence while a deeply divided Fifth Circuit bars a school district from even suggesting to students that other theories besides evolution–including, but not limited to, the Biblical theory of creation–are worthy of their consideration.Perhaps more interesting than the story of what really happened at the Scopes trial is the story of how the legend of the trial became embedded in American culture and affected what happened in later cases and how many of us have thought about the Establishment Clause. The picture of a noble science teacher persecuted by a bunch of rubes is a vivid one that we respond to strongly -- and our picture is the one from that movie, isn't it?
You know, there's even a legend about "Inherit the Wind" -- that it's an excellent movie. I tried watching it recently and couldn't force myself through the thing. Look how it has an 8.0 rating on IMDB. I find it hard to believe that score was produced by people with a real memory of watching the movie as opposed to an imprint of its reputation on their minds.
The myth of the Scopes trial is animated by a love of science, of basing knowledge on a study of evidence and sound inference. Ironically.
UPDATE: Edited to indicate that the book itself follows the subsequent effect of the case.