Author: Rob Zuber
Title: Clarence Darrow: Misquote
Jim Loucks writes:
>Leveling with his readers, Mr. Smith then noted that "in 1925, in
>Dayton, Tennessee, at a time and place where only religious
>creationism was legally taught, Clarence Darrow (the ACLU attorney
>in the 'Scopes Monkey Trial'), thought it bigotry for public schools
>to teach only one theory of origins." "Would the ACLU be any less
>bigoted were it to demand that a modern-day John T. Scopes be
>allowed to teach 'only' neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory?" he asks.
"IT IS BIGOTRY FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO TEACH ONLY ONE THEORY OF ORIGINS"
Hmmm. Did Clarence Darrow ever say that?
Tom McIver attempted to track down the source of this quote . The
results are very interesting.
First it should be noted that it wouldn't make any sense for Darrow
to say such a thing at the Scopes trial. Darrow was trying to defend the
practice of teaching *only* evolution, which is what the Dayton public
schools were doing at the time of the Scopes trial . Darrow would be
shooting himself in the foot.
So what did McIver discover? It's a long and twisted story so I will
attempt to summarize.
"One thing is clear, however: Darrow did not say any such thing during
the trial - at least not according to the quasi-official, unedited, published
transcript of the entire proceedings, the 1925 book _The World's Most Famous
Court Trial_ (National Book Company). It is conceivable that the steno-
grapher might have missed a few words, since there was considerable noise and
excitement during the trial, and part of it was held outdoors, but it seems
most unlikely that such a ringing statement would have been omitted from the
complete transcript in the published version considered authoritative by
It seems most creationists cite an article by the creationist lawyer
Wendell Bird  as their source. Bird, in turn, cites a biology professor
by the name of Robert O'Bannon (who supports the teaching of creationism in
public schools) as his source. O'Bannon is described as a biology professor
at Lee College in Cleveland, Tennessee . McIver says,
"O'Bannon gives no source for the quote. I asked him recently where
it came from and whether he had intended it as a direct quote, as the
transcript indicated, or merely a paraphrase. O'Bannon, who was very
courteous and open, said it was a direct quote and that he got it from the
Griggs reference cited elsewhere in his symposium talk."
The Griggs reference that O'Bannon cites is reference . McIver
then goes on,
"Griggs modestly volunteered that his _Science and Scripture_ article
was a 'trivial essay' that he had not intended as a scholarly reference. The
Darrow quote was written from memory, without the aid of a written source.
For this reason, he said, he intended the quote as a paraphrase, not a direct
quote. He had heard it orally from a Baptist preacher in Denver who died some
years ago. Griggs emphasized, however, that this preacher was quite trust-
worthy, so even though paraphrased, he is sure that the quote is accurate. The
preacher himself got it from a Dayton newspaper account around the time of the
trial, he thinks. Griggs believes the reporter probably heard Darrow say it
before the actual court proceedings, though he is not sure whether it was a
public statement or something said during an interview."
To top it all off, Dr. Norman L. Geisler (a creationist who once used
the now infamous quote in one of his books) says (in ),
"I wish to commend Tom McIver for exposing the questionable
authenticity of the widely used quote attributed to Clarence Darrow, "It is
bigotry for public schools to teach only one theory of origins". Wendell Bird,
whose _Yale Law Review_ article  was the source of many of the citations,
has subsequently recognized that the quote is probably not authentic. So much
for trusting Ivy League publications!
I believe, also, that McIver should be commended for revealing another
misquotation of Darrow [I haven't mentioned this, one misquote for the day
is plenty :)]. It is clear that Darrow did not believe that creation was
scientific. Thus, when he declared at the Scopes trial that children should
have 'both' creation and evolution, he meant both 'evolution' (which is
science) and 'creation' (which is theology). This fits not only with his
whole argument at the trial but also with what he said a few years later when
he declared, 'In fact, there is no other theory to teach regarding the origin
of the various animal species, including man ."
This quote has spread like a virus, unchecked, through creationist
literature (I haven't shown that here). Will Jim Loucks agree with Dr. Geisler
and Wendell Bird that the quote is 'probably not authentic'? Or will he choose
to continue the spreading of this virus?
"It is the height of bigotry to teach only one theory of origins." ----
Dr. D James Kennedy 'quoting' Darrow in his _The Case for Creation_ video.
 McIver, Tom. 1988. _Creationist Misquotation of Darrow_ Creation/Evolution
 Bird, Wendell. 1978. _Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public
Schools_ Yale Law Journal. 87:3:515-570.
 Griggs, Jolly F. 1974. _Is the Public School the Established Church?_
Science and Scripture. 4:2:23-29
 Geisler, Norman L., 1989. _Was Clarence Darrow a Bigot?_ Creation/Evolution
 Darrow, Clarence. 1932. _The Story of My Life_ New York: Charles Scribner's