Over the weekend, the 6,000 or so residents of Dayton, Tenn., put on a play, the same play they have put on every year about this time. It retells the story that put Dayton on the map 80 years ago. Townsfolk prominent and not so prominent dressed up in the styles of the Roaring ’20s and assembled outside the Rhea County Courthouse to recite the proceedings of the real Trial of the Century: the prosecution in 1925 of John T. Scopes for teaching his students the theory of evolution.
The picture that emerged, especially in the hyperventilating prose of the iconoclastic Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken and later in the play and movie “Inherit the Wind,” was of a town full of “Christian pro-creation” believers who were “uneducated, dimwitted people who came to town barefoot and married their cousin,” said historian John Perry, co-author of a new book, “Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial.” He and co-author Marvin Olasky recount the trial and argue for teaching the hypothesis that an intelligent designer shaped the course of human development.