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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about...Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of the Species, published 140 years ago and the debates about the teaching of evolution that remain alive today.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

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TRACY: Darwin took us forward to a hilltop, from where we could look back and see the way from which we came. But for this insight and for this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis.

MARCH: We must not abandon faith!

CURWOOD: That's Spencer Tracy, along with Fredric March in the film, "Inherit the Wind," the Hollywood retelling of the infamous Monkey Trial of the 1920s. The trial, the movie, and debates still raging today, were all inspired by a book that was published 140 years ago this week: Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species. The book laid out the revolutionary theory that animals and plants evolve from one kind to another over time, by a process of natural selection. And although it contained only the slightest reference to human origins, it was condemned by many at the time as an assault on religious faith. Darwin was undaunted, though. In his later work, The Descent of Man, he stoked the debate still further by exploring the evolutionary links between humans and apes. In the real-life Monkey Trial, high school teacher John Scopes was convicted of violating Tennessee law by teaching evolution, with prosecutor William Jennings Bryan prevailing over defense attorney Clarence Darrow. The decision was reversed, though, on a technicality a year later. And it wasn't until 1967 that Tennessee repealed the law. In some schools, the teaching of evolution still comes under fire to this day. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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