It was a hot summer in Dayton, Tenn., almost 86 years ago.

John Scopes, a 24-year-old science teacher and football coach, was to be tried for daring to teach evolution — banned at the time under Tennessee law. The famed lawyer Clarence Darrow came to his defense; the former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan opposed him.

Crowds gathered for the trial like flies flocking to fresh meat. The press was buzzing. H. L. Mencken even showed up, producing a series of scathing tirades.

We tend to look back on this trial and grimace. Put a man on trial for teaching science? And convict him? How mortifying!

But this week, the Miss USA contestants were asked whether evolution should be taught in schools. And by and large, the answers were horrifying.

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