The Evolution Controversy in North Carolina in the 1920s

[Source description: "Current Topics." Biblical Recorder, 23 March 1927, p. 7. About this source.]

Biblical Recorder, March 4, 1925

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The Poole Bill-- The Poole Bill has gone through several stages, but we have reserved comment until it was finally disposed of, in order to let our people know just what disposition was made of it. There was a public hearing on the bill in the House of Representatives on February 10 [1927] . . . A young man came to the front stating that he was never so badly scared in his life, but felt it his duty to speak a word in behalf of the young people. His name is Paul J. Ranson, of Huntersville. He said he was reared in the A. R. P. [Associate Reformed Presbyterian] Church. He believed the bitter discussions among Christian people was doing far more harm than the teaching of evolution. He did not know anything about evolution and never expected to know anything about it, but he knew he was a Christian, and pleaded for more of the spirit of Christ among our people, which would settle all our difficulties . . . .

The Committee Report--The committee met on Tuesday 15 [February 1927], and after a short speech by Mr. Poole, who was crowded out at the public hearing, Mr. Townsend of Harnett moved that the bill be reported unfavorably. This motion was adopted by a vote of 25 for and 11 against . . . The vote of the committee this year was quite a surprise. Many thought there might be a favorable report, and none, perhaps, thought the majority against the bill would be so large--more than two to one . . . .

Some Comments on the Poole Bill--The defeat of the bill does not mean that the people of North Carolina do not believe in the Bible as strongly as they ever did. It is safe to say that most, if not all, of those who opposed the bill are as firm believers in the Bible as those who favored it. They simply thought that it was a dangerous thing to begin to legislate on matters of religion, as that is a long step toward union of church and state. So let no one interpret the action of the Legislature as an endorsement of Modernism. The people of the State are true to the old faith, and the Bible is the most popular book here, as it is everywhere it is known.

While the Legislature defeated the bill for the reason given above, the teachers in our schools must not take this action as giving them license to teach anything that denies the Bible--not the interpretation that men may put on the Bible--but the Bible itself. Teachers of science have no business attempting to teach theology, any more than a theologian has business teaching science, unless he has studied the subject sufficiently to treat it intelligently . . . .

About this Source:

The Biblical Recorder usually took an editorial stance firmly against the teaching of evolution in public schools, however, this summary of the legislative actions regarding the Poole bill is very even-handed. The author of the article suggests that the failure to ban the teaching of evolution in schools does not suggest that the majority North Carolinians supported Darwinism. On the contrary, most North Carolinians remained staunchly conservative, but were discouraged by the tenor of the debate over the Poole Bill and were uncomfortable with the idea of legislating what could and could not be taught in schools.

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