I've been reading Karen Armstrong's "The Bible : The Biography", and there is a phrase I don't understand. It's about a trial in Tennessee, USA, about proscribed teaching of Darwinian teory in schools, in 1925. Here is the passage:
The southern states had hitherto taken little part in the fundamentalist movement but they were worried about the teaching of evolution. Bills were introduced into the state legislatures of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas to ban the teaching of Darwinian theory. The anti-evolutionary laws in Tennessee were particulary strict and John Scopes, a young teacher in the small town of Dayton, decided to strike a blow for freedom of speech and confessed that he had broken the law when he had taken a biology class in place of his principal. In July 1925 he was brought to trial. The new American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a team of lawyers to defend him, headed by the rationalist campaigner Clarence Darrow. Bryan agreed to support the law. Immediately the trial became a contest between the Bible and science.
Bryan was a disaster on the stand and Darrow emerged from the trial as the champion of rational thought. (...)"
Can anyone help me with a meaning of "disaster on the stand"?
Yes, I see, but Bryan actually won the case. And he wasn't a testifier, but prosecutor. The meaning of "disaster" is obvious, but I need more specific explanation of the other part of the phrase, "on the stand". Does it mean a kind of performance or speech in the court, or something like that? Thanks a lot.
Normally that would imply that a person has testified; but you say Bryan didn't. Perhaps it's an ellipsis for "Bryan was a disaster at questioning witnesses on the stand".
This was a very famous trial in American...and one of the highlights was when Darrow actually called Bryan himself as a defense witness. Bryan could legally have declined, but went head to head with Darrow. Darrow ridiculed Bryan’s belief in the literal truth of the Bible and was able to show Bryan didn’t really believe every Biblical event.
Through Darrow’s questioning, Bryan also was shown to lack enough knowledge of science to have any opinion about whether science was right or wrong about the Bible. The outcome was that most believed Bryan was humiliated.
That is, Bryan did take the stand and testify - and was a disaster!
Bryan won the case but came off as the loser instead. Most people believed Darrow outclassed him...and as well, the jury's decision was reversed by the Supreme Court..................on a technicality!!!
Last edited by David L.; 19-Jun-2009 at 13:38.