Drummond asks Brady about his familiarity with the Bible and with Darwin’s work. Brady says that he knows much of the Bible by memory but that he has never read Darwin. Drummond asks Brady how he can reject a book he has never read. Davenport objects. The judge orders Drummond to confine his questions to matters regarding the Bible. Drummond asks Brady whether he believes that every word in the Bible should be taken literally. Brady says that he does. Drummond then asks Brady about the episode of Jonah and the whale, and Brady says he believes that God is capable of miracles. Drummond asks about the story of Joshua causing the sun to stop, and Brady again affirms his belief in God’s power to perform miracles. Drummond asks Brady if he is aware of the implications of the sun stopping in the sky according to the modern theory of the solar system. Drummond asks Brady if he denies the teachings of Copernicus as well as Darwin. Brady replies that God’s will supercedes natural laws. Drummond asks several more questions relating to the Bible, and Davenport interrupts to raise doubts about the relevance of Drummond’s line of questioning. Brady says Drummond is playing into the prosecution’s hands by demonstrating the defense’s contempt for sacred things.
Drummond says that progress has a price and that the new understandings Darwin has brought to us demand that we surrender our faith in the literal truth of the Bible. Brady protests. Drummond asks Brady why God gave man the power to think if he didn’t intend for him to use it. Drummond asks Brady the difference between a man and a sponge. Brady, faltering, says that God’s will determines the difference between a man and a sponge. Dramatically, Drummond declares that Cates merely wants the same God-given right as a sponge—the right to think. The crowd, for the first time, applauds Drummond.
Brady calls Cates deluded. Drummond says that Cates merely lacks Brady’s clear-cut notions of right and wrong. Drummond calmly walks up to one of the scientists he intended to call to the witness stand and takes from him a small rock. Drummond asks Brady how old he figures the rock is. Brady says he isn’t interested in the rock’s age. Drummond cites one scholar’s claim that the rock is ten million years old. Brady claims that the rock can’t be more than six thousand years old because one biblical scholar determined 4004 b.c. to be the year of creation. Drummond asks Brady whether creation happened during a twenty-four-hour day and whether that day can be considered a day at all, given that the creation of the world preceded the creation of the sun. Drummond suggests that Brady’s supposed first “day” may in fact have been ten million years in duration.
The crowd becomes excited, and the judge calls for order. Brady accuses Drummond of attempting to destroy the people’s faith in the Bible. Drummond says that the Bible is a good book but that it isn’t the sole source of human knowledge. Brady claims that God spoke directly to the Bible’s authors. Drummond responds by asking why we shouldn’t think that God spoke to Darwin as well. Brady insists that God couldn’t have spoken to Darwin because God told Brady so. To the crowd’s amusement, Drummond mocks Brady’s claim to be the mouthpiece of God. Exasperated, Brady backs down momentarily and claims that every man has free will. Drummond asks why, if every man has free will, Cates is in jail. Brady begins raving, quoting the Bible, while Drummond continues to mock him, prompting laughter from the crowd.
Drummond dismisses Brady as a witness, but Brady continues to rant. The judge tells Brady to step down and adjourns the trial until the next day. Davenport asks the judge to strike Brady’s testimony from the record. Still babbling biblical names, Brady collapses in his chair. As the crowd leaves the courtroom, Mrs. Brady comforts her humiliated husband.
The centerpiece of the play, the trial scene careens on the wave of the courtroom crowd’s approval, moving from certain triumph for the prosecution to moral victory for the defense. Drummond’s ironic, probing questioning of witnesses and Rachel Brown’s emotional breakdown at Brady’s hands win Cates the crowd’s sympathies, and the trial culminates in Drummond’s humiliation of the dumbfounded Brady. Once the townspeople clearly demonstrate their support for Cates, the subsequent legal consequences he faces take on secondary importance.