Thanks to John Pieret, the full text of Clarence Darrow’s (1926) essay “The Eugenics Cult” is now online in text format. Clever readers could find it in Darrow anthologies at Google Books, but it’s nice to have it in plain text for the purposes of searching and general Google-tasticness. Hopefully the IDists/creationists will never be able to mention Darrow and eugenics in the same sentence again, without being sent a link to this essay.
You should go and read the essay. It is one of the most spectacular examples of polemic used-appropriately-and-for-good that you will read. And I find it fascinating that Darrow was leading a charge against eugenics (in his 1925 and 1926 essays) at exactly the same time that the Scopes Trial and appeals were going on (1925-1927). It’s rather more than William Jennings Bryan ever said against eugenics, I believe. (Did Bryan ever bash eugenics like this? My sense of it was that it wasn’t a major point of his, despite later revisionist history from creationists.)
And, I think the essay still speaks to issues we face in the 21st century. Although eugenics is almost universally despised today, many of the naive assumptions that made it seem like a good idea are still common today, amongst both liberals and conservatives. E.g., both some liberals and some conservatives think that the relative breeding of human cultural groups (religious/nonreligious, rich/poor, liberal/conservative) has great significance for the future – whereas the observed historical reality, and probably the future, is that massive cultural change is a continuous, people change cultural and religious affiliations constantly, and no safe extrapolation can be made based on uniformitarian assumptions about breeding.