Skip to comments.Did God Create The World, Or Darwin; The Play Recreated In (ECUSA)... ["Inherit the Wind" exposed]
Posted on 02/09/2006 5:52:30 PM PST by sionnsar
On the HOBD listerv, one of the usual challenges to those that would hold to the biblical standards of sexual morality involves belief in the theory of evolution, as if to say that the failure to recongize homosexuality as part of the evolutionary understanding of sexuality means that you are stupid. Well, homosexuality ought to not-breed itself out of existance, so surely, such a thing is not genetic and doesnt fit within Darwinian theory. But, the play and movie, Inherit the Wind, has often provided a basis for protest against so-called biblical fundamentalism. Indeed, with trials occuring in our country regarding the teaching of Intelligent Design and, believe it or not, whether a religious institution might require a biology professor employed by the same to say to his class that God may have been the cause of creation, some have suggested that Inherit the Wind may have a timeliness and poignance today more so than when the play and the movie were before the American public.
But, as with all things, Inherit the Wind is a mischaracterization of the conservative/pro-God point of view. The play and the movie attempts to cast William Jennings Bryan, perhaps one of the countrys best lawyers and politicians, as some ignorant hick protesting against his belief system being disproven. I find it interesting how the liberal media tends to be so wrong about things. Bryan was not a bibilical fundamentalist, but a gifted lawyer who asked the question of whether Darwinian theory was complete and whether it necessarily answered the human question of Why, and whether such a theory was good for society as opposed to creationism.
I found an article at First Things that was very interesting. What I find truly interesting is that the left in the Episcopal Church are employing the same tactics as the writers of Inherit the Wind. Some snippits and some thoughts from yours truly:
There is finally something shallow about the highminded social realism in much twentieth-century American drama, with its progressive and open- ended vision of life. Lawrence and Lees skillful and often riveting collaboration in Inherit the Wind is no exception.
While Inherit the Wind remains faithful to the broad outlines of the historical events it portrays, it flagrantly distorts the details, and neither the fictionalized names nor the cover of artistic license can excuse what amounts to an ideologically motivated hoax. The film, for example, depicts Cates arrested in the act of teaching evolution by a grim posse of morally offended citizens, while in fact no effort was made to enforce the Butler Act. What actually brought the issue to light-never mentioned in play or film-was that the American Civil Liberties Union advertised for someone to challenge the law. Several Dayton citizens, hoping the publicity would benefit their town, approached Scopes as a possible candidate. Scopes was actually a mathematics teacher and athletic coach and had only briefly substituted as a biology teacher. He did not remember teaching evolution, but he had used the standard textbook, Hunters Civic Biology, which contained a short section on the subject. Scopes was surprised to hear how relatively knowledgeable the student witnesses were, and he speculated that they must have picked up what they knew somewhere else and come to associate it with his class. Scopes himself knew little beyond the rudiments, and the defense thought it best to keep him off the stand, where his lack of knowledge (not to mention his uncertainty as to whether he had taught the subject) might prove embarrassing.
Far from being imprisoned, let alone hung in effigy, Scopes was free after his indictment. After traveling to New York to meet the ACLU Executive Board that included Norman Thomas and Felix Frankfurter, he lived in his Dayton boarding house, continuing to have friendly intercourse with the townspeople and greeting the visitors streaming into town. In fact, there was no prison sentence connected to violation of the Butler Act. Bryan actually argued against even a monetary fine, and-far from demanding a harsher penalty for Scopes-offered to pay the defendants fine himself. Scopes attended a dinner given by the Dayton Progressive Club in honor of Bryans arrival, and Bryan, famous for remembering people, recognized Scopes as one of a gaggle of giggling graduates he had addressed at a high school commencement six years earlier. Bryans kindness and sincerity were acknowledged even by his enemies, and he spoke amiably to Scopes, insisting they could be friends despite their disagreement.
As for Darrow, he was greeted on his arrival in Dayton by a crowd about as large and friendly as the one that had greeted Bryan-not, as Drummond is, by a little girl screaming Devil in the play or a scowling mountaineer in the film. Darrow was feted at a Progressive Club dinner just as Bryan was. Being a folksy, small-town type himself, Darrow gained the good graces of the locals, and many of the spectators at the trial showed support for the defense. As a result of the perceived importance of the case, Darrow had at his side a defense team that included Arthur Garfield Hays of the ACLU, the famed international divorce lawyer Dudley Field Malone (who had served as Bryans Undersecretary of State in the Wilson Administration), and constitutional expert John Randolph Neal. Scopes later wrote that he couldnt have done better if hed had all the money in the world.
Okay, I just have to laugh here. The ACLU has been manufacturing cases since it came into existance, and not just since the 1960s. This lets me know that our country is a whole lot more free and rational, and the ACLU is, as always, just looking for something to do in a country which is pretty good as far as enabling intellectual endeavor, but I digress
The essential plot elements of Inherit the Wind-the lonely stand of the brave individualist against the small-minded bigotry of the townspeople, Cates fear and trembling as he waits in his prison cell, the threat of ruin hanging over his head (The Scopes character and his fiancee play each scene as if he were on the way to the electric chair, wrote one film reviewer)-are pure fabrication. Far from living in fear, Scopes went swimming during one hot lunchtime recess with two of the young assistant prosecutors (including Bryans son). The reprimand Scopes received from defense attorney Hays when they were late getting back to the courtroom may have been the roughest treatment he received.
So, too, Inherit the Wind distorts its Bryan figure. The play does allow a certain benignity, color, and agility to the man, if only to give Drummond a worthy adversary, but in many ways it belittles him. Years after the trial, the playwrights met with Hays, who may have influenced their picture of Bryan. But many journalistic accounts even at the time depicted a past-his-prime Bryan trailing clouds of fundamentalist ignorance and, like Brady, squirming in distress on the witness stand under his adversarys questioning. Many reporters seemed to share the prejudices of Mencken, who ridiculed Bryan in print as a tinpot pope in the coca-cola belt. The historian R. M. Cornelius, who has written a great deal on the Scopes Trial, reports, A review of the trial press coverage reveals that the typical newsman had both an ear for a good story and a mouth hungry for Bryans blood. One reporter never even attended the trial sessions, remarking, I dont have to know whats going on; I know what my paper wants me to write. During the famous cross-examination by Darrow only six reporters were present; the others were taking a long lunch, thinking that the most important portions of the trial had passed. (Scopes later helped the absentee reporters file their stories.) The number of reporters dwindled during the trial, and even Mencken did not stay through the whole eight days.
A review of the actual transcript reveals that Bryan was often exuberant, funny, discerning, and focused during the trial. It also shows, contrary to Inherit the Wind, that he was familiar with Darwin, and may even have understood the evolutionary doctrine better than his adversaries, or at least had a better idea of what was really at stake. He did have some embarrassing moments during the ninety minutes of Darrows relentless questioning, but he often gave as good as he got.
Bryan was not a biblical literalist. He volunteered to Darrow-it was not wormed out of him, as the play suggests-that the days in the biblical account of creation were not twenty-four hour days; he cited Genesis 2:4, in which the word generations seems to be used as a substitute for days. He did not insist that the sun stood still in Joshua 10:13, but explained that the Bible was using the language of the time. At the same time he did not yield on his belief in miracles and the primacy of divine power. If his supporters felt disappointment over Bryans testimony-the play makes much of the crowds turning on him-it was not because he looked stupid as a defender of crude fundamentalism, but because he wasnt a defender of crude fundamentalism.
Boy, all this draws me into dialogue in the Episcopal Church and on the HOBD listserv. Because anyone would have the gumption to claim that homosexuality was a sin, that person is therefore a crude biblical fundamentalist. As Bryan is cast into a role he just doesnt fit, so too are conservatives within the Episcopal Church.
Bryans real mistake was to take the stand at all, but he seemed to feel he had to accept Darrows challenge to testify or implicitly admit the indefensibility of his position, and he later felt that he had at least stood his ground. These gentlemen, he said on the stand, came here to try revealed religion. I am here to defend it, and they can ask me any questions they please. For his part, Darrow realized that neither the constitutionality of the Butler Act nor the truth of evolution could be settled in Dayton, but he relished the publicity he could gain for his cause: Preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States, as he memorably put it.
But it is certainly not true that Bryan and his beliefs were crushed in Dayton. Scopes himself, even while sporadically trying to render a portrait of a broken man, remarked that the Great Commoner seemed amazingly buoyant during the trial, always remaining the exuberant Bryan who could survive any defeat. And while the antievolutionary cause may have suffered embarrassment, the guilty verdict was overturned a year later only on a technicality. Several state laws similar to the Butler Act were not declared unconstitutional until 1968.
It is true that Bryan was not able to deliver the lengthy closing statement he considered his lifes mountain peak, but not because the judge cut short the trial. Rather, after the cross-examination of Bryan (which was stricken from the record the following day), Darrow stated his willingness to accept a guilty verdict in order to move to appeal. This obviated the need for closing statements. Darrow later admitted that the defense had purposely wanted to deprive Bryan of his closing statement for fear of his legendary oratorical powers.
I suspect that same thing will happen at GC2006. Kendall Harmon, Ephraim Radner, and even the lowly Brad Drell will be cut off before they can speak on the issues. I bet you dimes to nickels
But was it really so simple? Since much of Bryans political progressivism is in keeping with the playwrights own views, they split the Bryan figure in two-the enlightened progressive champion of the common man versus the bigoted religious fundamentalist. Drummond, who had supported Brady in two of his presidential bids (as Darrow had supported Bryan in real life), says at Bradys death, A giant once lived in that body. But Matt Brady got lost. Because he was looking for God too high up and too far away. In fact, the two sides of Bryan, the democratic and the religious, were complementary. According to historian LeRoy Ashby, Bryan was sustained by the combined heritages of evangelical faith and the republicanism of the nations revolutionary era. The democracy he worked for was built upon the virtuous citizen, and he worried that Darwinism would cause people to lose a sense of Gods presence. . . . It justified an economic jungle and discourages those who labor for the improvement of mans condition. Convinced as he was that belief in God and in mans spiritual nature was vital to human progress and a just social order, Bryan was troubled by numerous reports he had received of young people who had lost their faith under the tutelage of skeptical, even atheistic, professors. Bryan believed in separation of church and state, but, according to Ashby, he felt such stories of lost faith indicated that the state was in fact teaching against religion, and that atheists and evolutionists were enjoying something against which democratic reformers had long battled-special privileges.
Yep. Folks are saying the same things about Cramner and the other Anglican divines, as if they would endorse homosexuality if they would be but more enlightened. But only one thing can improve mans position, despite all his knowledge and forward thinking, and that is the Lord himself.
Both the play and the movie version of Inherit the Wind vastly oversimplify religions relation to evolution. The play insists that there is no contradiction between Christianity and Darwinism. It is only a matter of the method He has chosen in creation, Maynard M. Metcalf, a zoologist from Oberlin College, declared in expert testimony permitted at the trial (though not before the jury). As the plays Cates puts it, Living comes from a long miracle, it didnt just happen in seven days. The defense, both actual and fictional, wanted to isolate an ignorant, biblical literalism as the only kind of religion that disputes evolution. And, indeed, they have been joined in this view by many mainstream religious leaders in the seventy years since. This understanding has been challenged more recently, however, by such credible figures as Phillip E. Johnson of the University of California, and William B. Provine, an historian of science from Cornell. A leading adherent of Darwinian evolution, Provine has observed that prominent evolutionists have joined with equally prominent theologians and religious leaders to sweep under the rug the incompatibilities of evolution and religion. Provine insists that evolution finds no intelligent design operating in nature and no such thing as immortality or life after death. In fact, according to Provine, were produced by a process that gives not one damn about us.
Peter Steinfels, the New York Times religion reporter, heard Provine speak at a symposium on the Scopes Trial held at Vanderbilt University in 1995 and concluded: It is easy to look back at the battle between rural piety and city cynicism waged seventy years ago in the Dayton courthouse, and feel superior. But maybe those people were right in thinking that something very important was at stake. The man who has been made a laughing stock thanks in part to Inherit the Wind seems actually to have understood all this in 1925. The evolutionists have not been honest with the public, declared Bryan (who was, for what its worth, a member of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science). He cautioned that Christians who have allowed themselves to be deceived into believing that evolution is a beneficent, or even a rational, process have been associating with those who either do not understand its implications or dare not avow their knowledge of these implications. In Inherit the Wind, Drummond gives a tough- sounding speech about the tradeoffs of progress, instructing the jury that every advance of civilization requires that something be surrendered: Darwin moved us forward to a hilltop, where we could look back and see the way from which we came. But for this view, this insight, this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis. Yet, by plays end, Drummond is purveying some pleasant poetry of his own, indicating that Darwin and the Bible are compatible for all but a few religious fanatics.
Even the certainty of the doctrine of evolution was considerably oversimplified in both the real Scopes Trial and the fictional version in Inherit the Wind. Professor Metcalf testified at the real trial, It is impossible for a normal human being, cognizant of the facts, to have the slightest doubt about the fact of evolution, and the fictional Drummond argues, What Bertram Cates spoke quietly one spring afternoon in the Hillsboro High School is . . . incontrovertible as geometry in every enlightened community of minds.
But is it? Bryan shrewdly described evolution as a hypothesis-millions of guesses strung together-rather than proven theory. And he knew what was missing: There is not a scientist in all the world who can trace one single species to any other. Nearly a century and a half after the publication of On the Origin of Species, the proof for Darwins theory remains spotty, according to Phillip E. Johnson and others. Bryan sounds at least reasonable when he argues, If the results of evolution were unimportant, one might require less proof in support of the hypothesis, but before accepting a new philosophy of life, built upon a materialistic foundation, we have reason to demand something more than guesses.
We have something more to ask of the so-called scientific evidence that says we should reject Gods word and declare homosexuality normative. Hmmm.
Of course, such a simple choice between bigotry and enlightenment is central to the contemporary liberal vision of which Inherit the Wind is a typical expression. But while it stands nominally for tolerance, latitude, and freedom of thought, the play is full of the self-righteous certainty that it deplores in the fundamentalist camp. Some critics have detected the plays sanctimonious tone-bigotry in reverse, as Andrew Sarris called it-even while appreciating its dramatic quality and well-written leading roles. The play reveals a great deal about a mentality that demands open-mindedness and excoriates dogmatism, only to advance its own certainties more insistently-that promotes tolerance and intellectual integrity but stoops to vilifying the opposition, falsifying reality, and distorting history in the service of its agenda.
Bigotry in reverse. Nah, we never see such things in the Episcopal Church or on the HOBD listserv
In fact, a more historically accurate dramatization of the Scopes Trial than Inherit the Wind might have been far richer and more interesting-and might also have given its audiences a genuine dramatic tragedy to watch. It would not have sent its audience home full of moral superiority and happy thoughts about the march of progress. The truth is not that Bryan was wrong about the dangers of the philosophical materialism that Darwinism presupposes but that he was right, not that he was a once great man disfigured by fear of the future but that he was one of the few to see where a future devoid of the transcendent would lead. The antievolutionist crusade to control what is taught in the schools may not have been the answer, and Bryans own approach may have been too narrow. But the real tragedy lies in the losing fight that he and others like him waged against a modernity increasingly deprived of spiritual foundations.
A church void of the transcendent is of no use. You can quote me on this.
Inherit the Wind and The Crucible are absolute staples of high school. Where would education be without them?
The play and the movie attempts to cast William Jennings Bryan, perhaps one of the countrys best lawyers and politicians
Well he practised very little so yes one of the best lawyers.
Politician: One term in Congress?
No Bryan was basically a writer and publisher of a liberal newspaper.
And he wasn't a bad lawyer either, he had about ten years of practice under his belt before he ran for congress. Very few lawyers are courthouse rats . . . Darrow however was definitely one, although as a person he was pretty reprehensible.
Much appreciate the link!
My mother met Mrs. Scopes several years later and the exchanged Christmas cards up to the late 40s. The above is true, but I recall an added detail, which was that they kept Scopes off the stand to keep him out of the limelight. The case did not get the result they hoped for, and the defence team fell to squabbling among themselves, and they gave him no help in getting out a book that he felt would make him famous. I do not even know if he every wrote a book, but in any case, he did not make the money he hoped to get. He ended up in the oil field as a geologist/engineer.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.