Last Tuesday on the web
log in Media Notes (updated here) you would find a discussion of the Kansas Board of Education’s six days of courtroom-style hearings that began Thursday,
Thursday, in the capitol, Topeka. More than two dozen witnesses have begun testimony
and will be subject to cross-examination, with the majority expected to argue against teaching evolution. That item also mentioned the old movie about the Scopes Trial, Inherit the Wind (Stanley Kramer,
1960) – and provided a shot of the promotional poster for the film.
Lorraine Berry over at "Culture Kitchen"
points out the obvious irony – that Thursday was the eightieth anniversary of the opening of the Scopes Trail.
violating all sorts of copyright law, she posts in full an article from 1925 by Joseph Wood Krutch about the Scopes Trial
- Tennessee's Dilemma. I also have appended that.
Over at "Balloon Juice" you can find Thursday’s
commentary under the heading EVOLUTION VS. INTELLIGENT DESIGN –
Bob Novak, on [CNN] Crossfire:
Why don't we teach evolution and intelligent design and let students figure it out on their own?
response from an unknown God-hating scientist:
Fine. Why don't we teach students the South won the civil war and
let them figure it out on their own? Why don't we teach students that the moon is made of green cheese and let the students
figure it out on their own.
Meanwhile, in bizarro land, Terry Jeffrey is advocating that belief in objective truth
requires that you believe in intelligent design. This would make a great SNL skit, except you can't parody these guys.
the new evolution trials in Kansas [Associated Press report]:
Charles Thaxton, who lives near Atlanta but is a visiting assistant professor of chemistry
at the Charles University in the Czech Republic, also presented another key criticism of evolution. He testified that there's
no evidence that life formed from a primordial soup.
Irigonegaray asked Thaxton whether he accepted the theory that
humans and apes had a common ancestor.
"Personally, I do not," he said. "I'm not an expert on this. I don't study
… At some point, people are going to recognize that faith is not a very useful building block for
a logical syllogism or a good foundation for scientific inquiry. A belief in evolution does not preclude faith in God. On
the other hand, teaching creationism does do damage to science.
There is a whole lot else
out there too.
But Krutch (1893–1970) is still good. And he was from Knoxville, Tennessee himself.
was he? Why he was a damned pantheist!
Joseph Wood Krutch wore
many literary hats. As one of the 20th century’s leading men of letters, the drama critic, university teacher, biographer,
and magazine columnist authored several thousand essays and wrote or edited thirty-five books. An early work entitled The
Modern Temper (1929) propelled him to fame. The book exuded disillusionment and despair. Krutch described how science
replaced religious certainties with rational skepticism, leaving man in a meaningless world. But Krutch later discovered profound
meaning in Nature. He became a celebrated nature writer and perhaps the first contemporary conservationists to explicitly
embrace Pantheism. …
Ah ha! Well, he also wrote
biographies – Poe, and Samuel Johnson. He taught at Columbia.
is what he wrote in 1925. The emphases are mine.
Joseph Wood Krutch, The Nation, from the July 22, 1925 issue
Dayton, July 12 –
say that nothing of importance can be decided at Dayton have, at first glance, reason on their side. Even in Rhea County tadpoles
will still lose their tails whatever may happen to Mr. Scopes, and, it is to be hoped, the human organism will continue in
a similarly unperturbed fashion its evolution toward whatever state Nature has in mind for it. It is now perfectly evident
that the question of the constitutionality of the Tennessee law, the only tangible legal issue involved, will not be the chief
one discussed, and it might thus appear that the whole discussion threatens to become diffusely inconclusive.
had Clarence Darrow begun his cross-examination of prospective jurors than it became clear that he proposed to prove that
the teaching of the defendant was not irreconcilable with a sufficiently liberal interpretation of the Bible, and hence was
not a violation of the law, which specifically forbids only those theories which deny the account in Genesis. The theoretical
position of the Bible as final authority upon scientific questions will thus not be questioned, and the right of the
State legislature to control the teaching of professors will be left similarly unchallenged.
But the real problem
raised is not legal but sociological. No verdict of the jury and no injunction of the Supreme Court can change the fact
that the trial is a symptom of the vast gulf which lies between two halves of our population, and that the real question
to be settled is the question of how this gulf may be bridged. In the centers of population men have gone on assuming
certain bodies of knowledge and certain points of view without realizing that they were living in a different world from
that inhabited by a considerable portion of their fellow-citizens, and they have been unconscious of the danger which
threatened them at the inevitable moment when the two worlds should come in conflict. In Tennessee the moment has arrived
and a single battle will no more settle it than the World War settled the questions from which it arose.
Of the reality
of the danger there can be no question. The zeal of the fundamentalists has been enormously quickened by an anticipatory
taste of triumph, and they will push any victory they may gain to the fullest possible extent. Already one State legislator
has announced his intention of "putting teeth" in the present law by making the penalty for its violation a prison sentence
instead of a fine, and various extensions of the principle of State interference with teaching may be confidently predicted.
Members of the D. A. R. will, sooner or later, seek to forbid in the schools any historical facts which tend to reflect upon
the character or motives of Revolutionary heroes; conservative economists and sociologists will certainly follow their lead;
and, unless the movement is definitely checked, the next twenty-five years will see the State schools and universities so
shackled with legislation as to make them utterly worthless as institutions for education. The control of learning will
pass into the hands of the uneducated, and youth will leave the schools more ignorant than when it entered them.
Tennessee is in a condition not much worse than that of the majority of the States in the Union. Her folly consists chiefly
in the fact that she has allowed the situation to get out of hand by her cowardly refusal to deal with it as it arose. Neither
she nor any other State has been able adequately to educate her citizens - and for that fact she is not to blame, since the
task is beyond her financial or other strength. But when people cannot be educated they must be led, and it is in leadership
that Tennessee has failed.
Left undisturbed, the rural population would have bothered itself very little over the
teachings of the school or the college, since it has that respect for learning natural to all uneducated communities. A few
years ago, however, it became evident that it would not be thus undisturbed, for various propagandists of the Bryan school
came among it to declaim against what one of the agitators now in Dayton picturesquely calls "Hell in the high schools." Dayton
was made aware of a question at issue, it looked for leaders, and it found them on one side alone. Fundamentalists were
eager and zealous; educators were at best timid and non-committal, at worst hypocritically evasive. Under the circumstances,
Dayton cannot be blamed if she chose to follow those who knew what they stood for.
Even at that very late moment when
the anti-evolution bill was introduced into the legislature a little courage might have saved the day. Had the president of
the State University gone with his faculty to Nashville, had the editors of the daily papers said what they thought,
and had, in general, the enlightened members of the community shown one-half the decision manifest by the other side they
might very well have won. Instead they lay low. They declined the challenge; they refused to make any effort to lead; they
left their opponents in undisputed possession of the field. Dayton was reasonable to conclude, as undoubtedly it has concluded,
that nine-tenths of Tennessee, the only world it knows, is with it and Bryan. It does not even know that the university which
it respects is against it, and it is following a sound instinct. It is right to have no great confidence in scientists and
educators who ask for nothing except its money. If the time ever comes when they show a disposition to tell what they believe
it may possibly listen to them.
In the courtroom at Dayton and in the newspaper reports of the proceedings there Tennessee
will be reminded of the situation into which she has drifted, and the ultimate result of the trial will depend upon whether
or not she heeds the reminder. Neither John R. Neal, the only native prominently represented upon the defense, nor Messrs.
Darrow, Hays, and Malone, his associates, can do much for her if she will do nothing for herself. They may win their case
or they may lose it, but an ignorant population, almost wholly without leaders, will remain.
Ah hell – reprint
this today and byline it Topeka.