Re: Inherit the Wind

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Tue Jan 20 2004 - 08:57:03 EST

I'm very suspicious of Bob's comment below, about his professor sending in
$100 annually and proceeding to teach evolution.

Although the Butler Act was on the books in TN until the 1960s, it was not
enforced following the Scopes trial. No one, flat no one, was prosecuted
other than Scopes--who of course had consented to the request of the head of
the school board (i.e., his boss) to stand trial, even though he was not
sure he had actually taught evolution. The state Supreme Court did hear the
case on appeal, but ducked the constitutional issues by sending it back down
to a lower court.

Thus, I would suggest that Bob's professor was making a show out of
this--indeed, since the trial was a show trial in the first place, he was
making a show out of a show. That is, if he actually did do this (as
opposed to saying that he did, which could be taken as an appropriate


>>> "Robert Schneider" <> 01/18/04 06:29PM >>>

    I first saw "Inherit the Wind" in college as a film when it was first
released. I was attending the University of the South in Sewanee, TN.
Having accepted evolution and having found no conflict with my understanding
of creation, I was not prepared to look at the firm objectively and
critically, and of course cheered on the Clarence Darrow character. After
all, I was studying in a town just a few miles down the road from Dayton,
TN, where, until the Tennessee anti-evolution law was repealed, my biology
professor Dr. Malcom Owen sent in his $100 fine yearly and proceeded to
teach his course in evolution.

    Later, as a young professor at Berea College in Kentucky, I saw a stage
performance by the college's drama department. By that time I was able to
look at the presentation with a more critical eye. As I had lived in the
South long enough to gain a better understanding of mountain religion, I
could see more of the caricature of fundamentalism that the play presented,
and I recognized that the portrayal of the William Jennings Bryan character
also did the real Bryan less than justice. However, I also discovered that
the playwrights had taken most of the courtroom dialogue directly from a
transcript of the trial. Those dramatic scenes in the courtroom, I came to
see, were a more or less faithful representation of the trial itself.

    Finally, there is a scene toward the end where the Bryan character
attempts to read the speech to the assembled that the judge had not
permitted him to read into the record. In the play/film, the charcter has a
stroke and dies in the courtroom. Actually the real Bryan died four days
later. I recommend that anyone who can get their hands on it read Bryan's
speech. It is a revealing window into Bryan's thinking about evolution, and
it becomes clear that the major concern of this populist politician and
moral leader was the destructive influence of Social Darwinism in American
culture. Several years ago Stephen J. Gould wrote an appreciative essay
about Bryan and gave him credit where credit was due.

Bob Schneider
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Michael Roberts
  Sent: Monday, January 19, 2004 4:58 PM
  Subject: Inherit the Wind


  Those who have watched this film with Spencer Tracy will have enjoyed it.

  What I want to know is what you thought of it when you first saw it.

  Did you think it was a basically correct film portrayal of the Scopes
trial or what?

  Please be honest as I want some comments to test some ideas

Received on Tue Jan 20 08:57:30 2004

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