Re: Inherit the Wind

From: richard williams <>
Date: Tue Jan 20 2004 - 09:07:06 EST

There is a good book on the trial:

_Summer of the Gods_


my short review might encourage someone to read it:

> *History as Myth, a careful reinterpretation*, October 23, 2003
> Reviewer: * rmwilliamsjr (see more about me)
> <>
> * from tucson, arizona USA
> I come to the book as part of a self-directed study of the issues
> involved in the creation-evolution-design debate(CED). I deeply enjoy
> history and appreciate good historical writing. This book is such
> good, informative history. The author is a careful, balanced,
> objective-striving historian, and i like his writing. His intention is
> to dissipate the myths that have grown up around the Scopes trial via
> a careful reinterpretation of the events and personalities that were
> involved. To a very great extent he does so. My only sadness in
> reading the book is that it reaffirms my belief that very little has
> changed in the conservative/fundamentalist community since the trial,
> an unfortunate problem. For i continually hear the exact same
> arguments on the discussion boards, it seems no one is listening to
> books like this.
> W.J.Bryan and C.Darrow are the primary characters involved in the
> trial. Their polarization of the issues as between religion and
> godless atheism on Bryan's part, and between science as reason and
> fundamentalism as unthinking faith are exactly the polarizing demands
> from their respective successors today. The real issues (like one line
> in the book pointed to epistemology), the problem of taking past each
> other, the radical 'emptying' of any compromise positions, these are
> still the issues people fight about. If you are interested in these
> things this book will be a gentle introduction to the historical and
> continuing character of them.
> The book is history, it doesnt try to answer these perennial
> questions, but rather is trying to clear the field of misconceptions
> as in the movie "Inherit the Wind". It has places that if the author
> had desired to could have been jumping off points for extended
> discussions, as in the introduction of the theistic evolutionist as
> expert witnesses. But this was not followed up, as it was not the
> author's intention to move past the history towards solutions, sadly
> for i think his ideas and research could help here. Maybe that is
> another book for him.
> One real strength is the presentation of the trial as politically
> contrived, for the purpose of bringing people and money to Dayton.
> Contrived as a platform for the presentation of ideas or the playing
> to the crowd. I ended up with a greater respect for Bryan and a lesser
> one for Darrow, having read what their intentions were, and how they
> tried to accomplish them. Bryan ends up as an anomolous character,
> progressive in his politics, but holding to a somewhat childish faith
> with an inability to logically inform or express it. Sadly i feel that
> he died before he could begin to learn for the experiences of the
> trial and grow as a result of the troubles he had.
> It's a good book, but i dont know who to recommend it to. Perhaps a
> history buff, or someone who liked Inherit the Wind and wants to learn
> the truth of the issues. It didnt really give me a lot of details
> about the issues in CED that i didnt already dig up myself, but it did
> confirm the fundamental correctness of several things i have thought
> about.

Ted Davis wrote:

>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
> To:
> 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
> Michael

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Received on Tue Jan 20 09:07:26 2004

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