Re: Inherit the Wind

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Mon Jan 19 2004 - 09:21:28 EST


    I think Dr. Owen was making a joke of it. I'm uncertain that the Butler
Act covered private institutions of learning. Do you know?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <>
To: <>; <>; "Michael Roberts"
Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 8:57 AM
Subject: Re: Inherit the Wind

> 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
> 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
> case on appeal, but ducked the constitutional issues by sending it back
> 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
> joke).
> ted
> >>> "Robert Schneider" <> 01/18/04 06:29PM >>>
> Michael,
> 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
> 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 TN, where, until the Tennessee anti-evolution law was repealed, my biology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
> 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
> and I recognized that the portrayal of the William Jennings Bryan
> also did the real Bryan less than justice. However, I also discovered
> the playwrights had taken most of the courtroom dialogue directly from a
> transcript of the trial. Those dramatic scenes in the courtroom, I came
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> 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
Received on Tue Jan 20 09:20:53 2004

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