Inherit the Wind Commemorative Collection


Author: Douglas Sharp
Subject: Credibility of Creationists Date: 05/01/2007

Creationists have written volumes of articles about the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” and the movie based on the play Inherit the Wind. In November 2006, HHC Marketing, a company that handles the marketing and promotion for many Broadway productions in New York City, contacted me. They asked if they could include one of my essays, Creation is Scientific but Evolution is Religious in their souvenir essay guide for Inherit the Wind starring Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in New York City. This article is a review of this experience, and also a commendation for this marketing company for attempting to present all sides of the creation-evolution issue, updating the audience as to where the arguments stand today.

Lyceum Theater
Lyceum Theater

Inherit the Wind, written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee in 1955, presents an amplified stereotype of what happened at the Scopes trial using arguments that are rather out of date. Like Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem Witch Trials, The Crucible, Inherit the Wind mocked the Joseph McCarthy politics of the time. Indeed, it is a polemic against fundamentalist Christianity, and to many Christians it is quite offensive. My friend Paul Humber, whose review of Inherit the Wind appears on this web site, used my free tickets to see the play, and was disgusted enough to walk out in the middle of it. But I told Paul that we shouldn’t expect Broadway to alter the play from its original script. I believe that we should treat this play as a historic representation of outdated attitudes and beliefs. Christians can today easily answer these old arguments with scientific evidence. Inherit the Wind helps us understand both the weakness of evolutionary arguments as well as the lack of depth of understanding in the Christian community, common for its time and still prevalent today. The irony is that it is standard in public schools to show the movie made from the script of this play, but they are not allowed to present the other side. The tolerance that this play is supposed to promote apparently doesn’t apply if the roles are reversed.

Paul’s article about the Green River Varves was among several articles considered for this publication, but was dropped due to space consideration. However, they included an article by my friend Kevin Anderson of the Creation Research Society, entitled Guilty as Charged as well as two references to articles on the RAE web site. Reference 1 Reference 2 The resulting publication was called Commemorative Collection: Inherit the Wind. It is available from HHC Marketing, 555 Eighth Avenue, Suite 810, New York, NY 10018.

The Commemorative Collection features Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy on the front cover. The back cover appropriately features Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. Inside the front cover, among newspaper clippings about the Scopes trial are the results of a Gallup Poll taken May, 2006, where it shows that 46 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution as the explanation for the origin of humans. About 36 percent of respondents said they believe humans evolved but God guided the process. Only 13 percent said they believe the scientific theory of evolution and “God had no part.”

“THE DRAMA OF REAL LIFE” by Alan Dershowitz
The first article in the publication offers a Jewish perspective by Alan Dershowitz, who taught a course at Harvard with Stephen J. Gould. Inherit the Wind was the first Broadway play that he saw, and it made a favorable impression on him, inspiring him to want to become a defense attorney. But Dr. Gould showed him the actual textbook from which John Scopes taught evolution in the Tennessee classroom. The racist nature and bigotry in that book which advocated eugenics clearly makes him uncomfortable, and he castigates what he calls “misapplications of Darwinian Theory – called by the oxymoron ‘Social Darwinism.’” But thought he goes to great lengths to distance himself from Social Darwinism, he does not explain what the proper application of Darwinism should be. The evolutionary parade from lemur to monkey to chimp to Neanderthal to human is clearly a racist portrayal and is a logical deduction from the assumptions.

Furthermore, the Darwinian notion of isolating traits to keep the races pure flies in the face of scientific observation, noting that inbreeding expresses mutations as recessive traits that are harmful, resulting in deformities and disease. I would be interested in seeing an article written with the title, “How to be Consistent with Evolution Without Being a Racist.”

Dershowitz continues to show that these ideas eventually led to the Nazi holocaust, and that the real-life reporter in the Scopes trial, H. L. Mencken, was a rabid racist as well as an anti-religious bigot. William Jennings Bryan is also favorably portrayed in this article as one who “was a populist, an egalitarian and a pacifist” and who “believed that ideas could influence people’s actions.”

This article adeptly exposes the weaknesses in both sides of the debate, and reveals a great deal of insight into the history of the trial and the character of those involved. Dershowitz reveals that Darrow was not above breaking the law by bribing the jurors in his cases, and that he really does not deserve the mantle of honor that many aspiring lawyers bestow upon him. And if his legacy was to remove the ban of the teaching of evolution in the public schools, he did so at the expense of trading one form of bigotry for another because today the teaching of creation is in effect banned.

Excerpt from “THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES” by Charles Darwin
This book would not be complete without a short quote from Darwin himself, and the two paragraphs quoted aptly illustrates the cloud of confusion he broadcast to the world in promoting the belief that microevolution is inconsistent with a Biblical theory of creation. I do not know any creationist today that believes that the species of science as classified by Linnaeus match the Biblical kinds of Genesis. The modern theory of creation starts with a forest of kinds at the original creation, perhaps at the genus level, which had the genetic potential to diversify into the species and subspecies of today. The observations of Darwin were consistent with the modern creation theory, but it was a leap of faith for him to conclude that all species originated from one single accidental cell that evolved in a warm, primeval pond.

Mega Evolution does not follow from observations of microevolution.

This article gives a history of the Butler Bill and the fight for the public schools. But there is a granular difference between the intent of the Butler Bill and the public perception of it, which was promoted at that time, now and in this article. The Monkey Trial web site has an excellent explanation of the differences between what was actually passed in the Butler Bill and what was the common perception of it. Quote:

“In 1925 the Tennessee legislature passed the Butler Act which made it a misdemeanor to teach the evolution of only one species—mankind—in the public schools. The evolution of 99.9999% of all other plant and animal life (about two million other species), or the evolution of the earth or the solar system, could all be taught as either compelling theory or proven fact without violating the Butler Act.”

Now one quote from this article interests me:
“When Clarence Darrow, agnostic and famous criminal attorney, learned that Bryan was involved in the Scopes trial, he volunteered to defend Scopes. He realized that the case was no longer about Scopes’ guilt or innocence; instead it was a battle between fundamentalism and freedom of thought.”
Herein is the heart of the matter: a false distinction between “fundamentalism” and “freedom of thought.” It is a false accusation against people of faith that believes the Bible is the word of God and the foundation of all truth. Do Christians, when they look upon a smorgasbord of possibilities of choices between good and evil and choose to live their lives consistently within the guidelines of the Bible, suppress freedom of thought? That is the implication of what the battle was all about, yet it paints a false picture, and Inherit the Wind amplifies this bigoted view against Christians well beyond what occurred at the Scopes trial.

Every Christian faces choices of good and evil daily, and the mistake of the Butler Bill was the belief that shielding children from the theory of evolution of man was going to cause them to willingly choose the right path. But today we have the Butler Act in reverse: teachers are forbidden to teach scientific evidence against evolution or even refer to an intelligent designer, let alone talk about a God that created them and loves them. I believe that our students miss out on an important part of education if they are not exposed to both sides of the issue.
Other than this, the article is an excellent recounting of the history of the trial in Tennessee, with a profusion of photographs, newspaper clippings and illustrations.

Transcript from the Scopes Trial, Monday, July 20, 1925
Darrow cross-examines Bryan about the question of where Cain got his wife in the Bible. Bryan dodged this question, and many Christians have hemmed and hawed concerning this. But the answer is simple. Adam and Eve went on to have many sons and daughters, and because there was no danger of disease caused by mutations in the gene pool just recently created by the hand of God, there was no law given against marrying a sister or close relative. Laws against incest were not given until the time of Moses, and the same need for intermarriage between close relatives also occurred after Noah’s flood. An excellent article on this can be found on the Answers in Genesis web site. This is an example of an argument where there is no longer any excuse to use it, because this question has been answered for over forty years.

Bryan’s mistake was operating from a compromise position, where he, like most Christians of the day, believed the commentaries of theologians who attempted to reconcile the creation account in Genesis with millions of years of geologic history. The Day-Age and Gap Theories were popular at that time with those who were trying to remain true to the Bible, yet also appear scientific. This is still true today, and if one does not wish to challenge evolutionists on the age of the earth issue, he will find that ”THE SCOPES TRIAL AND INHERIT THE WIND” by Edward Larson

“The play is not history.” Laurence and Lee stressed this in their introduction, and it is important to note this if a person is to evaluate if what the play portrays is representative of what happened at the Scopes trial. Edward Larson does us a service by making this distinction and shows us that what actually took place in 1925 was amplified to the point of distortion. William Jennings Bryan actually held his own quite well against Clarence Darrow; but the play turned his counterpart into a straw-man stereotype of a bigoted Christian.

Larson quotes the many reviews of the play that were negative, rightly characterizing it in statements like “The script wildly and unjustly characterizes the fundamentalists as vicious and narrow-minded hypocrites.” But both the play and the movie have proved remarkably durable.

“GUILTY AS CHARGED” by Kevin Anderson
Kevin is a friend of mine who joined us in Glacier National Park on a geological vacation investigating out of order strata. He relates in this article the ridicule he has received as a young-earth creationist. He is the director of the Van Andel Creation Research Center, headquarters for the Creation Research Society, one of the oldest creation research organizations in the world dedicated to the biblical worldview.

Kevin talks about the need for the proper definition of evolution since often evolutionists are vague about this. For them it is no problem to define evolution simply as “change” but then to take the leap of faith that this implies common descent.

Like a master magician, evolutionists juggle the evidence to create an illusion that scientific evidence for evolution is mounting. But when asked what the specifics of this overwhelming evidence is, they usually fall back to outdated proofs that have been shown false for years, and readily explained by creationists.

This page is a brief explanation of when the play was first performed and its purpose as a metaphor for censorship or thought control. They are also referring to the McCarthyism of the 1940’s and 1950’s that were responsible for blacklisting many people, some unfairly, as communists.
Evolutionists would do well to learn their own lesson here.

I keep searching for evolutionary writings that come up with new evidence for their theory. This one is typical. There is no solid evidence presented that hasn’t long been answered by creationists. Instead, the following are presented as fiat assumptions that pretend to be evidence:
(1) Radioisotope dating
(2) The fossil “record”
(3) Comparative anatomy and homology.
Each of these constructs have volumes of creationist books written that show Biblical answers to these assumptions of evolution. But these can be answered in just a few words:
(1) Rocks aren’t clocks.
(2) There are many examples where the fossils are not found in the order evolutionists expect.
(3) Similarly in design shows a common designer, not common descent.

When HHC Marketing contacted me for permission to use this essay, I was astounded that they appeared to be genuinely interested in creating a publication that would present both sides of the issue fairly. The first thing I did was to reexamine the article to see if it was out of date, or had a few scientific errors that could easily be exploited by evolutionists. They not only allowed me to correct a few minor things, but also followed up on my suggestions for additional material that might suit their purposes. They finally selected my article and Kevin Anderson’s for inclusion.

I pointed out in this article that it is because of the scientific evidence that I reject evolution. On the contrary, the theory of evolution continues to be popular for anti-religious and philosophical reasons. My reasons focused on the wide gaps evolution must bridge to explain living systems, and the more that we discover, the more questions we raise. If we assume a naturalistic origin for life on earth, we must explain the origin of vast complex interdependent systems that must all work together with high efficiency. Nothing works until everything works.

After that, I ask evolutionists to explain its ugly stepchildren of racism, Marxism and Nazism, philosophies that use evolution as justification. “If evolution has so many scientific problems and bears such bad fruit, why is it so universally popular today?” I point out that it provides a religious worldview that glorifies self-achievement.

There is not much to say about Robert Schneider’s two paragraphs defending theistic evolution, except that he uncritically states how he thinks evolution occurs, and makes the fiat assumption of evolution as fact. He states, “Evolution as science is not a materialistic philosophy; it makes no assertions about any realm of reality outside of nature; it makes no claims for or against the existence of God or the notion that we live in a created universe.”

All I can say is that this is the easy way out taken by many who want to have the benefit of being in both camps; to appear intellectual and sophisticated, and at the same time appear to have a measure of spirituality. I maintain however that to do this, you can only reconcile the two by making a superficial investment in both sides.

“INTELLIGENT DESIGN: THE DEBATE CONTINUES” ACLU Frequently Asked Questions about “Intelligent Design”
The approach the ACLU takes in their FAQs is to muck with the definition of science, using inflammable words, and making outright false statements. I must admit that this approach has been quite effective in intimidating people from investigating the scientific evidence for intelligent design. The ACLU calls intelligent design a “pseudoscientific set of beliefs…” In doing so, they are using an inflammable word to make the reader believe that ID is not scientific in its approach. But ID theorists use the same scientific evidence found in nature that evolutionists use; it is the interpretation that is different. Creationists and evolutionist use fossils, strata, living systems and rocks found in the present, but extrapolate back in the past based upon that evidence to formulate what they think how everything came to be. It is at that point where both creation and evolution cease to be empirical science. Instead, we can only deduce what took place in the past based upon what we find in the present, and hope that our extrapolations based upon uniformed processes can make our guesses about the past accurate.

The ACLU does not make this distinction. Instead, they apply a double standard to creation and evolution. This is where we emphatically disagree. They say that creation is not scientific, but evolution is scientific. Where does this break down? Let me give an example. I challenge scientists to go to the Lansing Mall in Lansing, Michigan to dig up scientific evidence as to what that area looked like 40 years ago. Dig up the pavement, find artifacts, examine the topography and then publish the results.

However, if I do the same, I am likely to paint a much more accurate picture of what it was like, since that was the dairy farm where I grew up. I can tell you about the barn, the milk house, the chicken coop, the house, and a lot of what it was like to live there. That is the value of historical and eyewitness evidence over artifacts found in the present. And that is the value of the Bible, a written account of history, which far exceeds the value of fragments of evidence from archaeology.

Both creation and evolution are forms of forensic science that attempts to reconstruct the past based upon evidence found in the present. They are by nature no more scientific or unscientific than the other, except by the unnatural definitions that evolutionists place upon them. The arguments that the ACLU makes are simply wrong. People believe them because they are continually repeated over and over like a mantra.

“40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS” by Matthew Chapman
Matthew Chapman is a direct descendant of Charles Darwin, so it is no surprise that he follows the ways of his ancestor, though he admits that he did not know much about evolution, but he thought that the most important idea, natural selection, was easy to understand and made sense. He apparently does not know that natural selection does not explain the origin of new information; it instead is the elimination of traits. This is the fatal flaw of evolutionary theory.

He argues that 99% of scientists believed in evolution. However that is a matter of definition, as many evolutionists believe that if you are a creationist, you cannot be a scientist. We have an exhaustive list of scientists who disagree with evolution in our article 3000 Darwin Skeptics with a vast majority who have advanced degrees. Though Chapman does not cite a reference here, we suspect that the actual percentage is quite different. He makes the assumption that those who disagree with evolution are “non-experts.” He reasons, “Did the pedestrian question the theory of gravity? Did the farmer who went to the doctor question his diagnosis?”

But I find that most of the creationists I know are quite accomplished as experts in their respective field, as our list reveals. Often their public denial of Darwinism comes with great cost, and that in my mind adds to their credibility. In addition, many of them were atheists and evolutionists before they made a critical examination of the evidence and came to the conclusion that Darwinism does not have the answer. The rest of his article is a characterization of the Scopes trial and the atmosphere it created using the straw man arguments like “…hilarious mix of philosophy and hucksterism, and in my mind the antievolution movement remained a quaint Southern aberration resulting from a combination of moonshine and religions of the snake-fondling type.”

Of course, creationists are not like that. These arguments may be effective with some people, but like most evolutionary arguments, there is little science involved here.

The Commemorative Collection leaves us with the final courtroom remarks made by William Jennings Bryan.
“The people will determine this issue. They will take sides upon this issue, they will state the question involved in this case, they will examine the information – not so much that which has been brought out here, for very little has been brought out here, but this case will stimulate investigation and investigation will bring out information, and the facts will be known, and upon the facts, as ascertained, the decision will be rendered, and I think, my friends, and your honor, that if we are actuated by the spirit that should actuate every one of us, no matter what our views may be, we ought not only desire, but pray, that that which is right will prevail, whether it be our way or somebody else’s.”

In attempting to present all points of view surrounding the play Inherit the Wind I believe that this publication did an excellent job. I would note that modern creationists base their skepticism of evolution upon scientific evidence, and I would challenge the reader to examine the arguments of evolutionists in this book and ask the question as to the quantity of science actually presented. The Commemorative Collection demonstrates the thesis of my article: “Creation is Scientific, but Evolution is Religious.”

Inherit the Wind was nominated for four Tony awards.

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