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Eighty Years of Scopes Monkey Business

Eighty years ago Thursday the famous Scopes Monkey Trial ended in Dayton, Tennessee. Time for a quiz:

History tells us that two great lawyers faced off. On the one side was (A) a progressive and a pacifist, an educated man who rejected the idea of a young earth and worried about efforts to peddle racism and eugenics in the South. On the other side was (B) a master orator who defended some flagrantly racist ideas long since discredited by science. Lawyer A sought a full and fair debate over the evidence. Lawyer B used a procedural tactic to shut down the debate so that only his position was heard.

Surely Mr. A would be the darling of any contemporary liberal journalist, right? But Mr. A was William Jennings Bryan, the creationist.

That's right. And Mr. B was Clarence Darrow, arguing for Darwinism and a textbook that explicitly promoted both racism and eugenics on Darwinian grounds--A Civic Biology Presented in Problems, by George William Hunter.

Do we learn that from Inherit the Wind, the Spencer Tracey film based on the play based on what some evolutionist somewhere wished had happened at the trial? Of course not.

But for many journalists, Inherit the Wind is The Scopes Monkey Trial. Worse, as Phillip Johnson explains, the film's cartoonish depiction of the trial has become the lens through which reporters see today's debate over neo-Darwinism.

Thus, anyone who promotes Darwinism must be the soulmate of Spencer Tracey, the film's voice of enlightened rationality. There is a parallel here, but not the one we usually hear. As noted above, the Spencer Tracey character's model, Clarence Darrow, used a procedural tactic to prevent Bryan from cross-examining him about Darwinism; likewise, today's ultra-Darwinists malign Discovery Institute for urging schools to teach both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinism so that students can critically analyze the theory.

Has anyone from the MSM ever reported that striking parallel? No, because it doesn't fit their rusty science vs. religion boilerplate. Thus, when an accomplished biologist like Italian geneticist Guiseppe Sermonti urges American public schools to dump bogus evidence for Darwinism and teach the controversy, he must be a narrow minded Bible thumping Southern fundamentalist in disguise because ... because ... well because Inherit the Wind said so.

The film sowed a lot of hot air. The question is, when will reporters begin to harvest from a better field?