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The Truth about the Scopes Trial

Philosophy Editorial Opinion (Published) Keywords: CREATION EVOLUTION SCOPES
Source: World Net Daily.Com
Published: 07/10/00 Author: World Net Daily, James Perloff
Posted on 07/10/2000 03:24:56 PDT by RaceBannon

Scopes trial 'perverted' by movie versions
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MONDAY
JULY 10
2000
         
     



WND Exclusive
EVOLUTION WATCH
Scopes trial 'perverted'
by movie versions

WND interviews 'Tornado in a
Junkyard' author James Perloff



© 2000 WorldNetDaily.com

Author James Perloff's latest book, "Tornado in a Junkyard," argues that no solid evidence exists for macroevolution -- the conversion of one animal type into another. The book examines the growing body of scientific evidence that validates the beliefs of the majority of Americans who, polls claim, do not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution.

In this exclusive WorldNetDaily interview, Perloff discusses the landmark Scopes "monkey" trial on its 75th anniversary. Ironically, actor Jack Lemmon, who played the legendary pro-evolution attorney Clarence Darrow in the 1999 TV-movie "Inherit the Wind," later praised "Tornado in a Junkyard" as "an outstanding piece of work."

QUESTION: Today, July 10, 2000, marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Scopes trial. What was the significance of that trial?

ANSWER: With the possible exception of the O.J. Simpson case, I doubt that any trial in the 20th century received more notice. Even in China, 27 newspapers were publishing telegraphed reports of each day's proceedings.

Q: Why did this event capture the world's attention?

A: For two reasons. First, it dealt with a question that concerns everyone: Are we here by chance, or are we created by God? The second factor was that this trial pitted two great orators against each other. Clarence Darrow, the most famous trial attorney of that time, was defending John Scopes and taking the evolutionary position. William Jennings Bryan, who was three times the Democratic Party's candidate for president, was assisting the prosecution and standing for the biblical position. Everyone likes a good fight, and this was a chance to see two heavyweights go at it.

Q: How about some background?

A: In 1925, the Tennessee legislature passed a law called the Butler Act, which forbade teaching that man came from lower life forms. It didn't prohibit teaching other aspects of evolution. The Butler Act wasn't very controversial in the legislature; it passed 71-5 in the House and 24-6 in the Senate. John Scopes was a schoolteacher from Dayton, Tenn., charged with violating the Butler Act.

Q: In your book, you compare the Scopes trial to the movie "Inherit the Wind."

A: "Inherit the Wind" was a popular play that depicted the trial; it's also been made into a movie three times. It's a grotesque distortion of what really occurred. It perverted reality. And unfortunately, many people base their understanding of the Scopes trial on "Inherit the Wind." In my book, I compare the actual court transcript to the film script. I use the Spencer Tracy movie because that's probably the most famous version.

Q: Didn't the writers of the original play acknowledge that their work was not history?

A: Absolutely, and I'd like to underscore that. However, most people who saw the movie wouldn't know that.

Q: What's an example of distortion in the film?

A: Let's take it from the top. The movie begins with the town preacher and these grim town officials gathering. They march to the high school where we see the Scopes character forthrightly teaching evolution. They have him arrested and thrown in jail. Later on, a mob of Christian fundamentalists gathers outside the jail, burning him in effigy. They chuck a rock through the jail window, which injures him. He's portrayed as a persecuted martyr.

The truth is, John Scopes never spent one second in jail. Violating the Butler Act was not a jailable offense. It was punishable only by fine, which Scopes never had to pay. In fact, John Scopes apparently never even taught evolution. Let me quote his autobiography, "Center of the Storm": "To tell the truth, I wasn't sure I had taught evolution. ... Darrow had been afraid for me to go on the stand. Darrow realized that I was not a science teacher and he was afraid that if I were put on the stand I would be asked if I actually taught biology. ... If the boys had got their review of evolution from me, I was unaware of it. I didn't remember teaching it."

Q: So how did Scopes wind up on trial?

A: This trial was not instigated by Christian fundamentalists. It was instigated by the ACLU, which was trying to recruit a Tennessee teacher to challenge the Butler Act. Scopes agreed to say he taught evolution and be served with a warrant. Everything was done with his consent.

Q: What about the film's depiction of Clarence Darrow?

A: You see him being treated very gruffly by the locals. The fundamentalists boo him when he approaches the courthouse. At night, they march on his hotel, singing that they'll hang him from a tree. It's a lynch-mob atmosphere.

Q: Did anything like that actually happen?

A: No. The people of Dayton gave Darrow a banquet. Here's how he himself summarized his experiences there: "Yet I came here a perfect stranger, and I can say what I have said before that I have not found upon anybody's part -- any citizen here in this town or outside, the slightest discourtesy. I have been better treated, kindlier and more hospitably than I fancied would have been the case in the north, and that is due largely to the ideas that southern people have and they are, perhaps, more hospitable than we are up north."

Q: What about the movie's treatment of William Jennings Bryan?

A: He's portrayed as an ignorant bigot opposed to all science. He says, "The people of this state have made it very clear that they do not want this zoological hogwash slobbered around the schoolrooms!" And he says, "The way of scientism is the way of darkness."

Q: And the reality?

A: He said nothing remotely resembling that. Bryan was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Here is what he really said about science during the trial: "Give science a fact and it is not only invincible, but of incalculable service to man." Bryan opposed Darwinism, not because he was against science, but because he recognized that the fish-to-man theory lacked scientific support.

Q: What about the movie's presentation of the trial itself?

A: It's a litany of falsehoods. For example, the defense tries to introduce Darwin's works as evidence. The prosecution objects, and the judge, who's also portrayed as a bigot, agrees and excludes the books as irrelevant. Bryan is depicted as never having read Darwin's works. So the Darrow character -- Spencer Tracy -- says: "How in perdition have you got the gall to whoop up this holy war about something that you don't know anything about?" But in real life, not only did the judge allow Darwin's books as evidence, but it was Bryan himself who introduced them. He was quite familiar with Darwin's works and frequently quoted Darwin, both in the courtroom and in his writings.

Q: Wasn't the most famous part of the trial Darrow's interrogation of Bryan on the Bible?

A: Yes, and a general impression has been created that Darrow whipped Bryan and thus scored a powerful blow for evolution over biblical Christianity. In the movie, he reduces Bryan to rubble, and in the end, Bryan cracks up -- all he can do is pathetically shout the names of the books of the Bible.

Q: How did it really come off?

A: Bryan held his own, and of course, he never went berserk. If you read the transcript, it's fair to say that Darrow won by a small margin, but that's because the deck was stacked in his favor.

Q: Why do you say that?

A: You have to understand that this was not a debate -- it was an interrogation. When you're called as a trial witness, you can't ask questions, you can only answer them. Darrow got to choose all the questions, so he totally controlled the exchange. Also, Darrow knew exactly what subjects were going to be covered. He had long yearned to debate Bryan, and, as an agnostic, he had been developing these questions for years. The night before the grilling, he rehearsed it with a dummy witness. Bryan, on the other hand, didn't know what question was coming next. He had to be totally off the cuff. With all these advantages, it's not surprising that Darrow came out a little on top. In fact, let me put it this way. Suppose you were running for office, and the League of Women Voters invites you to a debate. But they say to you, "At tonight's debate, we will only discuss issues that your opponent wants to discuss. Furthermore, although your opponent will be allowed to ask you questions, you won't be allowed to ask your opponent questions." Those were the circumstances Bryan was up against.

Q: Wasn't Bryan foolish to accept these conditions?

A: There are two reasons why Bryan went on the stand. First, Darrow had baited him by publicly labeling him a coward.

Over the weekend, he told the press: "Bryan is willing to express his opinions on science and religion where his statements will not be questioned, but Bryan has not dared to test his views in open court under oath." When Darrow called Bryan as a witness that Monday, Tom Stewart, the chief prosecutor, tried to keep him off the stand, but Bryan went on and said: "I am simply trying to defend the Word of God against the greatest atheist or agnostic in the United States. I want the papers to know I am not afraid to get on the stand and let him do his worst." The Christian spectators applauded.

Q: What was the other reason?

A: Bryan fully expected that after Darrow grilled him on the Bible, he was going to grill Darrow on evolution. Darrow let him have that understanding. For example, at one point, when Darrow was getting rough with Bryan, the prosecution objected, but Bryan said: "I want him to have all the latitude he wants. For I am going to have some latitude when he gets through." Darrow assured him: "You can have latitude and longitude." Bryan was very interested in putting Darrow on the stand, so he could ask him questions like, "Where are all the missing links?"

Q: But history doesn't record any interrogation of Darrow by Bryan.

A: That's right. Because the next day, Darrow changed Scopes's plea from "not guilty" to "guilty," which ended the trial. He thus kept himself off the witness stand and prevented Bryan from reciprocating.

Q: Darrow declared Scopes guilty? But that's not what happens in the movie.

A: No, in the movie, Darrow valiantly fights to the end for Scopes, but he's found guilty by a jury of religious bigots.

The trial had never been about Scopes' guilt or innocence. Remember, he never even taught evolution. The purpose of the trial, from Darrow's viewpoint, was to create a media event that would promote evolution and assault biblical Christianity. Scopes was essentially there as a token defendant.

I suppose we could credit Darrow with being a great tactician. I liken it to a football game. In essence, he told Bryan, "Let me go on offense first." So he goes on offense, pushes Bryan downfield in a bitter struggle and, finally, kicks a field goal. Then Bryan is standing on his own goal line, waiting for a return kickoff. But Darrow simply declares that the game is over, which makes him the winner.

Q: You said Darrow was using the trial to promote evolution. Did he succeed in doing that?

A: Yes, but it's interesting that many of the evidences his expert witnesses presented now sit in the trash heap of discredited ideas. They discussed the Piltdown Man, but that's long since been exposed as a fraud. They discussed comparative embryology, but Ernst Haeckel's drawings of embryos, which that was largely based on, are now known to be fakes. They discussed "vestigial" organs, but organs once considered "useless" are now known to have functions.

Q: Is Darwinism faring any better today?

A: It's on the retreat. Books by scientists have been coming out in recent years. The molecular biologist Michael Denton has demonstrated that there is no evidence of an evolutionary sequence -- fish to man -- on a cellular level. Biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University has shown that there are biochemical systems too complex to have evolved step-by-step. Lee Spetner, who taught information theory at John Hopkins University, has demonstrated that mutations cause losses of genetic information, not gains.

Q: Thank you.


James Perloff's book, "Tornado in a Junkyard," is available at WorldNetDaily's online store.


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'Inherit the Wind' was a popular play that depicted the trial; it's also been made into a movie three times. It's a grotesque distortion of what really occurred.

 

-- Author James Perloff

 

The truth is, John Scopes never spent one second in jail. Violating the Butler Act was not a jailable offense. It was punishable only by fine, which Scopes never had to pay. In fact, John Scopes apparently never even taught evolution.

 

-- Perloff

 

This trial was not instigated by Christian fundamentalists. It was instigated by the ACLU, which was trying to recruit a Tennessee teacher to challenge the Butler Act.

 

-- Perloff

 

Bryan opposed Darwinism, not because he was against science, but because he recognized that the fish-to-man theory lacked scientific support.

 

-- Perloff

 

I am simply trying to defend the Word of God against the greatest atheist or agnostic in the United States. I want the papers to know I am not afraid to get on the stand and let him do his worst.

 

-- William Jennings Bryan

 

The purpose of the trial, from Darrow's viewpoint, was to create a media event that would promote evolution and assault biblical Christianity.

 

-- Perloff

 

Many of the evidences (Clarence Darrow's) expert witnesses presented now sit in the trash heap of discredited ideas.

 

-- Perloff

   

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Let the games begin. Creationists always win anyways, but these can be fun.

1 Posted on 07/10/2000 03:24:56 PDT by RaceBannon
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To: RaceBannon

--A: That's right. Because the next day, Darrow changed Scopes's plea from "not guilty" to "guilty," which ended the trial. ...--

This page - State v. John Scopes - disagrees with Perloff --

"Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty in order that the case might be appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. ... The jury complied with Darrow's request, and Judge Raulston fined him $100."

So, a verdict against Scopes was necessary in order for him to appeal. It was not a guilty plea.

This page - Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes - also disagrees with Perloff, saying --

"Darrow read his charge to the jury, saying that this case could only be settled in a higher court, “and it cannot get to a higher court unless you bring in a (guilty) verdict.” He was telling the jury he wanted them to find the defendant, Scopes, guilty!

... The jury retired for awhile and after nine full minutes returned with a verdict. Guilty."

Again, a verdict, not a guilty plea.

So, Perloff is wrong. No big surprise in that; Perloff obviously has trouble with facts.

2 Posted on 07/10/2000 04:50:12 PDT by Red Redwine (theBin@theAlley)
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To: Red Redwine

Excuse me, how is that again? Your lawyer asks the court to return a verdict of "guilty", and that isn't a guilty plea? And it did have the effect of keeping Darrow from being interrogated by Bryan, right?

3 Posted on 07/10/2000 04:58:03 PDT by docmcb
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To: RaceBannon

It was instigated by the ACLU, which was trying to recruit a Tennessee teacher to challenge the Butler Act.

Imagine that.

4 Posted on 07/10/2000 05:06:42 PDT by patriot x
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To: Red Redwine

Inherit the Wind — an historical analysis

David Menton

First published in:

Creation Ex Nihilo 19(1):35–38, December 1996–February 1997

The film and play of the most publicized creation/evolution trial of all time are seriously biased and inaccurate

Rarely does a year go by that the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee play and film Inherit the Wind is not produced by a local school, or shown on television somewhere. Inherit the Wind is not a documentary, but it is perceived by many viewers to be a documentary-drama of the famous 1925 Scopes 'monkey' trial.

The trial pitted William Jennings Bryan against Clarence Darrow in a classic confrontation over the teaching of evolution and creation in public schools. Theatrical liberties were exercised in developing the plot, but occasional courtroom exchanges were taken word-for-word from the transcript of the Scopes trial. Unfortunately, the composite that resulted has become widely perceived as a historical account of the trial. But the play is not a fair and accurate representation of the great battle of ideas and beliefs that was waged at the Rhea County Court House in Dayton, Tennessee.

Curiously, Inherit the Wind (unlike other documentary-dramas such as Gandhi and Patton) does not use the actual names of the participants or the places it portrays. Some characters, like the Reverend Jeremiah Brown and his persecuted daughter, Rachel, are fictitious. The rest of the principal characters of the play represent well-known participants in the Scopes trial. The character Matthew Harrison Brady represents William Jennings Bryan; Henry Drummond represents Clarence Darrow; Bert Cates represents John Scopes; and E.K. Hornbeck represents H.L. Mencken.

The Main Participants

William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925)

Bryan was a famous politician and orator, who unsuccessfully stood three times as the Democratic candidate for the USA Presidency. He became Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, where he tried his best to keep the USA out of the First World War. A great Populist leader, he was known as the Great Commoner. He was influential in the eventual adoption of such reforms as popular election of senators, income tax, creation of a Department of Labor, Prohibition and women's suffrage.

At his funeral, Darrow told reporters that he had voted for Bryan twice and respected his 'sincerity and devotion.'

Clarence (Seward) Darrow (1857–1938)

Darrow was a lawyer whose defence work in a number of dramatic trials made him nationally famous. He was also a prominent public speaker and debater, and an outspoken agnostic. His cases ranged from representing striking miners during the Pennsylvania anthracite coal strike of 1902-3, pointing out the arduous conditions and extent of child labour; to securing the acquittal in 1907 of the labour leader "Big Bill" Haywood for the assassination of the former governor of Idaho.

H(enry) L(ouis) Mencken (1880–1956)

Mencken was a controversial satirical journalist and pungent critic of American life. He was a reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald and later joined the staff of the Baltimore Sun. He also became a scholar of American idioms, publishing many editions of his volume American Language.

Mencken was highly antagonistic towards biblical Christianity, but was even more contemptuous of liberal 'Christianity', calling it 'not only foolish but dishonest.'

I have chosen to use the proper names of the principals in the trial to avoid confusion, since there has never been doubt whom the chief characters in the play represent. In the observations that follow, segments from the play are preceded with the heading The Play. Analysis of the segments are preceded with the heading The Facts.

THE PLAY Great effort is made to solicit sympathy for John Scopes, the much persecuted school teacher cast into jail for teaching evolution, and who risks losing his job and his girlfriend. We are repeatedly reminded that 'fine and imprisonment' are possible consequences of his crime.

THE FACTS: Scopes was never jailed, nor was he in danger of imprisonment. The maximum penalty for violating the Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee, was a $500 fine. Scopes didn't have a college (university) degree in science (he had an undergraduate degree in law from the University of Kentucky). Scopes was not a biology teacher; he filled in as a substitute for two weeks near the end of the school year for the biology teacher, who was ill. Scope's involvement in the trial was a wilful decision on his part. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was seeking a teacher willing to stand trial, with all expenses paid, to challenge the Butler Act. The ACLU placed a newspaper ad that read in part:

'We are looking for Tennessee teacher who is willing to accept our services in testing this law in the courts.'

Local businessman George Rappleyea read this ad and lost no time in seeking John Scopes and pressuring him to accept the ACLU offer. In his autobiography, Scopes details this conversation with Rappleyea, Robinson, and other Dayton businessmen:

I said, 'If you can prove that I've taught evolution, and that I can qualify as a defendant, then I'll be willing to stand trial.'

'You filled in as a biology teacher, didn't you?'Robinson said.

'Yes.' I nodded. 'When Mr Ferguson was sick.'

'Well, you taught biology then. Didn't you cover evolution?'

'We reviewed for the final exams, as best I remember.' To tell the truth, I wasn't sure I had taught evolution.

'Robinson and the others apparently weren't concerned about this technicality. I had expressed willingness to stand trial. That was enough.1

So John Scopes was not being attached at all; rather it was he who was on the attack. Scopes willingly joined ranks with the ACLU in an attempt to repeal or nullify the Butler Act. In Sprague de Camp's book, The Great Monkey Trial, a remarkable conversation between Scopes and reporter William K. Hutchinson of the International News Service reveals that Scopes' defence lawyers had to coach his students to perjure themselves by claiming that John Scopes had taught them evolution when in fact he hadn't.2

THE PLAY: Throughout the play, William Jennings Bryan is portrayed as closed-minded, pompous, stupid, intolerant, hypocritical, insincere and gluttonous. The following dialogue between Darrow and Bryan appears on

page 51:

DARROW: 'I don't suppose you've memorized many passages from the Origin of Species?'

BRYAN: 'I am not the least interested in the pagan hypotheses of that book.'

DARROW: 'Never read it?'

BRYAN: 'And I never will.'

THE FACTS: Bryan is reported by one of his biographers, Lawrence W. Levine, to have read Darwin's On the Origin of Species 20 years before the Scopes trial! Bryan's reservations about the theory of evolution were certainly influenced by his religious beliefs, but he had written many well-argued articles critical of the evidence used to defend the theory of evolution.

Bryan also carried on a long correspondence on evolution with famous evolutionist Henry Fairfield Osborn. For a layman, Bryan's knowledge of the scientific evidence for and against evolution was unusually sophisticated. By comparison, the trial transcript shows that Darrow gave the impression of having a poor grasp of evolution. Darrow appeared to rest his belief in evolution on scientific 'authority', which he accepted without question.

Bryan fights Darrow with his own weapons!

To support his case about the harmful effects of evolutionary philosophy, Bryan used some of Darrow's own arguments against him. The year before the Scopes Trial, Darrow had saved two young murderers from the death sentence. He claimed'this terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and it came from some ancestor.' He also claimed:

'Is any blame attached because somebody took Nietsche's [evolutionary] philosophy seriously and fashioned his life upon it? ... it is hardly fair to hang a 19-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.

Author Sprague de Camp repudiated Byran's conservative Christianity, and missed no opportunity to criticize his scientific views. Yet honesty compelled him to give Bryan credit for at least some undeniable virtues:

'As a speaker, Bryan radiated good humored sincerity. Few who heard him could help liking him. … In personality he was forceful, energetic, and opinionated but genial, kindly, generous, likeable and charming. … He showed a praise-worthy tolerance towards those who disagreed with him. … Bryan was the greatest American orator of his time and perhaps any time.'3

This is obviously different from the play's portrayal, but de Camp's description of Bryan's character is consistent with the major biographies of Bryan's life (see Levine, 1965, and Coletta, 1969).

THE PLAY: The conservative Christians of Dayton, Tennessee, are portrayed as ignorant, closed-minded, and discourteous. Here are just a few examples: When H.L. Mencken arrives in town, Elijah (a Bible salesman who can neither read nor write) asks Mencken, 'What are you? An evolutionist? An Infidel? A sinner?' The mayor of the town offers to look for a town ordinance that would prevent Clarence Darrow from entering the town. When Darrow finally arrives in town, a young Christian girl screams, 'The Devil!', and then runs off in fear.

THE FACTS: The following is an excerpt from H.L. Mencken's first dispatch sent to his newspaper: 'Nor is there any evidence of that poisonous spirit which usually shows itself when Christian men gather to defend the great doctrine of their faith. … On the contrary, the Evolutionists and the Anti-Evolutionists seem to be on the best of terms, and it is hard in a group to distinguish one from the other.'4

The following is a quotation from Clarence Darrow on the seventh day of the eight-day trial:

DARROW:

'I don't know as I was ever in a community in my life where my religious ideas differed as widely from the great mass as I have found them since I have been in Tennesee. Yet I came here a perfect stranger and I can say what I have said before that I have not found upon any body's part — any citizen here in this town or outside the slightlest discourtesy. I have been treated better, kindlier and more hospitably than I fancied would have been the case in the north'(trial transcript, pp. 225-226).

The Play: At the prayer meeting, we read the following account from page 39 of the play:

REV. BROWN: 'Do we believe the truth of the Word?'

ALL: 'Yes!'

REV. BROWN: (Pointing a finger towards the jail.) 'Do we curse the man who denies the Word?'

ALL: (Crescendo, each answer mightier than the one before) 'Yes!'

REV. BROWN: 'Do we cast this sinner out of our midst?'

ALL: 'Yes!' (Each crash of sound from the crowd seems to strike Rachel physically, and shake her. The prayer meeting has passed beyond the familiar bounds in an area of orgiastic anger.)

REV. BROWN: 'Do we call down hell-fire on the man who has sinned against the Word?'

ALL: (Roaring.) 'Yes!'

REV. BROWN: (Deliberately shattering the rhythm, to go into a frenzied prayer, hands clasped together and lifted heavenward) '… Let him feel the terror of Thy sword! For all eternity, let his soul write in anguish and damnation.'

RACHEL: 'No!' (she rushes to the platform.) 'No Father. Don't pray to destroy Bert! [Scopes] (As she falls on her knees in front of the platform.) No, no, no … !'

REV. BROWN: 'Lord, we call down the same curse on those who ask grace for this sinner - though they be of my blood, and flesh of my flesh!'

THE FACTS: Reverend Jeremiah Brown and the prayer meeting are fictitious. Earlier in the play, the mayor of the city identified Rev. Brown as the spiritual leader of the community. Since this is a fictitious character, the authors depict him as they please. One might expect the city's spiritual leader to be a humble man of God who treats others with compassion and love. Instead, the authors introduce Rev. Jeremiah Brown as a mean-spirited man who calls down Hell-fire on his own daughter.

THE PLAY: Scope's financée 'Rachel Brown' is called as a witness and is badly mistreated by Bryan, who forces her to testify against her boyfriend by insisting she repeat deeply personal conversations between her and Scopes (which Bryan had pried out of her in 'confidence' before the trial). Bryan, always the fanatic, loses his self-control and becomes cruel and merciless in his questioning of the frightened young lady. Darrow, on the other hand, magnanimously agrees not to cross-examine Rachel lest she be further discomforted after Bryan's abuse.

THE FACTS: No women participated in the trial. Scopes did not have a special girlfriend or fiancée at this time. Bryan was courteous at all times in his handling of witnesses, as the trial transcript reveals. Darrow, on the other hand, was at times condescending and contemptuous in his treatment of witnesses, jurists, opposing lawyers and even the judge. Darrow was, in fact, cited for contempt of court for repeatedly interrupting and insulting Judge Raulston.

THE PLAY: Darrow questions Bryan on the topic of sex:

DARROW: '… You're up here as an expert on the Bible. What's the Biblical evaluation of sex?'

BRYAN: 'It is considered Original Sin.'

THE FACTS: Nothing was discussed about sex in the trial. Nor does the Bible teach that the original sin was sexual in nature.

THE PLAY: When the Judge excuses Bryan from the stand, Bryan slips into a frenzy:

BRYAN: 'I believe in the truth of the Book of Genesis!' (With both clenched fists he pounds the air, rhythmic hammer blows of conviction as he fervently recites the books of the Old Testament.)

After court is adjourned, the spectators begin to leave while Bryan continues to beat the air with clenched fists.

THE FACTS: Bryan never went into a frenzy, nor did he recite the books of the Bible. This was just another attempt to depict Bryan as a raving religious lunatic.

THE PLAY: The 'prisoner', John Scopes, is found guilty and Darrow is visibly shaken by this great injustice against his client. Bryan, on the other hand, is vindictive and complains about the paltry $100 fine levelled against John Scopes for a crime of such magnitude: 'Your Honor, the prosecution takes exception! Where the issues are so titanic, the court must mete out more drastic punishment.'

THE FACTS: Violation of the Butler Act was punishable by a fine of no less that $100 and no greater than $500; imprisonment was not a provision of the law. Bryan was not the least concerned about the fine, nor was anyone else. Indeed, Bryan had offered to pay Scopes' fine. All of Scopes' expenses relating to the trial were covered by vested interests, as was the tuition for his graduate education after the trial.

THE PLAY: They play builds to a noisy and chaotic climax as Bryan loses all sense of dignity and reason and goes into an incoherent tirade to read his concluding statement. The crowd is bored and walks out, while Bryan's wife looks on in horror at what he become of her once sane and caring husband. Finally, overcome by religious zeal, Bryan mindlessly continues with his closing remarks, and collapses on the courtroom floor. As he is carried out, in a strange, unreal voice, he begins what appears to be an inaugural speech as the new President of the United States. Minutes later, his death is announced.

THE FACTS: Neither Bryan nor Darrow attempted to give the customary closing argument to the jury. Once Darrow accomplished his purpose of ridiculing Bryan's beliefs in Biblical miracles, he asked the judge to instruct the jury to find Scopes guilty, and in so doing, eliminated the need for closing arguments. Bryan had put great effort into preparing his closing statement. This manoeuvre by Darrow prevented Bryan from giving his well-supported scientific and religious argument against the theory of evolution. Bryan was anxious that the text of his speech be made available to the public, and made provision for its publication only one hour before his death. The speech was cogently argued — hardly the ravings of a mad man unless, of course, all Bible-believing Christians are to be dismissed as 'mad men'.

Finally, Bryan did not die in the court house in a raving frenzy. He died in his sleep at the age of 65 five days after the trial. His doctors had urged him, a diabetic, to cut his heavy workload. Insulin treatment was still in its early years.

CONCLUSION There is considerable evidence that the play and film are not simply inaccurate, but rather are highly biased in their intent. The historical inaccuracies are systematic and of a kind that presents a consistent bias of slanderous proportions against people who believe the Biblical account of creation.

On the other hand, those critical of the miracles of the Bible are portrayed as eminently reasonable people who must suffer abuse, threats and ignorance from fundamentalist Christians.

The evidence suggests that the inaccuracies in the play and film Inherit The Wind are substantive, intentional and systematic. Christians, and particularly William Jennings Bryan, are consistently lampooned throughout the play, while sceptics and agnostics are portrayed, while sceptics and agnostics are portrayed as intelligent, kindly, and even heroic. I cannot escape the conclusion that the writers of Inherit The Wind never intended to write a historically accurate account of the Scopes trial, nor did they seriously attempt to portray the principal characters and their beliefs in a fair and accurate way.

REFERENCES

1.John T. Scopes and James Presley, Center of the Storm: Memoirs of John T. Scopes, Holt, New York, 1967, p. 60. Return to Text.

2.The Great Monkey Trial, Sprague de Camp, p. 432. Return to Text.

3.Ref. 2, pp. 36–37. Return to Text.

4.Ref. 2, p. 147. Return to Text.

5 Posted on 07/10/2000 05:09:49 PDT by RaceBannon
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To: RaceBannon

Okay, so when are Spike Lee and the British movie reviewers going to condemn the historical inaccuracies of the various "Scopes Trial" movies?

6 Posted on 07/10/2000 05:29:26 PDT by Jay W
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To: docmcb

Excuse me, how is that again? Your lawyer asks the court to return a verdict of "guilty", and that isn't a guilty plea? And it did have the effect of keeping Darrow from being interrogated by Bryan, right?

The Scopes Trial became a circus and all parties were interested in having it end ASAP -- none more so than the Judge.

Darrow exploited the Judge's unease by making it easy for all involved -- get the trial over with by pleading guilty -- with no intention of ever being punished (fined in this case).

The fact that anyone would be punished for expressing an idea (whether true or not) is absurd. Yet, fundamentalists showed their ugly side by passing a law that would suppress ideas that challenged their belief system (not unlike today's leftists who try to censor conservative ideas).

7 Posted on 07/10/2000 06:02:34 PDT by VoodooEconomist
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To: VoodooEconomist

Expressing ideas you were asked not to, while accepting money from the local community to incalcate intellectual ideas into their children's heads is a somewhat different issue, is it not?

8 Posted on 07/10/2000 06:45:54 PDT by donh
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To: all

The conclusion of this piece is not remotely accurate. Darwinian understanding of heritability is the basis for almost all modern commercial and research microbiology. Denton and Behe point to nothing more than the phenomena that, because you know something, that doesn't mean you know everything yet, but they they aren't terribly relevant to the overall evidence, which is, contrary to the tone of this piece, about as close to overwhelming as you can get in a natural science.

As evidence goes, a thesis about mutational distances and attainability hardly stacks up to a world full of literally mountains of geological stratum which tell the same story with the same timeline as the morphological correlation with the fossils embedded within them, and the same story as the DNA back-vectoring of mutational distances.

The fact is that we are nearly completely ignorant about how, exactly DNA does it's work of mutation. Pointing this out does not cancel out what we do know, manifestations here to the contrary notwithstanding.

This article rates high on my silly-meter. How Bryan may or may not have been treated is irrelevant to the conclusion of the article about the validity of Darwinian science.

9 Posted on 07/10/2000 07:05:08 PDT by donh
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To: donh

How anyone can question the validity of Darwin's thesis is beyond my understanding. Although, as you stated, we haven't as yet grasped the finer workings of the gene, the science we do have should put to rest the question of our emergence from other primates. The fossil record and comparative morphology alone are data which support evolutionary hypotheses regardless of which you presently prefer.

10 Posted on 07/10/2000 09:55:46 PDT by stanz
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To: docmcb

--Your lawyer asks the court to return a verdict of "guilty", and that isn't a guilty plea?--

No, that isn't a guilty plea. That's a jury verdict of guilty. The difference is not trivial.

--And it did have the effect of keeping Darrow from being interrogated by Bryan, right?--

Perloff's account is, as they say, "false and misleading." Actually, the judge decided that Bryan's testimony was irrelevant and ordered it stricken from the record. The judge adjourned the court at the conclusion of Bryan's appearance, and announced his decision the next morning. I haven't found an account of why the judge made that decision - if anybody has, please post the info or a link - but it could be the judge decided the confrontation between Bryan and Darrow was too rancorous and not constructive. Then, since Bryan did not testify (legally) the agreement to question each other became moot, and Darrow didn't testify (either.)

11 Posted on 07/10/2000 15:37:43 PDT by Red Redwine (theBin@theAlley)
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To: donh

How Bryan may or may not have been treated is irrelevant to the conclusion of the article about the validity of Darwinian science.

What about the facts of how the trial is presented to the public? What about truth? Why not worry about that?

12 Posted on 07/10/2000 15:56:44 PDT by RaceBannon
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To: RaceBannon

--The film and play of the most publicized creation/evolution trial of all time are seriously biased and inaccurate--

Sure. No question about it.

But Perloff is wrong too.

--Bryan did not die in the court house in a raving frenzy. He died in his sleep at the age of 65 five days after the trial. His doctors had urged him, a diabetic, to cut his heavy workload.--

Heavy workload, indeed. Here's what Bryan did in those five days --

• Wrote a 15,000-word speech he had hoped to give at the trial,

• Inspected sites for a school the people of Dayton were interested in building,

• Traveled several hundred miles to deliver speeches in various cities and speak to crowds totaling 50,000,

• Was hit by a car (apparently without injury,)

• Consulted with doctors about his diabetic condition,

• Conferred with printers about his speech, and

On Sunday, July 26, drove from Chattanooga to Dayton, participated in a church service, and died quietly during a nap that afternoon.

Link -- William Jennings Bryan

Amazing guy.

13 Posted on 07/10/2000 16:07:06 PDT by Red Redwine (theBin@theAlley)
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To: RaceBannon

What about the facts of how the trial is presented to the public? What about truth? Why not worry about that?

I am not opposed to that, and, in fact, am enjoying the usual high caliber of spontaneous research on the subject I've come to expect at FR, but, there remains no logical link between the conclusion of this article, the body of the story, or with the state of microbiological science as currently practiced. the DNA geeks and the fossil geeks are hardly being routed by the likes of Denton and Behe, as the conclusion of the article states--and irrelevant as that is to the mistreatment of the history of the Scopes trial.

What do you expect from Hollywood? When has Hollywood ever made a choice to give up drama, or majority appeal for historical accuracy?

14 Posted on 07/10/2000 20:31:18 PDT by donh
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To: donh

The real William Jennings Bryan (at least according to his biography) seems at least as bad as portrayed in the trial. He even acquiesed in Wilson's clandestine attempts to draw the US into WWI. He did not stay as Secretary of State for Wilson's second term, however. " He was influential in the eventual adoption of such reforms as popular election of senators, income tax, creation of a Department of Labor, Prohibition and women's suffrage. " One out of five isn't too bad for a politician though.

Darrow did get Leopold and Loeb life terms rather than execution.

15 Posted on 07/10/2000 20:50:09 PDT by Doctor Stochastic
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To: Red Redwine

No, that isn't a guilty plea. That's a jury verdict of guilty. The difference is not trivial.

or "it depends on what the meaning of is is", right?

16 Posted on 07/11/2000 06:06:15 PDT by Bommer
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To: Bommer

No, it depends on whether you want to appeal or not. I think it's safe to say most jurisdictions don't allow a person to plead guilty and then appeal on grounds he's not. If you say you're guilty, the courts will believe you.

17 Posted on 07/11/2000 08:49:16 PDT by Red Redwine (theBin@theAlley)
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