Berean cogitations

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Scopes monkey trial and "Inherit the Wind"

A few days ago, I heard some acquaintances of mine complaining about the intrusion of religion in the classroom. They lamented the way religion supposedly puts itself at odds against science. One of them said, "Remember the movie, Inherit the Wind? That goes to show how some people place religion ahead of scientific fact!"

For those who might not know, Inherit the Wind was a dramatized account of the infamous Scopes monkey trial. The ironic thing is that this movie blatantly misrepresented the events surrounding this trial, and its producers openly admitted that this was not a factual accoiunt. The fella I spoke about complained that religious folks ignore scientific fact, but he was blissfully unaware of historical facts!

I was reading an article online on this very topic. One choice passage says,

While Inherit the Wind remains faithful to the broad outlines of the historical events it portrays, it flagrantly distorts the details, and neither the fictionalized names nor the cover of artistic license can excuse what amounts to an ideologically motivated hoax. The film, for example, depicts Cates arrested in the act of teaching evolution by a grim posse of morally offended citizens, while in fact no effort was made to enforce the Butler Act. What actually brought the issue to light-never mentioned in play or film-was that the American Civil Liberties Union advertised for someone to challenge the law. Several Dayton citizens, hoping the publicity would benefit their town, approached Scopes as a possible candidate. Scopes was actually a mathematics teacher and athletic coach and had only briefly substituted as a biology teacher. He did not remember teaching evolution, but he had used the standard textbook, Hunter's Civic Biology, which contained a short section on the subject. Scopes was surprised to hear how relatively knowledgeable the student witnesses were, and he speculated that they must have picked up what they knew somewhere else and come to associate it with his class. Scopes himself knew little beyond the rudiments, and the defense thought it best to keep him off the stand, where his lack of knowledge (not to mention his uncertainty as to whether he had taught the subject) might prove embarrassing.