On today’s Ricochet podcast, Peter and James interview guests Niall Ferguson and Stephen Meyer. I’d like to spend a few minutes discussing Mr. Meyer and the idea he puts forth in his latest book, Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe. I recently wrote about an Uncommon […]
Inherit the Wind, a drama by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, tells a highly fictionalized version of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. In the real trial, The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, a substitute high school teacher was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which prohibited teaching human evolution in state-funded schools. But it was not a trial of real facts – it was a phony case manufactured by the American Civil Liberties Union.
When the Butler Act passed, the ACLU lost no time peppering the state with pamphlets offering to defend anyone who violated the Act. The problem was: the Act went unenforced – and was widely understood to be a symbolic political gesture. In fact, Tennessee had another statute that required public schools to use a specific science textbook that did teach human evolution. So, if the ACLU was ever going to challenge the Act in court, they had to manufacture the facts themselves.
The organization found an ally in George Rappleyea, a businessman from the small town of Dayton, Tennessee. During a meeting of local business leaders, Rappleyea convinced the pillars of his community to sponsor the ACLU’s test case in their county. Rappleyea was against the law himself and others supported it, but the primary argument Rappleyea made to his peers was that the media circus around the trial would be great for business. The others agreed. Now they just needed a defendant.
Okay, okay, I understand Drama is about Conflict. So when you make a scientist a hero in your film, you usually want to have someone oppose him (or her). And who could be better to have as an adversary of Truth than a power-hungry, know-nothing clergyman (and yes, it must be a man). In quite a number of films it seems like there is a choice between Science and Religion and there must be only one (a lot like Highlander, in that way).
In films about Galileo, like, well, 1975’s Galileo based on the play by Bertolt Brecht, the scientist is a good guy only concerned with discovering how the universe works. He really doesn’t care about religion or politics or his own personal gain; whereas the Roman Catholic Church hates science because they believe it will ultimately disprove God, the Bible, and the Creation Story. Not that the Pope, Bishops, and Priests care about the Truth of such things, but if the Church falls, they will lose their power and position — the only thing they do care about. Forget that the historical story is much more complex than that. Galileo’s main enemies were other scientists, and the church approved of much of what Galileo wrote before they condemned it. But don’t let the truth get in the way of a story about the truth.
Of course, sometimes filmmakers attacking Religion on Science’s behalf like to pretend they’re doing nothing of the sort. In 1960’s Inherit the Wind, director Stanley Kramer has Spencer Tracy’s Clarence Darrow figure solemnly hold a Bible in one hand and Darwin’s Origin of the Species in the other as if he honors both books. But this is after two hours of showing the science teacher and his lawyer as models of prudence and wisdom, and religious believers and clergymen as quacks and lunatics.
A while back, there were a number of posts here regarding young earth creationism (YEC), evolution, etc. Since that time, off and on, I’ve pondered where exactly I come down on reconciling my faith and evolution. I was raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which doesn’t have any definitive doctrine […]
Leonard Nimoy. There. I’ve made this post topical. (For the record, I cannot remember a time when I did not find the religiosity of Star Trek to be anything but an unbearable embarrassment. I liked the show because it was entertaining, and–let’s be honest–the casting of Nimoy vs. Shatner was Roddenberry’s single brilliant decision [which […]