Who’s inheriting the wind now?
A bitter harvest from the Scopes trial (1925–2005)
July 2005 marked the 80th anniversary of the Scopes trial, which was a pivotal event in the creation/evolution debate. Looking back, it’s important to remember that the trial debate included not only whether evolution is true, but also what effect teaching evolution might have on young minds.
William Jennings Bryan, the chief spokesman against evolution, was concerned that teaching evolution would undermine the biblical foundation for moral teaching. He said that Darwinian teaching would give children ‘ … a doctrine that refutes not only their belief in God, but their belief in a Savior and belief in heaven, and takes from them every moral standard that the Bible gives us’.1
Opposing Bryan, Clarence Darrow and his pro-evolution associates held that evolutionary teaching would prove harmless to children, and that morality could be learned outside of the Bible. One of Darrow’s associates (Dudley Malone) said that Bryan was ‘filled with a needless fear … We have no fears about the young people of America. They are a pretty smart generation’.2
Since then, evolutionists have had their way in American public schools, and their experiment has had time to run its course. Has anything happened to show whether Bryan or Darrow was more correct?
To answer this, let’s first look at one more point from the Scopes trial—a point that deserves more notice than it usually gets. To argue that evolutionary teaching could warp morality, Bryan produced the court record of the famous Loeb–Leopold murder trial of 1923. The case involved a shocking and senseless murder by two young men from rich families, done for no apparent reason. Darrow himself had defended Loeb and Leopold. At their trial, Darrow had admitted their guilt, but he argued that Loeb and Leopold were not fully responsible for their action. Rather, Darrow tried to blame their crime on the evolution-based philosophy they had learned at university and on their alleged evolutionary past!3
Of course, Darrow used different words to make his claim, but in essence he blamed evolutionary thinking for the murder. He claimed that Loeb and Leopold were influenced by the teachings of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), the German philosopher much admired by Hitler. Nietzsche, in turn, derived his philosophy of God and ethics directly from Darwinian principles. He thought that Christian morality must be replaced by a new evolutionary ethic, which would turn traditional moral values upside down. Virtues like truthfulness, love, and compassion are actually bad because they interfere with the survival of the fittest, according to Nietzsche. Strength, deceit, cruelty, and cunning are proper Darwinian virtues instead.4
Darrow knew that Loeb and Leopold had sought to realize the ideal of Nietzsche’s ‘superman’. This supposedly superior being was to be the goal and product of human evolution. The superman would be able to make up his own ethics, practice them in the world, and be accountable to no one else. In effect, the superman would ‘become like God.’ It’s evident that Nietzscheism is the natural conclusion of Darwinism—God is either dead or impotent and so man must be king, with no real ethic but the strong dominating the weak and making their own rules. Darrow recognized that these ideas could lead directly to lawlessness and murder, yet he still strove to spread his ‘gospel’ of humanism based on evolution. For a brief moment, Bryan exposed this hypocrisy for all to see.
Was Bryan’s concern for America’s youth justified? Has the teaching of evolution (and its close attendant, humanism) made American schools and children better or worse? It’s easy to cite statistics showing that violence, drug use, and sexual immorality have increased greatly among America’s youth,5 and these are strong evidences that Bryan was right. However, to put a face onto the statistics, let’s consider a case in which the Loeb–Leopold evil was recently surpassed.
This tragic case was the 1998 Columbine high-school massacre, which saw two well-to-do young men of good family and social status suddenly open fire on their classmates and teachers, killing 12 and wounding 23 before killing themselves. Why did they do this? Darwinism certainly played a major role in their thoughts and actions,6 although the prominent role of evolution was never reported by the mainstream media. One of them, Harris, wore a shirt proclaiming ‘Natural Selection’ on the fateful day, and made other Darwinian allusions to his planned murderous deed.7 Just like Loeb and Leopold, Harris also expressed his determination to be a law unto himself, unrestrained by the opinions or morals of anyone else. He wrote in his diary, ‘My belief is that if I say something, it goes. I am the law … Feel no remorse, no sense of shame’.8 This is an exact reproduction of evolutionary Nietzscheism, the logical outgrowth of Darwinism, enthroning the self and denying any Supreme Being from acting as Lawgiver. And, just as Bryan predicted, the soil from which this lawlessness grows is the unopposed teaching of evolution.
Worse yet, the Columbine massacre was not an isolated event; there have been many more such violent school incidents in recent years. As a result, stringent policing of many schools is now needed. If we could take today’s news of deadly school violence back in time and interject it into the Scopes trial debate, how strange it would seem to the trial participants!
In 1925, the shadow of fear was still far from American schools. The current necessary school precautions—zero-tolerance policies, surveillance cameras and monitors, stun guns, metal detectors, and guards—would have shocked everyone of that generation.9,10 If a glimpse of the future could have been entered into the trial as evidence, it would have given strong proof that Bryan was right, and Darrow and his evolutionary confederates were wrong.
It should also be pointed out the biology textbook that John Scopes was said to have used to teach evolution (Hunter’s Civic Biology, widely used in the early 1900s) advocated racism and eugenics,11 two doctrines strongly implicit in Darwinism.
According to the textbook, the civilized Caucasian race of Europe and America showed the highest level of evolution, and ‘inferior’ races of humans (such as Negroes and Orientals) should be treated as unfit:
‘ … if such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways of preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race.’12
Imagine the effect that this must have had on a generation of children! It’s curious that humanists never blame this sort of teaching for ongoing problems of racism. Thankfully, this overtly racist teaching has been largely eliminated from textbooks, but the evolutionary ideas providing its basis still remain and are taught in public schools, to bear some other brand of bitter fruit.
It’s ironic that the play/movie Inherit the Wind, which exaggerated and misrepresented the victory of humanism at the Scopes trial, accused Bryan and the creationists of causing unnecessary trouble. (The title is based on Proverbs 11:29, which says ‘He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind.’13) The shoe is really on the other foot; history is showing that it is the evolutionists who have troubled their own house, filling their own schools and society with violence and immorality.
Darwinism has had little predictive value in biology. Its expectations regarding the complexity of life and the ease of major biological change have failed badly. It’s equally true that Darwinian advocates have failed to predict the bad consequences of teaching evolution as truth.
Bible advocates like Bryan, on the other hand, have accurately predicted the moral decay that would occur should the Bible be rejected. Surely this is another strong proof of the reliability and central importance of the Bible, beginning with Genesis.
Right: Supposedly based on the Scopes trial of 1925, the film Inherit the Wind (1960) starred Hollywood heavyweights Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly and Fredric March. But the movie greatly distorts what actually occurred. Christian lawyer ‘Brady’ (Bryan) is portrayed as bigoted, arrogant, deceitful and out of touch with reality. Agnostic ‘Drummond’ (Darrow) however, is presented as temperate, well-mannered and reasonable. Christian townspeople are presented as ignorant country folk brandishing pitchforks and burning effigies of evolutionists in pitiful efforts to ignore the ‘reality’ of evolutionary facts.
Fabrications in the movie include:
Bryan’s movie character betrays the trust of Scopes’s girlfriend, who is the local preacher’s daughter, and who is shattered by the breach of confidence. ‘Bryan’ is presented as a harsh and desperate man willing even to ‘sell out’ an innocent girl to achieve victory. In reality Scopes did not even have a girlfriend.
Distorting and parodying Christian morality, Bryan’s movie character claims that sexual intercourse is the ‘original sin’. In reality, there was however no mention made about sex at all during Darrow’s examination of Bryan.
Bryan’s character was portrayed as having a ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach to life by refusing even to read Darwin’s writings. In fact, Bryan was highly educated and had discussed Darwin’s books with leading evolutionists.
In real life, Scopes was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine, which Bryan charitably offered to pay on his behalf. The play however, has ‘Bryan’ protesting that the fine ought to be much harsher.
In the fabricated closing scenes, ‘Bryan’ is portrayed as a defeated and broken man, insanely reciting Scripture in a sweat-laden frenzy of madness, before dramatically dying in the courtroom. He is looked upon with pity by the calm and reasonable evolutionists, and those gathered from the press.
The message in the film was clear: To portray those who accept evolution as being progressive truth-seekers, unshackled by false old religious ideas, and full of common sense. But Christians were portrayed as dishonest and hypocritical, or as ignorant yokels who deny the truth of progress occuring all around them, preferring to remain attached to quaint old traditions.
- The world’s most famous court trial, Tennessee evolution case, 1925, republished by Bryan College, Tennessee, USA, p. 178, 1990. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p. 186–187. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, pp. 178–180 and 330–333. Return to text.
- Gilbert, D., Evolution: The root of all isms, Crown Rights Book Co., Mississippi, USA, pp. 16–17, 1935. Return to text.
- Barton, D., America:To pray or not to pray?, Wallbuilder Press, Texas, USA, pp. 30–43, 69–73, 105–106, 1991. Return to text.
- Catchpoole, D., How to build a bomb in the public school system, Creation 22(1):17, December 1999; creation.com/bom. Return to text.
- Letter from Darrell Scott (father of murdered Columbine student Rachel Scott) to Texas State Board of Education), cited at www.strengthsandweaknesses.org> (Texas creationist website for balanced teaching of evolution). Return to text.
- Achenbach, J. and Russakoff, D., Teen shooter’s life paints antisocial portrait, Washington Post, 29 April 1999, p. A1. Return to text.
- Leinwand, D., Schools restrict use of tasers, USA Today, 3–5 June 2003, pp. 1A, 13A. Return to text.
- Bosch, C., Schools Under Siege, Enslow Publishers, New Jersey, USA, pp. 35–53, 1997. Return to text.
- See also Grigg, R., Eugenics … death of the defenceless: the legacy of Darwin’s cousin Dalton, Creation 28(1):18–22, 2005. Return to text.
- Hunter, G.W., A Civic Biology, American Book Company, New York, USA, pp. 195–196, 1914 as cited in: Weinberger, L., Evolution in American education and the demise of its public school system, creation.com/school_demise, 25 August 2005. See also Williams, G., A Civic Biology and Eugenics, Journal of Creation 20(3):123–127, 2006. Return to text.
- The play was ostensibly an allegory where the Christians in the trial stood for the anti-communists of the 1950s, and the resulting whitewash of the evils of evolution inadvertently paralleled the liberal whitewash of real Communist atrocities. Return to text.