Does the truth matter anymore, or is it just about imposing personal beliefs? Here’s a film that goes against the evolutionary tide and makes the revolutionary claim that “journalism should be based on telling the truth” [0.57]. And if you read too far you too might see some truth:
The Scopes Trial
Most of what Edward Murrow reports, however, isn't so. For instance, as is depicted in his documentary and reported in countless articles about the Scopes trial even today, we are constantly told that the State of Tennessee outlawed evolution in 1925. But it did not. Not even close.
We are also told, most memorably in the film classic Inherit the Wind (1960), that William Jennings Bryan was a veritable fount of demagogic nonsense regarding evolution, the Bible, and even sex. (See dozens of examples with video clips from ITW at www.themonkeytrial.com.) Bryan is consistently depicted as bigoted, scientifically ignorant, prudish, simple-minded, hypocritical, conservative, and—perhaps above all—cowardly.
The above characterizations of Bryan are manifestly not true as historians all know. Yet many of them are repeated today by The New York Times, the ACLU, and just about everybody else.
And then there are the central aspects of the trial about which we are conspicuously not told. For instance, who should determine the content of our children's education: Parents (who pay the bills and whose kids attend) or some other group? Or the fact that the popular biology textbook used by Scopes in 1925 (Hunter's Civic Biology) contained not one word of anything remotely creationist or otherwise Christian. It reflected, as it had for over a decade, the consensus view of evolutionary biologists at every turn, including their unscientific and offensive categorizations of Caucasians as the most evolved of the species over the inferior races identified by color and by rank (p. 196).
Certain families are genetically good families, the textbook further instructed, while others are degenerate (p. 261 ff). Homeless shelters, asylums, and even vaccines can thwart the advance of evolution and should be reevaluated on Darwinian grounds (p. 262). Forced sterilization works with other animals, so why stop with cats or cattle (p. 263)? Margaret Sanger, the eugenicist founder of Planned Parenthood, wouldn't. Nor, tragically, would the American Museum of Natural History or our own Supreme Court in 1927 (Buck v. Bell). The Bible's great "law" to help those in need (the sick, the poor, the elderly, and the handicapped) is quaint, but biology's great "law" to improve life on earth by the elimination of weaker races is reality. Derelicts and deadbeats, the textbook solemnly taught, are "parasites." And what do we do with parasites? Typically, we "kill them off to prevent them from spreading " (p. 263). (The actual pages of Hunter's Civic Biology can be viewed here.)
This was dangerous ground. This was unscientific and sick. And Bryan, with vision and courage, opposed it just two short decades before the Nazis showed the world what applied Darwinism actually looks like. The materialist ideas that blacks were genetically inferior, that wars can be biologically justified, and that Judeo-Christian charity can hurt mankind rather than uplifted it were Darwinian theories, Bryan argued, not scientific facts.
Thus Bryan stated at the trial his opinion that man, created uniquely in the image of God according to the Bible, is not merely a mammal. HL Mencken of the Baltimore Sun then mockingly reported that Bryan denied he is a mammal. But there's a difference, as Mencken well knew.
Bryan the Coward?
As for Bryan's alleged cowardice, he took on the entire mainstream media and the evolutionary establishment. He had no fear of the theory of evolution except as it was being applied to mankind (see above). Moreover, contrary to usual accounts of the trial, it was the cowardly (in this instance) Clarence Darrow—not Bryan—who ultimately kept the evolutionary scientists off the witness stand. Why? Because Bryan insisted they should be subject to cross-examination and the Judge agreed. Darrow disagreed and, in doing so, resorted to a contemptuous outburst against the Judge for which he later apologized in court. You will never find this simple observation in any mainstream article of which we are aware.
When Darrow called Bryan to the stand for his cross-examination at the trial as an expert on the Bible, Bryan accepted the challenge and the two battled for over two hours in the Tennessee sun with Darrow asking all the questions. Many people who have actually read trial transcript believe that Bryan won, not Darrow. This is certainly true of the majority of those who witnessed it. As a general rule of thumb, at least, the winner of a debate is usually not the one who is himself unable to answer the questions he asks and who ends up screaming that his opponent Bryan holds to ideas that "no intelligent [person] on earth believes." Bryan's views, of course, were (and are) held by tens of millions of Americans who both believe the miracles of the bible and are intelligent.
With Darrow's last bombshell (essentially that Bryan is the biggest fool on earth), the Judge abruptly halted the cross-examination. What he hoped would be an entertaining and even enlightening battle of capable and articulate adversaries had been turned into a one-man barrage of insults and offenses.
Finally, when it came time to deliver the closing arguments, Darrow simply refused to play ball. The summations to the jury by both Bryan and Darrow, of course, were eagerly anticipated around the world. They were to be the culmination of the trial, the oratorical equivalent of Ali v. Frasier. But for the first (and only) time in jurisprudential history, a defense attorney in a prominent case refused to argue the merits of his client's case, claiming instead that it was a waste of time and fearing, as he said in so many words, that if he went toe-to-toe with Bryan he (Darrow) might just accidentally win and that would derail the appeal process.
In addition to being overly self-assured, this is not a believable dodge.
No, Darrow's goal was simply to prevent Bryan from delivering his side of the argument in Dayton. Bryan was, by all accounts, one of the two or three greatest orators in American history and Darrow's scheme was the only way to silence Bryan at the trial. It worked. With Darrow staying in his corner (chest out, but only like the proverbial bully who runs from a real fight), Bryan was not able to deliver his summation of the trial and for that Darrow is considered by his admirers to be both shrewd and brave.
After the trial the very crowds who actually witnessed the trial over eight sweltering days in Dayton wanted to build a college in Bryan's name (which they went on to do). On the other side of the debate, the ACLU who had hired Darrow to represent Scopes, quietly attempted to have him removed from the case due to his conduct. According to those who were in a position to know and who supported John Scopes in every way, Darrow had embarrassed the cause for academic freedom, not advanced it.
Bryan died just five days after the trial, but not before travelling and delivering several speeches in front of enthusiastic crowds, surveying the land that was purchased in Dayton for the college to be built in his name, and editing his undelivered closing argument for publication. The day of his funeral in Washington DC was declared a state holiday back in Tennessee, a fact at considerable odds with the view that even Bryan's supporters were ashamed with the supposed bigotry and ignorance exhibited by the Great Commoner.
Some Lies Just Have to be Told
Why don't we generally know these things of the Scopes trial? How have the mythology of Inherit the Wind and the complicity of modern reporting on the Scopes trial largely eclipsed what actually happened in Dayton? The basic facts of the trial and the issues involved are not hidden in private journals or obscure libraries. They are in the text of the Butler Act, the trial transcript, the textbook that Scopes allegedly used, and so forth.
The answer to the question might also be rather easy.
Historical and modern reports of the Scopes trial are inaccurate in the extreme. Yesterday Inherit the Wind was assigned in history class at some public high school with all the authority and respectability that Edward R. Murrow (above) intended to confer upon it. Tomorrow a reporter from the New York Times or an attorney for the ACLU will solemnly remind us that in 1925 the State of Tennessee banned the teaching of evolution outright. These fabrications and others suspiciously like them will be advanced because they so nicely fit a materialist worldview. Those who seriously question evolution simply must be ignorant, bigoted, and so on. Bryan, in other words, be damned.
All of this is not to say that Darwinism itself is either right or wrong. But isn't it ultimately in everyone's best interest to treat real issues and real people fairly and accurately as best we can? This is one view of journalism and the conclusion of a (fictional) young reporter at the Scopes trial in "alleged".
Why don't we generally know these things? Because truth doesn't matter anymore.