Delight Springs

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

"The best life in America"

LISTENFeeling nostalgic for ordinary campus life, as we used to know it, I recall the way my first landlord Winterton Curtis concluded his "Damned Yankee" autobiographical notes:
...IT WAS [Mizzou] PRESIDENT LAWS who admitted publicly that he settled the competition between the various Protestant denominations for representation on his faculty, by choosing his appointees in rotation. If he needed a chemist, he chose a chemist who was a Methodist, if it was the Methodists' turn. The Baptists had their chance for a place in the . sun when the next vacancy .occurred. Since the father of George Lefevre was a Presbyterian minister, he was razzed by his friends as being a Presbyterian appointee, even though he came to the University in 1899, and the administration of President Laws was only a memory. No such accusation was ever pinned on me, although my father was a Congregational minister, since Congregationalism was a denomination unfamiliar to most Columbians.
I MIGHT HAVE included here the story of how I built the house at 210 [later re-numbered 504] Westmount Avenue into which Mrs. Curtis and I moved in December 1906, but that account is reserved for another section of my autobiographical notes.

It is a thing to make life worthwhile to have lived so long in a home that one planned and built in part with his own hands on a street freshly cut from a cornfield , to have planted the trees and watched their growth until they arch the street, and above all to have lived in a university community. I think the best life in America is to be had in university and college towns such as Columbia.

And Murfreesboro, once upon a time... and someday again, maybe?

A big thematic resonance for me, in Curtis's writing and in our course, is this idea of making a home for ourselves on this earth. Carl Sagan also said that what drew him to appreciate William James's approach to questions of spirituality was the latter's emphasis on the feeling of being at home in the universe. That was also Sagan's understanding of the spiritual promise of science, that we would--through the steady application of scientific and rationalistic methods and insights--come to feel ourselves, as a species, at home in the universe. We would come to see ourselves as embodying what John Dewey would call "the continuous human community"...

“The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received, that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it.” John Dewey, A Common Faith

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Curtis redux

LISTEN. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I choose to draw down the curtain on our short summer course with one last nod to my old landlord Winterton Curtis. I've already posted a small excerpt of his Dayton recollections below, but Tompkins' D-Days at Dayton (LSU Press,1965) includes a lengthier essay and his formal affidavit as submitted to the court.

Curtis writes:

In 1901 [as Curtis began his teaching career at my dad's and my alma mater, the University of Missouri], it seemed to me and to the vast majority of zoologists that the public controversy over evolution had ended a decade before the turn of the century. I remembered how, as a college student in the mid-nineties [that's the 1890s], I had almost wished that I had been born twenty years earlier and had participated... when the fighting was really hot. If anyone had told me that within twenty-five years the fight would be on once more and the climax would be legislation against the teaching of a scientific fact so well established as the doctrine of evolution, this would have seemed incredible.
...Because [former] students had come to me with their problems [teaching evolution in high schools and some of the denominational colleges] and because the "Fundamentalist Crusade," under the leadership of William Jennings Bryan, was assuming alarming proportions, I began about 1920 to take an active part in the defense of evolution.
...The Macedonian call from Dayton, Tennessee, that came to me one hot July morning in 1925 was probably due to my activities in defense of evolution as well as to my geographical location, to my recent book Science and Human Affairs From the Viewpoint of Biology, and to whatever standing I then had as a zoologist...
In his book Curtis wrote, among many other passages I find personally compelling:
The humanistic philosophy of life, which flowered in Greece and which has blossomed again, is not the crude materialistic desire to eat, drink, and be merry. It is a spiritual joy in living and a confidence in the future, which makes this life a thing worthwhile. The otherworldliness of the Middle Ages does not satisfy the spiritual demands of modern times.
...the gods do not help us to that which we desire; we help ourselves, by understanding nature and by ordering our lives in conformity to her laws. Courage and high resolve are needed thus to face the realities of life. The night of fear is still about us, though we face the new day. At times, we lose all hope that a scientific philosophy of life can ever prevail within the hearts of men. In the faith that it will prevail, we lay hold upon scientific truth as we see it around us, believing that in the end no other state of mind will satisfy as well. 
In D-Days Curtis details a remarkable trial postscript, his later discovery (on visiting Dayton in 1956) that there had been credible threats on Darrow's life after his cross-examination of Bryan which led Judge Raulston to strike those proceedings from the court record and discontinue further cross-examination.

He writes:
On the hopeful side, I found among students a much greater interest in my course on evolution during the decade following 1925 while the "Monkey Trial" was still remembered.
But he goes on to deplore the subsequent retrenchment of anti-evolutionism since the 1950s, with many college students now arriving on campus already inured against any consideration of the evidence so strongly in its favor. "Would that the fundamentalists would learn that facts are stubborn things which will not be denied and that in the long run religious doctrines must square with the facts of science if these doctrines are to survive in the minds of educated and thoughtful men." And women. Religion must evolve, as must attitudes and language

Curtis and Darrow formed a lasting friendship in Dayton, which Curtis credited with helping him persevere in the face of dire illness. the spring of 1924 I had been told that I had perhaps two years to live. A growth diagnosed as Hodgkins disease had been removed from my neck... But I found my agnostic philosophy of life sufficient unto the day... My escape was in work that took my mind off my problem, my philosophy that we all take our chances with the order of nature and that this problem was mine to handle as best I could without hope of Heaven or fear of Hell...
After dinner at "The Mansion" Curtis's first night in Dayton, he and Darrow spent a long time talking out on the veranda.
...When we parted [Darrow] remarked, "There aren't many who think about these things as you and I do..." 
The important thing I got from this first contact with Darrow was an uplift of spirit. It seemed to me I could still keep going... I remember writing him some weeks after the trial, "Because of meeting you, I have renewed courage to face life..."
Strength for living comes from different sources, for different folks. Acknowledging that is what pluralism in philosophy is ultimately about.
Here's the first page of Dr. C's lengthy annual holiday letter ("report to stockholders") from 1963, addressed to my parents. Note the reference to D-Days at Dayton in the second paragraph.

Dr. C., I think you can tell from just this snippet of personal correspondence (and as further evidenced in his charming autobiographical notes A Damned-Yankee Professor in Little Dixie), was no crass materialist. There was a pronounced spiritual dimension to the man, as he himself averred in the penultimate chapter of his book "The Higher Values of Science":
The material values of science are widely acclaimed. Its higher values are commonly ignored. For the man of the street, science represents only control of his physical environment. As a matter of fact, the changes induced by science within this environment are insignificant, when compared with those wrought within the human mind. To designate these higher values of science, the term spiritual may be used...
The account of creation in the book of Genesis, when compared with the tale outlined by modern science, is like some nursery story, cherished as part of a departed childhood and wonderful in its proper setting, but not to be classed with the great symphony made known by science...
Cue the Symphony of Science again!

Winterton Curtis really does anticipate Carl Sagan, for me. Carl could well also have said, and in his own idiom did, "One of the tragedies of life is the fact that so many minds close at the threshold of what might have become a great adventure... science counts of the side of the open mind."

But it was not the author of The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark who first remarked on
a subtle change of ideas and of beliefs, comparable to the changes of intellectual outlook in the past, by which superstitions, like infant damnation, witchcraft, demoniacal possession, and the belief in ghosts were rendered impotent... The history of scientific progress has been marked by spiritual emancipations. Today the process still goes on, for supernaturalism is not yet fully vanquished, but lingers on as a miasma of society.
In this manner, science feeds the spiritual as well as the material man... 
The Cosmos we know today is unbelievably complex...
The biological discovery of man's place in nature did more than change traditional beliefs; it gave a point of departure into a future, unknown but fraught with possibilities... 
The future is bright with a promise that stands at the threshold of realization. Ignoring of science by one generation bars the door of progress and the next generation suffers accordingly. Understanding of science is the greatest legacy we can bequeath to posterity. Winterton C. Curtis, Science and Human Affairs From the Viewpoint of Biology
And that's why Carl Sagan vigorously rejected the opposition of science to religion. Both are spiritual enterprises, concerned with those unknown possibilities and our legacy for future generations. It's why he called science "informed worship." The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
And that's why William James said the deepest religious impulse is for life, "more life, a richer, more fulfilling, more satisfying life." The word religion comes from a root that means to bind or connect, above all to connect to nature and to other humans.

Spirituality comes from a root that means breath. To breathe is to live, and to deliberately honor and gratify the life impulse is to serve the spirit. Science and religion at their best, shorn respectively of narrow materialist defeatism and of anti-scientistic superstition and fear, both do that.

And so the curtain comes down, our course is through. But may we all continue to evolve into a brighter light of mutual understanding and acceptance. Keep your health, be happy, I'll talk to you again soon.

Atheists more religious than Christians?

Interesting item in The Atlantic (thanks, Mitch)...

Atheists are sometimes more religious than Christians
Survey shows how poorly we understand the beliefs of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular.
"America is a country so suffused with faith that religious attributes abound even among the secular. Consider the rise of “atheist churches,” which cater to Americans who have lost faith in supernatural deities but still crave community, enjoy singing with others, and want to think deeply about morality. It’s religion, minus all the God stuff."

As Wm James said, the deepest religious impulse is not for god but for life, "more life, a richer life..." etc.

The etymology of the word is telling: "religare" means to bind or connect, to nature and to other humans.


“I hypothesize that being ‘spiritual’ may be a transitional position between being Christian and being non-religious,” said Linda Woodhead, a professor of politics, philosophy, and religion at Lancaster University in the U.K. “Spirituality provides an opportunity for people to maintain what they like about Christianity without the bits they don’t like.”

I don't think spirituality is a merely-transitional phenomenon. Etymology again: "espiritu" means breath. To breathe is to live, and to deliberately honor and gratify the life impulse is to serve the spirit. Check out Carl Sagan's posthumous Varieties of Scientific Experience for a lucid discussion of the spirituality implicit in science, which he calls "informed worship."

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Closing the books

And so we finish our two texts in the summer 2020 Evolution in America course, Larson's professionally and historically "correct" scholarly account of the 1925 Scopes Trial and Chapman's quirky memoir built around a trek to Dayton and a missed re-enactment. We missed it too, thanks to COVID, but maybe your appetite has been whetted and you'll get there eventually. I definitely intend to make the centenary performance in 2025, "God willin'..."

I think quite highly of both books, so different and yet in their different ways both so full of humanity. And whatever else you can say about the Scopes Affair and specifically the trial/summer extravaganza of 1925, I think you have to say that it too was full of humanity--for better and for worse. Fundamentalists and progressives, each concerned to ward off "damnable indoctrination" in (respectively) a naturalistic or supernaturalistic worldview that undermines faith in (respectively) god or progress, fought themselves to a draw in Dayton but at least gave us an entertaining show in the process.

I actually think it was more than just a show, though the popular accounts of the day--most prominently, Frederick Lewis Allen's Only Yesterday--treated it as such. But as I commented below,

"Only Yesterday" was not scholarship, but I will say it and its sequel "Since Yesterday" (a popular history of the '30s) are highly entertaining--not in the clipped tones of H.V. Kaltenborn but rather the smooth delivery of Grover Gardener. I do recommend the audiobook versions of each, but with the clear understanding that these are popular and breezy renditions of how those decades felt to many who lived through them and not faithful records of what really happened in every instance. Allen treats the 20s as a series of entertainments, of shows, and in retrospect that's what the Scopes affair was at the time. In the larger sweep of history, though, I still think it was more than that. It was a milestone marker indicating our national regression from a more enlightened and less polarized way of thinking about science, religion, individual liberty, the meaning of our existence etc. etc. We're still retreating, and in many ways are less enlightened about such things than were our forebears in the late decades of the 19th century.
So who won Scopes? Well, to the extent that we're still reflecting on it and trying to fashion a more enlightened stance towards the issues it raised, I think WE can "win" a greater depth of light and insight. But the game is now in extra innings with no end in sight.
Of course my baseball metaphor is in jeopardy again, the 2020 season once again under the life-threatening shadow of COVID. That season's end may well be in sight. Not so, the ongoing competition between advocates of science and of religion. I think the only way that game can be won is if we all come to understand that science and religion each have their place, that contrary to Wm Jennings Bryan's declaration at the outset of the trial they are not in a battle to the death, and ultimately it is possible to affirm the truth of evolutionary science and the value of religious faith.

To his credit, the atheist-cum-agnostic Matthew Chapman arrives at a similar conclusion.

I do have to take issue with his suggestion that atheists are committed to an arrogant conviction in the non-existence of a god or gods. "I came back from Dayton with even less certainty than I had when I went... If I went down [to Tennessee] an atheist, I came back an agnostic, refusing to share with these men the arrogance of any conviction in a matter so clearly unproveable either way."

In my experience, very few atheists--not even Bertrand Russell, for heaven's sake-- are so arrogant as to claim knowledge of godlessness in the universe. They simply speak for themselves, in attesting an inability to believe in a god-governed world. They do believe in a world of human beings striving for, and sometimes attaining, lives of meaning, dignity, and purpose. Like Chapman they "have a craving for a larger meaning, but refuse to satisfy this spiritual hunger with theological junk."

But it's finally up to each of us to separate for ourselves what we consider the spiritual sources of sustenance from the theological junk. As I replied to Delana,

We do each have to find and walk our own path, of course, and like Chapman I have learned to see the value of others' paths even though I cannot follow them or sometimes even understand them. My issue is not with pluralism and the varieties of experience and belief, it is with exclusion and narrowness of judgment... with the attitude that 7/8 of us are doomed to eternal torture at the hands of a "loving" god simply for dissenting from others' faith... with the denialism of the very science that accounts for the technology we all enjoy (including the very platform we're communicating with right now), and that raised our ancestors from rank superstition and ignorance... with the will to impose one's own sectarian ideas upon everyone, and to squash academic freedom. Sacred texts are fine, so long as we read them in an appropriately-interpreted light, and not in the literal intent of their pre-scientific authors.
As a fellow public school educator I know you don't mean to imply, when you say of your decision to send your children to private schools that "it was vital for them to be raised with the truth," that public education fosters untruth. But the mission of public education is to educate children from every background and tradition while respecting their "home truths" and cultural traditions, hence the propriety of refraining from religious instruction in that arena. But evolutionary science in the public domain is not a competitor truth, it is a foundational truth in the light of which we can begin to understand the variety of cultural and religious practices that are natural for humans. It is "everybody's story," as Loyal Rue has written in his eponymously titled book. That's a primary responsibility of public education: to tell the story that unifies us as a species, and gives us the wider context in which to understand and celebrate -- not just tolerate -- our differences.
And as I've replied to Mitch,
It was Chrissie Hynde (wasn't it?) who said we're all of us in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars? Not exactly a Saganesque sentiment, but a good coda for "Saint Matthew"... like you, I find the personal growth reflected in his surprising tolerance and affection for the people he meets in Dayton redemptive. He's harvested some good sunlight, in his Tennessee pilgrimage.

I also think the "mountaintop experience" is available to humans in every culture and tradition, and from countless sources. It's so silly, to try and pin down "the one right religion" when what really matters is our shared and nearly-universal receptivity to such elevated feelings. It all comes down to "live and let live," doesn't it? Let others "find God" or meaning and purpose or peace of mind or whatever they're looking for in their own way, and appreciate the fact that THAT is the human way of transcendence. Be uniters, not dividers... and don't take ourselves so darn seriously. That's when we'll evolve to the next stage of our humanity.

And that can't happen quickly enough, can it? The rest of the world is pretty unimpressed with the present state of our evolutionary ascent in this country, as evidenced by our inability to subdue COVID 19.

So we close those two books. One week remains, in our July mini-mester. Perhaps some of you will open another book for your final essay next week, or perhaps you'll want to tackle my closing question (I already had this in mind, Mitch, before I read your reference to Thomas Jefferson's statement--you clinched it):
Transcribe an imaginary conversation between yourself, Bryan, Chapman, and Darrow. You’ve all just witnessed the Scopes re-enactment in Dayton on Jy 20, 2021 (I hope that's not unrealistically optimistic), and are now gathered at the Monkey Town Brewing Company. (Darrow and Chapman are enjoying an "Evolutionary Theory #1 IPA," Bryan has ordered a "Monkey-Fil-A Sandwich" and an "Elvis Burger"). Darrow says he agrees with Tom Jefferson, it neither picks his pocket nor breaks his leg for anyone to believe in many gods or none etc. And then you say... 

Looking forward to getting back there too.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Scientists in Dayton

Editor's Note: This story, originally published in the January 1959 issue of Scientific American is being posted as a supplement to the "50, 100, 150 Years Ago" Column in the January 2009 issue of Scientific American.
"This is Clarence Darrow," said the voice at the other end of the wire, "I suppose you have been reading the papers, so you know Bryan and his outfit are prosecuting that young fellow Scopes. Well, Malone, Colby and I have put ourselves in a mess by offering to defend. We don't know much about evolution. We don't know whom to call as witnesses. But we do know we are fighting your battle for academic freedom. We need the help of you fellows at the University, so I am asking three of you to come to my office to help lay plans."

That afternoon in Darrow's office three of us from the University of Chicago- Horatio Hackett Newman, professor of biology; Shailer Mathews, dean of the Divinity School; and I-met to outline the strategy for what turned out to be one of the most publicized trials of the century. The Scopes trial proved also to be a historic occasion in the cause of popular understanding of science. A century ago the educated world was shaken by the discoveries of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, and the evidence they presented for the evolution of life on this planet. In 1959, as we celebrate the centenary of the Origin of Species, few informed persons, if any, question the theory of evolution. However, the century has witnessed several attempts to stimme investigation and outlaw the teaching of the theory. The best known of these was the Scopes trial, held in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. The trial resulted in an immense revival of public interest in Darwin and in evolution; there has been no comparable effort since then to suppress this advance in man's understanding of himself and the world he lives in... Fay-Cooper Cole in Scientific American, December 31, 2008 (continues)
And another witness (I may have mentioned him a time or two already):

A Defense Expert's Impressions of the Scopes Trial
by Winterton C. Curtis (1956)

W. C. Curtis at the Scopes Trial

NoteWinterton C. Curtis, a zoologist at the University of Missouri, was one of the defense experts brought to Dayton to testify. Although blocked from testifying by Judge Raulston's ruling that the expert testimony would be irrelevant, Curtis said in his affidavit that evolution should be defined as the doctrine of how things have changed in the past, and how they are changing in the present. Curtis claimed that the doctrine of evolution could be divided into three categories: cosmic, geologic, and organic and that evolution is a necessary instrument in the search for answers to important cosmological, geological, and biological questions....In his autobiographical notes, Curtis reflected on the days he spent in Dayton for the Scopes trial:

With my background of participations in the controversy it was natural that I should be called in 1925 as one of the expert witnesses in the famous trial of John T. Scopes as a violator of the Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of Evolution. In response to a telegram from the American Civil Liberties Union, I reached Dayton in time for my evening meal of Monday, July 13. The trial had opened the preceding Friday, after which the court had adjourned for the weekend.

I was met at the station by one of my fellow scientists and driven through the town to the house where we were to be quartered. The business section surrounding the courthouse was alive with people, natives and visitors, and ablaze with banners or orthodoxy, such as: “Read Your Bible” –“Prepare to meet Thy God” –“Repent or Be Damned.” Dayton was more like a town prepared for a Billy Sunday revival than for a court trail. Above all, the town was overflowing with “Foreigners: come to see the show, every room for rent was taken and vacant second floors of store buildings were filled with cots. I recall being in one of these lofts occupied by newspapermen. A cold-water faucet over a sink at the back near the outside stairs and a privy in the backyard were the only toilet facilities for the 25 or 30 reporters who slept on the close-packed cots.

Quarters for the visiting scientists and for a few of the privileged newspapermen had been provided in a large house at the edge of town that had been the home of a local magnate but had stood unoccupied for years. Acting for the American Civil Liberties Union, Dr. George Rappleyea, the Datyon citizen who had been most active in promoting the trial, had got the plumbing working again, had assembled furniture, dishes, and linen, and had employed servants so that we were comfortably housed and fed, even through the plumbing failed us more than once.

After breakfast each morning we were driven to the courthouse; at noon we returned for lunch at the “Mansion”, as we called it, and were driven again to the town for the afternoon court. At night the lawyers dined with us and we would sit about the table, after it was cleared, talking over the events of the day and discussing the plans for the day following. It was here that I got my close-ups of the lawyers for the defense.

Clarence Darrow was, of course, the “front” for our side; but it was evident that Arthur Garfield Hayes was the manager. Dudley Field Malone impressed me as more of a politician than a lawyer, although he made some very effective speeches. John Randolph Neal, the Tennessee lawyer, was evidently a man of caliber and principle. For the prosecution William Jennings Bryan and his son were the only “foreign” lawyers in attendance. Among the local defense lawyers I remember vividly one “General” Ben McKenzie who professed love at first sight for Darrow, and whose words “We have done crossed the Rubicon,” made newspaper headlines.

Here, there, and everywhere was the ubiquitous Dr. Rappleyea, who with Scopes had initiated the test case at Dayton. He was a whole entertainment committee in one man and seemed a very competent fellow, whether the problem was one of meeting the press, finding one more sleeping room in town, or getting the sewer working again at the “Mansion.” I’ve often wondered what became of him and his charming young wife, who like to ride horseback with her husband through the hills surrounding Dayton.

The judge John T. Raulston, seemed to enjoy himself tremendously as the commanding figure in a trial which was attracting world-wide interest. His deference to Mr. Bryan was obvious, and we felt that his decisions day by day were too much in favor of the prosecution; but now 30 years later, as I read the stenographic record of the trial, it seems to me that he was not so partial as we thought. He was acting according to his lights as well as his prejudices. If it was for him the greatest responsibility of his legal career, who can blame him for being pleased to have his photograph taken repeatedly. On one occasion, he stopped court until a camera man who had fallen from a stepladder could get himself perched again for his shot.

John T. Scopes might well have seemed more than pleased with himself as the center, of attraction; instead he was the acme of modesty. No man could have conducted himself better under the limelight. He impressed us as modest and without conceit thought always ready to do his part. I thought of Scopes, when, in 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh stopped from his plane at the airport of Paris, and, not realizing that a crowd awaited him, introduced himself by saying, “I am Charles Lindbergh and I have flown the Atlantic." John T. Scopes at Dayton was that kind of man.

Reporters were present in such numbers that I could well believe the statement they numbered more than 200 and that never before had there been so many reporters present at any trial. Notable among them was H. L. Mencken, who had made himself so odious to the orthodox by his scathing criticisms of the Fundamentalist Crusade and its Crusaders. As no seats were reserved for the expert witnesses we sat in the press chairs. Many times I sat next to Mencken. He resisted my attempts at conversation, but I got the flavor of the man from listening to his talk with other reporters.

The courtroom audience impressed me as honest country folk in jeans and calico. “Boobs" perhaps, as judged by Mencken, and holding all the prejudices of backwoods Christian orthodoxy, but nevertheless a significant section of the backbone of democracy in the U.S.A. They came to see their idol “the Great Commoner” and champion of the people meet the challenge to their faith. They left bewildered but with their beliefs unchang ed despite the manhandling of their idol by the “Infidel” from Chicago.... Winterton C. Curtis, in D-Days at Dayton: Fundamentalism vs Evolution at Dayton, 1956. Scopes Trial Homepage

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Reinventing religion, and life

Listening to baseball on the radio yesterday, last exhibition game (KC-StL) before the so-called "regular season" commences, I was struck by how normal it sounded, sight unseen--the sound engineering was impressive. But it underscored the theatrical unreality of sports, to know that no one was there but the players and yet I was commiserating in a spectatorial charade in order to make the whole show more compelling. Surreal. The way we live now.

And, how quickly the Zoom classroom has also displaced old assumptions about learning. I'm not complaining, it's way better than not having any classroom at all. But it's a different order of experience. Plus, something about my chromebook seems to dampen and de-amplify my voice. Some, I'm sure, would say that's okay.

Anyway, I had a late thought just before signing on for last night's class...

What's religion really about?

A late last thought before we Zoom...

I think I've mentioned William James's statement that even if all religious theories and creeds were absurd, the "life of religion as a whole is still mankind's most important function." That's an intriguing, cryptic statement, especially when coupled with another James statement. He said the religious impulse is not, contrary to popular belief, fundamentally about God, it's about life -- a richer, deeper, more satisfying life.

I'm reminded of these James statements by Chapman's remark:
To argue about whether God exists or in what form seems as sophomoric and redundant as to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but once you get past that, once you recognise God as an invention and start thinking about what caused His or Her invention, then suddenly the subject becomes serious again, and poignant.
That's the attitude of "Drummond" at the end of Inherit the Wind, isn't it? (See post below.) It's a humanistic attitude, and though it does not participate in religion it is sympathetic to those who do. And curious about their lives. To me, despite his various flaws and vulgarities etc. etc., it's an attitude that really valorizes Chapman's project in this book.

And as for Darrow/Drummond...

I've just re-read the script for Inherit the Wind (the play/film). The ending deviates from reality in interesting ways. In particular, in the script "Drummond" (Darrow) blows up at "Hornbeck" (Mencken) -- who delivers the "busted belly" line Darrow spoke in real life -- and leaves us pondering his commitment to reconcile science and religion, Darwin and the Bible.*

I wonder what Darrow would have said about that. Pretty sure he'd not have liked it.

Do you like Drummond more than Darrow? I'm not sure I do. I know that some of you have an aversion to Darrow, but I think his view that religion is a brake on progress and civilization deserves discussion. I'm more sympathetic to religion than Darrow, generally (though not old-time Young Earth religion); but I respect his position. He might be right.

  • “The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.”
  • “I am an Agnostic because I am not afraid to think. I am not afraid of any god in the universe who would send me or any other man or woman to hell. If there were such a being, he would not be a god; he would be a devil.”
I fully endorse Darrow's sensibility as expressed here:
  • “When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the facts that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom: the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier as we journey on. It should bring a closer kinship, a better understanding, and a deeper sympathy for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death.”
  • “If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.”
Either way, Spencer Tracy is great. Hornbeck needs to be slapped.

Inherit the Wind script, conclusion:

Matthew Harrison Brady died of a busted belly. 
(drummond slams down his brief case.) 


You know what I thought of him. 

And I know what you thought. 

Let us leave the lamentations to the illiterate! 

Why should we weep for him? He cried enough for himself! 
The national tear-duct from Weeping Water, Nebraska, 
Who flooded the whole nation like a one-man Mississippi! 
You know what he was 2 
A Bamum-bunlcom Bible-heating bastard! 

(drummond rises , fiercely angry.) 


You smart-aleck! You have no more right to spit on his re- 
ligion than you have a right to spit on my religion! Or my 
lack of it! 


( Askance ) 

Well, what do you know! 

Henry Drummond for the defense 
Even of his enemies! 


(Low, moved) 

There was much greatness in this man. 


Shall I put that in the obituary? 

(drummond starts to pack up his brief case.) 


Write anything you damn please. 


How do you write an obituary 

For a man who’s been dead thirty years? 

“In Memoriam— M.H.B.” Then what? 

Hail the apostle whose letters to the Corinthians 
Were lost in the mail? 



Two years, ten years— and tourists will ask the guide, 

“Who died here? Matthew Harrison Who?” 

(A sudden thought ) 

What did he say to die minister? It fits! 

He delivered his own obituary! 

(He looks about the witness stand and the judge’s 
bench, seaching for something ) 

They must have one here some place. 

(hornbeck pounces on a Bible) 

Here it is: his book! 

( Thumbing hastily ) 

Proverbs, wasn’t it? 


( Quietly ) 

“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: 
and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart.” 

(hornbeck looks at drummond, surprised. He snaps 
the Bible shut, and lays it on the judge’s bench, horn- 
beck folds his arms and crosses slowly toward drum- 
mond, his eyes narrowing.) 


We’re growing an odd crop of agnostics this year! 
(drummond’s patience is wearing thin.) 

( Evenly ) 

I’m getting damned tired of you, Hornbeck. 




You never pushed a noun against a verb except to blow up 


That’s a typical lawyer’s trick: accusing the accuserl 


What am I accused of? 




I charge you with contempt of conscience! 

Self-perjury. Kindness aforethought. 

Sentimentality in the first degree. 


Why? Because I refuse to erase a man’s lifetime? I tell you 
Brady had the same right as Cates: the right to be wrong! 


“B e-Kind-T o-Bigots” Week. Since Brady’s dead. 

We must be kind. God, how the world is rotten 
With kindness! 


A giant once lived in that body. ( Quietly ) But Matt Brady 
got lost. Because he was looking for God too high up and too 
far away. 


You hypocrite! You fraud! 

( With a growing sense of discovery) 

You’re more religious than he was! 

(drummond doesnt answer, hornbeck crosses toward 
the exit hurriedly ) 

Excuse me, gentlemen. I must get me to a typewriter 
And hammer out the story of an atheist 
Who believes in God. 

(He goes off.) 


Colonel Drummond. 


Bert, I am resigning my commission in the State Militia. 
I hand in my sword! 


Doesn’t it cost a lot of money for an appeal? I couldn’t pay 
you . . . 

(drummond waves him off.) 




I didn’t come here to be paid. (He turns ) Well, I’d better 
get myself on a train. 


There’s one out at five-thirteen. Bert, you and I can be on 
that train, too! 

I’ll get my stuff! 


(Smiling, happy) 

I’ll help you! 


( They start off. rachel comes back for her suitcase. 
cates grabs his suit jacket, clasps Drummond’s arm.) 


(Calling over his shoulder ) 

See you at the depot! 

(rachel and cates go off. drummond is left alone on 
stage. Suddenly he notices Rachel’s copy of Darwin 
on the table. ) 


( Calling ) 

Say— you forgot— 

(But rachel and cates are out of earshot. He weighs 
the volume in his hand; this one book has been the 
center of the whirlwind. Then drummond notices the 
Bible, on the judge’s bench. He picks up the Bible in 
his other hand ; he looks from one volume to the other, 
balancing them thoughtfully, as if his hands were 
scales. He half -smiles, half -shrugs. Then drummond 
slaps the two books together and jams then in his 
brief case, side by side. Slowly, he climbs to the street 
level and crosses the empty square.) 

The curtain falls 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

John Scopes, guilty

LISTEN. Day 8 -- Darrow asks jury to return a verdict of "guilty"

Darrow--May I say a few words to the jury? Gentlemen of the jury, we are sorry to have not had a chance to say anything to you. We will do it some other time. Now, we came down to offer evidence in this case and the court has held under the law that the evidence we had is not admissible, so all we can do is to take an exception and carry it to a higher court to see whether the evidence is admissible or not. As far as this case stands before the jury, the court has told you very plainly that if you think my client taught that man descended from a lower order of animals, you will find him guilty, and you heard the testimony of the boys on that questions and heard read the books, and there is no dispute about the facts. Scopes did not go on the stand, because he could not deny the statements made by the boys. I do not know how you may feel, I am not especially interested in it, but this case and this law will never be decided until it gets to a higher court, and it cannot get to a higher court probably, very well, unless you bring in a verdict. So, I do not want any of you to think we are going to find any fault with you as to your verdict. I am frank to say, while we think it is wrong, and we ought to have been permitted to put in our evidence, the court felt otherwise, as he had a right to hold. We cannot argue to you gentlemen under the instructions given by the court--we cannot even explain to you that we think you should return a verdict of not guilty. We do not see how you could. We do not ask it. We think we will save our point and take it to the higher court and settle whether the law is good, and also whether he should have permitted the evidence. I guess that is plain enough.

[Verdict and sentencing]

Court--Mr. Foreman, will you tell us whether you have agreed on a verdict?
Foreman--Yes, sir, we have your honor.
Court--What do you find?
Foreman--We have found for the state, found the defendant guilty.
Court--Did you fix the fine?
Foreman--No, sir.
Court--You leave it to the court?
Foreman--Leave it to the court.
Court--Mr. Scopes, will you come around here, please, sir.
(The defendant presents himself before the court.)
Court--Mr. Scopes, the jury has found you guilty under this indictment, charging you with having taught in the schools of Rhea county, in violation of what is commonly known as the anti- evolution statute, which makes it unlawful for any teacher to teach in any of the public schools of the state, supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the state, any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man, and teach instead thereof that man has descended from a lower order of animals. The jury have found you guilty. The statute make this an offense punishable by fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500. The court now fixes your fine at $100, and imposes that fine upon you.
Court--Oh-Have you anything to say, Mr. Scopes, as to why the court should not impose punishment upon you?
Defendant J. T. Scopes-- Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom-that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust.

[Final remarks of attorneys and Judge Raulston]

McKenzie--On behalf of Rhea county and Gen. Stewart, and on behalf of the prosecution, I desire to say to the gentlemen who have just made their statements, that we are delighted to have had you with us. We have learned to take a broader view of life since you came. You have brought to us your ideas-your views-and we have communicated to you as best we could, some of our views. As to whether or not we like those views, that is a matter that should not address itself to us at this time, but we do appreciate your views, and while much has been said and much has been written about the narrow-minded people of Tennessee we do not feel hard toward you for having said that, because that is your idea. We people here want to be more broad-minded than some have given us credit for, and we appreciate your coming and we have been greatly elevated, edified and educated by your presence. And should the time ever come when you are back near the garden spot of the world, we hope that you will stop and stay awhile with us here in order that we may chat about the days of the past, when the Scopes trail was tried in Dayton. (Applause.)
The Court--Col. Bryan, I will hear you... (continues)

Complete trial transcript at

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Showdown in Dayton

The grandeur of our ascent

LISTEN. In our reading this week, in our Evolution in America course, we finally encounter soaring oratory and high drama in the courtroom, and then out on the lawn. In opening statements "Bryan was brilliant; Malone moreso; Stewart stopped the show."

But, Stewart also said something that sounds a lot like the astonishing statement Drumpf's press secretary just issued, that we shouldn't let science "stand in the way"of re-opening schools during a pandemic: "Shut the door to science when science sets a canker on the soul of a child."

I say let's not shut any doors that promise insight into where the cankers really come from, and how we can remove them. And let's not open any doors prematurely, if our best science warns that it's not worth the risk of renewed contagion.

Bryan's brief against evolution, in a nutshell: "The Christian believes man came from above, but the evolutionist believes he must have come from below." He's fundamentally correct (though plenty of theological modernists affirmed--and still affirm--that we're from above and below, and deny the dichotomous either/or dilemma); but his statement freights "below" with a lot of baggage the evolutionist would leave behind. Lowly origins imply nothing dark, disgusting, or Satanic, they simply bespeak the grandeur of our ascent--or descent, if we're emphasizing genealogy rather than aspiration.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. On the Origin of Species: Chapter XIV, Recapitulation and Conclusion

Caution: if you don't like auto-tune, just skip the video and read the transcript below.*

* A musical celebration of the wonders of biology, including evolution, natural selection, DNA, and more. Featuring David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye. "The Greatest Show on Earth" is the 13th video in the Symphony of Science music videos series. Materials used in this video are from: Richard Dawkins' "There is grandeur in this view of life" speech BBC Life BBC Planet Earth David Attenborough's First Life Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life Bill Nye Evolution episode Visit for more videos!
Lyrics: [David Attenborough] How could one species turn into another? [Richard Dawkins] How is it that we find ourselves surrounded by such complexity, such elegance? [Bill Nye] The genes of you and me They're all made of DNA We're all made of the same chemicals DNA - we're all made of DNA [Attenborough] Only the fittest survive And that is the key Natural Selection That is the key [Dawkins] We are surrounded by endless forms Most beautiful, most wonderful Evolution - the greatest show on Earth There is grandeur in this view of life Evolution - the greatest show on Earth [Attenborough] The history of life can be thought of As a many branched tree The five kingdoms of life were established early on Bacteria Protists- amoeba like creatures Fungi Plants And animals [Dawkins] We find ourselves perched on one tiny twig In the midst of a blossoming tree of life [refrain] We are surrounded by millions of other species Walking, flying, burrowing, stalking, chasing, fleeing, Outpacing [Attenborough] Animals strive to reach this one ultimate goal To ensure the survival of the next generation This one ultimate goal To pass on their genes That is what life is all about [refrain] [Dawkins] As we look back on the history of life We see a picture of never ending, ever rejuvinating novelty [Attenborough] Those animals may seem to us to be very remote, strange, even fantastic But all of us alive today Owe our very existence to them

Less symphonically, Bill Nye has more to say:

Darrow and Bryan in Dayton

LISTENInherit the Wind does fictionalize elements of the Darrow-Bryan encounter on July 20, 1925, but it pretty closely captures the spirit of the exchange, epitomized for me in Bryan's exasperated "I do not think about things I don't think about."*

The actual court transcript:

Darrow--Your honor, before you send for the jury, I think it my duty to make this motion. Off to the left of where the jury sits a little bit and about ten feet in front of them is a large sign about ten feet long reading. "Read Your Bible," and a hand pointing to it. The word "Bible" is in large letters, perhaps, a foot and a half long, and the printing--
The Court--Hardly that long I think, general.
Darrow--What is that?
The Court--Hardly that long.
Darrow--Why, we will call it a foot....
Darrow--I move that it be removed.
The Court--Yes.
McKenzie--If your honor please, why should it be removed?
It is their defense and stated before the court, that they do not deny the Bible, that they expected to introduce proof to make it harmonize. Why should we remove the sign cautioning the people to read the Word of God just to satisfy the others in the case?...
Darrow--Let me say something. Your honor, I just want to make this suggestion. Mr. Bryan says that the Bible and evolution conflict. Well, I do not know, I am for evolution, anyway. We might agree to get up a sign of equal size on the other side and in the same position reading, "Hunter's Biology," or "Read your evolution." This sign is not here for no purpose, and it can have no effect but to influence this case, and I read the Bible myself--more or less--and it is pretty good reading in places. But this case has been made a case where it is to be the Bible or evolution, and we have been informed by Mr. Bryan, who himself, a profound Bible student and has an essay every Sunday as to what it means. We have been informed that a Tennessee jury who are not especially educated are better judges of the Bible than all the scholars in the world, and when they see that sign, it means to them their construction of the Bible. It is pretty obvious, it is not fair, your honor , and we object to it....
The Court--The issues in this case, as they have been finally determined by this court is whether or not it is unlawful to teach that man descended from a lower order of animals. I do not understand that issue involved the Bible. If the Bible is involved, I believe in it and am always on its side, but it is not for me to decide in this case. If the presence of the sign irritates anyone, or if anyone thinks it might influence the jury in any way, I have no purpose except to give both sides a fair trial in this case. Feeling that way about it, I will let the sign come down. Let the jury be brought around.
(The sign was thereupon removed from the courthouse wall.)

Darrow's examination of Bryan

Hays--The defense desires to call Mr. Bryan as a witness, and, of course, the only question here is whether Mr. Scopes taught what these children said he taught, we recognize what Mr. Bryan says as a witness would not be very valuable. We think there are other questions involved, and we should want to take Mr. Bryan's testimony for the purpose of our record, even if your honor thinks it is not admissible in general, so we wish to call him now.
The Court--Do you think you have a right to his testimony or evidence like you did these others?
McKenzie--I don't think it is necessary to call him, calling a lawyer who represents a client.
The Court--If you ask him about any confidential matter, I will protect him, of course.
Darrow--On scientific matters, Col. Bryan can speak for himself.
Bryan--If your honor please, I insist that Mr. Darrow can be put on the stand, and Mr. Malone and Mr. Hays.
The Court--Call anybody you desire. Ask them any questions you wish.
Bryan--Then, we will call all three of them.
Darrow--Not at once?
Bryan--Where do you want me to sit?
The Court--Mr. Bryan, you are not objecting to going on the stand?
Bryan--Not at all.
The Court--Do you want Mr. Bryan sworn?
Bryan--I can make affirmation; I can say "So help me God, I will tell the truth."
Darrow--No, I take it you will tell the truth, Mr. Bryan.
Examination of W.J. Bryan by Clarence Darrow, of counsel for the defense:
Q--You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?
A--Yes, sir, I have tried to.
Q--Then you have made a general study of it?
A--Yes, I have; I have studied the Bible for about fifty years, or sometime more than that, but, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was but a boy.
Q--You claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?
A--I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there: some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: "Ye are the salt of the earth." I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God's people.
Q--But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale--or that the whale swallowed Jonah-- excuse me please--how do you literally interpret that?
A--When I read that a big fish swallowed Jonah--it does not say whale....That is my recollection of it. A big fish, and I believe it, and I believe in a God who can make a whale and can make a man and make both what He pleases.
Q--Now, you say, the big fish swallowed Jonah, and he there remained how long--three days-- and then he spewed him upon the land. You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?
A--I am not prepared to say that; the Bible merely says it was done.
Q--You don't know whether it was the ordinary run of fish, or made for that purpose?
A--You may guess; you evolutionists guess.....
Q--You are not prepared to say whether that fish was made especially to swallow a man or not?
A--The Bible doesn't say, so I am not prepared to say.
Q--But do you believe He made them--that He made such a fish and that it was big enough to swallow Jonah?
A--Yes, sir. Let me add: One miracle is just as easy to believe as another
Q--Just as hard?
A--It is hard to believe for you, but easy for me. A miracle is a thing performed beyond what man can perform. When you get within the realm of miracles; and it is just as easy to believe the miracle of Jonah as any other miracle in the Bible.
Q--Perfectly easy to believe that Jonah swallowed the whale?
A--If the Bible said so; the Bible doesn't make as extreme statements as evolutionists do....
Q--The Bible says Joshua commanded the sun to stand still for the purpose of lengthening the day, doesn't it, and you believe it?
A--I do.
Q--Do you believe at that time the entire sun went around the earth?
A--No, I believe that the earth goes around the sun.
Q--Do you believe that the men who wrote it thought that the day could be lengthened or that the sun could be stopped?
A--I don't know what they thought.
Q--You don't know?
A--I think they wrote the fact without expressing their own thoughts.
Q--Have you an opinion as to whether or not the men who wrote that thought
Gen. Stewart--I want to object, your honor; it has gone beyond the pale of any issue that could possibly be injected into this lawsuit, expect by imagination. *I do not think the defendant has a right to conduct the examination any further and I ask your honor to exclude it.
The Witness--It seems to me it would be too exacting to confine the defense to the facts; if they are not allowed to get away from the facts, what have they to deal with?
The Court--Mr. Bryan is willing to be examined. Go ahead.
Mr. Darrow--I read that years ago. Can you answer my question directly? If the day was lengthened by stopping either the earth or the sun, it must have been the earth?
A--Well, I should say so.
Q-- Now, Mr. Bryan, have you ever pondered what would have happened to the earth if it had stood still?
Q--You have not?
A-- No; the God I believe in could have taken care of that, Mr. Darrow.
Q-- I see. Have you ever pondered what would naturally happen to the earth if it stood still suddenly?
A-- No.
Q--Don't you know it would have been converted into molten mass of matter?
A--You testify to that when you get on the stand, I will give you a chance.
Q--Don't you believe it?
A--I would want to hear expert testimony on that.
Q--You have never investigated that subject?
A--I don't think I have ever had the question asked.
Q--Or ever thought of it?
A--I have been too busy on thinks that I thought were of more importance than that.
Q--You believe the story of the flood to be a literal interpretation?
A--Yes, sir.
Q--When was that Flood?
A--I would not attempt to fix the date. The date is fixed, as suggested this morning.
Q--About 4004 B.C.?
A--That has been the estimate of a man that is accepted today. I would not say it is accurate.
Q--That estimate is printed in the Bible?
A--Everybody knows, at least, I think most of the people know, that was the estimate given.
Q--But what do you think that the Bible, itself says? Don't you know how it was arrived at?
A--I never made a calculation.
Q--A calculation from what?
A--I could not say.
Q--From the generations of man?
A--I would not want to say that.
Q--What do you think?
A--I do not think about things I don't think about.
Q--Do you think about things you do think about?
A--Well, sometimes.
(Laughter in the courtyard.)
Policeman--Let us have order....
Stewart--Your honor, he is perfectly able to take care of this, but we are attaining no evidence. This is not competent evidence.
Witness--These gentlemen have not had much chance--they did not come here to try this case. They came here to try revealed religion. I am here to defend it and they can ask me any question they please.
The Court--All right.
(Applause from the court yard.)
Darrow--Great applause from the bleachers.
Witness--From those whom you call "Yokels."
Darrow--I have never called them yokels.
Witness--That is the ignorance of Tennessee, the bigotry.
Darrow--You mean who are applauding you? (Applause.)
Witness--Those are the people whom you insult.
Darrow--You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does believe in your fool religion.
The Court--I will not stand for that.
Darrow--For what he is doing?
The Court--I am talking to both of you....
Q--Wait until you get to me. Do you know anything about how many people there were in Egypt 3,500 years ago, or how many people there were in China 5,000 years ago?
Q--Have you ever tried to find out?
A--No, sir. You are the first man I ever heard of who has been in interested in it. (Laughter.)
Q--Mr. Bryan, am I the first man you ever heard of who has been interested in the age of human societies and primitive man?
A--You are the first man I ever heard speak of the number of people at those different periods.
Q--Where have you lived all your life?
A--Not near you. (Laughter and applause.)
Q--Nor near anybody of learning?
A--Oh, don't assume you know it all.
Q--Do you know there are thousands of books in our libraries on all those subjects I have been asking you about?
A--I couldn't say, but I will take your word for it....
Q--Have you any idea how old the earth is?
Q--The Book you have introduced in evidence tells you, doesn't it?
A--I don't think it does, Mr. Darrow.
Q--Let's see whether it does; is this the one?
A--That is the one, I think.
Q--It says B.C. 4004?
A--That is Bishop Usher's calculation.
Q--That is printed in the Bible you introduced?
A--Yes, sir....
Q--Would you say that the earth was only 4,000 years old?
A--Oh, no; I think it is much older than that.
Q--How much?
A--I couldn't say.
Q--Do you say whether the Bible itself says it is older than that?
A--I don't think it is older or not.
Q--Do you think the earth was made in six days?
A--Not six days of twenty-four hours.
Q--Doesn't it say so?
A--No, sir....
The Court--Are you about through, Mr. Darrow?
Darrow--I want to ask a few more questions about the creation.
The Court--I know. We are going to adjourn when Mr. Bryan comes off the stand for the day. Be very brief, Mr. Darrow. Of course, I believe I will make myself clearer. Of course, it is incompetent testimony before the
jury. The only reason I am allowing this to go in at all is that they may have it in the appellate court as showing what the affidavit would be.
Bryan--The reason I am answering is not for the benefit of the superior court. It is to keep these gentlemen from saying I was afraid to meet them and let them question me, and I want the Christian world to know that any atheist, agnostic, unbeliever, can question me anytime as to my belief in God, and I will answer him.
Darrow--I want to take an exception to this conduct of this witness. He may be very popular down here in the hills....
Bryan--Your honor, they have not asked a question legally and the only reason they have asked any question is for the purpose, as the question about Jonah was asked, for a chance to give this agnostic an opportunity to criticize a believer in the world of God; and I answered the question in order to shut his mouth so that he cannot go out and tell his atheistic friends that I would not answer his questions. That is the only reason, no more reason in the world.
Malone--Your honor on this very subject, I would like to say that I would have asked Mr. Bryan--and I consider myself as good a Christian as he is--every question that Mr. Darrow has asked him for the purpose of bring out whether or not there is to be taken in this court a literal interpretation of the Bible, or whether, obviously, as these questions indicate, if a general and literal construction cannot be put upon the parts of the Bible which have been covered by Mr. Darrow's questions. I hope for the last time no further attempt will be made by counsel on the other side of the case, or Mr. Bryan, to say the defense is concerned at all with Mr. Darrow's particular religious views or lack of religious views. We are here as lawyers with the same right to our views. I have the same right to mine as a Christian as Mr. Bryan has to his, and we do not intend to have this case charged by Mr. Darrow's agnosticism or Mr. Bryan's brand of Christianity. (A great applause.)
Mr. Darrow:
Q--Mr. Bryan, do you believe that the first woman was Eve?
Q--Do you believe she was literally made out of Adams's rib?
A--I do.
Q--Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
A--No, sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
Q--You have never found out?
A--I have never tried to find
Q--You have never tried to find?
Q--The Bible says he got one, doesn't it? Were there other people on the earth at that time?
A--I cannot say.
Q--You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration?
A--Never bothered me.
Q--There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife.
A--That is what the Bible says.
Q--Where she came from you do not know. All right. Does the statement, "The morning and the evening were the first day," and "The morning and the evening were the second day," mean anything to you?
A-- I do not think it necessarily means a twenty-four-hour day.
Q--You do not?
Q--What do you consider it to be?
A--I have not attempted to explain it. If you will take the second chapter--let me have the book. (Examining Bible.) The fourth verse of the second chapter says: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were created in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens," the word "day" there in the very next chapter is used to describe a period. I do not see that there is any necessity for construing the words, "the evening and the morning," as meaning necessarily a twenty-four-hour day, "in the day when the Lord made the heaven and the earth."
Q--Then, when the Bible said, for instance, "and God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day," that does not necessarily mean twenty-four hours?
A--I do not think it necessarily does.
Q--Do you think it does or does not?
A--I know a great many think so.
Q--What do you think?
A--I do not think it does.
Q--You think those were not literal days?
A--I do not think they were twenty-four-hour days.
Q--What do you think about it?
A--That is my opinion--I do not know that my opinion is better on that subject than those who think it does.
Q--You do not think that ?
A--No. But I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we believe in to make the earth in six days as in six years or in 6,000,000 years or in 600,000,000 years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.
Q--Do you think those were literal days?
A--My impression is they were periods, but I would not attempt to argue as against anybody who wanted to believe in literal days.
Q--I will read it to you from the Bible: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Do you think that is why the serpent is compelled to crawl upon its belly?
A--I believe that.
Q--Have you any idea how the snake went before that time?
A--No, sir.
Q--Do you know whether he walked on his tail or not?
A--No, sir. I have no way to know. (Laughter in audience).
Q--Now, you refer to the cloud that was put in heaven after the flood, the rainbow. Do you believe in that?
A--Read it.
Q--All right, Mr. Bryan, I will read it for you.
Bryan--Your Honor, I think I can shorten this testimony. The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur at the Bible, but I will answer his question. I will answer it all at once, and I have no objection in the world, I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in a God, is trying to use a court in Tennesseee--
Darrow--I object to that.
Bryan--(Continuing) to slur at it, and while it will require time, I am willing to take it.
Darrow--I object to your statement. I am exempting you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.
The Court--Court is adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.

Scopes Trial Homepage
So, was Bryan humiliated on the stand? One of us thinks not, implicitly wondering if the populist appeal of The Great Commoner wasn't itself a recommendation for his views, and asking:

"Where is that fine line when it is appropriate to go with the majority... who decides when the majority is wrong?" In a free society the goal is to educate the people so that each is equipped and empowered to decide whether the majority view is right. It can never be right to go with the majority simply BECAUSE it is a majority. Thoreau expressed the ideal (which of course the civil code cannot support in actual practice, but it may still be the right way to think about it in principle): "any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already."

I do think Bryan humiliated himself, as a progressive of great native intelligence who showed himself a scientific illiterate. To me it's the old "two cultures" problem that C.P. Snow talked about. We can't be renaissance people (as once some geniuses could) and know it all... but neither can we afford the luxury of knowing NOTHING about science, or of denying the import of things we don't fully understand. Bryan's ignorance of, and utter absence of curiosity about the natural world as exhibited on the witness stand in Dayton, were shocking. It was a sad end for a figure whose heart for human suffering, over a long and distinguished public career, was generally in the right place. But his science denial made him ridiculous.