Natural Selection is real. It’s obvious. It’s common sense.
But more importantly: it does not matter. If you don’t believe in the Theory of Evolution, I don’t care. I don’t think any less of you. I don’t want to change your mind.
“Inherit the Wind” is an immensely entertaining but intellectually dubious story of two religious fanatics fighting very hard over a trivial issue.
The film follows the real-life events of the Scopes Trial pretty faithfully. In 1925, a Tennessee science teacher was facing prison time for the dastardly crime of teaching science.
Semi-famous attorney Clarence Darrow (Spencer Tracy) came down from Chicago to defend Scopes. Extremely famous populist legend William Jennings Bryant (Fredric March) was the celebrity prosecutor.
The great Fredric March really hams it up as William Jennings Bryant. Bryant is an egomaniac and a blowhard. He is no cynic, though. He cares about poor, uneducated middle-America and respects its right to self-rule.
March also conveys Bryant’s existential desperation. Here is a worldly man trying to get right with the Lord, because he knows that they are going to meet very soon.
William Jennings Bryant is presented as the villain. And on the legal merits of the case, I enthusiastically agree. Arresting and imprisoning someone for the content of his science lecture is fascistic and unAmerican.
However, “Inherit the Wind” lionizes Clarence Darrow, and his opinions are just as troubling to me.
Earlier I said that there were two religious fanatics. And I mean it. Spencer Tracy’s Clarence Darrow believes passionately in “Progress.” If the Christians win and Darwin can’t be taught in school, Darrow warns, the human race will “march backward.”
Human history is messy. It does not go forward and backward in a clear or controllable pattern. Anyone who believes that it does is an ignorant menace.
To me, belief in the virtue and inevitability of human progress is as non-historical and nonsensical as believing that Jesus walked on water. The difference is, I don’t fear that the Walked On Water crowd is going to try to rebuild society based on fanatical idealism and murder me in the process.
It’s a disturbing failure that a film made in 1960 portrays a Progress-believer as the hero. By then, the believers in the positive power of Progress had had their chance to rule Revolutionary France, North Korea, Russia, China, Italy, and Germany. And they had done a very bad job every time. I wonder if young Pol Pot watched “Inherit the Wind” and thought to himself: “wow, let’s ban religion and get that Progress going here in Cambodia!”
“Inherit the Wind” is a splendidly entertaining, fast-paced film. But its conclusion is poorly argued and overly simplistic. Basically: Christian America is a hoard of hateful rubes, and we need to keep religion out of our schools.
I believe in the Theory of Evolution. But I believe more strongly in peace, love, and respecting other people’s opinions.
It is puzzling to me how much religious people and secular people enjoy fighting with each other over the content of schoolbooks. If they didn’t enjoy fighting so much, they’d propose the solution.
There is one real solution for our country: closing all public schools. We need a separation of education and state. Public schools cost approximately one trillion dollars every year and I think we might be happier without them.
Property taxpayers of America: unite and close the public schools. All we have to lose is our acrimony.