John West & William Jennings Bryan

Buffoon Award

At the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists), we find this new article: Inherit the Wind at Christianity Today.

It’s written by John West. Most of you know who he is (we affectionately call him “Westie”). It’s in his honor that we have adorned this post with our jolly Buffoon logo, because he’s a winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award. Westie is Associate Director of the Discoveroids’ creationist “think tank,” which consumes almost half of the Discovery Institute’s’ $4 million budget (see Their 2007 Tax Return). That makes him one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy.

Westie now reveals to us that he’s a fan of William Jennings Bryan — the Great Populist Blowhard. Bryan supported Woodrow Wilson for the presidency in 1912, and he served as Wilson’s Secretary of State. Bryan also championed the income tax, the Prohibition amendment, and debased currency. He was opposed to free enterprise — especially banks and railroads — always favoring increased regulation and government control over the economy. Bryan also supported the 17th Amendment, which changed the process for selecting members of the US Senate from the original method — according to which they were appointed by state legislatures — to our present method of direct election. And Bryan always enjoyed the support of the Klan in his election campaigns. All in all, he was an extremely loathsome character.

In addition to his other abominable deeds, Bryan can be credited for being the original ape-ancestor of all creationists in the so-called “social conservative” movement. Most such people now vote Republican, but we should remember that in Bryan’s day they were fiercely loyal Democrats. We explained that peculiarity of history here: Let’s Have William Jennings Bryan Day! And as all the world knows, Bryan’s greatest (i.e., most infamous) moment was in 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee — as prosecutor in the Scopes Trial.

Westie likes Bryan. He says:

Completely contrary to [the impression given by film Inherit the Wind], William Jennings Bryan was not a Biblical literalist when it came to Genesis 1, and he most definitely did not believe that “the world was created only thousands, not billions, of years ago.” Consider the following excerpts from the trial transcript:

Then Westie quotes from Bryan’s testimony in the Scopes trial transcript, where Bryan says that the six days of creation might have been millions of years. Bryan was an old-earth creationist, which makes him Westie’s kind of guy. Then Westie says, with our bold font:

I should add that Bryan was far from the stick-figure buffoon portrayed in the film [Inherit the Wind]. Indeed, he was pretty thoughtful and well-read about contemporary scientific debates over Darwinian theory, which is more than can be said about some of his critics of the time.

Ah yes, Bryan was no buffoon. He was “pretty thoughtful.” Then Westie plugs a new movie about the Scopes trial, about which we’ve already written when it was touted by Answers in Genesis. See “Alleged” — a New Movie on the Scopes Trial. But we’re not interested in that movie.

Instead, we want to return to the Scopes trial to see how “thoughtful” Bryan really was. Recall that the court had excluded all of Darrow’s expert witnesses, so Darrow — being out of experts — called Bryan as an expert witness on the bible. Westie gives us some old-earth quotes from Bryan’s testimony, intending to show us how smart and informed Bryan was.

That’s fine, but it’s a very selective mining of what Bryan said. We have a bound copy of the trial transcript. The movie in which Spencer Tracy played Darrow gave an accurate portrayal of his examination of Bryan. We’ll give you some of Bryan’s testimony that Westie didn’t mention. You may recall some of this from the movie, but we’re taking it from the actual trial transcript:

Darrow: You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?

Bryan: I am not prepared to say that; the bible merely says it was done.

Darrow: You don’t know whether it was the ordinary run of fish, or made for that purpose?

Bryan: You may guess; you evolutionists guess.

Darrow: But when we do guess, we have a sense to guess right.

Bryan: You do not do it often.


Darrow: But you do believe He made them — that He made such a fish and that it was big enough to swallow Jonah?

Bryan: Yes sir. Let me add: One miracle is just as easy to believe as another.

We have more. How about this:

Darrow: Do you believe Joshua made the sun stand still?

Bryan: I believe what the bible says. I suppose you mean that the earth stood still?

Darrow: I don’t know. I am talking about the bible now.

Bryan: I believe the bible absolutely.


Darrow: Do you believe at that time the entire sun went around the earth?

Bryan: No, I believe that the earth goes around the sun.


Darrow: Don’t you believe that in order to lengthen the day it would have been construed that the earth stood still?

Bryan: I would not attempt to say what would have been necessary …

Darrow: 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?

Bryan: Well, I should say so.


Darrow: Now, Mr. Bryan, have you ever pondered what would have happened to the earth if it had stood still?

Bryan: No.

Darrow: You have not?

Bryan: No; and the God I believe in could have taken care of that, Mr. Darrow.

Skipping a bit, let’s get to the Flood:

Darrow: You believe the story of the flood to be a literal interpretation?

Bryan: Yes, sir.

Darrow: When was that flood?

Bryan: I would not attempt to fix the date. The date is fixed, as suggested this morning.

Darrow: About 4004 BC?

Bryan: That has been the estimate of a man that is accepted today. I would not say it is accurate.


Darrow: What do you think [about how to calculate the date of the flood]?

Bryan: I do not think about things I don’t think about.

Darrow: Do you think about things you do think about?

Bryan: Well, sometimes.

(Laughter in the courtyard.)

Okay, that’s enough. As we said, Westie likes Bryan. We assume it’s because, iike the Discoveroids, Bryan is an old-earth creationist. Also, in Westie’s words: “… Bryan was far from the stick-figure buffoon portrayed in the film. Indeed, he was pretty thoughtful and well-read about contemporary scientific debates over Darwinian theory …”

Yes, Bryan was a thoughtful guy. As are the Discoveroids.

Addendum: We just found something on this subject that we posted three years ago: Scopes Transcript: Darrow’s examination of Bryan.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

4 responses to “John West & William Jennings Bryan

  1. You should see Westie’s car. Instead of a windshield it has a giant rear-view mirror.

    Creationists hate being stuck in the present, despise the future and long for the past. How many articles “published” by the DI are about reliving, reconstructing and imagining a past they would have liked to live in? Kitzmiller revisited. Scopes trial revisited. Darwin revisited. Hitler revisited.

    Sure, Westie, Bryan was a jolly good fellow. Whatever you say. Now, be a good little Westie and take your meds.

  2. Doc Bill says:

    How many articles “published” by the DI are about reliving, reconstructing and imagining a past they would have liked to live in?

    I thought they had really lost it when they began to rehabilitate Alfred Wallace. But this William Jennings Bryan stuff is an unexpected bonus.

  3. The DI also likes Bryan because he too demanded that taxpayers to pay for students to learn what has not earned the right to be taught, and would have given Johnny credit for getting wrong answers on the test. Discoveroids may not personally believe the young-Earth nonsense (and I suspect that most of them privately accept evolution), but they would not dare penalize any student who answered that the Earth is only 1000s of years old.

  4. I think that Bryan won the cross-examination and A. Dershowitz (not a creationist, we can assume) agrees. You can all find it online and read it for yourselves, however. (If one thinks miracles are impossible then Bryan comes off as a fool, of course, but only if.)

    At the end of the trial, those who observed it all wanted to build a college for Bryan (which they went on to do) and the ACLU made repeated attempts — spurred on by hundreds of their supporters — to fire Darrow from the appeal of the case. Could both sides of the debate have been wrong about Bryan’s imbecility and Darrow’s heroism? Or must we simply declare Darrow the unmitigated victor regardless of some evidence to the contrary?