At last: a Hollywood film on the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial” that does not attack Christianity. Alleged, to be released in theaters soon, provides a counter to the anti-creationist play Inherit the Wind (1955) and its subsequent namesake films (1960 and after).
Because it was lauded by AIG, a flamingly young-earth creationist outfit, we naturally had doubts about the film. Near the end of our post we said:
The Scopes Trial was an important event, with fascinating real-life participants. Courtroom trials make great subjects for movies. If this one is an anti-science propaganda piece that celebrates Bryan’s creationism and demonizes Darwin — as this AIG article suggests — the usual creationist websites will be promoting it. If not, it may be worth a look.
It now appears that “the usual creationist websites” are indeed jumping on board — particularly 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 already know that Discoveroid John West, who runs their creationist “think tank,” admires the main creationist character in the Scopes trial — the great populist blowhard, William Jennings Bryan (see John West & William Jennings Bryan), so it’s not surprising that they’re praising the movie. A few days ago they posted A New Film, Alleged, Tells the Real Story of the Scopes Trial, but we didn’t bother to blog about it.
Today they’re promoting the movie again. The latest Discoveroid blog article is titled: As Alan Dershowitz and the New Film Alleged Remind Us, at the Heart of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial Was a Very Scary Book. What “scary book” was at the heart of the Scopes trial? And what does Dershowitz have to do with any of this?
Stay with us and all will be revealed Here are some excerpts from the Discoveroids’ blog, with bold font added by us and their links omitted:
In case you’re in any doubt that Inherit the Wind presents a wildly distorted (yet highly influential) fictional treatment of the Scopes Monkey Trial, check out this essay by Alan Dershowitz. It appears on the website of the new film Alleged that tells something far closer to the true story. Was the 1925 legal battle really a struggle between blinkered fundamentalist bigotry, in the form of William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution, against liberal enlightenment in the form of Clarence Darrow for the defense?
Essentially, yes, that’s what it was. Here’s a link to Dershowitz’s article: The Scopes Trial. We don’t know how he wrote something that appeals to the Discoveroids — well, yes we do. Dershowitz is an advocate, and he likes Bryan’s populism. At one point in his essay he says: “He was a great populist who cared deeply about equality and about the downtrodden.”
Perhaps because of that bias, Dershowitz seriously misrepresents the examination of Bryan by Darrow. We’ve posted about it before, with direct quotes from the trial transcript (see Scopes Transcript: Darrow’s examination of Bryan). We also gave you some extended quotes from the transcript in John West & William Jennings Bryan.
Nevertheless, despite his sympathy for Bryan’s populism, Dershowitz manages to get a few things right. He says:
Darwin’s theories were being used – misused, it turns out – by racists, militarists, and nationalists to further some pretty horrible programs. The eugenics movement, which advocated sterilization of “unfit” and “inferior” stock, was at its zenith, and it took its impetus from Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Then he gets his next sentence all wrong:
German militarism, which had just led to the disastrous world war, drew inspiration from Darwin’s ideas on survival of the fittest.
We conveniently debunked that a month ago (see Darwin Also Caused World War One). But the rest of Dershowitz’s paragraph seems okay:
The anti-immigration movement, which had succeeded in closing American ports of entry to “inferior racial stock,” was grounded in a mistaken belief that certain ethnic groups had evolved more fully than others. The Jim Crow laws, which maintained racial segregation, were rationalized on grounds of the racial inferiority of blacks.
Okay, back to the Discoveroids. They say:
Dershowitz, who’s no Darwin critic, is particularly good on the racial and social subtext of the trial.
There was no such “subtext” to the trial. And although the Discoveroids don’t mention it, Dershowitz is rather specific in stating that “Darwin’s theories were being used – misused, it turns out – by racists, militarists, and nationalists to further some pretty horrible programs.” Let’s read on from the Discoveroids’ blog:
The textbook from which John Scopes was accused of teaching, Hunter’s Civic Biology, is a scary book replete with ugly racism and eugenic advocacy.
We’ve never seen the book, but from the excerpts we’re given, it was pretty bad. After another big quote from Dershowitz (the Discoveroids’ latest hero) they conclude their post with this:
Next time you hear the legacy of the Scopes Trial invoked by Darwinists, remember it was Hunter’s biology text that was at the heart of the proceedings. That’s the book that Clarence Darrow was defending.
That’s absolutely, totally, completely, and thoroughly false. On the fourth day of the trial, Hunter’s book is mentioned, but only in the context that it contained the theory of evolution and Scopes had used it for that purpose. Otherwise, Hunter’s book wasn’t a factor in the trial.
Scopes was being prosecuted for violating Tennessee’s Butler Act by teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. That law, duly enacted by the wise legislators of Tennessee, provided:
That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the Story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.
Darrow was defending Scopes for teaching Darwin’s theory, not for using Hunter’s book. As we’ve come to expect, the Discoveroids have it all scrambled up. But we’ve learned that they have a new left-wing hero, Alan Dershowitz, and they’re praising the new movie Alleged. As with anything recommended by the Discoveroids, that movie looks like something to avoid.
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