The Holy Wars, part MMMCXXVII: a small correction on Scopes

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If you needed another proof that the Founding Fathers were pretty smart guys when they noted that fights over religion are intractable and produce strife because they involve ultimate questions decided according to dictates of conscience, we have yet another proof. In recent weeks there has been a resurgence of internicine fighting amongst the pro-science blogging community over the issue of religion. The Holy Wars threads involve the debate between two camps: I think the camps are neutrally described as follows (feel free to hurl invective my way if you disagree).

First, we have the “religion per se is the enemy” camp, represented by bloggers PZ Myers and Larry Moran, and represented nationally by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Steve Weinberg, etc. Second, we have the “religion per se is not the enemy” camp, represented by Ed Brayton, John Lynch, me (1, 2, 3), Pat Hayes of Red State Rabble, Ken Miller, Eugenie Scott, various national science and science education groups, and probably a majority of PT contributors (although the “Separation of Church and PT” camp, also known as the “shut the heck up about religion/anti-religion and talk about science” camp, may be largest).

This dispute will not be resolved anytime soon. It goes back at least to the different approaches of Darwin and Huxley towards science and religion. Both were basically agnostics – Darwin started out a theist, gradually moved towards Deism which was his position around 1859, and ended up an agnostic later in life; however, he refrained from anti-religion polemics in his publications and went out of his way to reassure correspondants that having a natural explanation for the origin of species did not conflict with enlightened religious views. Huxley invented the term “agnostic” to distinguish himself from atheists, but nevertheless conducted a vociferous public campaign against religion.

With such a long-standing dispute I think a good strategy is to focus the discussion on narrow points. Here is an example. Over at the Kansas Citizens for Science forums, PZ Myers is doing the right thing and talking with the actual people on the ground who have been fighting the ID creationists’ strongest push for years, thus far with success. In the course of this discussion, PZ writes,

Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board.

Edwards v. Aguillard.

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education.

Scopes.

Each one was the court case to finally stamp down the creationist threat. Each gave us a little reprieve. These were necessary rulings, we’re right to celebrate them, but be realistic: they haven’t changed a thing. Not one thing.

You know the creationists are working just as hard now as they were before any of those rulings. John Calvert did not vanish in a puff of smoke. There will be more court cases in the future.

What are you going to do when we lose one? Give up? Why do you think the other side will be deterred by legal losses?

There is an interesting mistake here. In actual fact, we did lose one of these cases: Scopes v. Tennessee, in 1925. John Scopes was convicted by a jury of his peers of teaching evolution and fined $100. His conviction was later overturned on a technicality, but the constitutionality of Tennessee’s antievolution law, the Butler Act, was never reviewed (which had been the original ACLU plan).

And in actual fact, the consequences were rather dire, supporting PZ’s point about the dangers of losing court cases. Although the fundamentalists “lost” in the national press as they were subjected to humiliating commentary from the pundits, the law banning the teaching of evolution remained in effect in Tennessee. Several other states and many local school districts passed similar bans. As a result, by 1930, textbook publishers had systematically deleted evolution from their textbooks, which they wanted to sell in every state. And this was the status quo for 40 years in this country, until Sputnik inspired the reform of U.S. science education and Susan Epperson successfully challenged Arkansas’ ban on evolution in the 1968 case Epperson v. Arkansas.

Now we come to an important question: why, amongst all of the cases we have won, did we lose Scopes? I won’t pretend there is one single answer, but here is a major factor: Clarence Darrow. The ACLU’s strategy was to focus on the constitutional separation of church and state, but Darrow, a famously in-your-face agnostic, thought differently. Not originally on the ACLU legal team, as the most famous defense attorney in the country, Darrow successfully shoehorned himself into the “trial of the century.” Unlike the ACLU, Darrow wanted to make the trial into a national platform for advancing his views about the validity of Christianity. He succeeded spectacularly when he goaded William Jennings Bryan into taking the stand as a witness for the prosectuation and, in the famous climax of the Scopes trial, spent hours cross-examining him about classic Sunday school Bible puzzlers like the question of where Cain’s wife came from.

It made for a fantastic legend, and when Bryan died a few days after the trial it appeared as though Darrow had personally slain the dragon of fundamentalism. But legally speaking it was irrelevant. The judge excluded all of Bryan’s testimony, the jury voted to convict, and the Darrow-versus-Bryan spectacle completely obscured the serious constitutional issues that the ACLU had been trying to raise. When the case reached the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court dodged the constitutional issue (which would have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court) by overturning the conviction on a technicality which might have been caught earlier had not the world been occupied with the Darrow/Bryan circus. No one else challenged the evolution bans – plaintiffs didn’t want to replay the Scopes circus and serve as a megaphone for the Darrows of the world, and evolution was no longer in the textbooks anyway, depriving teachers of their major reason for teaching evolution in the first place.

Eventually evolution got back into the schools and therefore the court fights began again. This time, we have been decisively winning these fights, mostly because the lawyers and scientists involved have been careful to make the necessary important distinctions, rather than just haring off on another Darrow-esque crusade against religion.

The necessary distinctions are something like the following:

1. Evolution trials are ultimately about the constitution, not about who has the right or wrong religious views.

Science can be taught in public schools precisely because it focuses on questions about the natural world which are resolvable by publicly available and testable data; the core questions of religion, and either positive or negative answers, are conclusions about ultimate questions that are supernatural and beyond empirical resolution.

2. Science education is protected by the Constitution, but only as long as it doesn’t pretend to rule on religious questions.

Hypotheses must be constrained to be testable with physical evidence; but the traditional omniscient, omnipotent, inscrutable God that theists believe in is unconstrained by definition. Science can say that resurrection is impossible according to natural laws, but the whole point of a miracle is that supernatural action suspends natural laws. From the founding of this country we have made a pragmatic decision that these sorts of religious questions should be left outside of the government’s purview.

3. The public, and the judges they indirectly select, will ultimately come down on our side as long as the issue is our real, religiously-neutral science (which, conveniently, is constitutional), versus the creationists’ narrow religious views being disguised as science.

The creationists know that this is the fundamental dynamic at play here, and this is precisely why they try to gussy up their views on religion with scientific trappings. This then leads to endless merriment as we creationism-watchers get to ferret out and expose the deceptions they are putting forward, and this leads to courts declaring antievolution policies to have sham purposes.

The only easy way to mess this up – which fundamentally is a great situation for us – is to have Darrow-types take over and redefine science and evolution to be equal to atheism. I think that deep down, even the Darrows know this is correct, which is probably why we are seeing the current wave of “religion per se is the enemy” only after the Kitzmiller decision and subsequent defeats of the creationists, every single one of them achieved by hard working members of the “religion per se is not the enemy” camp. Of course, when the anti-religion people do this they’re just sowing the seeds of the very thing they most fear – the next creationist wave. To me this seems like unnecessary foot-shooting. But heck, it’s a free country.

601 Comments

I think there is a lot of personal misunderstanding on both sides. I don’t think PZ realizes that a lot of his statements and claims go beyond the scientific and get into all sorts of sneering at religion for its own sake. And I don’t think others are fair to the actual arguments people like Miller, Dawkins, and PZ actually make, which aren’t so much about getting rid of religion, but rather “it’s simply not appropriate for religious claims to be awarded a special merit badge of protection from criticism, or be granted a reverent authority, simply because they are religious in nature.”

Nick, your analysis is very good. Scopes lost the case, and the ACLU lost the appeal it wanted (one might argue that the Tennessee Supreme Court saw what it was up against and deflected the case, but the result is the same).

At the same time, I worry that there is something to Myers’ complaints, and it is this: Reason should prevail, and the opposition makes an attractive case (to many faithful) that reason isn’t good. With enough converts to that philosophy, the institutions we depend on to hold up our freedoms are endangered.

I would quibble with PZ, though, about the harms of religious belief, and my quibble is at the heart of my previous concern. I don’t see this as a “Biblical worldview vs. a naturalistic world view” debate. As a Christian, I find that creationists generally do not represent any sort of a Christian world view at all. They endorse yahoo-style attacks on reason and reality, they support and cheer arguments that are based in falsehoods – that’s not a Biblical world view in any way.

I don’t think religion is the enemy of science. But non-reason is an enemy of science, and it’s an enemy of religious freedom, too. It’s an enemy of education, and it’s destructive to the foundation of our civilization’s institutions. Religious people who defend non-reason as a rational position, or even as an irrational but valid, religiously-acceptable position, need to be challenged, directly, constantly, and seriously.

Rationality may be hard work. But irrationality is the quick path to disaster. I’m not anxious to negotiate with wackoes who argue for the quick path to disaster, and then claim to be doing the opposite.

Religious people who defend non-reason as a rational position, or even as an irrational but valid, religiously-acceptable position, need to be challenged, directly, constantly, and seriously.

There’s a big problem with on the one hand recognising that irrationality is a hige problem but not acknowledging that religion, in virtually all its forms, not only endorses irrationality but makes it a virtue – the most virtuous of virtues in fact. This is Dawkins’ main point, I think, in The God Delusion and I agree with it.

3. The public, and the judges they indirectly select, will ultimately come down on our side as long as the issue is our real, religiously-neutral science (which, conveniently, is constitutional), versus the creationists’ narrow religious views being disguised as science.

I think the debate is over what constitutes coming down on “our side”. If I understand correctly, Myers, Dawkins et al would say that, if the masses just say “OK, so creationism can’t be taught in schools” and go back to reading their horoscopes in the local tabloid, that does not constitute an overall victory for “our” side. The battle is over hearts and minds and the scientific method; trials about specific issues such as creationism are merely a means to that end.

On that front, the argument looks a lot less clear-cut. Whilst arguments against creationism are far easier to make stick than a general attack on irrationality, it could be argued that a strong positive stance is better able to gain converts than a disparate coalition aimed at the negative task of stopping creationism. “Reason rocks” is IMO a more attractive message than “creationism sucks”, and in practice I usually find I get the best responses to a pro-science rather than an anti-creationism rant.

To be honest, I’m not sure who has the best arguments here. It’ll be interesting to see how this thread develops.

Nick is in error if he really thinks that “Eventually evolution got back into the schools” after Scopes. De facto, if not de jure, the traditionalists won the battle to get evolution out of high school curricula. To this day, the cowardice of school boards and the avarice of textbook publishers have ensured that coverage of evolution at the secondary level will be pretty pathetic, which is one of the reasons why so few Americans, even Americans who think they are Darwinists, understand the relevant basic science.

The public debate about evolution, like every battle in a culture war, is and always will be conducted by guys in clown suits bopping each other with pig bladders. That’s just the way things are. Serious science and serious philosophy are and will remain the business of a tiny and largely invisible minority. The culture wars are not politically unimportant, however, and it behooves us to don our own clown suits from time to time. Sometimes the appropriate clown suit is a village atheist outfit.

Philosophically speaking, atheism is a very uninteresting position since it amounts to making a big fuss about something obvious, i.e. that traditional religious ideas are fatuous. As Diderot pointed out long ago, “It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley; but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all.” Atheism, at least the sort of atheism one encounters on public access television, also promotes a version of history which is factual dubious since it endlessly recycles the same banal anthology of religious excesses (Crusades, witch hunts, inquisitions) to somehow prove that organized religion is the root of all evil, a proposition that probably gives the churches too much credit. All that admitted, however, loud and obnoxious atheism is still necessary in a country like the United States, if only to assert the right of people to dissent from the totalitarian conformism to which we are so susceptible.

The argument against public assertions of anti-religious ideas is that such language is politically unwise and will only elicit more intolerance from the religious right. In fact, however, the anguish of the believers is good evidence of the effectiveness of such polemics. They wouldn’t be so loudly denounced if they didn’t resonate. There’s more Cotton Mather than Mark Twain in the American character, but there is some Mark Twain.

It makes a huge difference that skeptical thinking is in circulation. After all, ideas have to be publicized in order to persist since the vast majority of mankind will never find an idea in their heads that somebody didn’t go to the trouble of putting there.

The argument against public assertions of anti-religious ideas is that such language is politically unwise and will only elicit more intolerance from the religious right.

Nobody cares what the religious right says. This argument isn’t about them or what they think. (shrug)

It’s about the theistic evolutionists who are helping us by FIGHTING AGAINST the fundies. Like it or not, if we want to beat the fundies in a political fight, we need the big mass of moderate theistic evolutionists on our side. And I’m pretty sure that screaming “religion is stupid !!!!” at them is, uh, not gonna win them to supporting us against the fundies. I don’t see any point to it. but then, I’m not remotely interested in stamping out theism wherever it might exist.

On one side, we have those who welcome the help of the theistic evolutionists and are happy to fight alongside them against the fundies.

On the other side, we have the ideological extremists who simply can’t tolerate the very PRESENCE of any theist, of whatever sort, anywhere within smelling distance (or, as their attitude towards *me* shows, anyone who doesn’t share their hatred of theists, whether a theist or not).

Oddly enough, I have noticed, the ones who bitch and moan the loudest about the presence of theistic evolutionists in our camp seem to be those who, um, don’t do any actual organizing or fighting fundies, but content themselves with endless ideological speechifying and preaching, instead.

Some say there are two or more different debates or ‘fights’ going on; some say the effort to keep deliberate nonsense out of science education is a subset of the larger struggle against irrationality or the like.

1. Evolution trials are ultimately about the constitution, not about who has the right or wrong religious views.

In some countries, they don’t teach things that are false and dumb in science class merely because those things are false and dumb! This may be a hint that a larger struggle is needed in the USA. Nevertheless, when it come to court cases, let those who know what they are doing do it.

It seems a shame to intrude on such a pleasant little exercise in self-congratulation, but let me just point out a couple of unfortunate facts.

First of all, in terms of articulating the place of evolution in biology, science, and human endeavors, I can’t think of a single accomodationist who can rival Dawkins or Dennett. Dawkins’ oeuvre alone is unmatched. This, I think, is a direct result of the self-consistancy of their positions. unlike, say, Collins, Dawkins does not have to invoke the miraculous, or to misrepresent the current state of evolutionary science, to accomodate religion.

And second of all, while Scopes may have been a failure in narrow, pragmatic, litigious terms, it was an enormous victory in terms of its impact on American culture, presenting the issue as one of science and intellectual freedom against theocracy and superstition. And let’s also remember McLean and Dover didn’t make it up the chain of Appeals Courts either, so their precedental value is limited.

In terms of Nick’s narrow, legalistic struggle, we are no further ahead now than we were 20 years ago; in fact, if a court case similar to Dover were to make its way to the USSC, with its current composition, it’s quite probable we would lose. And in terms of the culture, we are on more dangerous ground. In the last quarter century, the ‘moderate’ churches that do not oppose evolution have gotten far weaker, and overtly anti-evolution denominations, such as the Southern Baptists, have strengthened considerably. Even the Catholic Church, for the last half-century a relatively science-positive denomination, has shown disturbing signs of regression recently. These are dangerous trends, because ultimately the courts follow the ballot box.

Ultimately, the battle has to be fought against those religious denominations that are implacably hostile to an old earth and to evolution. All the accomodationism in the world won’t change that; the denominations I’m referring to certainly aren’t going to forsake biblical literalism. And ultimately, this is an intellectual struggle. The courts are important, but they’re not most important. And the intellectual war is being waged by Dawkins and Dennett, not by the NCSE.

So please, PLEASE stop attacking the strategists on your own side, in the name of short-term tactics.

Now we come to an important question: why, amongst all of the cases we have won, did we lose Scopes? I won’t pretend there is one single answer, but here is a major factor: Clarence Darrow.

I think there’s two far more important factors than that:

a) the Scopes trial was half a century earlier than all the other cases mentioned, and forty years earlier than Epperson v. Arkansas, and

b) Scopes was actually, factually guilty.

Darrow had a far more difficult job than the pro-science side in any of the later cases.

The judge excluded all of Bryan’s testimony, the jury voted to convict, and the Darrow-versus-Bryan spectacle completely obscured the serious constitutional issues that the ACLU had been trying to raise.

The jury needed to vote to convict. Not just because, again, Scopes was guilty, but because without a guilty verdict the constitutional issues would never have come up. Darrow asked for a guilty verdict.

When the case reached the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court dodged the constitutional issue (which would have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court) by overturning the conviction on a technicality which might have been caught earlier had not the world been occupied with the Darrow/Bryan circus.

But the Tennessee Supreme Court didn’t dodge the constitutional issue. It met it head-on, and rejected the ACLU argument: We are not able to see how the prohibition of teaching the theory that man has descended from a lower order of animals gives preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”

Would the US Supreme Court have reversed this if the case hadn’t been thrown out? Probably. Is Darrow responsible for somehow distracting the entire legal system with his anti-fundamentalist performance so that they didn’t notice that “technicality” in time? You’ll need evidence for that. As far as I can see, sans Darrow the legal trajectory of the case would have been pretty much exactly the same, but the impact on public awareness would have been much less.

To quote Scopes himself:

We did not in fact, get to the federal courts. What, then, did we actually accomplish?

The defense had hoped to call a number of scientists as witnesses. They were to testify in regard to the erroneous belief that there was an irreconcilable conflict between the theory of evolution and the Genesis account. One scientist made it to the stand, but Judge Raulston shortly ruled that scientific testimony was not admissible. I think that was a defeat for us, but only in the terms of our legal goals. The material sent out from Dayton through the news media included the interviews and the affidavits of the scientific witnesses; these made a tremendous impact on the science education of the country and the world.

A second accomplishment was the limiting of the passing of anti-evolution bills in other states. This was achieved through the activities of six groups of people; the defense team and their aids who organized and presented our case; scientists; theologians; educators who worked then and are continuing to work for a better concept of education and the freedom of inquiry; the large numbers of ordinary citizens who thought or were capable of learning to think by the simple process of reasoning from cause to effect; and last, buy by no means least, the news media. The efforts of these groups, I think were responsible for limiting the passing of anti-evolution bills to only two additional states, Mississippi and Arkansas.

The trial created a better climate for understanding divergent points of view. The intermingling of a great number of people from all over our country (where did they find accommodations?) and the news gathered and sent out by reporters from the North, East, South, and West lowered to some extent the barriers of misunderstanding that separated the different sections of our country. By no means were these barriers demolished but the top rails were removed or splintered.

The trial marked a beginning of the development of a national consciousness of the roles played by religion, science, and education. I think the importance of communicating the thinking of the professionals in these fields to the general public was first generally appreciated during and immediately after the trial.

I believe that the Dayton trial marked the beginning of the decline of fundamentalism. Each year—as the result of someone’s efforts to better interpret what the defense was trying to do—more and more people are reached. This, in conjunction with the labor of scientists, educators, ministers and with the dissemination of the results of their efforts through books and news media, has retarded the spread of fundamentalism.

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With due respect, Nick, it is terribly unfair to blame the loss of the Scopes trial on Darrow. Scopes was convicted because he broke Tennessee law. It’s that simple. There was no other possible outcome. Scopes, in fact, set himself up *in order* to be prosecuted and convicted to show how ludicrous the law was. Given that he was always going to be convicted, the result (being fined a nominal $100) was the judge’s way of saying that the law was ridiculous, too. You even point out that the ACLU was hoping to take the case further, until the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the conviction on a technicality. That technicality was that the *judge* set the fine instead of the jury.

Given all this, it is hard to see why Darrow was to blame. The cross-examination of Jennings took place without the jury present and was not admitted into evidence. The conviction was overturned on a technicality. That technical error was made by the judge, not Darrow. And, BTW, the constitutionality of the Butler Act *was* reviewed. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional in the same finding that overturned Scopes’s conviction. So the ACLU was stymied by an extremely dubious legal interpretation by the Tennessee Supreme Court that, to me, appears to have been designed to reassert the Butler Act while removing the ACLU’s capacity to appeal it.

So how is all this Darrow’s fault? It wasn’t. The other famous evolution/creation fight that nobody mentioned is the Huxley-Wilberforce debate. This wasn’t a legal battle, but it had the same impact in the UK as Scopes did in the US. And the clear winner in that case, both in the debate and in public opinion, was Huxley the aggressive anti-religious advocate, the Richard Dawkins of his day.

There is no historical evidence to support blaming every setback on the vocal atheists and agnostics. Whether you mean to or not, what you are asking them to do is self-censor. Frankly, I think Dawkins, Huxley, and Darrow have done more for the cause of science and and evolution by forcing people to confront the facts than any number of softly-softly appeasers such as Francis Collins and Paul Davies. And I don’t think it’s right to tell them to shut up because a lot of people don’t like what they have to say.

I also fall in the “religion per se is not the enemy” camp (or as Larry Moran would have it, the “wimp camp”). And, while I agree that the prominent push by some atheists to make the issue of science education into an argument between “rationalism” and “superstition” could complicate any future court cases, I don’t see much real threat to the constitutionality of teaching evolution in merely having the discussion. The very vehemence of the argument between the various pro-science sides tends to show that evolution is not in service of any one religious view. If ID could mount a real dispute of this sort, we’d have more trouble keeping it out of public schools.

On the other hand, I think Larry is inexcusably over the top in claiming that “people like Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller” are “subverting science in order to make it conform to their personal religious beliefs,” which I have confronted him about at his blog and mine. Fortunately, PZ does not seem to be supporting that claim. Nor have many others that I have seen.

The Tennessee Supreme Court also said,

We see nothing to be gained by prolonging the life of this bizarre case.

…which is not exactly an indication that they are taking the constitutional issues seriously.

Hmm, “theologians” and “ministers” made Scopes’s own list of allies. Another one to add to the Neville Chamberlain list.

There is no historical evidence to support blaming every setback on the vocal atheists and agnostics. Whether you mean to or not, what you are asking them to do is self-censor. Frankly, I think Dawkins, Huxley, and Darrow have done more for the cause of science and and evolution by forcing people to confront the facts than any number of softly-softly appeasers such as Francis Collins and Paul Davies.

Or Charles Darwin or John Scopes.

And I don’t think it’s right to tell them to shut up because a lot of people don’t like what they have to say.

Disagreement is not the same thing as telling someone to shut up, but for some reason the “religion per se is the problem” people often don’t get that.

Lenny, I invite you to point out such a person anywhere on our side. I’m pretty sure you can’t

Dude, their message shines through loud and clear. Nobody misses it. Nobody mistakes it.

I wrote something like this over at Ed’s blog, but it’s relevant here too:

Saying that we won’t win the creationist battle because we are accommodating theistic scientists is dead wrong.

Since the 1980s, the religious right has made profound recruitment in the United States. Why?

1) The are well organized. 2) They are well motivated. 3) They are excellent at reaching out to the general public.

Science has been awful at these three points for the past 20 years. Ever since Carl Sagan died, there hasn’t been a charismatic voice for science in the public eye. Stephen Hawking approaches this, but his physical disability prevents him from doing much in terms of television interviews. He also can’t make a good narrator for science documentaries.

We NEED somebody at the forefront. When we have evolution documentaries on tv, who narrates? Usually famous actors. We need to get OUR faces and voices out there.

While Tyson is good (personally, I like Brian Greene), we need some biologists, paleontologists, and geologists fighting in the public eye. Unless we can win the confidence in the general public that we know what we’re doing by explaining things in language they can understand, it doesn’t matter that we really do know what we’re doing.

Dawkins’ rethoric is a major force behind the motivations of the ID movement. Dawkins may have contributed to our scientific understanding but at an incredible and unnecessary cost.

Lenny Flank Wrote:

Dude, their message shines through loud and clear. Nobody misses it. Nobody mistakes it.

Thank you for confirming my point, Lenny. In the future, if you make a claim, I politely suggest you locate evidence supporting it first.

.Dawkins’ rethoric is a major force behind the motivations of the ID movement.

LOL!!! Is that what Sal told you, Pim?

The Klan used MLK Jr.’s rhetoric to frighten their idiot converts, too. How’d that work out for them, Pim?

Dawkins may have contributed to our scientific understanding but at an incredible and unnecessary cost.

An “incredible cost”??? What did Dawkins cost “us” Pim?

And second of all, while Scopes may have been a failure in narrow, pragmatic, litigious terms, it was an enormous victory in terms of its impact on American culture, presenting the issue as one of science and intellectual freedom against theocracy and superstition.

If you read about the impact of the Scopes trial, you learn that this was only the case in the eyes of the big-city media. Out in the heartland the effect was exactly the opposite.

For everyone here, the key points to keep in mind here are that the evolution bans ended up being successful, not just in the few states that passed them, but basically succeeded in deleting evolution from textbooks nationwide.

Even if you dispute the notion that Darrow’s showboating had an impact on the final outcome of the Scopes case, ask yourself: why were no other legal challenges filed?

I think it was because people outside of the big cities and halls of academia basically never bought the comforting story that the media told about the trial and Darrow’s moral victory.

Here are some quotes from Ed Larson’s book Trial and Error to illustrate what happened after the end of the Scopes case.

First, the end of the Scopes case occurred when the Tennessee Supreme Court used what Larson and other legal commentators say was a ridiculous legal technicality over who assigned the $100 fine:

Scopes’s defense team expected this decision upholding the locally popular anti-evolution statute – even welcomed it as a necessary step toward a review by the United States Supreme Court – but they cried foul when the Tennessee high court then reversed Scopes’s conviction for a technical error in sentencing. Without a convinction, Scopes had nothing to appeal. Malone’s immediate charge of “a subterfuge on the part of the State of Tennessee to prevent the legality of the law under which Scopes was convincted being tested” appears well founded.

Then, afterwards, what happened across the nation?

Periodic legislative efforts to repeal the existing [anti-evolution] laws failed miserably. At first, the ACLU eagerly sought new court challenges to all three laws, but lost interest after failing to find either willing litigants or active enforcement of the law. Several months after passage of the Mississippi law in 1926, the ACLU’s publicity director reported that we “volunteered to assist the suit of any Mississippi taxpayer to enjoin expenditure of public funds for enforcement. Similar offers were made to Mississippi members of the American Association of University Professors. As yet no Mississippian, professional or lay, has responded.

The Union broadened this search to cover Tennessee after the Scopes litigation reached a dead end in 1927, and on to Arkansas after the 1928 initiative passed, but still without success. “Circular letters and public offers of legal services brought interested inquiries, but nobody willing to make the sacrifice,” the ACLU reported in 1931. […] Finally willing to let a sleeping dog lie, the ACLU announced in its 1932 annual report that the Union was dropping the issue. A pair of legal complaints challenging the constitutionality of anti-evolution laws, one filed with the Knoxville federal court in 1925 by a state taxpayer opposed to the Tennessee statute and the other mailed into a Little Rock state court in 1929 by a New Yorker against the Arkansas law, were withdrawn without further litigation. […] Despite some threats, no other suits were filed until the landmark Epperson case in 1965.

[…]

George Marsden pointed out that the rural, southern image of the anti-evolution movement popularized by Scopes became self-fulfilling. Thereafter, statewide victories were confined to the South. By 1929, most states of the old Confederacy had imposed restrictions against evolutionary teaching by law, legislative resolution, or administrative ruling. The widespread defeats of 1927 showed little to gain from carrying the battle to enact anti-evolution laws north. This futility was shown when the Rhode Island legislature referred its post-Scopes anti-evolution bill to the Committee on Fish and Game. At the same time, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in Scopes, the unwillingness of other litigants to challenge the laws, and the failure of all repeal measures showed, in the words of a 1932 ACLU report, “stubborn Southern hostility against Northern conceptions of science and faith.” With each side occupying its territory as delineated by prevailing popular opinion, an uneasy truce descended until battle conditions changed. During the ensuing three decades, further restrictions against evolutionary teaching were left to local school districts.

The terms of the truce decidedly favored anti-evolution forces because existing restrictions and fears of further controversy led commercial publishers to de-emphasize evolution in their high-school textbooks. […]

[…several paragraphs on evolution being deleted from textbooks…]

Other textbooks fell into line and stayed in line throughout the thirty-year lull in anti-evolution activity. “Strong pressure has been brought by Fundamentalists on publishers and authors of textbooks,” pro-evolution science popularizer Maynard Shipley reported in 1930. “Many publishers have instructed their authors to omit all discussion of evolution or even to omit the word altogether.”

[…]

This trend continued through 1959. About that time, two leading biologists marked the centennary of Origin of Species by giving separate addresses, both entitled “One Hundred Years Without Darwinism Are Enough,” [sic – it should be “Darwin”, not “Darwinism”] decrying the inadequate treatment of evolution in high-school biology textbooks. In the earlier of these speeches, Indiana University zoologist Herman J. Muller laid the blame for this treatment on a “vicious circle” of legal restrictions against evolutionary teaching throughout the South and in some local communities elsewhere giving textbook authors and publishers an economic incentive to de-emphisize [sic] the theory.

(Quotes from pp. 82-86 of Ed Larson, 2003, Trial and Error, 3rd edition.)

Dawkins’ rethoric is a major force behind the motivations of the ID movement. Dawkins may have contributed to our scientific understanding but at an incredible and unnecessary cost.

This is nonsense. His book has been selling well for some time now, up there with the diet and get rich books. And there are more atheist books coming out. Somebody must be reading them. They are having a substantial impact. Atheist books have never been this popular, and that can only be healthy for evolution.

the Kitzmiller decision and subsequent defeats of the creationists, every single one of them achieved by hard working members of the “religion per se is not the enemy” camp.

Without any help from anyone who thinks religious beliefs are stupid divisive baloney? You really think that, Nick?

Of course, when the anti-religion people do this they’re just sowing the seeds of the very thing they most fear — the next creationist wave.

Booga-booga!!!!! I know that’s supposed to be scary but has it occured to you, Nick, that what you are you witnessing in 2006 is a backlash against the religious diptwits who have screwed up our country royally over the course of the last 20 years with plenty o’ lip-quivering help from the “religion is not the enemy per se” crowd?

If religious people want respect they have to earn it. They can earn it by shutting up about their religious beliefs, whatever they are, because guess what: if those beliefs can’t be justified without reference to an “eternal reward,” they are a waste of time. If they can be justified without reference to an “eternal reward” then let’s hear it. And I’m not talking about what songs to sing at Christmas. I’m talking about creating public policy.

the Kitzmiller decision and subsequent defeats of the creationists, every single one of them achieved by hard working members of the “religion per se is not the enemy” camp.

RU:Without any help from anyone who thinks religious beliefs are stupid divisive baloney? You really think that, Nick?

Are you having reading comprehension problems? And if you disagree with Nick, state your case.

Of course, when the anti-religion people do this they’re just sowing the seeds of the very thing they most fear — the next creationist wave.

RU: Booga-booga!!!!! I know that’s supposed to be scary but has it occured to you, Nick, that what you are you witnessing in 2006 is a backlash against the religious diptwits who have screwed up our country royally over the course of the last 20 years with plenty o’ lip-quivering help from the “religion is not the enemy per se” crowd?

Totally ignoring Nick’s argument. No wonder since there is good evidence to support this. Hence why not try to change the topic.

RU: If religious people want respect they have to earn it. They can earn it by shutting up about their religious beliefs, whatever they are, because guess what: if those beliefs can’t be justified without reference to an “eternal reward,” they are a waste of time. If they can be justified without reference to an “eternal reward” then let’s hear it. And I’m not talking about what songs to sing at Christmas. I’m talking about creating public policy.

We all understand where you stand. But somehow you seem to be trying to distract from the very good points Nick made. Uncomfortable perhaps but good points nevertheless.

Here is a tidbit on the ACLU’s concerns about some of its eventual lawyers:

When William Jennings Bryan offered to join the prosecution team – despite having not practiced law in over thirty years – Clarence Darrow, approaching seventy, jumped to join the battle in Dayton. Darrow was not the first choice of the ACLU, who was concerned that Darrow’s zealous agnosticism might turn the trial into a broadside attack on religion. The ACLU first preferred former presidential candidates John W. Davies and Charles Evans Hughes, but neither was willing to serve alongside Darrow. Instead, it dispatched Arthur Garfield Hays, a prominent free speech advocate, to join the defense team. The final member of the defense team was Dudley Field Malone, an international divorce attorney (and another volunteer who the ACLU might have preferred to stay at home).

If religious people want respect they have to earn it. They can earn it by shutting up about their religious beliefs

Gee, and WHAT was it again that all the evangelical atheists hear say they are complaining about … ? Ohhhhhhhh, that’s right:

I’m afraid that what offends certain people is the very existence of atheists; at the very least, we should shut up and disappear.

Like I said, their message shines through loud and clear.

This is nonsense. His book has been selling well for some time now, up there with the diet and get rich books. And there are more atheist books coming out. Somebody must be reading them. They are having a substantial impact. Atheist books have never been this popular, and that can only be healthy for evolution.

Why? Is atheism healthy for evolution or irrelevant to evolution? So Dawkins contributes to polarizing rather than to teaching about evolution, is that not what I asserted?

It’s hard to deny that Dawkins has been instrumental in generating much concern amongst Christians and other religious groups, motivating them to get involved in shaping public policy to defend Christianity against Atheism.

Dawkins latest book btw is not really about evolution so the argument that his book is good for evolution seems somewhat overblown. Yes, there appears to be an increased interest in atheistic books and that is certainly not a bad thing but even Dawkins latest book gets some interesting reviews

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Explore similar items : Books (48) DVD (2) Editorial Reviews From Publishers Weekly The antireligion wars started by Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris will heat up even more with this salvo from celebrated Oxford biologist Dawkins. For a scientist who criticizes religion for its intolerance, Dawkins has written a surprisingly intolerant book, full of scorn for religion and those who believe. But Dawkins, who gave us the selfish gene, anticipates this criticism. He says it’s the scientist and humanist in him that makes him hostile to religions—fundamentalist Christianity and Islam come in for the most opprobrium—that close people’s minds to scientific truth, oppress women and abuse children psychologically with the notion of eternal damnation. While Dawkins can be witty, even confirmed atheists who agree with his advocacy of science and vigorous rationalism may have trouble stomaching some of the rhetoric: the biblical Yahweh is “psychotic,” Aquinas’s proofs of God’s existence are “fatuous” and religion generally is “nonsense.” The most effective chapters are those in which Dawkins calms down, for instance, drawing on evolution to disprove the ideas behind intelligent design. In other chapters, he attempts to construct a scientific scaffolding for atheism, such as using evolution again to rebut the notion that without God there can be no morality. He insists that religion is a divisive and oppressive force, but he is less convincing in arguing that the world would be better and more peaceful without it. (Oct. 18)

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sorry for the poor cut and paste job

Dawkins’ rethoric is a major force behind the motivations of the ID movement. Dawkins may have contributed to our scientific understanding but at an incredible and unnecessary cost.

I think PvM is perhaps overstating the case, but it always boggles my mind that some people– like Registered User, perhaps– fail to see the fact that, when evolution gets linked with atheism in the public eye, it does vast P.R. work for creationism.

A lot of creationist mythology rests on the assertion that the theory of evolution exists because atheists need it. Linking evolution with atheism validates that mythology and lends them an awful lot of strength. Think about it. Why do creationists constantly quote Dawkins, or Dennett, or Provine, or Weinberg, if they don’t get any P.R. benefit from it?

Personally, I’m not sure that the ID movement would have ever happened if it hadn’t been for Richard Dawkins. Does that sound bizarre? Yet, if you trace the history of the ID movement back, its formation in the early years was catalyzed by a few people, chiefly Phil Johnson. Obviously Johnson tapped into an enormous existing anti-evolution infrastructure; obviously his history in the HIV-denialist movement primed him to deny another central scientific idea. But if you read Johnson’s writings, it’s clear that he drew a lot of inspiration from “The Blind Watchmaker”, which he saw as– I’m gonna use the term– evangelical atheism. I think a strong historical case can be made that Johnson kick-started what we came to know as the “ID movement” because he wanted to become a sort of mirror image of Dawkins.

I’ve seen Christians get very turned off by Dawkins. Indeed, the first time I ran across his writings, I was put off enough by its anti-Christian tone that I found it difficult to get past that and see the scientific value of what he was saying. My impression is that many atheists don’t realize how offensive a lot of Dawkins’ work comes across to Christians. My impression is that many atheists underestimate how much Dawkins tends to push Christian listeners away from science.

My position is that pushing anyone away from science is going to harm the cause of science education. I am not saying that religious ideas should be above criticism or that atheists shouldn’t be allowed to speak out about their beliefs. I’m saying that, when evolution and atheism get connected in the public eye, it makes it damned hard to reach out to Christians in the name of sound science and sound science education. This is a fact– in my eyes, a pretty obvious fact, a fact that the intelligent posters here shouldn’t be able to miss– that needs to be taken into account.

Ultimately, the battle has to be fought against those religious denominations that are implacably hostile to an old earth and to evolution. All the accomodationism in the world won’t change that; the denominations I’m referring to certainly aren’t going to forsake biblical literalism. And ultimately, this is an intellectual struggle. The courts are important, but they’re not most important. And the intellectual war is being waged by Dawkins and Dennett, not by the NCSE.

Then why go after people from with religious views that are not hostile to the old earth and evolution? It’s fine to disagree with their religious views, but why accuse them of being creationists? This is the key issue bugging the “religion per se is not the problem” people.

I’m a handsome cad

I don’t believe it; I don’t believe you have any luck with women at all. Except maybe with perfectly submissive ones who bow to your ego and agree with your every thought.

I just don’t know why I bothered trying.

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