Darwin and Darrow

Creationism v. evolution. I’ve been thinking about this argument a lot lately due to my reading matter.

I accept the Genesis account of creation as a skillful literary device depicting the unfolding of eons.

I believe in a master designer who, through intelligence far beyond my comprehension, knew that one day a nose would be needed to hold eyeglasses and that mankind would learn to make cream cheese and bagels and some sweet soul would one day bring them together.

I do not wish to be labeled a “creationist.” I know Earth is more than 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs once roamed the planet and trilobite fossils can be found on rocks.

I realize that some Demwit readers adamantly disagree with my belief and my faith and recognize that as their right.

About that reading matter: of the thousands of books I’ve read, one has finally toppled Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” as the most boring book I’ve managed to survive, which, according to its premise, makes me among the “fittest.”

I do not make this assessment to refute Charles Darwin’s theories in “The Origin of Species,” but I do wonder how many adherents actually made it through the book without becoming catatonic.

A theory does not have to be proved; it has to be disproved, and Darwin’s theories on how species evolved are irrefutable.

The next book up was Irving Stone’s “Clarence Darrow for the Defense: A Biography” (1941). It is merely coincidence that I listened to these two books back to back.

These brief passages from the famous lawyer’s arguments at the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, July 1925, convey eloquently my own sentiments. (If you don’t know the history of this trial, stop monkeying around and click on the link.)

“The State of Tennessee, under an honest and fair interpretation of the Constitution, has no more right to teach the Bible as the divine book than that the Koran is or the Book of Mormons or the Book of Confucius or the Buddha or the essays of Emerson or any one of ten thousand books to which human souls have gone for consolation and aid in times of trouble. I know there are millions of people in the world who derive consolation in times of trouble and solace in times of distress from the Bible. I would be pretty near the last one in the world to do anything to take it away.

“ I feel just exactly the same toward every religious creed of every human being who lives. If anybody finds anything in this life that brings them consolation and health and happiness, I think they ought to have it. I haven’t any fault to find with them at all.

“But the Bible is not one book. The Bible is made up of sixty-six books written over a period of about one thousand years – some of them very early and some of them comparatively late. It is a book primarily of religion and morals. It is NOT a book of science, never was and was never meant to be.”


“They say I’m an atheist. I am NOT an atheist. It is no more possible to prove there is not a God than to prove there is a God.”


“They (Tennesse lawmakers) make it a crime to know more than I know. They publish a law to inhibit learning. This law says that it shall be a criminal offense to teach in the public schools any account of the origin of man that is in direct conflict with the divine account that is in the Bible. It makes the Bible the yardstick to measure every man’s intelligence and to measure every man’s learning.

“Are your mathematics good? Turn to I Elijah 2 (sic). Is your philosophy good? See II Samuel 3. Is your chemistry good? See Deuteronomy 3:6 or anything that tells about brimstone. Every bit of knowledge that the mind has must be submitted to a religious test.”

The argument goes on. Not much has changed since those hot, muggy, summer days in a little town in Tennessee – except an honest enforcement of the laws of this land.


B.J. said...

A couple of things before we get started:

Explanation of the (sic) after I Elijah 2:

This was probably the most tainted trial in U.S. history. Court sessions were opened with a fundamentalist prayer. The judge quoted the Bible. Spectators packed the galleries with Bibles in hand. My guess is that Darrow knew there is no such book in the Bible as I Elijah. He probably wanted to see how many spectators would start thumbing through their Bibles in search of the scripture.

My pat answer to anyone who says to me, “We didn’t come from apes” is: “Do you think the apes would be embarrassed?”

Looking forward to the discussion!


Ahab said...

I too have a copy of Darwin's ORIGINS OF THE SPECIES on my bookshelf, and I really need to make time to read it.

Sue said...

I really hate talking religion BJ. But a funny thing, tonight I found out(I think) I am a deist from reading a friends blog. I know this sounds plain dumb but I never knew there was a name for how I felt. But then again who knows really, maybe I'm not a deist. I blame my confusion on my father....

bbj said...

I'm looking forward to this discussion also! I'm a faithful United Methodist and don't let the things I DON'T believe ruin the beliefs and lessons I DO value. Yep, it's a tricky path.

Tiny said...

First, Tiny wants to state that Darwin did not coin the phrase "Survival of the fittest." Herbert Bensen, educationalist did.

Tiny believes creation will never be finished evolving. Every seed produces after its kind.

BJ, thanks for another excellent post chocked full of educational information.

B.J. said...

Thanks for your thoughts, guys.

Ahab: When you read Darwin, email me your thoughts!

Sue, if you are a Deist, that puts you in pretty heady company, including a number of our Founding Fathers. I’ve read about your father and understand why you might still be searching for “what” you are.

Bbj: I feel the same way. And, I think Darrow said it so well. As for myself, I recall when my son Michael’s first-grade teacher told me that he told her he was a “Fledged Baptist.” When she asked him what that meant, he said, “Well, my mommy told me I’m a full-fledged Baptist.” I’m not so much a Baptist anymore, just a full-fledged believer, I guess. :-)

Tiny: At the time of Darwin’s research, there were a number of persons pursuing the same line of reasoning about various species. He talks about them and attempts to make the case at times that he drew certain conclusions first. He published newer and newer editions of his book, finally deciding the sixth edition was the one he wanted the world to read. This is the edition I listened to.

Frodo, a pillar of salt, said...

Frodo suggests that "Don Quixote," in Spanish, replace the Book of Leviticus. It would make more sense, and it would be interesting to hear Franklin Graham explain "tilting at windmills."

Tiny said...

Frodo: Thanks for the much needed belly laugh. Do you think Franklin Graham might just be "tilting at windmill" or he's just a wind bag? Far removed from his famous Dad it seems. Still got that good ole fundamentalism in his blood.

tnlib said...

Obviously we haven't moved very far since the Scopes Trial. In fact, judging by what we're hearing these days, I think we've taken a giant step backwards - like to about 1875.

Terrific post, BJ. Franklin Graham is exactly like his dad was back in his early days, just not quite as smart, so don't expect any enlightenment coming from him over the next four decades.

B.J. said...

Thanks Frodo, Tiny and Leslie. I always look forward to your comments.

Leslie: I have to disagree with you about the Rev. Billy Graham.

One of my childhood memories is of attending every night of a Billy Graham Crusade (circa early ‘50s). He packed the old Tiger Stadium behind Bailey Junior High School in Jackson, Mississippi. Graham’s ministries have always been “above board,” run by a board of directors which oversaw the budget. For half a century he counseled every U.S. president – Republican and Democrat - with his wisdom and liberal thinking.

It is interesting that both his son Franklin Graham and his daughter Ann Graham Lotz are such fundamentalists. Both have written they were reared almost solely by their mother since their father was always away, and this probably reflects her teaching.

Franklin has made outrageous statements contrary to his father’s teachings, and his decision to go against his own mother’s wishes to be buried in a copse near the chapel at the Grahams’ North Carolina mountain retreat was for monetary gain. He chose, instead, to place her in that atrocious memorial he’s constructed – the one with the talking cow.

I do not believe Billy Graham ever did anything for monetary gain. I regret the results of his labors have ended up in Franklin’s hands.

I also regret that so many who came after Graham turned out to be charlatans.

Now, where were we? Oh, yes, cretionism v. evolution.


Infidel753 said...

Actually, the theory of evolution has developed a great deal since Darwin's time. Darwin's contribution in discovering the basic concepts and assembling so much evidence was monumental, but a great deal more has been discovered since then.

For a more modern (and reader-friendly) view, you might try Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor's Tale; on the evidence supporting evolution, his newest book The Greatest Show on Earth (all these books are about evolutionary biology, not about his opposition to religion).

B.J. said...

Thanks, Infidel. I guess I just accept evolution just as I accept a diety or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. (E equals MC squared, what the heck does that mean???) Don’t ask me to prove any of it as I am ill-equipped.

I just decided to listen to Darwin because it’s a book I’ve always read about, but never read. When I called Talking Books Services at the State Library, Naomi said, “That’s not easy reading,” and I replied, “Somebody’s gotta do it.” I have honestly been surprised at some of the people who’ve told me they’ve never read Darwin’s book. IMO, they are the better for it. If Dawkins makes it more digestible, good for him. His titles certainly are intriguing.

Good Southern Man said...

Hey BJ,

I am an "Agnostic Atheist" and wonder if you are a "Deist" or an "Agnostic Theist". It's all semantics but sometimes it helps in understanding.

The thing that I get from this is that you are open minded.

We are having some horrible things going on in Texas with the information that is being deleted from the elementary schools textbooks. I feel like I am reliving that Tennessee trial.

Thanks for allowing for free choice (which in Greek means Heresy... lol).

Love ya,

B.J. said...


The only labels I pay attention to are at the grocery, so let’s leave it at “open-minded.”

I have studied enough history to know that almost every war, every challenge to the advancement of knowledge, every incident of man’s inhumanity to man has occurred in the name of organized religion – either to advance dogma or annihilate it.

Based solely on my beliefs, I can only conclude that “Jesus wept.”

Love you, too! BJ