Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Civic Biology

Missed in the Scopes Trial was an opportunity to show the social implications of evolution for what they are. In what author Michael Kazin called “the most dramatic confrontation of the trial to date,” William Jennings Bryan “defended the rights of parents to control what their children learned in school” though not the full implications of what that learning would mean for them.

“Scopes had violated the statute unintentionally one day while substituting for the regular biology instructor.” The textbook used in class was A Civic Biology by George William Hunter. Of Bryan's arguments in court, Kazin noted the following about Bryan's approach to the book.
Strangely, he neglected to say anything about Hunter's use of social Darwinism. Almost seventy pages after the “tree”—which the author urged students to copy in their notebooks—appeared a vigorous endorsement of eugenics.

Clearly, the “civic” in the title of the text was no accident.

Hunter believed the same principles of breeding that produced healthier, stronger horses could and should improve “the future generations of men and women on the earth.”

He described two families, the Jokeks and the Kallikaks, plagued for generations by “immorality and feeble-mindedness.” People like these, wrote Hunter, “are true parasites … if such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading.”

But all we can do with degenerate humans is to put them in asylums so they will have no contact with the opposite sex.
The truth is we all have a problem with immorality. It's called sin. That's why we need Jesus, and all people of all races, of whatever strength of mind, can and should trust in Him.

While most who know an account of the trial know that Bryan, the prosecutor, was famously called to the witness stand, it may have escaped notice that he did this as part of an agreement to do the same with the three defense attorneys afterwards. However, because the judge expunged his testimony from the official record, this prevented the reciprocal defense attorney cross-examination.
If allowed to cross-examine his opponent, he would have exposed the fact that evolution “substitutes the law of force for the law of love” and dispelled the cloud of ignorance around him. When Americans read the closing argument he did not get to give at the trial, they would understand.
He arranged for publication of his undelivered address.
Bryan's closing argument became his final oration. Detailed and polished, it raised the doubts about evolutionary theory and its application to human affairs he had failed to convey during the trial. He pointed to reservation and inconsistencies in Darwin's work and quoted passages in The Descent of Man that appreared to endorse the elimination of “the weak members of civilized society.” It was the type of writing Bryan did best—a political homily instead of a scientific treatise or theological defense: “Science is a magnificient material force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine.”
Source: Kazin, Michael. A Godly Hero. pp 285, 288-289, 292-295.

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