Archive for the ‘science’ Category

New book out titled Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion by Michael Keas.  Michael Keas earned a PhD in the history of science from the University of Oklahoma, and is adjunct professor of the history and philosophy of science at Biola University.  The book covers much of what I have posted about here on this site such as the myths concerning Galileo, the flat earth, and the dark ages.

Image result for Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and ReligionThe product description of the book:

Lies Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson Told Me

Scientists love to tell stories about the quest to understand the universe—stories that often have profound implications for belief or disbelief in God. These accounts make their way into science textbooks and popular culture.

But more often than not, the stories are nothing but myths.

Unbelievable explodes seven of the most popular and pernicious myths about science and religion. Michael Newton Keas, a historian of science, lays out the facts to show how far the conventional wisdom departs from reality. He also shows how these myths have proliferated over the past four centuries and exert so much influence today.

The seven myths, Keas shows, amount to little more than religion bashing—and especially Christianity bashing. Unbelievable reveals:

• Why the vastness of the universe does not deal a blow to religious belief in human significance

• Why the “Dark Ages” never happened

• Why “Flat Earthers” had basically disappeared by the third century B.C.

• Why the real story of Giordano Bruno’s life and death is far more complicated than the popular account of him as a martyr for science

• What everyone gets wrong about Galileo, and why it matters today

• Why the notion that Copernicus “demoted” humans from the center of the universe didn’t gain traction until centuries after his death

• The futuristic myth that scientists and others are positioning to challenge religion

In debunking these myths, Keas shows that the real history is far more interesting than the common account of religion at war with science.

This accessible and entertaining book lays out powerful arguments that will be embraced by religious believers tired of being portrayed as anti-intellectual and anti-science.

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Post about other issues concerning science from this blog include:

Scientism and Secularism

Science Series: C. S. Lewis on Scientisim, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: The Myth that the Church Hindered the Development of Science

Science Series: The Myth that Galileo Goes to Jail

Science Series: The Flat Earth Myth

Science Series: Finely Tuned Cosmos

Science Series: The Dawkins Delusion Continues

Science Series: “Inherit the Wind”

Science Series: Was Belief in God a Science-Stopper? Not for Newton

Science Series: Oxford Professor-Atheism in Decline, Will be Defeated by Faith

Science Series: Creation Confusion – Resources for Research on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: Bill Nye the Pseudo-Science Guy

Science Series: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – the Most Popular Article in Wall Street Journal History

Warfare Myth: Science vs. Religion

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“Scientism” is the view that the hard sciences—like chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy—provide the only genuine knowledge of reality.

Fortunately, J. P. Moreland; Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of TheologyBiola University in La Mirada, California with four earned degrees: a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Missouri, a Th.M. in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, an M. A. in philosophy from the University of California-Riverside, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California; has provided a devestateing critique to this genuinely mistaken view: Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.

Image result for scientism and secularism

I have blogged about scientism before, but J. P. Moreland, with this book, has written the definitive work on the issue.

Here are some examples of people asserting scientism:

  • “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” – (Bertrand Russell Religion and Science, 243)
  • “Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” – (Stephen Hawking The Grand Design, 13)
  • “Science, as the only begetter of truth.” – (Richard Lewontin, The New York Review of Books 1/9/97)

Crossway Books, the publisher of the book, has provided a series of articles by Moreland in preparation of the release:

10 Things You Should Know about Scientism” by J. P. Moreland | Crossway Sept 19, 2018

5 Myths About Science” by J. P. Moreland | Crossway Sept 21, 2018

What is Scientism?” by J. P. Moreland | Crossway Sept 24, 2018

You couldn’t ask for a better resource on this topic.  In his excellent work Love Your God With All Your Mind shares why we should reject scientism: “What I do reject is the idea that science and science alone can claim to give us knowledge. This assertion – known as scientism – is patently false and, in fact, not even a claim of science, but rather, a philosophical view about science.”

J. P. Moreland discusses the issue of scientism in this video:

 

Resources:

Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland (Crossway: 2018)

“The Dangers of ‘Scientism’ and an Over-Reliance on Science” by J. Warner Wallace | Cold-Case Christianity, Feb 11, 2015

“Is Scientism Self-Refuting?” by William Lane Craig | Reasonable Faith, Mar 21, 2011

“Blinded by Scientism” by Edward Feser | Public Discourse Mar 9, 2010

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Post about other issues concerning science from this blog include:

Science Series: C. S. Lewis on Scientisim, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: The Myth that the Church Hindered the Development of Science

Science Series: The Myth that Galileo Goes to Jail

Science Series: The Flat Earth Myth

Science Series: Finely Tuned Cosmos

Science Series: The Dawkins Delusion Continues

Science Series: “Inherit the Wind”

Science Series: Was Belief in God a Science-Stopper? Not for Newton

Science Series: Oxford Professor-Atheism in Decline, Will be Defeated by Faith

Science Series: Creation Confusion – Resources for Research on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: Bill Nye the Pseudo-Science Guy

Science Series: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – the Most Popular Article in Wall Street Journal History

Warfare Myth: Science vs. Religion

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Posts about other Apologetic Resources from this blog include:

Apologetics Quick Guide

Belief Map

Reasonable Faith Videos

 

 

Have you ever heard someone say, “you have to prove that scientifically.” Or even in news reports that “studies have shown . . . ”  Or maybe you have heard that science is the final or ultimate source of knowledge.  Behind these sentiments may lie a belief called “scientism.”  This mentality has even been put as simply as “If I can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it doesn’t exist.”

This attitude towards that elevates science to a place of religious devotion is known as “scientism.”

Scientism is the belief that we should believe only what can be proven scientifically. That is, science is the sole source of knowledge and truth.

No doubt, science is a wonderful means of finding out truths about the world and a means of knowledge about the natural world, but science is not the final arbiter of truth. Nevertheless, there are some who claim (or even act as if) science is the only means of knowledge and truth. Here are some examples of people asserting scientism:

  • “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” – (Bertrand Russell Religion and Science, 243)
  • “Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” – (Stephen Hawking The Grand Design, 13)
  • “Science, as the only begetter of truth.” – (Richard Lewontin, The New York Review of Books 1/9/97)
  • “We trust science as the only way to acquire knowledge. That is why we are so confident about atheism.” -(Alex Rosenberg The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, 20)

There are several problems with scientism:

  1. Scientism is to restrictive – If science was the only source and final arbitrator of knowledge and truth, then massive fields of knowledge and truth would have to abandoned which most of us take to be legitimate truths and knowledge claims.  For example, if science in the only source for truth then we would have to abandon: mathematical truths, historical knowledge, logical truth, moral truth, and aesthetic truths amongst others.  Any theory of knowledge (such as scientism) that excludes these obvious avenues of truth needs to be abandoned itself, before you abandon these truths.
  2. Scientism is self-refuting – If the only source of knowledge and truth is science, then the claim that “the only source of knowledge and truth is science” is not true or knowable.  Why? Because the claim is not true because of science of known through science, and science it is not known by science, you shouldn’t believe that only science leads to truth and knowledge.

Science is a great and noble discipline.  We gain much knowledge and truth through it and will continue to gain knowledge and truth through science.  But, let’s not come with the mistaken belief that science is the best or only means of truth and knowledge.  The attitude that only science can lead to knowledge and truth is unwarranted, misleading, and self-contradictory.

J. P. Moreland, in his excellent work Love Your God With All Your Mind shares why we should reject scientism: “What I do reject is the idea that science and science alone can claim to give us knowledge. This assertion – known as scientism – is patently false and, in fact, not even a claim of science, but rather, a philosophical view about science.”

J. P. Moreland, the author of Scientism and Secularism, discusses this issue of scientism in this video:

 

Resources:

Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland (Crossway: 2018)

“The Dangers of ‘Scientism’ and an Over-Reliance on Science” by J. Warner Wallace | Cold-Case Christianity, Feb 11, 2015

“Is Scientism Self-Refuting?” by William Lane Craig | Reasonable Faith, Mar 21, 2011

“Blinded by Scientism” by Edward Feser | Public Discourse Mar 9, 2010

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Post about other issues concerning science from this blog include:

Science Series: C. S. Lewis on Scientisim, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: The Myth that the Church Hindered the Development of Science

Science Series: The Myth that Galileo Goes to Jail

Science Series: The Flat Earth Myth

Science Series: Finely Tuned Cosmos

Science Series: The Dawkins Delusion Continues

Science Series: “Inherit the Wind”

Science Series: Was Belief in God a Science-Stopper? Not for Newton

Science Series: Oxford Professor-Atheism in Decline, Will be Defeated by Faith

Science Series: Creation Confusion – Resources for Research on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Science Series: Bill Nye the Pseudo-Science Guy

Science Series: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God – the Most Popular Article in Wall Street Journal History

Warfare Myth: Science vs. Religion

Over at The Stream Dr. Sean McDowell has continued the discussion about the warfare between science and religion (which is a myth as I have discussed here).  He starts by stating, “the belief that Christianity is opposed to modern science is one of the top reasons young people cite for leaving the church.”  Tracing the myth back to Andrew Dickson White’s book A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom McDowell reveals that White invented this myth by quoting sociologist Rodney Stark’s book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery:

White’s book remains influential despite the fact that modern historians of science dismiss it as nothing but a polemic — White himself admitted that he wrote the book to get even with Christian critics of his plans for Cornell. … many of White’s other accounts are as bogus as his report of the flat earth and Columbus.

Sean continues the article by revealing where the conflict really lies.  Definitely worth the read.  In Sean and Josh McDowell’s updated book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, they responds to this challenge at length.

Below is a video and links to the other myths that I have busted at this site:

 

 

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Other Myths:

The Myth of the Dark Ages (one of my most visited blog articles)

The Myth that the Church Hindered Science

Missionary Myths and the Roots of Democracy

The Flat Earth Myth

Myth of Galileo Going to Jail

Myth and Facts: Crusades

 

 

 

dssA twelfth cave has been found!  Craig Evans, of Houston Baptist University reports its importance:

The last Dead Sea Scrolls cave, linked to the ruins on the marl shelf at the mouth of Wadi Qumran, was discovered in 1956, bringing the total number of caves to eleven — eleven caves containing the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, ceramic jars, and a number of other artifacts.

For sixty years archaeologists and looters have been searching for a twelfth cave. Would another one ever be found? Most didn’t think so. This is what makes the announcement from Hebrew University so astounding: A twelfth cave has been discovered!

In 1947 one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever found was the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This short video is a great summary of the discovery:

 

Eleven caves were discovered containing artifacts, some included scrolls of the Hebrew Scripture (i.e. The Old Testament) and other writings, and some did not.  This discovery, the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to be properly excavated, apparently contained at one time Dead Sea scrolls.  Christian Post reporter Stoyan Zaimov, writes:

Since being discovered in a series of findings between 1947 and 1956, nearly 900 manuscripts and thousands of fragments containing biblical text, written on animal skin and papyrus in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, have been analyzed by researchers.

Dov Smith at Phys.org reports:

Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

 

Johnston and Evans fills in the backstory of the Dead Sea Scrolls at FoxNews.com:

Bedouin shepherds in a cave near Khirbet Qumran made this amazing discovery in 1947, about one mile inland from the western shore of the Dead Sea.

By 1956, a total of eleven caves had been found at Qumran; however, no caves have been discovered since, until now.

Here are some short videos on this discovery:

 

 

 

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

50 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

year_in_space_photo_gallery-0048dHoward A. Smith, a lecturer in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy and a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post this past Thanksgiving break about how we are to be thankful for a not-so-obvious blessing: our place in the universe.  Here is a taste:

 

As we give thanks for our many obvious blessings, let’s reflect on a blessing that is less well known, a gift from modern astronomy: how we view ourselves.

There was a time, back when astronomy put Earth at the center of the universe, that we thought we were special. But after Copernicus kicked Earth off its pedestal, we decided we were cosmically inconsequential, partly because the universe is vast and about the same everywhere. Astronomer Carl Sagan put it this way: “We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star.” Stephen Hawking was even blunter: “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet.”

An objective look, however, at just two of the most dramatic discoveries of astronomy — big bang cosmology and planets around other stars (exoplanets) — suggests the opposite. We seem to be cosmically special, perhaps even unique — at least as far as we are likely to know for eons.

The fine-tuning argument has had a long career, but recently it has been receiving specialfortunte-unverse attention, not just by philosophers and theologians, but by scientists like Dr. Smith himself.  A recently produced book by Cambridge University Press was just released this month by Luke Barnes, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy who completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge, and Geraint F. Lewis, a Professor of Astrophysics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and head of the Gravitational Astrophysics Group, titled A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos that continues this long discussion about fine-tuning.  The foreword by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University, Canberra, and Nobel Laureate in Physics describes the book:

My colleagues, Geraint and Luke, in A Fortunate Universe, take you on a tour of the Cosmos in all of its glory, and all of its mystery. You will see that humanity appears to be part of a remarkable set of circumstances involving a special time around a special planet, which orbits a special star, all within a specially constructed Universe. It is these set of conditions that have allowed humans to ponder our place in space and time. I have no idea why we are here, but I do know the Universe is beautiful. A Fortunate Universe captures the mysterious beauty of the Cosmos in a way that all can share.

William Lane Craig aptly concludes that the fine-tuning for life in the universe, that “the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe just happens to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.”  Here is Craig’s animated video on the fine-tuning argument:

 

The fine-tuning for life is quickly becoming one of the most discussed arguments in science today.  Below are some resources related to the field of fine-tuning.

Resources

A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos by Luke Barnes and Geraint Lewis

“Humanity is Cosmically Special. Here’s How We Know” by Howard A Smith | Washington Post, Nov. 25 2016

William Lane Craig’s clearing house of resources for the Fine-Tuning Argument (videos, articles, etc.)

Luke Barnes Blog

Robin Collin’s Fine-Tuning Website

Several years ago astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay Richards wrote the book The Privileged Planet which was turned into a documentary here:

 

 

RICHARD DAWKINSRichard Dawkins misrepresents science according to a recent study.

Andrew Griffin of the Independent explains that “Most British scientists in a new study dislike Richard Dawkins, with some arguing that he misrepresents science and is misleading the public.”  One nonreligious professor of biology referred to him as a “fundamental atheist.”

Richard Dawkins is probably the most famous atheist today.  His book The God Delusion (2006) has sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into 35 languages.

The study in question was published in the Public Understanding of Science and was the findings of Religion Among Scientists in International Context (RASIC).  The study “include[d] a survey of over 20,000 scientists from eight countries. In the United Kingdom, 1,581 randomly sampled scientists participated in the survey, and 137 of them also participated in in-depth interviews” according to a Rice News article. The Public Understanding of Science is a fully peer reviewed, quarterly international journal covering all aspects of the inter-relationships between science (including technology and medicine) and the public according to its website.

One of the more interesting insights was that this study did not include Dawkins as part of the interview process.  The researchers didn’t ask about him.  Of the 137 British scientists interviewed 48 mentioned Dawkins. 80 percent of the  48 said they thought that Dawkins misrepresents science and scientists in his books and public speeches.

Description from scientists on Dawkins and his work included:

  • A nonreligious physicist said that Dawkins is “much too strong about the way he denies religion”
  • A nonreligious biologist states that “He’s a fundamental atheist. He feels compelled to take the evidence way beyond that which other scientists would regard as possible.”
  • Another professor of biology commentated that Dawkins has “gone on a crusade, basically.  Although there is a lot of truth behind what he says, he does it in a way that I think is deliberately designed to alienate religious people.”

The common criticism, according to Griffin, “was that Dawkins was too strong in his criticism of religion.”

Not all are taking the criticisms of Dawkins seriously.

Sebastian Anthony at ARC Technica UK reports that a “spokesperson for the Centre of Inquiry, which is currently merging with Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason & Science, told the Independent that ‘It’s certainly not a breathtaking revelation that fewer than 40 scientists out of 137—culled from a pool of over 20,000—might not be fans of Professor Dawkins’ particular approach to science communication.”

Hermant Mehta at “The Friendly Atheist” blog on Patheos.com claimed that the study published by the Public Understanding of Science is bizarre and the conclusion is flimsy based on the methodology of the researchers.

But this is not the first time Richard Dawkins has come under criticism from scholars, scientists, and philosophers.

E. O. Wilson, a Harvard professor, criticized him in 2014 stating that Dawkins wasn’t a scientist at all, but a journalist.  Wilson declared that “There is no dispute between me and Richard Dawkins and there never has been, because he’s a journalist, and journalists are people that report what the scientists have found and the arguments I’ve had have actually been with scientists doing research.”

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s review of Dawkins bestseller The God Delusion comments that, “Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he’s a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.”

Michael Ruse, atheist philosopher of biology at Florida State University, states that Dawkins The God Delusion made him ashamed to be an atheist.  Ruse discussed the trouble with Richard Dawkins in this short (6 min) video clip:

 

Of worthy note about the study is the fact that it did not ask questions about Dawkins, but those scientists interviewed mentioned him without prompting.

Critiques of Dawkins work can be found in proliferation:

Richard Dawkins’ Argument for Atheism in The God Delusion” by William Lane Craig at Reasonablefaith.org | April 23, 2007

Dawkins is Not Great” by Bo Seo at The Harvard Crimson | Nov. 21, 2013

The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins,” by John Gray at The New Republic | Oct 2, 2014

The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine by Alister and Joanna McGrath (InterVarsity, 2007)

Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion by Alister McGrath (Wiley, 2015)

On Dawkins’ Atheism: A Response” by Gary Gutting at The New York Times | Aug 11, 2010

The Dawkins Confusion” by Alvin Plantinga at Books and Culture | Mar/Arp 2007

Resources:

British Scientists Don’t Like Richard Dawkins: finds study that didn’t even ask questions about Richard Dawkins,” by Andrew Griffin The Independent | Oct. 31, 2016

Richard Dawkins is Bad for Science, Say Researchers Predisposed to Not Liking Him,” by Hemant Mehta Patheos | Oct 31, 2016

Most British Scientists Cited in Study Feel Richard Dawkins’ Work Misrepresents Science,” by Amy McCaig Rice News | Oct. 31, 2016

Richard Dawkins Gives Science a Bad Name, Says Fellow UK Scientists,” by Sebastian Anthony ARC Technica UK | Nov. 1, 2016

Responding to Richard: Celebrity and (Mis)Representation of Science,” by David R. Johnson, et. al. Public Understanding of Science | Oct. 10, 2016


    Other post from the Science Series from this blog include:

    f2-largeOne of the earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament was revealed by researchers at the University of Kentucky.  This scroll, which contains portions of the book of Leviticus, was discovered in 1970, but was unreadable because it suffered from fire damage 1,500 years ago.  Modern technology made it possible to scan and “virtually” unwrap it without actually touching it and destroying it in its fragile state.  This video from the Wall Street Journal explains the process:

     

    Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University explains its importance,”For scholars, the scroll brings the good news that the text has not changed for 2,000 years.”

    Breaking News Israel reports:

    This week, incredible cutting-edge technology allowed archaeologists to finally read the contents of a burned 1,500-year-old scroll found near the Dead Sea in 1970. The remarkable discovery of verses from the Book of Leviticus, which matched, letter for letter, the Hebrew text still in use today, is the first instance of one of the Five Books of Moses ever found in a Holy Ark.

    On Wednesday, researchers in Kentucky and Jerusalem announced in the Science Advances journal the success of new technology called ‘virtual unwrapping’. A complicated and difficult process based on the technology used in medical CT scans, researchers said it “represents a significant leap forward in the field of manuscript recovery, conservation, and analysis”.

    The technique allowed scientists to read the Ein Gedi Scroll, a charred, ancient parchment discovered in an ancient destroyed synagogue on the shores of the Dead Sea more than forty years ago which has sat on a shelf, untouchable and indecipherable, ever since.

    The scroll contains the first eight verses of Leviticus and dates from either the 1st or 2nd century CE and when compared to the Torah used today it is identical.  This is the earliest discovery of an Old Testament manuscript since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

    Articles/Videos:

    “Researchers Reconstruct Early Version of Old Testament Text From Burned Scroll,” Robert Lee Hotz | Wall Street Journal, Sept 21, 2016

    “Burned Mystery Scroll Digitally Unraveled Reveals Bible Unchanged for 2,000 Years,” Adam Berkowitz | Breaking Israel News, Sept 21, 2016

    “Computers Decipher Burnt Scroll Found in Ancient Holy Ark,” Michael Greshko | National Geographic,  Sept 21, 2016

    “Scientists Use ‘Virtual Unwrapping’ to Read Ancient Biblical Scroll Reduced to ‘Lump of Coal’ “ Ian Sample | The Guardian, Sept 22, 2016

    “From Damage to Discovery Via Virtual Unwrapping,” William B Seales, et. al | Science Advances, Sept 21, 2016

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    Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

    City of Geza

    Philistine Cemetery

    Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

    Hezekiah Bulla

     

     

     

    The supposed conflict between science and religion that proliferates culture today possibly originated with the depiction of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial in the movie Inherit the Wind (1960).  Thinking back to you high school American history class, one event that is usually taught is the infamous Scopes Trial in which John Scopes was found guilty for teaching evolution in a Dayton, Tennessee classroom.  While this event is worthy of study for political reasons as well as educational policy, my focus in this post is the propaganda that the movie heaved upon cultural understanding of the relationship between science and religion.

    Clarence Darrow

    A young teacher by the name of John T. Scopes was accused of teaching evolution in a state-funded school which allegedly violated the Butler Act of 1925 in Tennessee which prohibited the teaching of evolution.  Defended by the well-known trial lawyer Clarence Darrow, Scopes was prosecuted by the three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan.  The atmosphere in Dayton, TN that hot summer of 1925 was electric like a sideshow carnival.  Hundreds reporters descended upon the town, including H. L. Mencken of the Baltimore Evening Sun.  Articles for newspaper and magazines produced countless articles and cartoons on the trial.  Stories were wired by telegraph as far as Europe and Australia. This was the first American trial that was broadcast by radio, while thousands of people crowded the festival like town of Dayton.  Scopes was found guilty and was fined a $100.

    William Jennings Bryan

    While the Scopes Trial in its own right was newsworthy, playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee created it for Broadway in 1955 as Inherit the Wind.  It was later produced as a theatrical film in 1960 (directed by Stanley Kramer with Oscar winning performers Spencer Tracy and Fredric Marchand along with Gene Kelly) and subsequently in 1965, 1988, and 1999 for television.  Kevin Spacy and David Troughton starred in a 2009 revival at The Old Vic in London.

    Krameraward

    Stanley Kramer (dir.) receiving an award, 1960 Berlin Film Festival, Inherit the Wind

    The 1960 film has by far been the most influential iteration of the Scopes Trial and unfortunately so.  A much more faithful depiction of the trial is Edward J. Larson’s Pulitzer Prize winning history book Summer of the Gods.

    summerofthegods

    Randall Balmer of Dartmouth writing a review of Summer of the Gods states that:

     

    Although Bryan has generally been regarded as the loser in Dayton, a hopeless throwback to the fundamentalist, antediluvian past, not all contemporaries saw it that way. “At the time,” Larson says, “in sharp contrast with later legends about the Scopes trial, no one saw the episode as a decisive triumph for the defense” (206). Only later, beginning with the 1931 publication of Frederick Lewis Allen’s Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties, did the Scopes trial begin to succumb to caricature, a caricature that was shamelessly perpetuated by Richard Hofstader in The American Political Tradition (1948) and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963). The main culprit, however, was the play Inherit the Wind, which appeared in 1960 and which, as Larson demonstrates, was intended not so much as a representation of the trial

    Balmer correctly pinpoints that Inherit the Wind was the “main culprit” for depicting the trial as an exaggeration to create a comic or grotesque effect.  Why should we be concerned with a film instead of the history.  Well, because of the influence movies have on culture.  For example, there are numerous lesson plans (here, here, here, and here) for high school students on the movie.   Just do simple Google search to see the plethora of lesson plans available for teachers of history, English, science, and humanities that utilize Inherit the Wind.  Thousands if not tens of thousands of students are exposed to the Scopes Trial via the movie every year.

    The problem is that the movie promotes the propaganda of the conflict thesis between science and religion that I have written on before (see here and here). Carol Iannone describes it aptly: “While Inherit the Wind remains faithful to the broad outlines of the historical events it portrays, it flagrantly distorts the details, and neither the fictionalized names nor the cover of artistic license can excuse what amounts to an ideologically motivated hoax.”

    History of the Film:

    Inherit the Wind film was a originally a theatrical play in 1955 by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee.  It was later produced into the well known film staring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March.  The movie was remade in 1999 starring Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott (it has several other television remakes as mentioned before).  The play, and later the movies, change the names of the actual people.  Here is a diagram to help with watching the movie.

    Role:                                     Movie Name:                                            Actual Name:
    Teacher                                 Bertrum T. Cates                                        John T. Scopes
    Prosecuting Attn.                    Matthew Harrison Brady                             William Jennings Bryan
    Defense Attn.                         Henry Drummond                                      Clarence Darrow
    Journalist                               E. K. Hornbeck                                          H. L. Mencken
    Town                                     Heavenly Hillsboro                                     Dayton, Tennessee

    (more…)

    C. S. Lewis, professor of Oxford and later Cambridge, has written over thirty books and selling over 200 million.  I found a series of short documentaries on Lewis dealing with science.  It is based on the book The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society.

    Here is a three part series on C. S. Lewis in dialogue with Scientism, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.

    Part One: C. S. Lewis and Scientism

    Scientism is the view that we should believe only what can be proven scientifically.  More than a half century ago, famed writer C.S. Lewis warned about how science (a good thing) could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. Scholars explore Lewis’s prophetic warnings about the abuse of science and how Lewis’s concerns are increasingly relevant for us today (31 minutes):

    Part Two: C. S. Lewis and Evolution

    This 23 minute documentary examines the evolution (pun intended) of Lewis’s views on orthodox Darwinian theory from his time as a college undergraduate to his death in 1963:

    Part Three: C. S. Lewis and Intelligent Design

    Lewis is best known for his magical stories about Narnia, but this 16 minute documentary explores his life-long struggle to find intelligent design in a world filled with pain: