Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Hearsay

Education with regard to science in the US has just deteriorated. It’s shameful. (Jacobsen, 2017)

James Randi

I am sentimentally attached to the Jewish tradition, which I was raised in. But I don’t take seriously the truth value of my own tradition or of other religious traditions. (Institute of Physics, 2013)

Edward Witten

We are far more impressed by stories than by studies, we are so good at pattern recognition that we see patterns that aren’t real (like the Virgin Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich), we tend to jump to conclusions before we have all the evidence, and we let emotions trump reason. Science and critical thinking don’t come naturally to us; it requires a lot of education and effort to overcome our brain’s default thought processes, and not everyone can do it. (Jacobsen, 2016)

Harriet Hall

Science is the engine of prosperity. From steam power to electricity to the laser to the transistor to the computer… However, the information revolution has a weakness. The weakness is precisely the educational system. The United States has the worst educational system known to science. Our graduates compete regularly at the level of third world countries. So, how come the scientific establishment of the United States doesn’t collapse? If we are producing a generation of dummies, if the Stupid Index of America keeps rising every year… (Dr. Kaku’s Videos, 2016)

Michio Kaku

Probably 95% or more of all biological scientists accept the board outlines of the theory of evolution. In the National Academy, the percentage is probably even higher… I do not have proof of God, and I am sceptical of those who claim otherwise. But I find something remarkable in the very fact that we, as a species, have been able to learn so much about the universe and the nature of existence. (Jacobsen, 2014a; Jacobsen, 2014b)

Kenneth Miller

Like everyone participating I’m what’s called here a “secular atheist,” except that I can’t even call myself an “atheist” because it is not at all clear what I’m being asked to deny. However, it should be obvious to everyone that by and large science reaches deep explanatory theories to the extent that it narrows its gaze.

…As for the various religions, there’s no doubt that they are very meaningful to adherents, and allow them to delude themselves into thinking there is some meaning to their lives beyond what we agree is the case. I’d never try to talk them out of the delusions, which are necessary for them to live a life that makes some sense to them. These beliefs can provide a framework for deeds that are noble or savage, and anywhere in between, and there’s every reason to focus attention on the deeds and the background for them, to the extent that we can grasp it. (Chomsky, 2006)

Noam Chomsky

Evolution and creationism pose particular challenges.

The religious stuff, that’s layered on top of it there. I think there are understandably people who feel threatened by natural selection because they feel, rightly or wrongly, that it threatens some of their cherished religious beliefs.

I think that’s something that those of us who are skeptics communicating with a public, I think we have to be very sensitive to that and realize that we are potentially threatening people’s worldviews. (Jacobsen, 2018b)

Scott O. Lilienfeld

To me, the brain evolved in order to get you to do certain things in certain ways: largely to reproduce. However, along the way, your brain in eating and having sex releases certain chemicals that feel really good. Evolution has modified your brain over time to make you feel good by doing certain things.

What does that mean? That means that our brains get us high. Lots of things that we do get us high.

Watching a good movie, voting for the right candidate that we think will take this country to the next stage, watching the Raptors do as they did, or Milos Raonic doing so at Wimbledon, or swinging on a swing, or watching the birth of your child, these things get us high.

They are incredible experiences. Religious belief is the granddaddy of all highs. (Jacobsen, 2018a)

Christopher DiCarlo

The only way, therefore, that dialogue as a rational experience can take place is that, on the part of religion, the dialogue be limited to the rational foundations for religious belief. Even then, the only way that any such dialogue could have universal significance is that we could assume that there existed common rational foundations across all religious traditions and that is simply not the case. It seems, therefore, that any fruitful dialogue requires that the rational basis for certain specific religious beliefs in certain specific religious traditions be confronted with what is known from the natural sciences. The natural sciences, in particular, have made great advances by adhering rigidly to canons of what is scientifically true. In fact, in recent years the norms for judging the scientific truth of a given theory of life’s origins and evolution have been extended, it appears to me, in the direction of inviting dialogue with philosophy and theology. (Jacobsen, 2014d)

Fr. George V. Coyne, S.J.

Creationists, however, especially the intelligent design creationists about whom I have written so much, deliberately conflate philosophical and methodological naturalism. They argue that leaving God out of scientific explanations is tantamount to personal atheism. So my concern as a researcher has been to clarify the relationship between philosophical and methodological naturalism. I argue that although philosophical naturalism rests on what we have learned about the world through the naturalistic methodology of science, methodological naturalism does not, conversely, require philosophical naturalism as a personal worldview because it does not exclude the logical possibility of the supernatural. I think that this is the most accurate and intellectually honest position to take even though I myself am no longer religious. (Jacobsen, 2013)

Barbara Forrest

President George W. Bush favours teaching both evolution and “Intelligent Design” in schools, “so people can know what the debate is about.” To proponents, Intelligent Design is the notion that the universe is too complex to have developed without a nudge from a higher power than evolution or natural selection.

To detractors, Intelligent Design is creationism — the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis — in a thin guise, or simply vacuous, about as interesting as “I don’t understand,” as has always been true in the sciences before understanding is reached. Accordingly, there cannot be a “debate.”

…So far, however, the curriculum has not encompassed one obvious point of view: Malignant Design.

Unlike Intelligent Design, for which the evidence is zero, malignant design has tons of empirical evidence, much more than Darwinian evolution, by some criteria: the world’s cruelty. (Chomsky, 2005)

Noam Chomsky

I think that comes down to a fundamental question, “Is there any objectivity to our moral ideals?”  The answer to that is, “No. Either you empathize with humanity or you do not.  If you empathize with humanity, you feel an imperative.”  Now, that does not mean you cannot use reason against your opponents. Most of them are, or would at least claim, that they share this bond with humanity and would try and make a case that what we are doing makes no difference.

That leads directly from ethics to science. If what we are doing makes no difference, then there is no moral choice, is there? However, if science shows there are important choices that could be made, then you have to take a stand. Either you possess humane ideals and think all human beings are worthy of moral concern. Or you think this will not happen for 20 years.  I am 80 now, so I do not think I will live to see the consequences, and assume I have no grandchildren – so to hell with everyone.  Moral imperatives arise out of moral commitments.  If you have no commitment that gives you a bond with humanity, I cannot open your mouth and thrust one down your throat. (Jacobsen, 2014c)

James Flynn

Of the notable natural science education moments in North American history is the Scopes Trial or the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, an important point to reflect on, especially as newer survey data indicates a consistently large minority of Canadians would fall within a standard categorization of Young Earth Creationist (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018; NCSE Staff, 2008; CROP, 2017). The Scopes Trial represented a moment of grotesque ignorance on display, enshrined in law and protected in its enforcement, and presented the intrusion of religion into law for the prevention of critical thinking and science education from entering into the educational system.

H.L. Mencken, deceased and famous American journalist, who brought this trial particular fame – and himself mind you, on June 29th stated:

It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone — that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and of some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized — though I should not like to be put to giving names — but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history. They are ignorant, they are dishonest, they are cowardly, they are ignoble. They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge. (Mencken, 1925a)

Mencken would continue in much the same tone throughout the trial, even coining the title of the “Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial” [Foster, n.d.]. The trial lasted from July 10 to July 21, 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee, in the United States. There was a charge on a specific school teacher for teaching evolution via natural selection, where this implied breaking state law (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). Mencken joked, “…it is believed that settlers will be attracted to the town as to some refuge from the atheism of the great urban Sodoms and Gomorrahs” (Mencken, 1925b).

Bearing in mind, of course, Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, and the trial happened several decades later. The continuance of non-scientific or proto-modern scientific theories do not happen within a vacuum. Indeed, Mencken commented, scathingly, on the context for Tennesseans there:

Prayer can accomplish a lot. It can cure diabetes, find lost pocketbooks and restrain husbands from beating their wives. But is prayer made any more efficacious by giving a circus first? Coming to this thought, Dayton begins to sweat. (Mencken, 1925b, July 9)

Primitive beliefs, forms of life, and ways of thinking fester without some aspects of the light of modernity. Forms of magical thinking representative of a community, probably, in poverty-level conditions. A bad life can lead to hopes for a better one in another transcendent realm in an instant with enough pleading, begging, and solicitation to the highest choir of divine. A few months prior to the official trial in July, the legislature for the state of Tennessee determined unlawful the teaching of anything but the literal idea of the creation of man and woman as taught in the Bible in the Book of Genesis (Ibid.).

In preparatory remarks, Mencken sniped with derision stating, “Two months ago the town was obscure and happy. Today it is a universal joke” (East Tennessee State University, n.d.). In the height of the reportage, Mencken declared, “As for the advertising that went out over the leased wires, I greatly fear that it has quite ruined the town. When people recall it hereafter they will think of it as they think of Herrin, Ill., and Homestead, Pa. It will be a joke town at best, and infamous at worst” (Mencken, 1925k).

The Butler Act was introduced by John Washington Butler on January 21, 1925 and then became effective on March 13, 1925 and remained in force for 40 years, passing in the House by near unanimity with 71-6 while the “Tennessee Senate approved it by nearly as overwhelming a margin, 24-6” (Scoville, 2018).[1] Butler, himself, was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives (Ibid.). Mencken thought little of the citizens surrounding the trial, where he reported:

Whatever lies above the level of their comprehension is of the devil. A glass of wine delights civilized men; they themselves, drinking it, would get drunk. Ergo, wine must be prohibited. The hypothesis of evolution is credited by all men of education; they themselves can’t understand it. Ergo, its teaching must be put down. (Mencken, 1925a)

Also stating, “Dayton, of course, is only a ninth-rate country town, and so its agonies are of relatively little interest to the world” (Mencken, 1925k). This set the basis for a pivotal moment in the ongoing and still current, given the demographics, sociopolitical controversies of the teaching of a philosophy of discovery (and substantiated knowledge frameworks) and a philosophy of ignorance (and loosely knit together and self-inconsistent faith tenets), where evolution represents the former and creationism the latter. Mencken did not think highly, at all, of the context of Tennessee or the system of jurisprudence in place.[2]

In line with the tenor of this ‘debate’ through time, the proceedings of the trial garnered “world attention” with a “promised confrontation between fundamentalist literal belief and liberal interpretation of the Scriptures” (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). In Impossibility of Obtaining Fair Jury (1925c), Mencken opened commentary on the trial of John T. Scopes, opining:

The trial of the infidel Scopes, beginning here this hot, lovely morning, will greatly resemble, I suspect, the trial of a prohibition agent accused of mayhem in Union Hill, N.J. That is to say, it will be conducted with the most austere regard for the highest principles of jurisprudence. Judge and jury will go to extreme lengths to assure the prisoner the last and least of his rights. He will be protected in his person and feelings by the full military and naval power of the State of Tennessee. No one will be permitted to pull his nose, to pray publicly for his condemnation or even to make a face at him. But all the same he will be bumped off inevitably when the time comes, and to the applause of all right-thinking men. The real trial, in truth, will not begin until Scopes is convicted and ordered to the hulks.

The defense was Clarence Darrow, originally a corporate lawyer and later a “champion of labor, proponent of the poor and defender of the most-hopeless of death row cases” (Frail, 2011). The prosecution was William Jennings Bryan (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). Interestingly, the two men, Darrow and Bryan, were aligned in the 1896 presidential election (Frail, 2011).[3] Apparently, Darrow didn’t care for Bryan as a person at the time, even seeing the man as hyper-religious and excruciatingly idiotic (Ibid.). Mencken took this same attitudinal stance of Bryan (Mencken, 1925m).

Straight with the opinion, cutting with the remarks, cunning with the wit albeit cruel, the Mencken tenor continued throughout the coverage of the Scopes Trial by Mencken. He saw the trial as determined before and during the proceedings.[4] The 1920s trial, in a way, reflected the changing mores and tensions between the traditionalist Victorian types fearing the change of ways in the nation and the modernist intellectuals who wanted to flourish more in their mentalities about the ways of the world, in this case the natural world (Linder, n.d.). Even in spite of some citizens’ disbelief, they feel the need to believe, at the time. In Sickening Doubts About Value of Publicity (1925b), Mencken speaks of Bryan in distrust and as, fundamentally, a charlatan:

The trial of Scopes is possible here simply because it can be carried on here without heat — because no one will lose any sleep even if the devil comes to the aid of Darrow and Malone, and Bryan gets a mauling. The local intelligentsia venerate Bryan as a Christian, but it was not as a Christian that they called him in, but as one adept at attracting the newspaper boys — in brief, as a showman. As I have said, they now begin to mistrust the show, but they still believe that he will make a good one, win or lose.

The showdown, purportedly, of the time came in the form of the Scopes Trial between the traditionalists and the modernists, or the creationists and the evolutionists (Linder, n.d.). By the end of the trial, the judge in the case decided “any test of the law’s constitutionality or argument on the validity of the theory” should be ruled out (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). As noted by Mencken in Trial as Religious Orgy, Dayton, Tennessee was not a favorable location for Scopes, “…evangelical Christianity is one hundred per cent triumphant… It may seem fabulous, but it is a sober fact that a sound Episcopalian or even a Northern Methodist would be regarded as virtually an atheist in Dayton. Here the only genuine conflict is between true believers” (Mencken, 1925d).

He continued to remark on the prejudicial nature of the whole affair with the “local primates” in support of a man who “confessed that he was prejudiced against evolution” via “hearty round of applause from the crowd” (Ibid.). He described the situation as “resolving itself into the trial of a man by his sworn enemies,” where one “local pastor led off with a prayer calling on god to put down heresy” and the judge, himself, “charged the grand jury to protect the schools against subversive ideas” (Ibid.). Mencken reported on the basic inability of the Evangelical Christian community to imagine an individual who does not accept the “literal authority of the Bible” and who must, if he rejects the divine Word of the Lord, be misunderstanding the basic written word of He on High (Ibid.).

Indeed, and as one may expect in a sufficiently large enough population, he described a person for who the Bible became the light of their life, and the cloud of their intellect, stating, “One of these holy men wears a sign on his back announcing that he is the Bible champion of the world. He told me today that he had studied the Bible four hours a day for thirty-three years, and that he had devised a plan of salvation that would save the worst sinner ever heard of, even a scientist, a theater actor or a pirate on the high seas, in forty days” (Ibid.).

He saw few genuine skeptics ever combatting with the locals; if a true skeptic exists in these parts, and during those times, Mencken would consider these individuals simply amongst those who keep mostly or only to themselves (Ibid.). Rumours abounded, as written, “Darrow himself, indeed, is as much as they can bear. The whisper that he is an atheist has been stilled by the bucolic make-up and by the public report that he has the gift of prophecy and can reconcile Genesis and evolution,” where “Darwin is the devil with seven tails and nine horns” (Mencken, 1925e). Humorously, Mencken told a coda tale in miniature:

…and there arose out of the darkness a woman with her hair pulled back into a little tight knot. She began so quietly that we couldn’t hear what she said, but soon her voice rose resonantly and we could follow her. She was denouncing the reading of books. Some wandering book agent, it appeared, had come to her cabin and tried to sell her a specimen of his wares. She refused to touch it. Why, indeed, read a book? If what was in it was true then everything in it was already in the Bible. If it was false then reading it would imperil the soul. Her syllogism complete, she sat down. (Mencken, 1925e).

A whole series of individuals akin to this self-trotting out woman sprinkle the news work of Mencken.[5] He remarked in Darrow’s Eloquent Appeal (1925f) on the iniquity befalling the locals through the speech of Darrow, who, in essence, never had a chance. But in his peculiar wisdom, Mencken cautioned:

I sincerely hope that the nobility and gentry of the lowlands will not make the colossal mistake of viewing this trial of Scopes as a trivial farce. Full of rustic japes and in bad taste, it is, to be sure, somewhat comic on the surface. One laughs to see lawyers sweat. The jury, marched down Broadway, would set New York by the ears. But all of that is only skin deep. Deeper down there are the beginnings of a struggle that may go on to melodrama of the first caliber, and when the curtain falls at least all the laughter may be coming from the yokels. You probably laughed at the prohibitionists, say, back in 1914. Well, don’t make the same error twice. (Mencken, 1925f)

We will come back to this point on efficacy and wariness of the methodology, though right in the arrow and sufficient with the quill, potentially, wrong in the weapon. Nonetheless, from top-to-bottomless pit, the State of Tennessee, now headed by Haslam, retained at the moment of the trial astonishing protections against the better educated peoples of the legislature and state. By July 15, 1925, the trial began to heat up (Mencken, 1925g).

The police were present more. Mencken reported, “The cops have come up from Chattanooga to help save Dayton from the devil. Darrow, Malone and Hays, of course, are immune to constabulary process, despite their obscene attack upon prayer. But all other atheists and anarchists now have public notice they must shut up forthwith and stay shut so long as they pollute this bright, shining, buckle of the Bible belt with their presence” (Ibid.). His interaction with an officer was interesting enough, where they reflected the observation of “the ordinary statutes… reinforced by Holy Writ, and whenever there is a conflict Holy Writ takes precedence” (Mencken, 1925g).[6]

“The cards seem to be stacked against poor Scopes, but there may be a joker in the pack. Four of the jurymen, as everyone knows, are Methodists, and a Methodist down here belongs to the extreme wing of liberals. Beyond him lie only the justly and incurably damned,” Mencken, in some sense, hoped and lamented at the same time (Mencken, 1925g).

But he, Mencken, also remarked on obedience to the words of Bryan, who went into the mess for fame and other forms of value in notoriety. He spoke of the ways in which Bryan during the trial, not after, became a vanguard of the faithful and the Christ-bitten. Mencken stated:

…the old mountebank, Bryan, is no longer thought of as a mere politician and jobseeker in these Godly regions, but has become converted into a great sacerdotal figure, half man and half archangel — in brief, a sort of fundamentalist pope. The other is that the fundamentalist mind, running in a single rut for fifty years, is now quite unable to comprehend dissent from its basic superstitions, or to grant any common honesty, or even any decency, to those who reject them. (Mencken, 1925h)

In this, both the inability to accept the critique and facts of the theory of evolution, even propounded in an educational institution or uttered in the Tennessean court of God Almighty. Bryan, as the one heading the charge, at the time, against Darrow and Scopes, became someone automatically instilled into the halls of the respectable, trustworthy, and almost those worthy of worship. However, as this progressed and the trial continued onward, Mencken would not mince words about Bryan, who appeared to begin to have health problems during the trial or after it.[7]

Mencken stated, “A typical Tennessee politician is the Governor, Austin Peay. He signed the anti-evolution bill with loud hosannas, and he is now making every effort to turn the excitement of the Scopes trial to his private political uses” (Mencken, 1925i). That is to say, Mencken notes the basic ways in which ignorance becomes the fashion of the fancy and the fanciful alike, but of utility to the political types. There was even stunning giveaway as to the nature of the entire ‘legal’ enterprise with the leading lady of light, and ‘truth’ and ‘justice,’ could reign supreme.[8] When Stewart was queried by Hays about the opportunity to give the other side a chance to present its evidence, the statement from Stewart, “That which strikes at the very foundations of Christianity is not entitled to a chance” (Mencken, 1925i).

In a moderated and somewhat serious, and almost out of character pedagogic, state of mind, Mencken, ever the feminine and a well-formed realist, starkly said:

Darrow has lost this case. It was lost long before he came to Dayton. But it seems to me that he has nevertheless performed a great public service by fighting it to a finish and in a perfectly serious way. Let no one mistake it for comedy, farcical though it may be in all its details. It serves notice on the country that Neanderthal man is organizing in these forlorn backwaters of the land, led by a fanatic, rid sense and devoid of conscience. Tennessee, challenging him too timorously and too late, now sees its courts converted into camp meetings and its Bill of Rights made a mock of by its sworn officers of the law. There are other States that had better look to their arsenals before the Hun is at their gates. (Mencken, 1925j)

This triumph of faith over fact, of non-science over science, of emotional appeals over reasoned argument, and of literature over evidenced presents one of the central problems of the current period and of the time of Mencken’s harsh criticism and most well-known journalistic work.  The law bent towards injustice and the incorporation of religion into it, in violation of basic principles of secularism, but with the raucous approbation and approval of the Dayton and, indeed, majority of the Tennessean public.

Mencken remarked on the simplistic view of the world and the basis in consolation of hell for the unbelievers and heaven for the true faithful.[9] He also spoke to the ways in which the Butler Act would lead to the immediate detriment of the educational system for Tennessee, and how its enactment would steadily erode and degrade – in quality and respect – the educational system of the state, explaining, “With the anti-evolution law enforced, the State university will rapidly go to pot; no intelligent youth will waste his time upon its courses if he can help it. And so, with the young men lost, the struggle against darkness will become almost hopeless”(Mencken, 1925k).

The stark limits of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial came down to a singular, not even inquiry but, query: did Scopes teach the heathen evolution by natural selection? By all levels of the public, the law, the cultural mores, state attitudes, educational standards, and judicial enforcers, the answer: indeed, Scopes did commit the crime. Convicted of the crime of science education of the young in the state of Tennessee, Scopes earned the fine of $100 (Linder, n.d.).

Of the more scathing comparisons of the forms of mind possible amidst the trial, Mencken (1925a) opined:

The popularity of Fundamentalism among the inferior orders of men is explicable in exactly the same way. The cosmogonies that educated men toy with are all inordinately complex. To comprehend their veriest outlines requires an immense stock of knowledge, and a habit of thought. It would be as vain to try to teach to peasants or to the city proletariat as it would be to try to teach them to streptococci. But the cosmogony of Genesis is so simple that even a yokel can grasp it. It is set forth in a few phrases. It offers, to an ignorant man, the irresistible reasonableness of the nonsensical. So, he accepts it with loud hosannas, and has one more excuse for hating his betters.

His coverage, though rather biased and humorous, notes the starker differences in attitudes and opinions about unguided evolution by natural selection amongst those given a formal higher education. Given the current statistics in the United States, the number of Young Earth Creationists, though an extreme view as seen in the Ark Encounter or Answers in Genesis, remains high even in the current period.

With an appeal, the state Supreme Court acquitted Scopes on a technicality – to their credit – while also upholding the law against the teaching of evolution – to their demerit, where the acquittal was based on being “fined excessively” (Ibid.). However, the law was only finally repealed in 1967 (Ibid.). In a single move, in less than a year, barely over half of one, almost half a century of students remained ignorant of the reality of evolution in its full breadth and grandeur.

Quoting Mencken, not all, but many Americans, including and especially Tennesseans in this case, got it good and hard for forty years after the trial, he remarked:

Once more, alas, I find myself unable to follow the best Liberal thought. What the World’s contention amounts to, at bottom, is simply the doctrine that a man engaged in combat with superstition should be very polite to superstition. This, I fear, is nonsense. The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. (Mencken, 1925l)

But with typical acuity of rendering the heart of the matter into text, Mencken described the misinterpretation, in standard cultural parlance of the time, of the meaning of freedom of religion or “religious freedom (Mencken, 1925l). He sees the common misunderstanding as viewing not only the freedom to believe and preach the religion but also to have, in some manner, an immunity from public opinion and governmental control in any regard; whereas, Mencken stated:

A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk, and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism. Any fool, once he is admitted to holy orders, becomes infallible. Any half-wit, by the simple device of ascribing his delusions to revelation, takes on an authority that is denied to all the rest of us. I do not know how many Americans entertain the ideas defended so ineptly by poor Bryan, but probably the number is very large. They are preached once a week in at least a hundred thousand rural churches, and they are heard too in the meaner quarters of the great cities. Nevertheless, though they are thus held to be sound by millions, these ideas remain mere rubbish. Not only are they not supported by the known facts; they are in direct contravention of the known facts. No man whose information is sound and whose mind functions normally can conceivably credit them. They are the products of ignorance and stupidity, either or both. (Ibid.)

Concluding the reportage, “But it was Darrow who carried the main burden, and Darrow who shaped the final result. When he confronted Bryan at last, the whole combat came to its climax. On the one side was bigotry, ignorance, hatred, superstition, every sort of blackness that the human mind is capable of. On the other side was sense. And sense achieved a great victory” (Mencken, 1925l). In this unabashed and impossibly positive reportage and opining, Mencken gives the method its form and, thus, its content, where the enemy, Bryan, must be destroyed and the ally, Darrow, shall be haloed.

​This, probably most clearly, can be observed in the multiple publications and statements about Bryan immediately and then shortly after death. Mencken, in Darrow’s Eloquent Appeal, made an incorrect prediction, too, by the way, speaking of Bryan “He may last five years, ten years or even longer” (1925f). In fact, Bryan died shortly after the trial; Mencken gave him a rather cruel and direct obituary, where Mencken excoriated the late Bryan – more than once:

Has it been duly marked by historians that William Jennings Bryan’s last secular act on this globe of sin was to catch flies? A curious detail, and not without its sardonic overtones. He was the most sedulous fly-catcher in American history, and in many ways the most successful. His quarry, of course, was not Musca domestica but Homo neandertalensis…

Bryan lived too long, and descended too deeply into the mud, to be taken seriously hereafter by fully literate men, even of the kind who write schoolbooks… The truth is that even Bryan’s sincerity will probably yield to what is called, in other fields, definitive criticism… This talk of sincerity, I confess, fatigues me. If the fellow was sincere, then so was P. T. Barnum. The word is disgraced and degraded by such uses. He was, in fact, a charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without sense or dignity. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses…

… The artful Darrow led him on: he repeated it, ranted for it, bellowed it in his cracked voice. So, he was prepared for the final slaughter. He came into life a hero, a Galahad, in bright and shining armor. He was passing out a poor mountebank.[10](Mencken, 1925m)

Although, these forms of ridicule and statement can come out into the public domain.[11] Publications will accept them. The adoring fan base and public will love them. The hurt via religion may even sadistically enjoy the scolding. However, these may not help with the outreach to the mislead or the infuse critical thought as a way of thinking rather than simply as a set of empirical productions in the play of science, as only a body of naturalistic knowledge.

Let’s take the modern case of Kirk Cameron, a Biblical Literalist, Evangelical Activist, and Fundamentalist Christian Documentarian, he argues for working around the critical faculties of the non-believer, as, obviously, this works less and less with modern education and the infecting of the public mind with scientific rationalism, where Cameron’s colleague, Ray Comfort, agrees with the tactic (Comfort, 2003; Powderwombat, 2010). Mencken’s technique can be done. One can take the diverse vocabulary of Mencken and clever display of mockery, to his sagacity-in-witticisms and high-snark-wordplay – in other words, to (exaggerated) wit:

*The Young Earth Creationist movement belies a certain proficiency in forced, and celebrated, unknowing – as if an unbirthday, where the presents for every day, save one to be ignored and hidden in the attic to gather dust at all costs, of the year comes wrapped in illogic, tied-up and bowed in stupefying bromide-full decoys and terror-tactics, and, upon opening of the ‘gift,’ shows itself containing the dullest-senses observations and among the more childish theories ever invented in the history of the human species – with secured ignorance and an admirable efficiency in deluding the minds of the young, and the more uninformed and already misinformed sectors of the general public, comes in armies of the brainless and spine-full of humanity.

Who knew corals and jellyfish could exist in human form? Those in whom dumb becomes not only congenital & acquired but also super-descriptive, as in a super-set trait to provide an explanatory framework for all other outputs, behaviourally and verbally – and, indeed, mentally, though unknown to the harbourer of this diligent, thorough, conscientious, and ever-present and persistent master of mind. But this also indicates a peculiar acumen in assured, triumphal ignorance, and oafish, immature certainty of a mule ensemble in targeting the vulnerable sentimentalities and soft-spots of the public conscience instead of intellectual capacities.

Kirk Cameron, well-known ignoble steed, of whom much can remain unsaid while some may be stated, he, once, spoke of circumnavigating rational faculties – of “circumnavigating the intellect” – as if this equates to a virtuous act or a reflection of virtue in character, which only tells the tall and, likely, lifelong tale of a man incapable of deep reflective thought, and so needing to resort to such measures in attempts at conversion of the heathen-out-yonder in the outlying lands of sin within Sodom and Gomorrah while also lacking the intelligence to pull off the dishonest conversionary liar-and-dim-stone stunt.

Known for his intellectual steam power in the electronic age, this enchinodermata Homo Sapiens sans Descartian cogito, or perhaps “Homo Boobiens,” represents a person for who the Hero’s Journey is not seventeen steps but one – and to whom the Tragicomedian’s Journey remains more appropriate as this is every step ever taken, where all paths for this eternally archetypal tragicomic hero lead to robust certitudes and ignorance as our wayward would-be Jonah adventurer gets stuck in the belly of the whale unwilling to be pooped out – possibly because the ‘food’ for the poor gargantuan cetacean amounts to among the most intellectually non-nutritive collocations of atoms ever amassed and agglomerated – and thereby unmetamorphosed and still unsurprisingly made of the self-same excremental material, always landing in the same position whilst continually spinning in circles, as if a top, in the mastery of the far-flung-imaginary and with the high-falutin’ stature of the foolhardy fool leaving not himself but everyone else in dizzying confusion as to what was just uttered with, all the while, a smile of a simpleton’s blank face tinged with the hardy scent of hometown dustbowl emptiness, the senseless and ignorant of sense ignoramus – albeit an honest, sincere, and striving donkey, in effortful, besweated, and dull proselytizing, where even the grass grows weary of his prickish advances.

A stultifying display of the highest ignobles and a man among the greatest viceroys of the basest vices with bold pride binding to anti-Faustian bargains, where the man manages to make the hefty bet, gain nothing and also lose nothing, and still thinks he acquired something, already knows everything, and remains perfectly wrong on both counts as surely as a cube has twenty-four right-angles, i.e., overt arrogance, inked ironically in a theology of the humble-virgin born-and-sacrificed carpenter, and illusory comprehension tied with inescapable jackassery and dunderheadedness, matched only in his Tennessean creationist tenacity as in his own dumbassery.

By the powers vested through Castle Greyface and Palace Numskull, he wields the power of the Major General at the heights of Mount Zion’s cloud-headed; a man who is the leader of the pack of Mount Olympus heading the charge of the Godly know-nothings; an admiral with an ocean’s worth of sunk intellectual costs, based on words said, reaching the depths of the Marianas Trench; a man who never even knew the man who knew too much, and was a man who never knew much, too; a mathematician tabulating his cognitive contents in at the invention of zero; a philosopher of the first-rate in empty phrases and deep inanities, who when finished in their evacuation from his tiresome mouth and dispensing in endless vacuities leaves Cameron’s clodhopper skull to implode with stunning quickness that collapsed stars doomed to become black holes can only aspire to and even blush in reflection upon the swiftness of the eventuality, and where neutron stars only dream of the thickness of his skull in the first place.

As clownish as this act and ideas may seem in the instant gloss of the moment, there can also appear the base metal underneath the fool’s gold coating of the uttermost fool; Cameron intends this not only as high-minded and under-handed personal tactics of conversion of Satan’s fiendish lost – coming from a low intellect even over-rated then – but also as clear, down-home, chummy, brotherly, and deranged advice for fundamentalist religious believers in Christ Almighty ​to intake on faith and ​to reach out to the unsaved Pagan peoples of Mordor and followers of ​the faithless Sauron and incarnation of evil, ​Melkor. Where is Eru when you need Him? Pray, then tell.

If it weren’t for his ineradicable dopiness and hopelessly clumsy demeanour, and empty-faced – and headed – naivety, the sheer act and behaviour of reaching out in his own manner would harbour something akin to southern charm from a mental mute and donnish deaf-dork​, without the south or the charm. A tremendous talent for tactless tact; an undeniable ability in blatant nuance and blowhard whispers, and platitudinous wisdom; someone not bound to the phrase “unfathomably stupid” because the depths can be plumbed, roundly, and many times with stunning and astonishing rapidity, based on their distance from veracity and fathomable shallowness and sheer audacity of idiocy, in whose dopiness secures his own derision in public – and deservedly so in private as well.

Snark, in this Mencken manner, even of He-Haw the Asshat Cretin-King unable to even rise to the level popular sophistry and anti-intellectualism, becomes cheap-shot, though imaginative, while also, unfortunately, uncivil in contradistinction to the elitist wordsmith-bootsniffing and Gibraltarian climbing and posturing of Mencken, reflexively indicative to the male weakness not of sentimentality in this case but of vanity, as noted by none other than Mencken himself (In Defense of Women).

He also noted the strength in women as non-sentimentality, in realism – indeed, as the supreme realists of the species, potentially overlooking or missing the deeper historical context for most women for hundreds and thousands of years: not much to feel nostalgic about, exactly, especially in the precarious nature of women’s lives under Christendom and other dominant religions read as instruction manuals, in part or whole, for the construction and maintenance of patriarchal culture, where women not only get listed as but, in literal fact, are property, chattel. The closest intimation for the poor young fool, Cameron, of this reality for women in general may come only in the form of himself as the Bell-Dame of the Bamboozled. Chesterton took on the same view, “Women are the only realists; their whole object in life is to pit their realism against the extravagant, excessive, and occasionally drunken idealism of men,” as a mirror of the chrestomathic pithy life axioms of Mencken.

The perspicacious vulgarity and mean nature of this snarkiness technique in word simply brings about an inefficacious and, indeed, counterproductive means by which to reach the minds and feelings of the wider public in the general populace and the specific public in one’s (supposed or purported) opposition and enemies. Plus, of the chief weaknesses of personal attacks, no matter how contrived, retains a substructure of the cheap and easy, and a representation of a shallower and more stunted than necessary emotional life.

Aggressive and, at times, deserved taunts and jeers will not change the attitudes of the individual, including Cameron, or garner the sympathies of the speaker’s audience or, more properly, stimulate critical faculties, but may, in rarer instances, engender, in its more noble manifestations, wider general public skepticism about the mountebanks and modern Pharisees marked by worship of Mammon and feigned devotion to God on High, so does not, at root, amount to an effective means by which to extricate and extirpate the utterly sincere religious fanatics bound by fears of hell and promises, nay hopes, of heaven with the tremendous to-the-death motivational propulsion system of unquestioned zeal and unquery-able fervor.

The only means by which to change the current state, whether the end to slavery or women’s suffrage, or better working conditions, comes from mass public organization and pushes for improvements in the awareness of the public, and, in this particular instance, changes to the educational systems that currently are producing motivated, indoctrinated, and ill-informed spokesdolts for fundamentalist ideologies, which points to a weakness in the critiques of Mencken in some sense: the Nietzschean elitism linked to racism – thus anti-humanist, who sees an imaginary crime in the pseudoscientifically-premised act of miscegenation, and somewhat detached disdain for general welfare, in addition to the remarkable leap of faith for an unbeliever sufficient to jumpstart what would become Objectivism with laissez-faire economic, social, and political views.

Of the views presaging the movement of the computerized ideologues writ Randroids seeing others simply as losers, clingers, parasites, a national majority tribe and international collective of the deserved penurity, worthy of dishonor and miseducation as they are petulant hangers-on, and selflessly deluded Christian sheep of the lower castes of humankind bound to their delusions and fate in poverty worthy of ridicule, distrust, and given a predetermined lowly estate in life, for ever, until death does them – and the higher class of ubermenschen who hold fast to the utmost industriousness, assiduous work ethic, and titles as maverick-nobles, as the downtrodden American Businessman standing against the masses of the insolent and lazy – a favour of ridding the Earth of them.*

The work here seems easy to some degree. Mocking not only the beliefs of the public, Mencken also took the time to lay out the objections. Ridicule, at times, may work. However, the tactic will, more often than not, raise emotional walls and intellectual defenses. This cannot be ignored, as human beings are not simply floating thinkers. The techne of Mencken, though done to a relatively high level, does not represent the best means by which to reach the wider public, to educate as well as inform, or to instill the protective measures of critical thinking, where this would help in critiques of fundamentalist ideologies, whether coming from literal religion or defenses of state violence, aggression, and rights-violations around the world.

In this sense, the pattern of emotions runs a course of hilarity at the surface impression, horror as the reality sets in, and pity and compassion for the individuals, and anger at a failed educational system; in an information age, individual citizens, and the young especially, do not want ignorance, or worse the illusion of knowledge, but, rather, remain kept ignorant by dubious and deliberate work by fundamentalist religion and its, often male, handlers.

The American public’s educational system, and in this case the legal system as well, disserved the general populace’s ability to know about the world abounding around them and the reality of far more unanswered than even marginally answered queries, even so-called ‘big questions,’ in the disciplines carved in the humanities and the sciences. The general public has been wronged with bad education, not only in America but elsewhere. A healthier proactive approach to teaching modern science would be more helpful than elitism, mockery, and disdain – how ever entertaining.

References

[Dr. Kaku’s Videos]. (2016, November 5). Age of Abundance – Dr. Michio Kaku #MichioKaku. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/WsUG6MWYEE4?t=1549.

[Powderwombat]. (2010, October 15). Crazy Christian Advertisement. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eM5GZuB-UA.

Chomsky, N. (2006, December 9). An Edge Discussion of BEYOND BELIEF: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival. Retrieved from https://www.edge.org/discourse/bb.html.

Chomsky, N. (2005, October 6). Intelligent Design?. Retrieved from https://chomsky.info/20051006/.

Comfort, R. (2003, May). How to Circumnavigate the Human Intellect: The Key to Reaching the Lost. Retrieved from https://www.khouse.org/articles/2003/468/print/.

CROP. (2017, October 2). 40% of Canadians believe that life on Earth was created in six days (The ideal prelude to Wagner’s Das Rheingold!). Retrieved from https://www.crop.ca/en/blog/2017/138/.

East Tennessee State University. (n.d.). Mencken Finds Daytonians Full of Sickening Doubts About Value of Publicity by H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 9, 1925. Retrieved from faculty.etsu.edu/history/documents/menckendaytonians.htm.

Foster, J.C. (n.d.). Scopes Monkey Trial. Retrieved from https://mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1100/scopes-monkey-trial.

Frail, T.A. (2011, June 10). Everything You Didn’t Know About Clarence Darrow. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/everything-you-didnt-know-about-clarence-darrow-14990899/.

Institute of Physics [Institute of Physics]. (2013, March 20). Newton Medal winner (2010): Edward Witten. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/06yXsnTFF-U?t=169.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2018a, October 15). An Interview with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo (Part Five). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/dicarlo-five.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2016, November 15). An Interview with Dr. Harriet Hall, M.D.. Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-harriet-hall-m-d.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2017a, February 15). An Interview with James Randi (Part Three). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-james-randi-part-three.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2014d, August 22). Dr. & Fr. George V. Coyne, S.J.: McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy, Le Moyne College. Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2014/08/22/dr-fr-george-v-coyne-s-j-mcdevitt-chair-of-religious-philosophy-le-moyne-college/.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2013, November 1). Dr. Barbara Forrest: Philosophy Professor, Southeastern Louisiana University & Member, NCSE Board of Directors. Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2013/11/01/dr-barbara-forrest-philosophy-professor-southeastern-louisiana-university-member-ncse-board-of-directors/.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2014, August 1). Dr. James Flynn: Emeritus Professor, Political Studies and Psychology, University of Otago, New Zealand (Part One). Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2014/08/01/dr-james-flynn-emeritus-professor-political-studies-and-psychology-university-of-otago-new-zealand/.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2014a, July 1). Dr. Kenneth Raymond Miller: Professor of Biology, Brown University (Part One). Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2014/07/01/dr-kenneth-raymond-miller-professor-of-biology-brown-university/.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2014b, July 8). Dr. Kenneth Raymond Miller: Professor of Biology, Brown University (Part Two). Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2014/07/08/dr-kenneth-raymond-miller-professor-of-biology-brown-university-part-two/.

Jacobsen, S.D. (2018b, July 1). In Conversation with Professor Scott O. Lilienfeld. Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2018/07/01/scott-lilienfeld/.

Linder, D.O. (n.d.). Scopes “Monkey” Trial (1925). Retrieved from http://www.famous-trials.com/scopesmonkey.

Mencken, H.L. (1925l, September 14). Aftermath. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925n, July 27). Bryan. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925f, July 14). Darrow’s Eloquent Appeal. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925h, July 16). Fair Trial Is Beyond Ken. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925j, July 18). Genesis Triumphant. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925a, June 29). Homo Neanderthalensis. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925m). In Memoriam: W.J.B. Retrieved from history.msu.edu/hst203/files/2011/02/Mencken-In-Memoriam-WJB.pdf?mod=article_inline.

Mencken, H.L. (1925g, July 15). Law and Freedom. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925i, July 17). Malone the Victor. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925b, July 9). Sickening Doubts About Value of Publicity. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925e, July 13). Souls Need Reconversion Nightly. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925k, July 20). Tennessee in the Frying Pan. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Mencken, H.L. (1925d, July 11). Trial as a Religious Orgy. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

NCSE Staff. (2008, August 8). Polling creationism in Canada. Retrieved from https://ncse.com/news/2008/08/polling-creationism-canada-001375.

Scoville, H. (2018, February 25). Tennessee’s Butler Act. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-butler-act-1224753.

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Photo by Oscar Toledo on Unsplash


[1] Tennessee’s Butler Act (2018), in part, states in a quotation:

…it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.​

Scoville, H. (2018, February 25). Tennessee’s Butler Act. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-butler-act-1224753.

[2] Sickening Doubts About Value of Publicity (1925b), in part, states:

The basic issues of the case, indeed, seem to be very little discussed at Dayton. What interests everyone are its mere strategy. By what device, precisely, will Bryan trim old Clarence Darrow? Will he do it gently and with every delicacy of forensics, or will he wade in on high gear and make a swift butchery of it? For no one here seems to doubt that Bryan will win — that is, if the bout goes to a finish. What worries the town is the fear that some diabolical higher power will intervene on Darrow’s side — that is, before Bryan heaves him through the ropes.

Mencken, H.L. (1925b, July 9). Sickening Doubts About Value of Publicity. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

[3] Everything You Didn’t Know About Clarence Darrow (2011) states:

You had the growth of the Populist movement—a widespread feeling out in the West and Midwest that the financiers of the East were using the gold standard to keep the average farmer and the average working man in poverty. For the first time, in Chicago in 1896 [at the Democratic National Convention], you had a major party declare that it was going to represent the poor. That was Bryan’s amazing feat of political rhetoric: he was this young, unknown congressman and he stood up there and he captivated that convention hall and brought the Populists and the Democrats together.

Darrow was part of that same movement, but he never particularly cared for Bryan as a person. He thought Bryan was too religious and basically too stupid to lead a major party, and it really grated on him that Bryan got the presidential nomination three times. So their rivalry began to simmer and fester, and when Darrow had a chance to ambush Bryan in the courtroom in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925, he took full advantage of it.

Frail, T.A. (2011, June 10). Everything You Didn’t Know About Clarence Darrow. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/everything-you-didnt-know-about-clarence-darrow-14990899/.

[4] In Impossibility of Obtaining Fair Jury (1925c), in part, states:

There is absolutely no bitterness on tap. But neither is there any doubt. It has been decided by acclamation, with only a few infidels dissenting, that the hypothesis of evolution is profane, inhumane and against God, and all that remains is to translate that almost unanimous decision into the jargon of the law and so have done. The town boomers have banqueted Darrow as well as Bryan, but there is no mistaking which of the two has the crowd, which means the venire of tried and true men. Bryan has been oozing around the country since his first day here, addressing this organization and that, presenting the indubitable Word of God in his caressing, ingratiating way, and so making unanimity doubly unanimous.

Mencken, H.L. (1925c, July 10). Impossibility of Obtaining Fair Jury. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

[5] Souls Need Reconversion Nightly (1925e), in part, states:

There followed a hymn, led by a somewhat fat brother wearing silver-rimmed country spectacles. It droned on for half a dozen stanzas, and then the first speaker resumed the floor. He argued that the gift of tongues was real and that education was a snare. Once his children could read the Bible, he said, they had enough. Beyond lay only infidelity and damnation. Sin stalked the cities. Dayton itself was a Sodom. Even Morgantown had begun to forget God. He sat down, and the female aurochs in gingham got up.

Mencken, H.L. (1925e, July 13). Souls Need Reconversion Nightly. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

[6] Law and Freedom (1925g), in part, presented an interested dialogue reported by Mencken between an enforcer of the law and himself:

The captain in charge of the squad now on watch told me frankly yesterday that he was not going to let any infidels discharge their damnable nonsense upon the town. I asked him what charge he would lay against them if they flouted him. He said he would jail them for disturbing the peace.

“But suppose,” I asked him, “a prisoner is actually not disturbing the peace. Suppose he is simply saying his say in a quiet and orderly manner.”

“I’ll arrest him anyhow,” said the cop.

“Even if no one complains of him?”

“I’ll complain myself.”

“Under what law precisely?”

“We don’t need no law for them kind of people.”

Mencken, H.L. (1925g, July 15). Law and Freedom. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

[7] Fair Trial is Beyond Ken (1925h), in part, states:

Bryan sat silent throughout the whole scene, his gaze fixed immovably on the witness. Now and then his face darkened and his eyes flashed, but he never uttered a sound. It was, to him, a string of blasphemies out of the devil’s mass — a dreadful series of assaults upon the only true religion. The old gladiator faced his real enemy at last. Here was a sworn agent and attorney of the science he hates and fears — a well-fed, well-mannered spokesman of the knowledge he abominates. Somehow he reminded me pathetically of the old Holy Roller I heard last week — the mountain pastor who damned education as a mocking and a corruption. Bryan, too, is afraid of it, for wherever it spreads his trade begins to fall off, and wherever it flourishes he is only a poor clown…

It is a tragedy, indeed, to begin life as a hero and to end it as a buffoon. But let no one, laughing at him, underestimate the magic that lies in his black, malignant eye, his frayed but still eloquent voice. He can shake and inflame these poor ignoramuses as no other man among us can shake and inflame them, and he is desperately eager to order the charge.

Mencken, H.L. (1925h, July 16). Fair Trial Is Beyond Ken. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

In a note mixed with charity, pity, ridicule, and degradation in one, in Malone the Victor (1925i), Mencken explained and opined:

Bryan has been roving around in the tall grass for years and he knows the bucolic mind. He knows how to reach and inflame its basic delusions and superstitions. He has taken them into his own stock and adorned them with fresh absurdities. Today he may well stand as the archetype of the American rustic. His theology is simply the elemental magic that is preached in a hundred thousand rural churches fifty-two times a year. These Tennessee mountaineers are not more stupid than the city proletariat; they are only less informed.

Mencken, H.L. (1925i, July 17). Malone the Victor. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Malone the Victor (1925i), in part, states:

The old boy grows more and more pathetic. He has aged greatly during the past few years and begins to look elderly and enfeebled. All that remains of his old fire is now in his black eyes. They glitter like dark gems, and in their glitter there is immense and yet futile malignancy. That is all that is left of the Peerless Leader of thirty years ago. Once he had one leg in the White House and the nation trembled under his roars. Now he is a tinpot pope in the coca-cola belt and a brother to the forlorn pastors who belabor half-wits in galvanized iron tabernacles behind the railroad yards. His own speech was a grotesque performance and downright touching in its imbecility.

Mencken, H.L. (1925i, July 17). Malone the Victor. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

[8] Malone the Victor (1925i), in part, states:

Yet even Stewart toward the close of yesterday’s session gave an exhibition that would be almost unimaginable in the North. He began his reply to Malone with an intelligent and forceful legal argument, with plenty of evidence of hard study in it. But presently he slid into a violent theological harangue, full of extravagant nonsense. He described the case as a combat between light and darkness and almost descended to the depths of Bryan. Hays challenged him with a question. Didn’t he admit, after all, that the defense had a tolerable case; that it ought to be given a chance to present its evidence? I transcribe his reply literally: “That which strikes at the very foundations of Christianity is not entitled to a chance.” Hays, plainly astounded by this bald statement of the fundamentalist view of due process, pressed the point. Assuming that the defense would present, not opinion but only unadorned fact, would Stewart still object to its admission? He replied. “Personally, yes.” “But as a lawyer and Attorney-General?” insisted Hays. “As a lawyer and Attorney-General,” said Stewart, “I am the same man.” Such is justice where Genesis is the first and greatest of law books and heresy is still a crime.

Mencken, H.L. (1925i, July 17). Malone the Victor. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

[9] Tennessee in the Frying Pan (1925k), in part, states:

They believe that they are not mammals. They believe, on Bryan’s word, that they know more than all the men of science of Christendom. They believe, on the authority of Genesis, that the earth is flat and that witches still infest it. They believe, finally and especially, that all who doubt these great facts of revelation will go to hell. So they are consoled.

Mencken, H.L. (1925k, July 20). Tennessee in the Frying Pan. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Tennessee in the Frying Pan (1925k), in part, states:

The Tennesseeans have tolerated their imbeciles for fear that attacking them would bring down the derision of the rest of the country. Now they have the derision, and to excess — and the attack is ten times as difficult as it ever was before.

Mencken, H.L. (1925k, July 20). Tennessee in the Frying Pan. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

In Memoriam: W.J.B. (1925m), in significant part, states:

Has it been duly marked by historians that William Jennings Bryan’s last secular act on this globe of sin was to catch flies? A curious detail, and not without its sardonic overtones. He was the most sedulous fly-catcher in American history, and in many ways the most successful. His quarry, of course, was not Musca domestica but Homo neandertalensis…

Bryan lived too long, and descended too deeply into the mud, to be taken seriously hereafter by fully literate men, even of the kind who write schoolbooks… The truth is that even Bryan’s sincerity will probably yield to what is called, in other fields, definitive criticism… This talk of sincerity, I confess, fatigues me. If the fellow was sincere, then so was P. T. Barnum. The word is disgraced and degraded by such uses. He was, in fact, a charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without sense or dignity. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses…

…He seemed only a poor clod like those around him, deluded by a childish theology, full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning, all human dignity, all beauty, all fine and noble things. He was a peasant come home to the barnyard. Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not. What animated him from end to end of his grotesque career was simply ambition – the ambition of a common man to get his hand upon the collar of his superiors, or failing that, to get his thumb into their eyes. He was born with a roaring voice, and it had the trick of inflaming half-wits. His whole career was devoted to raising those half-wits against their betters, that he himself might shine. His last battle will be grossly misunderstood if it is thought of as a mere exercise in fanaticism – that is, if Bryan the Fundamentalist Pope is mistaken for one of the bucolic Fundamentalists…

…When he began denouncing the notion that man is a mammal even some of the hinds at Dayton were agape. And when, brought upon Clarence Darrow’s cruel hook, he writhed and tossed in a very fury of malignancy, bawling against the veriest elements of sense and decency like a man frantic – when he came to that tragic climax of his striving there were snickers among the hinds as well as hosannas. Upon that hook, in truth, Bryan committed suicide, as a legend as well as in the body. He staggered from the rustic court ready to die, and he staggered from it ready to be forgotten, save 3 as a character in a third-rate farce, witless and in poor taste. It was plain to everyone who knew him, when he came to Dayton, that his great days were behind him – that, for all the fury of his hatred, he was now definitely an old man, and headed at last for silence. There was a vague, unpleasant manginess about his appearance; he somehow seemed dirty, though a close glance showed him as carefully shaven as an actor, and clad in immaculate linen. All the hair was gone from the dome of his head, and it had begun to fall out, too, behind his ears, in the obscene manner of Samuel Gompers…

…When I first encountered him, on the sidewalk in front of the office of the rustic lawyers who were his associates in the Scopes case, the trial was yet to begin, and so he was still expansive and amiable. I had printed in the Nation, a week or so before, an article arguing that the Tennessee anti-evolution law, whatever its wisdom, was at least constitutional – that the yahoos of the State had a clear right to have their progeny taught whatever they chose, and kept secure from whatever knowledge violated their superstitions. The old boy professed to be delighted with the argument, and gave the gaping bystanders to understand that I was a publicist of parts…

…His eyes fascinated me; I watched them all day long. They were blazing points of hatred. They glittered like occult and sinister gems. Now and then they wandered to me, and I got my share, for my reports of the trial had come back to Dayton, and he had read them. It was like coming under fire. Thus he fought his last fight, thirsting savagely for blood. All sense departed from him. He bit right and left, like a dog with rabies. He descended to demagogy so dreadful that his very associates at the trial table blushed. His one yearning was to keep his yokels hated up – to lead his forlorn mob of imbeciles against the foe. That foe, alas, refused to be alarmed. It insisted upon seeing the whole battle as a comedy. Even Darrow, who knew better, occasionally yielded to the prevailing spirit. One day he lured poor Bryan into the folly I have mentioned: his astounding argument against the notion that man is a mammal. I am glad I heard it, for otherwise I’d never believe it. There stood the man who had been thrice a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic – there he stood in the glare of the world, uttering stuff that a boy of eight would laugh at. The artful Darrow led him on: he repeated it, ranted for it, bellowed it in his cracked voice. So he was prepared for the final slaughter. He came into life a hero, a Galahad, in bright and shining armor. He was passing out a poor mountebank.

Mencken, H.L. (1925m). In Memoriam: W.J.B. Retrieved from history.msu.edu/hst203/files/2011/02/Mencken-In-Memoriam-WJB.pdf?mod=article_inline.

Bryan (1925n), in part, states:

Bryan was a vulgar and common man, a cad undiluted. He was ignorant, bigoted, self-seeking, blatant and dishonest. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses. It was hard to believe, watching him at Dayton, that he had traveled, that he had been received in civilized societies, that he had been a high officer of state. He seemed only a poor clod like those around him, deluded by a childish theology, full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning, all human dignity, all beauty, all fine and noble things. He was a peasant come home to the dung-pile. Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not.

Mencken, H.L. (1925n, July 27). Bryan. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

Aftermath (1925l), in part, states:

Putting the matter blunt and stark, Mencken compared Darrow and Bryan, opining, “Bryan went there in a hero’s shining armor, bent deliberately upon a gross crime against sense. He came out a wrecked and preposterous charlatan, his tail between his legs. Few Americans have ever done so much for their country in a whole lifetime as Darrow did in two hours.”

Mencken, H.L. (1925l, September 14). Aftermath. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

[11] Trial as Religious Orgy (1925d), in part, states:

There is, it appears, a conspiracy of scientists afoot. Their purpose is to break down religion, propagate immorality, and so reduce mankind to the level of the brutes. They are the sworn and sinister agents of Beelzebub, who yearns to conquer the world, and has his eye especially upon Tennessee.

Mencken, H.L. (1925d, July 11). Trial as a Religious Orgy. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/CoverageOfTheScopesTrialByH.l.Mencken/ScopesTrialMencken.txt.

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