Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Inheriting the wind

The real Scopes trial

Bryan took on the arduous Scopes case, even though his health was flagging, on the basis of a solid Jeffersonian principle: "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical" (Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1786). He pointed out three implications that many professors of that time were drawing from Darwin's "natural selection." Among these were not only eugenics, but also the nihilistic morals of Nietzsche (as in Darrow's complaint about the University of Chicago in Leopold-Loeb) and the "moral obligation" of "superior" races such as the Germans in World War I to overpower the weak races (e.g. the Belgians) for the future welfare of the human race.

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