H.L. Mencken, The Scopes Monkey Trial and the Culture War

H.L. Mencken was a journalist, an atheist, a libertarian and a Nietzschean. He shared Nietzsche and the Modernists contempt for the masses. No one in the 1920s had a greater negative impact on shaping the values and beliefs of young Losters and GIs in college rebelling against their Victorian parents than Mencken. Young people read The American Mercury on college campuses.

The following excerpt comes from Nathan Miller’s New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America:

“Sinclair Lewis was the most popular serious writer of the 1920s. His first major work, Main Street (1920), sold well and drew critical acclaim. It depicted the ignorance, smugness, and meanspiritedness of small town life. Two years later he brought forth Babbitt, his most famous novel. George Babbitt represented the archetypal businessman of the late 1920s. Babbitt was a booster, gregarious, and narrowly conformist in his opinions, but beneath the noisy clichés hid a timid man who wanted to do better but was afraid to try. Both book titles passed into the language. “Main Street” symbolized the complacent bigotry of small-town life, and “Babbitt” became a symbol of middle-class materialism and conformity. Lewis, a social satirist with great descriptive powers, masterfully depicted the sights and sounds of 1920s American life. In other works he attacked the medical profession, religious evangelists, and manufacturers. His books sold well, making him rich and famous. Lewis became the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize for literature.”

As we have already seen, Mencken was not alone in this. The Young Intellectuals all loved Nietzsche. Sinclair Lewis was the most influential novelist of the 1920s. Sinclair Lewis in Main Street (1920) and Sherwood Anderson in Winesburg, Ohio (1919) created the negative Modernist urbanite stereotype of rural and small-town America. Main Street had a cultural impact on par with Uncle Tom’s Cabin because it created a demonic image of the Heartland that had not existed before.

“H.L. Mencken was another prominent American writer of the decade. Mencken was a middle-aged journalist and language scholar who founded the American Mercury, a sophisticated magazine that carried modern poetry, short stories, reviews, and satire. Mencken savagely satirized every aspect of American life. Anything sacred or significant to the traditionalists was fair game for Mencken. At one time or another he went after the Ku Klux Klan, Rotary Clubs, funerals, the Boy Scouts, motherhood, home cooking, Prohibition, democracy, and religious fundamentalists. He especially disliked religious people, all of whom he called “Puritans” He defined a Puritan as someone “who lives in mortal fear that somewhere, somehow, someone might be enjoying himself.”

Mencken tore down Victorian culture in the 1920s.

It was H.L. Mencken, Emma Goldman, Randolph Bourne and other Young Intellectuals who created the negative stereotype of the “Puritan” philistine. By “Puritan,” they meant anyone who was a Victorian in values and was religious like Southern Baptists and was opposed to their cultural libertarianism. The actual Puritans had long lost their cultural grip over New England in the early 18th century.

“He wrote about the great American “boobocracy” and the “boobocratic” way of life. Once when a young woman, upset by his diatribes, asked him why he bothered to live in the United States, Mencken replied, “Why do people go to zoos”?

Mencken excelled at turning a phrase and coming across at selling himself as being far more sophisticated than he actually was in his time. He didn’t graduate from college. He didn’t have any specialized knowledge of the arts either and wasn’t even a Modernist in his tastes.

The following excerpt comes from Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s book American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas:

“While today it is commonplace to bewail the puritanical prudery and provincialism of American culture, the Puritans didn’t always have such a bad reputation. Only when early twentieth-century critics like Goldman, Mencken and Bourne started to excavate the past for the historical conditions conspiring against the free intellect did the modern conception of the Puritan develop. The radicals collapsed Nietzsche’s analysis of Christian asceticism and sentimentalism into a critique of the lingering effects of Puritan psychology and piety. While the philistines treated ideas as if they were merely decorative, the Puritan viewed them as disciplinary. In their efforts to find a usable past to critique what they regarded as a culture of rigid moralizing, the radicals discovered the wrathful “Puritan” who policed free thought, hounded liberated spirits, and damaged the free play of personality. …

Once the impressionistic archetype of the austere, self-righteous premodern Puritan began to take shape, it was relatively easy to survey American society – from the vice campaigns of the Progressive Era through the wartime hysteria to the postwar return to “normalcy” – and discover modern Puritans incapable of free thought and eager to police those who weren’t.”

I can already hear the objections now.

But … H.L. Mencken wasn’t a leftist! He was a right-libertarian!

In the 1930s, H.L. Mencken went after FDR during the Great Depression who was an enormously popular figure. Mencken’s audience shifted Left in the 1930s as he faded in influence. The audience remained a bunch of smug, elitist assholes who were alienated from the Heartland and many of those young people who loved Mencken in the 1920s grew up to become New Deal technocrats.

The Scopes Trial of 1925 was the biggest battle of the culture war in the 1920s and pitted Clarence Darrow against William Jennings Bryan. The issue that was being contested was whether or not evolution could be taught in Tennessee public schools. The “Scopes Monkey Trial” was set up from the beginning as a media publicity stunt to heap ridicule and contempt on the backward American masses – all the Appalachian yokels that Mencken that was constantly railing about in The American Mercury.

The following excerpt comes from Nathan Miller’s New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America:

“Not long after, a group of men gathered at a table in Robinson’s Drugstore, the social center of Dayton, a town of some two thousand people in the foothills of the Cumberlands, to discuss these events. They included George Rappelyea, a transplanted New Yorker who managed the local branch of the Cumberland Coal and Iron Company, a couple of attorneys, and the superintendent of the Rhea County schools. Rappelyea, a free thinker, hated the fundamentalism espoused by most of the locals and was upset by the anti-evolution law. He told his companions he had seen an article in a Chattanooga paper in which the American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend any schoolteacher willing to be a legal guinea pig and contest the law. With a certain amount of guile, Rappelyea pointed out that if such a trial were held in Dayton, it would attracted national attention and, even more important, tourist dollars and new businesses.

Who was to be the sacrificial lamb? Frank Robinson, owner of the drugstore and school board president, suggested John T. Scopes, a twenty-four old science instructor at the Dayton High School who doubled as athletic coach and substitute biology teacher. Unmarried, popular, and modest, he seemed ideal for the assignment. Scopes was summoned, perspiring from the tennis court …

“Out of this friendly conspiracy arranged over Coca-Colas emerged one of the most celebrated trials in American legal history. “The Monkey Trial,” as Mencken labeled it, brought the struggle between traditionalism and modernism and between Main Street and the metropolis out into the open. He was involved in writing the script from almost the very beginning. In fact, Scopes later remarked that the entire episode “was Mencken’s show.” Mencken pounced upon the story early on and the Baltimore Evening Sun, his paper, posted $500 bail for Scopes. What would have normally been a simple misdemeanor trial lasting but a few hours was transformed into a major media event, and Scopes became all but an afterthought because of the high-profile players attracted to the case.”

H.L. Mencken wasn’t a Modernist.

He was a highly self-conscious German-American, a Late Victorian Darwinist who idolized T.H. Huxley and a Nietzschean who hated Christianity and the dominant Anglo-Protestant culture. You could definitely say he was in “allyship” with the Modernists. At one point, H.L. Mencken and Theodore Dreiser were so close they were dating two sisters. H.L. Mencken and Randolph Bourne both loved Nietzsche and wanted to subvert Victorian culture and push American culture in a more libertarian direction.

Mencken was a hugely important figure in the death of the Victorian mainstream and the origins of the Modern mainstream. He popularized naturalism and aestheticism.

The following excerpt comes from Henry F. May’s book The End of American Innocence, 1912-1917:

“Everybody knows that at some point in the twentieth century America went through a cultural revolution. One has only to glance at the family photograph album, or to pick up a book or magazine dated, say, 1907, to find oneself in a completely vanished world. On one side of some historical boundary lies the America of Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan, of Chautauqua and Billy Sunday and municipal crusades, a world so foreign, so seemingly simple, that we sometimes tend, foolishly enough, to find it comical. On the other side of the barrier lies our own time, a time of fearful issues and drastic divisions, a time surely including the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the atom bomb. Clearly on one side of this line lie Booth Tarkington and O. Henry and the American Winston Churchill, and also, we should not forget, Henry James. Clearly on our side lie Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Stearns Eliot, and also the writers of television advertising. At some point, if not an instantaneous upheaval, there must have been a notable quickening of the pace of change, a period when things began to move so fast that the past, from then on, looked static. …

Some of these paradoxes are, of course, more apparent than real. We do not have to choose between the two pictures of prewar America: the end of Victorian calm and the beginning of cultural revolution. Both of these pictures are true. In the years we are going to examine, the few years just before the impact of war on America, we are uniquely able to look at both pictures at once. We can see the massive walls of nineteenth-century America still apparently intact, and then turn our spotlight on the many different kinds of people cheerfully laying dynamite in the hidden cracks. It is my hope that a concentrated but fairly wide-ranging study of this short period, of its thought and literature and politics, may tell us something about the old America and something about the beginnings of our own times. …

In Nietzsche Mencken found, for one thing, a way of combing his naturalism and aestheticism. Despite his misunderstandings, Mencken really could draw from his early master much that he needed: nobody else was so deeply versed in European tradition and yet, without being at all an uplifter, so revolutionary. Nobody else could be quoted so aptly against women, Christianity, progress, and Anglo-Saxondom. Mencken’s own idea of the Nietzschean superman, lordly and masculine, disillusioned but cheerful, a chastiser and yet a yea-sayer, may have furnished some of the model for his own role.

More completely than anybody else so far, Mencken had by the early and middle teens raised the standard of battle against all three of the main elements of the dominant American culture. His dislike of the assumptions of practical idealism was central and pervasive. Any kind of absolute morality was to him a farce, and the cheerfulness that morality found in everyday life the height of vulgarity …”

H.L. Mencken, the Young Intellectuals and the other Modernists agreed that religion and morality were a farce and that Americans could along just fine without the Victorian cultural consensus on national identity, religion and morality. This is what makes them Moderns.

Moderns value self-expression, self-liberation and self-realization above collective ties. They value cultural liberation and cultural egalitarianism. They want to “liberate” people and “transform their consciousness” so that they can pursue and cultivate aesthetic lifestyles. In contrast, Victorians valued self-denial, religion and morality and racial and cultural hierarchies above aesthetic self-expression.

From the Compromise Generation (born 1767-1791) through the Missionary Generation (born 1860-1882), Americans were Victorians. From the Lost Generation (born 1882-1900) through the Millennials (born 1981-2001), Americans have been Moderns.

About Hunter Wallace 9609 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

28 Comments

  1. William Jennings Bryan didn’t even argue that Darwin’s theory of evolution was false; he merely argued that it was important for schoolchildren to learn religion for morality’s sake. Darwin’s theory of evolution led to “social Darwinism” which was more of an ideology than a biological theory. “Social Darwinism” was intimately connected to capitalism and markets while many of the religious Christians of the era were scadalized by this new “transactional” theory of human civilization.

    What the “Puritans” were really objecting to was the moral ideology of “social Darwinism,” not a biological description of how populations of fruit flies change over generations in the bell jar.

    I find it endlessly amusing how Puritans are constantly demonized on “the right” these days. Pretend “Catholics” who just read E. Michael Jones for the first time constantly peddle silly conspiracy theories about “Masonry.” The faux-Nietzschean “neo-Nazis” act like John Hagee is some powerful political force in American society, as opposed to a fourth-rate huckster far less popular than Oprah Winfrey or Joel Osteen.

    Even our Dixiecrats are constantly blaming “Yankee Puritans” for everything and acting like Southern Christianity wasn’t “really” Puritan – in their case, it’s the Puritans who are the “far left” and radical.

    Right-wingers are just as historically illiterate as the “shitlibs” frankly. Puritanism wasn’t an accident – it developed for material reasons. One reason? The establishment Protestants, while promising reforms, just ruled exactly like the former Catholic aristocracy – and their Court Jews – had ruled.

    We Real Americans – if you are upset by that phrase, you aren’t a Real American – settled this continent precisely to get away from the anti-Puritan Protestants, Catholics, and Jews that ruled Europe.

    What did we set up? A decentralized, libertarian, sovereign system of what would come to be called “anarcho-syndicalism” and it worked really well for a few hundred years, until the Industrial Revolution changed everything.

    • “I find it endlessly amusing how Puritans are constantly demonized (…) Even our Dixiecrats are constantly blaming ‘Yankee Puritans’ for everything (…) Right-wingers are just as historically illiterate as the (liberals) frankly. Puritanism wasn’t an accident (…) The establishment Protestants, while promising reforms, just ruled exactly like the former Catholic aristocracy – and their Court Jews – had ruled. We Real Americans – if you are upset by that phrase, you aren’t a Real American – settled this continent precisely to get away from the anti-Puritan Protestants, Catholics, and Jews that ruled Europe. What did we set up? A decentralized, libertarian, sovereign system….”:

      Good comment, especially accurate on the sell-out of the Puritans, Baptists, and other nonconformists who fought for and expected real social reform after the English Revolution, and they didn’t get it.

  2. re: that inherit the wind “creationism vs. evolution” clip, no surprise that 1 of the 2 authors of the play “inherit the wind” was Jerome Lawrence Schwartz (Jerome’s mother’s maiden name Rogen). The play came out in 1955 & was a subversive staple in high school theaters from 1960-1990. The movie came out in 1960. Just another way of ridiculing & strawmanning traditional christianity under the guise of “progressivism.” PS: sadly, high school theater moved on to even more subversive stuff, like John Water’s Hairspray, & now “Hamilton.” Twas ever thus.

    • Yes, but I bring tidings of good news today. There have been several stories on Zero Hedge and other sites that the re-opening plan for Broadway has been postponed until May 31, 2021. Good luck with that, re-opening in May, 2021 would be some kind of miracle the way things are going.

      This means no more “Hamilton” on Broadway, no more of the globohomo shows and the wrecking of one of the very important subversive institutions of the Left, Broadway. It is highly unlikely NYC and therefore, Broadway will be in economic recovery by May 31, 2021. Even if the theatres were to reopen there simply won’t be the deep pocketed audiences to buy the ridiculously over priced tickets to go to the horrible shows.

      The White, normal (i.e. hetero) audience is mercilessly mocked and ridiculed by colored people and the Usual suspects, such as in the miserable play, Hamilton. Ironically, many of the audience members at the shitty Broadway plays like Rent were Babbits from the despised flyover country who went to one of the overpriced shows because they were doing the tourist thing in NYC.

      They won’t be travelling to NYC any time soon though. Another irony is that the “creative class” which despises normal people will get their wish and no longer have to put up with gawking tourists from places like Dayton, Tenn. and other undesirables. To loosely quote that spiteful mutant H.L. Mencken; the Left will get what they have constantly said they want, no more “flyover people”, “good and hard”, too.

    • Its not just that its simplistic, its plain goofy.

      Southern as an identity is not monolithic, never has been. Southern Society was always a caste system. The remnant of the South, of which we are arguably comprised, is descended of the lower classes, the yeomanry and the barbarians of Appalachia and the swamp lands of the deep South.

      The upper class of that caste system no longer exists. They either lost everything they had in the war and joined the yeomanry in disenfranchisement, or they betrayed the South and went North or to Europe and cached out of their culture.

      Long and short being, those upper class Southrons were the only ones who exhibited “victorianism”.

      I’m descended from the barbarians of Appalachia, who were descended from barbarians of Gaul (Celts and Saxons) who all hated those people and had nothing in common with them besides a mutual dislike for being told what to do.

      None of this shit applies to me or my family. I’m the son of poor White trash, not faggoty victorian intellectuals.

      Why not at least talk about modernism and the labor movement. Something, ANYTHING, that I can relate to.

      Fucking womens fashion and the monkey trial?

      Fuk the pre enlightenment reactionaries. They failed and here we are. Fuk the victorians for the same reason. Fuk conservatives too while I’m at it.

      The history of the West thus far is filled with loser’s ideologies and moot point philosophical paradigms. Get to the fucking point already. Give me a THEREFORE.

      If this innane prattle has no therefore, its just masturbation.

      Shit or get off the pot, Brad.

      • In the 1920s, the overwhelming majority of White Southerners shared Victorian values and beliefs. They saw themselves as White, Christian and Southern as identitarians like yourself do today. They practiced their Christian faith and took traditional moral values for granted. Southern communities even in your neck of Appalachia were based on kinship and shared religious and moral values which is why Tennessee passed that state law that led to the Scopes Trial.

        Well, obviously, something changed between 1920 and 2020 that has transformed the South beyond recognition. Southern identity, culture and values isn’t what it used to be. There is no longer a consensus about these things. Millions of Southerners now reject your identitarianism and your values. They share basically the same Modern values, beliefs and lifestyles as people who live elsewhere in the country.

        This is what is stupid about identitarianism. The South doesn’t have any secret sauce. It has been just as impacted by this transformation as the North. It only happened somewhat later here in the 1960s and 1970s because the South urbanized and industrialized later than the North in the 1940s and 1950s.

        The South is no different than the North and West or Britain, Canada and Australia or France and Germany. You can anywhere in the 21st century West and you will find the same set of values that have been homogenizing the world. To be sure, there are still regional differences in American culture, but there are far more similarities than there used to be. A majority of White Southerners now support liberalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism and antiracism particularly in the cities and the suburbs.

        Why are we talking about modernism? Because millions of White Southerners have seceded from our traditional identity, values and culture and their sense of identity, values and beliefs has everything to do with modernism whether they are conscious of it or not

  3. “They included George Rappelyea, a transplanted New Yorker who managed the local branch of the Cumberland Coal and Iron Company, a couple of attorneys (…) Rappelyea pointed out that if such a trial were held in Dayton, it would attract national attention and, even more important, tourist dollars and new businesses”:

    The “trial” was not a defense of biological science but a profit-making business promotion scheme, of course! Right-libertarian H.L. Mencken could live with that.

    He was also an outspoken denigrator of the commons and their (our) rights. He said “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

    Mencken was no socialist either. He said a “Socialist is a man suffering from an overwhelming conviction to believe what is not true.”

  4. In some ways evolution itself was just a side show to what Bryan saw as the real issue of the trial: who decides what is taught in public schools? Supporters of Scopes tended to say the teachers, not the parents. Bryan thought that was absurd; teachers were simply employees of the parents, whose authority was exercised through institutions of democratic accountability, such as state legislatures and local school boards. This question of “Who decides?” still roils public education today and may never be solved as long as government claims the right to educate.

    • The unionization of school employees, especially “administrators”, has decisively tilted the field in favor of the teachers and other “experts” taking charge of the field of edumaction. The first thing learned in schools of “edumacation” is that equality über alles is the governing principle and that deficiencies in outcome observable by race are, ipso facto, “proof” of discrimination or now, “systemic racism”. Teachers are required to root out this “systemic racism,” whatever that is, through their expertise in “edumacation” as evidenced by their many diplomas hanging on the wall.

      The most exalted of this priesthood of “edumacation” shall henceforth be referred to as “Dr.” so-and-so, expert in “edumacation”. In other words, “edumacation” has become just another racket in the U.S., the land of rackets masquerading as an economy. This racket has reached its end though because there isn’t the money available to support its demands. Covid, with its forced home schooling has given the lie to the supposed value of “edumacation” and its outrageous costs from kindergarten through graduate school.

      Government run schools are run for the benefit of the administrators first, teachers second and students third. Union dues and voting power buy lots of politicians, especially at state level to try to keep at bay parental oversight and competition from home schooling. Ironically, many public school teachers, especially those in “diverse” areas send their children to private schools, they don’t want cultural enrichment for their children.

  5. HW is a smart and deep thinking man. That said he is lost as to symptoms Vs causes regarding the cultural collapse of White European/Americans. “Modernism” is nothing but Judaism, through and through. The biggest red pill to be digested is that Jewish Christianity, was/is the modality of of our destruction, only accelerating as we become multi racial/multi cultural as a “Nation”

  6. I hate to break the news to you Hunter because even people who live in Dayton, TN (I call it butthole Tennessee) don’t give a shit about the scopes trial. I know, I live close by.

    I have a second degree in art history and even I find your historical articles to be boring. What does that tell you? Not trying to be mean, but I sense a metrosexual-elite-nationalism vibe from this site.

    • Obviously, I couldn’t care less.

      This is my website and I write about what interests me. I’m not interested in the 2020 election which I find stupid and boring. I don’t care if Donald Trump and the GOP win or lose the election. Even if they won the election, what would they do with power? A capital gains tax cut? The Platinum Plan for blacks? Start a war with Iran for Israel?

      I’m interested in how our culture became the way it is today and that goes back to the period that I am studying. I would study that in greater detail than write a bunch of articles about whatever is happening in the news cycle which will be dated next week anyway.

      • If you think it’s a good idea to cater your entire website to the OCD-Metrosexual-High-IQ crowd, knock yourself out. Just don’t be surprised if your audience drops significantly.

        • Here are a few things to know about this website:

          1.) This isn’t a center-right mainstream conservative website. It has NEVER catered to that audience.

          2.) I’ve NEVER been a mainstream conservative OR a Republican.

          3.) I’ve ALWAYS been an independent moderate populist and nationalist swing voter.

          3.) Finally, only a third of Americans who can be described as pro-White are Republicans and the vast majority of people in this community have traditionally not voted for Republican candidates. The 2016 election was a major exception to pro-White voting patterns when most people in this community temporarily changed their minds and voted for Trump.

          If you want content that caters to Republicans, then go visit the Daily Stormer, Infowars or watch Nick Fuentes show. I don’t share their values, beliefs, conspiracy theories, strategy or their conservative politics.

          • HW, why do you think you and your website are lumped into the “alt-right” category? Moderate implies somebody who has a mixture of views. I assume from your writing that you’re far right on social issues, more progressive on economics, and more centrist on the environment and coronavirus?

            Nixon was a moderate Republican because he was more right wing on law and order, realist on foreign policy, more liberal on the environment and gun control, and more centrist on economics. Most suburbanites are moderates and not what we call “alt-right.”

            USA USA
            Wally Wally
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          • Hunter, I have a nit to pick with your use of the term “modernism.”

            You’ve been posting a lot of stuff on “modernism” and social decay lately, and it’s all been very good and very interesting. Not trying to be pedantic here or to play semantic games, but what I think you are referring to is not “Modernism” so much as “Postmodernism.”

            Modernity, as I understand it, is the utilization of the Scientific Method and objective, rational, and empirical analyses in order to transform nature to better suit Man. The Industrial Revolution was a Modern project. Making steel, and then machining it into an engine block is a Modern enterprise; taking a piece of rock and a stick from a tree and fashioning it into a tomahawk is a premodern enterprise.

            “Post-modernity,” on the other hand, is what people do AFTER Modernity has already changed nature — after Modernity is taken for granted. This is where the social decay occurs. Building the Golden Gate Bridge was a marvel of Modern engineering. A parade of gays in bondage leather marching across the bridge in a “Pride” parade celebrating anal intercourse is a Postmodern phenomenon.

            Understanding the biology of a woman’s fertility is a Modern enterprise. Aborting her children so that she can go snort cocaine and fuck Negro bucks is a Postmodern enterprise.

            It’s important to remember that Modernity was welcomed because life in Premodern times was harsh and often brutal. Premoderns were preoccupied with hard labor, necessity, and often with cruel with fate. Walk through a 19th century cemetery sometime and see how common infant mortality was. Getting tortured to death on the frontier by Indians and having your wife and children become their sex slaves was no joke. Riding across the country on horseback took months. Christianity was the religion of Premodernity, because it told us that even the Son of God could suffer a horrible fate — worse than ours.

            But Modernity has created a set of unanticipated problems. It was always assumed that people would be better if they were freed from the harshness, brutality, and fatalism of Premodern life. Instead they are frequently slothful, degenerate, corrupt and perverted.

            This is the question we are dealing with today.

      • Keep up the good work, Hunter. Your writing is interesting and well informed and I learn something new from your articles. Don’t mind the critics.

      • Im sure you could care less, if you tried.

        You could care little enough to completely ignore them. Clownworld folk are burned out on entertainment, the fact that the crime they charge you with is being boring to their sensibilities damms them more than you.

        If a periodical gets boring to me I read something else for a while, and check back occasionally to see if the content is more to my interest.

        They’re acting like spoiled customers. Next they’ll start demanding a refund or threatening to cancel their subscription. It’s silly consumer culture entitlement.

  7. Fred Reed, the Unz writer living in Mexico with his Latina wife there, has a long pop science article on why ‘evolution’ doesn’t have much genuinely scientific foundation other than a whole lot of questionable dodgy assumptions

    He’s not promoting the religious view but suggests it has about as much foundation as anything else

    Tho he does repeat the extreme claim that in the Scopes trial ‘Christian fundamentalists tried to outlaw Darwin’

    https://www.unz.com/freed/stephen-c-meyer-douglas-axe-chuck-darwin-and-me/

    • Fred Reed does not understand the topic.

      He starts with the origin issue, and presents an argument decades old, drastically simplified for the public schools of the time. He does not discuss the experimentation and research that has happened since, the investigations into intermediate-stage organic compounds, the data from Mars or Venus’s atmosphere concerning parallels in conditions and possible developments, the assorted types of complex but not living chemical compounds that can catalyze further formation of similar compounds, or anything else that might shed light on the matter. He refers to hypotheses considered “most probable” as being “certain”, a typical category error by the religious when dealing with measurable uncertainties. He freely admits that he can’t imagine an explanation, and asserts that, therefore, no such explanation exists. He pretends that he is making an argument, when no argument of any type has been made.

      He goes on to contrast camouflage adaptation with peacocking adaptation, claiming there is a contradiction. He does not discuss physical differences, environmental differences, potential predator differences, or anything else. He simply asserts it does not make sense. This on the same level as the left claiming that men and women are exactly the same, except far worse and far stupider.

      He next goes into the measurable prediction issue. He skates right by the fact that evolutionary predictions must (if they are to be made and tested at all) be tested on the scale of dozens of generations at least, often resulting in timescales significantly greater than a human lifespan. He pretends out of existence the fact that evolutionary predictions and tests must be made (if made at all) in the midst of tremendously complex systems with literally millions of variables. He completely discounts all the carefully controlled experiments that HAVE been made (often with insect populations, but there have been some with mammals, including one decades-long case involving foxes in Russia) and pretends this data simply doesn’t exist, because it inconveniently contradicts his argument. He short-cuts his way from this – the simple fact that testable predictions in this context are difficult (but not impossible) to make – to the conclusion that the fundamental mechanism can not exist – a conclusion completely disconnected from the available evidence.

      “On and on it goes”, he says, and on that much we can agree. The man is so far into dishonesty he makes a banker look sober. He brings up Christianity. Why? What relevance does this have to whether the basic evolutionary mechanism is in fact happening the way it is argued to happen, or not? None whatsoever. It is an emotional and tribal appeal: your tribe is being attacked by these Bad People, he says. Hate them! This isn’t an argument. It’s a self-disqualifying stupidity. A thing like this is only done when the person making it KNOWS his position is so full of holes it might dissolve at any moment, and he’s desperately trying to distract his audience from it.

      It is very easy to assert “this makes no sense”. It is much more difficult to say “the claim is X, the logic presented is Y, the counterclaim is Z, they claim Z doesn’t apply because of so-and-so, but the so-and-so doesn’t account for this, that, and the other.”

      Reed is very, very good at mounting Chewbacca defense. Unfortunately that’s about all he’s good at.

  8. “Both book titles passed into the language. ‘Main Street’ symbolized the complacent bigotry of small-town life ….”

    Of course, there was the occasional World War I Red Cross ambulance driver who didn’t see it that way.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland#/media/File:Disneyland_Main_Street.jpg

    (I’m speaking of W. Disney, not E. Hemingway. Maybe it depends on whether you reached the war zone before the armistice or after the armistice.)

  9. The media sensationalized the Scopes Trial to sell papers, magazines, cinema tickets, and drive up radio show ratings. But the main purpose behind the Scopes Trial was to ensure separation of church and state in public schools and to make sure they teach REAL SCIENCE and not religion (creationism, intelligent design). The ACLU was involved in the trial and while the ACLU has unfortunately become a more partisan organization lately, it and civil liberties are vital in a constitutional republic.

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