Comments on: Inherit the Wind
To The Audience Just Before The Play As Given At The Warehouse Theatre, Greenville, South Carolina, September 29, 2000, by James H. Sightler
Let me say at first that I do
not grant the accuracy of the so called facts which are routinely
cited in support of evolution. But since we only have 20 minutes to
discuss the play, and since others will or have discussed the
history of the actual Scopes trial, I felt it would be best to
examine closely the ideas presented in the play itself. Your
director called the Creation Study Group and asked for a speaker.
The lot fell to me, and my remarks, especially any speculation, are
my own and should not be taken as the official view or approach of
the Creation Study Group.
Inherit the Wind was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee in 1955 and first performed in Dallas on Jan. 10, 1955. The movie starring Spencer Tracy was filmed in 1960, in black and white. Lawrence had a career in journalism with several newspapers and with CBS in New York before he began writing with Lee in 1942. The authors state in the preface “Inherit the Wind is not history…does not pretend to be journalism. It is theatre.” I say it is philosophy, certainly not science. Who are these authors who are so presumptuous as to give this play a title from Proverbs 11:29, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” Just who is doing the troubling? Jerome Lawrence, in his notice in Who’s Who, said: “I want people to leave the theatre…feeling as if their souls had been sandpapered…A work must have meanings many layers deep.” He says in his notice in Contemporary Authors that his religion is transcendentalist. He also wrote, with Robert Edwin Lee, 39 other plays, including Shangri La and another called The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. Thoreau of course was also a mid-nineteenth century transcententalist, and the play was concerned with civil disobedience. Thoreau wrote an essay on that subject which 75 years later became the political method of Mahatma Gandhi. Lee’s notice in Contemporary Authors says that “It was his conviction that the role of a theatre artist is to explore political and philosophical issues through drama.”
In the play Matthew Harrison Brady is the name given for William Jennings Bryan, Henry Drummond is Clarence Darrow, Bertram Cates is John Scopes, Rachel Brown is his fiancee, and Rev. Jeremiah Brown is her father. The Browns are fictional, invented for the play. Is Inherit the Wind philosophical and in particular transcendentalist? Is it in opposition to orthodox Christianity? The answers are clearly yes. Can we demonstrate this?
First, Drummond, the lawyer for Cates, says “I must say that ‘Right’ has no meaning to me whatsoever!…Truth has meaning--as a direction. But one of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the grid of morality we have placed on human behavior; so that every act of man must be measured against an arbitrary latitude of right and longitude of wrong-in exact minutes, seconds, and degrees!” This is the philosophy of our time, that there are no moral absolutes, and that truth is relative and can not be known with certainty. It was developed by the early 19th Century German philosopher Hegel, one of the first transcendentalists.
Hegel believed in what mystics have called the Absolute Spirit of the Universe and that it achieves consciousness only in man. That Absolute Spirit is impersonal and unknowable and is not the God of the Bible. Furthermore, Hegel said that any idea necessarily contained an incompleteness which gave rise to conflict. The incomplete idea is called a thesis, the conflicting idea an antithesis. A higher truth can be reached by combining the thesis and antithesis into a new idea, the synthesis. But the synthesis is also incomplete and falls short of truth, although slightly nearer to truth than either of the ideas which gave rise to it. Therefore truth can be approached but never actually can be reached. The process of approaching truth through synthesis is called the dialectic. Hegelian philosophy and evolution both say that nothing is perfected or purposeful, nothing complete, nothing absolutely true; all things are slowly evolving toward a distant state of truth or perfection.
19th century Transcendentalist writers saw a direct connection between the Absolute Spirit of the Universe and the individual soul, just as ancient Eastern mystics connected the One Universal Life with the Self. The philosophical concept of transcendence was developed by Plato. Monism, the idea that there is only one reality or one being of which everything is a part, is inherent in it, and God is immanent in all things; nothing can be said to be fallen or sinful. Divinity permeates all objects, animate or inanimate, good and evil, and the human soul is in union with the so-called World Soul. Transcendentalists found that Darwinian evolution fit perfectly with their philosophy.
The English biologist Thomas Huxley, who was known as Darwin's bulldog because of his skill in debates over evolution, once said:
“The only religion that appeals to me is prophetic Judaism. Add to it something from the best Stoics and something from Spinoza
and something from Goethe, and there is a religion for men.”
Huxley then, though he claimed to be agnostic, was actually oriented toward the pantheistic religion of Plato, Spinoza, and Goethe and here shows himself engaging in Hegel’s dialectic or synthesis.
But Christians believe that everything was perfected by God for the purpose He had in mind for it, and that the Bible does lay down moral absolutes, such as the Ten Commandments. And Jesus prayed in the garden as we read in John 17:17, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth,” and the Word was Jesus, according to John 1:1. John 1:14 further tells us that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Second, at the end of the play, Drummond, speaking of the deceased Brady, said: “A giant once lived in that body. But Matt Brady got lost. Because he was looking for God too high up and too far away.” By this he means the pantheistic belief of transcendentalism that every man has God within him, that existence itself is God. Denial of absolute truth, and belief in the universal incarnation of God into all men are the two most outstanding characteristics of transcendentalism.
Transcendentalism has no room for the Fall of man or sin, no room for forgiveness and Redemption, no room for a personal God who exists before, and independently of, the universe. It is philosophy first, not science, and a radically different cosmogony from the Genesis account of creation.
In another cosmogony the Indian Upanishads present a picture of evolution very much like that of Darwinism. Both say that all life evolved from inanimate, dead matter. These scriptures, given anonymously by the ancient Forest Fathers, say of the evolution of the Cosmos:
“At first was Death. Yea, all with Death
Was covered. Nothing was, my dear, save Death…
His mind: “O would that I embodied were…
O would that I a body had!”
Death, having the property of
mind, by his own will evolves into the World of Life inflate with
his Spirit or Self. The Self comes from Death. We see all around us
now the fascination with death and suicide that have become fixtures
of the culture of our youth. The Buddhist Nirvana, by the way, does
not mean Heaven, but nothingness.
What a contrast this presents with the true cosomgony found in the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” By and for that Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, were all things created. The same Word declares in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The Word is life, not death. Death entered the world by sin.
The basis of evolution, as we can now clearly see after 140 years of Darwin, whose theory is still unproved, is monistically philosophical, not scientific, not based on experimentation, and goes back at least to ancient Greece, if not also to India and Egypt. The Upanishads teach evolution, from death itself, and show no concept of a transcendent God who created the universe ex nihilo and upholds all things by the word of his power.
Father Teilhard de Chardin, perpetrator of the Piltdown man fraud, which went unquestioned for 40 years, shows clearly that he was thinking of evolution as a pantheistic philosophy when he wrote:
“Is evolution a theory, a system, or a hypothesis? It is much more-it is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses,
all systems must henceforth bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts.”
Evolution is taking us to the Point Omega:
“A harmonized collectivity of consciousness, equivalent to a kind of superconsciousness. The earth is covering itself not only by myriads of thinking units, but by a single continuum of thought, and finally forming a functionally single Unit of Thought of planetary dimensions. The plurality of individual thoughts combine and mutually reinforce each other in a single act of unanimous Thought…In the dimension of Thought, like in the dimension of Time and Space, can the Universe reach consummation in anything but the Measureless?”
Collectivity of consciousness,
superconsciousness, Measureless, and Point Omega are all identical
to pantheism, and are all monistic. And what is wrong with
pantheism? It says that God is in everything, Stalin as well as
Florence Nightingale. If that is true then one must say that God is
both good and evil, or that evil does not exist. Both are patently
The same ideas Teilhard expressed were being developed at Cambridge University during the years between Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle and the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859. At Cambridge Darwin was trained in theology. Such students took courses in classics, mathematics, and theology, but they did not study the Bible. His reading in theology consisted only of Butler’s Analogy, Paley’s Evidences of Christianity,and Natural Theology. Paley did not argue from a Biblical standpoint, but believed that God created life and then retired to let matters develop by chance processes.
There are in this play three grossly incorrect caricatures of Christianity, of the type one might expect from a transcendentalist like Lawrence or from the ACLU, which I must point out.
First, Drummond asks Brady, “I’m not asking you what you think of sex as a father, or a husband. Or a Presidential candidate. You’re up here as an expert on the Bible. What’s the Biblical evaluation of sex?” Brady answers “It is considered Original Sin.” The Bible does not teach that sex is original sin. The Apostle Paul says in Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.” Original Sin is disobedience to God’s commands, as Genesis 3:3 clearly shows, and not sex in Biblical marriage. In fact, sex between Adam and Eve happened in Genesis 2, before Original Sin began.
Second, Brady, the Christian prosecutor, asks Rachel about the accidental drowning of 11 year old Tommy Stebbins. She replied “At the funeral, Pa preached that Tommy didn’t die in a state of grace, because his folks had never had him baptized.” Cates then says “Tell ‘em what your father really said! That Tommy’s soul was damned, writhing in hellfire,” and goes on to say “Religion’s supposed to comfort people…Not frighten them to death!” The true church, since the days of the apostles, both before and after the Reformation, has never preached that salvation from eternal punishment comes by baptism. Those who go to hell do so by willful rejection of Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice, not because of a lack of baptism, either as an infant or adult. The true church has preached that salvation comes by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, freely shed for our sins on the cross to save us and restore us to fellowship with God, a fellowship which had been lost by the disobedience which caused man’s fall. Of the Lord Jesus Christ we read in I Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” True salvation, not formalized religion, does indeed comfort people as nothing else can do, both here and hereafter.
Third, the play depicts Christians praying for the damnation of evolutionists and the minister praying for the damnation of Rachel, his own daughter. Praying for damnation of souls has never been done in any Christian assembly I have seen or heard about.
One of the things which struck me most about this play is that it was written in 1955. I had expected a date closer to the Scopes trial of 1925. What else was going on in 1955? The nature of the cell and its irreducible complexity were just becoming apparent to the leaders of research in cell biology, but had not yet come to the attention of the public. Neither Darwin, Darrow, Scopes, nor Bryan had any idea of the nature of protoplasm or of cellular complexity. Fred Hoyle, the astronomer, has calculated that even the simplest bacterium is so complex that the chance of formation, by random processes in an organic soup, of its enzymes alone, excluding its DNA and RNA, is 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power, which is zero.
In 1953, Frances Crick and James Watson, at Cambridge, deduced the complex double helical structure of DNA, from x-ray crystallographic studies of that macromolecule. The complexity of the structure of proteins and enzymes also was being shown during the 1950’s and 60’s. A supreme irony it is that Cambridge had a hand both in Darwin’s thought and its present day downfall, molecular biology and irreducible complexity. It was becoming clear in those days that cellular metabolic processes were dependent on the structure of enzymes and regulatory proteins. Cybernetic feedback regulation of metabolic pathways inside the cell was discovered.
I worked at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in biochemistry for five years, 1961 to 1966, on the feedback regulation of the activity of the enzyme homoserine dehydrogenase, in which the end product of a metabolic pathway, threonine, controls the activity of an enzyme in the pathway by inducing a polymerization of that enzyme. The process is dependent on a precise linear and three dimensional structure of the enzyme. I sat in Hurd Hall at Hopkins and heard Francis Crick describe the double helical structure of DNA in 1962, the year Crick and Watson were given the Nobel Prize for their discovery. Twenty years later Crick was reduced, by the impossibility of chemical evolution, to postulating that an advanced, extraterrestrial civilization sent life to earth on a spaceship.
But Lawrence and Lee, both intellectuals in New York where much of the research was accomplished, I believe were shown the problem. The play in 1955 and the movie in 1960, were the last chance, so to speak, for an emotional appeal to the public on behalf of classical Darwinism, before it became clear to the general public that life depends on the simultaneous working of DNA, RNA, and proteins, each unimaginably complex and impossible to arrive at by chance even in an eternity. Could it be by accident that the play arrived at just this time? I doubt so. If that is speculation, and it is, or treason to the scientific establishment, which it also is, then make the most of it.
Think of the difference in the outlook of our young people, from Littleton to Little Rock, if, instead of having their souls sandpapered by Mr. Lawrence’s Hegelianism and the purposeless anomie and evolutionary speculation which they daily meet in the classroom; think how things might be if they were taught the Bible and the words of II Corinthians 1:3 and 4, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Think of Psalm 23:4, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” and of Handel’s Messiah, which takes from Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” And remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said in Luke 4:18, “He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”, and in Luke 19:10, “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Thank you very much for your attention. Watch the play with these things in mind
James H. Sightler, M. D.
175 Joe Leonard Road
Greer, SC 29651
Representing the Creation Study Group of Greenville, SC