What’s Black and White and New All Over? Evolution as Politics, Culture, Education, Truth

16 07 2007

Here’s how the Google homeschool news blurb read:

This weekend filming started outside the Rhea County Courthouse of yet another movie version of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925…. Bryan College secured the rights to the movie…

It will be called “Inherit the Truth” and will be shot in black and white.

Many residents who’ve been re-enacting the trial for 20 years will be the actors and extras in the movie… After filming is complete, the college plans to market the film to home school groups, law schools and libraries.

But wait a sec, hmmm.. Homeschool groups are the primary market? Maybe this “news” of a “college” remaking the “truth” isn’t the whole story then. Creationism called “truth” is too often the most profitable product pushed to that market. . .

Yep, the local Tennessee tv news guys weren’t well-educated themselves, apparently. They missed everything truthful and important I would want to know. Start with this “college” and its approach to “Truth” for a quite different story:

Here, our Biblical worldview not only infuses the curriculum, but it also influences the way we choose to live, work, and play together each and every moment.

and then read state newspaper coverage with that context in mind:

The film will be called “Inherit the Truth” and will act as a counterpoint to “Inherit the Wind,” a drama based upon the 1925 trial, said Dr. Stephen Livesay, president of Bryan College.

” ‘Inherit the Wind’ is very much fictionalized,” Dr. Livesay said. “Our version is based upon the original transcript and is the truth.”

Dr. Livesay said the college secured the rights to “Inherit the Truth” from Dayton playwright Gale Johnson and found an anonymous donor to fund the project. Filming starts July 14 outside the historic courthouse and continues on July 17, he said.

He said he thinks the new film will show William Jennings Bryan, the attorney who argued for biblical creation, in a more positive light.

Oh, and the black-and-white isn’t for art’s sake, or as a nod to the original film with Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelly. It is calculated, says the good doctor heading this college, to give his Michael Moore-rivaling ideology film a “documentary feel.”

“I’m hoping that we get the authenticity of the play in it,” he said.

Talk about oxymoronic — truth with a documentary FEEL, about an authentic PLAY?

Well, now I’m “feeling” too good not to “play” with it.

Favorite Daughter and I have read this play, seen and analyzed the film and the legit remake with Jack Lemmon several times, along with provocative academic commentary about it all, and most educationally valuable I think, the scholarly history of the real trial and its cultural contexts, Edward J. Larson’s “Summer for the Gods” (awarded the 1998 PULITZER PRIZE FOR HISTORY.)

Even world-class prize-winning scholarship is seldom the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But it comes closer than anything else in this story!
Maybe the Bible College president seeking truth and authenticity and real education, should shoot Larson’s book in black-and-white instead:

The court sensed that there is a problem when the government advances the doctrine that God created the universe, but it failed to perceive or address the problem of mandating a curriculum that advances mechanistic determinism as though that were value-neutral.

. . .In an open democratic society that cherishes rigorous debate, it will not do to cast aside the convictions of so sizable a majority, at least not with a smugness that assumes that there is nothing to debate at all (because, of course, the terms of the debate are defined in such a way as to manipulate the outcome). The terms of what Larson calls “America’s continuing debate over science and religion” must be clarified.

The tone of the discourse also needs to be more civilized on both sides, lest we be torn asunder in the dubious battle of our current “culture wars.”

For its insight into the ongoing significance of the Scopes trial as a “trial of the century,” Larson’s Summer for the Gods is a historical and scientific masterpiece.


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21 responses

16 07 2007
JJ

Oh, DUH!
Bryan College.
This has got to be William Jennings Bryan College, right?

UPDATE –
HISTORY: Founded in 1930, Bryan College is named after William Jennings Bryan: statesman, orator, and renowned prosecuting attorney in the famous Scopes Evolution Trial.

More direct a connection than I thought. The college was founded specifically about this.

During the Scopes Evolution Trial in 1925, William Jennings Bryan expressed the wish that a school might be established in Dayton to teach truth from a Biblical perspective. Following his death on July 26, 1925, a national memorial association was formed to establish such an institution in Bryan’s honor.

William Jennings Bryan University (in 1958 it was designated William Jennings Bryan College, and the name was shortened to Bryan College in 1993) was chartered in 1930 and admitted its first class in the fall of that year. Its stated purpose was, and is, to provide “for the higher education of men and women under auspices distinctly Christian and spiritual.”

Bryan College is founded upon the belief that God is the author of truth; that He has revealed Himself to mankind through nature, conscience, the Bible and Jesus Christ; that it is His will for man to come to a knowledge of truth; and that an integrated study of the arts and sciences and the Bible, with a proper emphasis on the spiritual, mental, social and physical aspects of life, will lead to the balanced development of the whole person.

16 07 2007
JJ

Excerpt describing Summer for the Gods as education:

If you are looking for a detailed account of the trial itself, there are better choices. But if you want to understand the historical, political and religious context of the trial, as well as the myths carried forward by the Inherit the Wind play and the movie, this book is the authoritative source. With almost 40 pages of notes and references it provides a great launching pad for diving into all the details. In fact this would make an excellent class project for a high school or college history class.

Work your way through Summer for the Gods and perhaps the transcripts from the trial and then watch Inherit the Wind starring Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelly and see how well your class does in deciphering fact from fiction�

Although the authors of the Inherit the Wind play freely admit in the preface that the play is not history, somehow the movie has been indelibly ingrained on the American psyche as a representative account of the 1925 trial.
And what teacher will refuse a book from Harvard University Press that won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History as your text?

For those looking for a brief treatment of the subject I would recommend Chapter 2 of Phillip Johnson’s book, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.

That would be the same Phillip Johnson who defines Larson’s book as “truth” over the “play” or movie versions:
“Edward Larson tells the true story of the Scopes trial brilliantly, and the truth is a lot more interesting than the myth that was presented to the public in Inherit the Wind.”

– Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial

16 07 2007
JJ

“. . .the play Inherit the Wind, which appeared in 1960 and which, as Larson demonstrates, was intended not so much as a representation of the trial but as a morality tale about McCarthyism.”

–1998, The Journal of Southern Religion Reviews by Randall Balmer, Columbia University.

16 07 2007
NanceConfer

Because everything was in black and white back then?? 🙂

Nance

16 07 2007
JJ

This all made me think about the Crucible too, as another play also exposing the dangers of McCarthyism by setting itself in a different place and time, and dealing with false religious truth rather than true political lies.

Which made me wonder if the Salem Witch trials and the Scopes Monkey Trial have ever been overtly linked, in a film or book or play?

16 07 2007
JJ

Nance and all, speaking of black and white times and how threatening full-color can be–
The movie Pleasantville was no documentary, but it was culture, art, and truth. 🙂

17 07 2007
JJ

Btw, the title “inherit the wind” was a Bible quote in the first place, right? (Googling — yes, from proverbs 11-29)

So should a Bible college film mess with that? Even if that’s no problem for for literalists to change holy words around to suit their own worldly purposes, changing it to “inherit the truth” reverses the whole point of the proverb, which translates as “he that troubleth his own house shall inherit (only) the wind” — do the Bryan believers really mean to say instead that if you troubleth your own house, you’ll inherit the truth?

Wow, suppose they do — that could be an provocative clue as to what’s really going on in the culture wars and it might help explain NCLB too. . .

17 07 2007
Valerie

“Because everything was in black and white back then??”

Of course it was. Haven’t you read Calvin and Hobbes?

Calvin: Dad, how come old photographs are always black and white? Didn’t they have color film back then?
Dad: Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It’s just the world was black and white then.
Calvin: Really?
Dad: Yep. The world didn’t turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while, too.
Calvin: That’s really weird.
Dad: Well, truth is stranger than fiction.
Calvin: But then why are old paintings in color?! If their world was black and white, wouldn’t artists have painted it that way?
Dad: Not necessarily. A lot of great artists were insane.
Calvin: But… but how could they have painted in color anyway? Wouldn’t their paints have been shades of gray back then?
Dad: Of course, but they turned colors like everything else did in the ’30s.
Calvin: So why didn’t old black and white photos turn color too?
Dad: Because they were color pictures of black and white, remember?

Calvin: The world is a complicated place, Hobbes.
Hobbes: Whenever it seem that way, I take a nap in a tree and wait for dinner.

17 07 2007
JJ

Favorite Daughter just enshrined you in her Hall of Fame for this, Valerie. 😀

17 07 2007
Not June Cleaver

Calvin, my hero.

I do love the idea of making it black and white to seem more real. LOL!

17 07 2007
Valerie

I am honored to be in the Hobbesian Hall of Fame.

We have all the Calvin collections and the kids used the comic strip as a manual for how to live one’s life.

Our youngest (25) still buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurps and then announces that there must be a barge coming through. I’d say she does it only to get a reaction out of me, but she’s amused at least a couple of boyfriends with the talent.

When she was about 11, I also framed the one Sunday strip where Calvin is supposed to clean his room and says something to his mom like, “Yeah, I know. Looks like a tornado just came through.” One of Youngest’s aliases is Tornado Elly.

Btw, in Germany, Spaceman Spiff is Raumfahrer Spiff. Just in case you were wondering. 🙂

18 07 2007
NanceConfer

Raumfahrer Spiff — well, now we know. And it’s good to know Calvin’s wisdom is enjoyed far and wide. 🙂

Nance

26 08 2007
Glen Hentz

I’m in the film you’re talking about and am a resident of Dayton, TN and a 2005 graduate of Bryan College. If you’d like to know more about how we daily pray for the mass fleecing of the home educational system, please contact me.

26 08 2007
JJ

I had a Clayton GA-native cousin who was an extra in Deliverance, very much part of the authentic vernacular. He was glad the movie was being made there, even though the actual story wasn’t exactly, um, flattering.

So I totally get the idea of regional heroes and local pride in certain historic events.

I’m glad you took the time to comment even if you’re cross with me for the post, because I would love to hear your sincere answers to some things about this film.

What do you think the power of this story (the trial of religion in school science classes) is? Is the new film more about Bryan the Man and redeeming his image than well, redemption from sin — or the Bible as some sort of scientific Truth?
If so, it would make sense, at least to me . . .

12 03 2008
Florida Follies: Billions of Years and Dollars VANISH! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] that wasn’t as astounding as the billions of years of evolution that vanished along with it — apparently we’re not holding that harmless either. Reason […]

12 02 2009
E. Jackson

As a recent graduate of Bryan College, may I say that Bryan’s professors do their best to get Bryan college students to wrestle with their faith and with issues such as the billions of years mentioned above.The Bible is the lens through which many students and professors see the world, but that does not mean that there is an absence of reason.
Having said that, I have not seen the film, but have seen excerpts from the “play” from which the film was based. To the best of my understanding, the play is actually merely a re-enacting of a segment of the trial transcript with blocking.
The title “Inherit the Truth” I believe is not a commentary on the Bible verse from Proverbs, but a reaction to the fact that people do gather misconceptions about Bryan from the play and film “Inherit the Wind” and other sources.
In my opinion “Inherit the Wind” (the play at least — I have not seen the film) does portray Bryan as a bit of a buffoon rather than a man who almost became president.
There is to, the misconception that the trial came ab

12 02 2009
JJ

E Jackson: “Inherit the Wind” .. . does portray Bryan as a bit of a buffoon rather than a man who almost became president. . .”

LOL – but you say that as if it’s a binary choice; these two things aren’t mutually exclusive! We’ve had buffoons who DID become president!

12 02 2009
Elizabeth

As a recent graduate of Bryan College, may I say that Bryan’s professors do their best to get Bryan college students to wrestle with their faith and with issues important to the contemporary world as well as our faith.The Bible is the lens through which many students and professors see the world, but that does not mean that there is an absence of reason.

Having said that, I have not seen the film, but have seen excerpts from the “play” from which the film was based. To the best of my understanding, the play is actually merely a re-enacting of a segment of the trial transcript with blocking.

The title “Inherit the Truth” I believe is not a commentary on the Bible verse from Proverbs, but a reaction to the fact that some people do gather misconceptions about Bryan from the play and film “Inherit the Wind” and other sources.
In my opinion “Inherit the Wind” (the play at least — I have not seen the film) does portray Bryan as a bit of a buffoon rather than a man who almost became president.
There is to, the misconception (one found even in homeschools, I believe) that the trial came about because of conflicts over evolution in the town of Dayton, TN. Apparently, it actually came about because Dayton’s importance as a coal and railroad town was waining, and the town fathers wanted to do something about it. Upon hearing that the ACLU wanted a test case for TN’s policy of NO evolution being taught in school, they decided that they wanted to be the test case, hoping it would put Dayton on the map. Since Scopes was courting one of their daughters, they asked him to volunteer to “teach” evolution, promising no harm would come to him. The ACLU was then invited in, and then the ideas came of asking first Bryan and then Darrow to be lawyers.

The reason I put teach in quotes is that there is controversy over whether or not he actually did teach the questionable section of biology. I’ve not been able to find out what the truth concerning the matter actually is.

Evolution was not forbidden to be taught, merely the descent of Man from monkeys. If I remember right, even Bryan himself believed somewhat in evolution.

I think potentially why the film title and marketing to home schoolers is that these too, what ever they believe, have a lot of misconceptions about the trial, seeing it mainly as a Creationism vs. Evolution trial, and Bryan as a staunch Creationist. I know I did, until I learned more.

I hope this helps a little bit in providing a little more insight, despite my not having seen the film

sincerely,
Elizabeth Jackson

12 02 2009
Elizabeth

Sorry about posting twice. I think I must have accidently hit something I didn’t want to.
LOL I do agree with you on buffoons becoming president. I’m actually more impressed with Bryan having resigned Secretary of State when Woodrow Wilson went to War, because Bryan believed the US should stay out of it. I don’t know enough to know if I agree with him, but I appreciate his acting on his beliefs.

12 02 2009
JJ

Welcome Elizabeth, don’t worry about the comment posting hiccup, no problem.

I was wondering if, since you graduated from Bryan College, you (and/or the students generally) were exposed there to the history I linked in my post? Have you by any chance read this, or would you be interested in it?

. . .most educationally valuable I think, the scholarly history of the real trial and its cultural contexts, Edward J. Larson’s “Summer for the Gods” (awarded the 1998 PULITZER PRIZE FOR HISTORY.)

13 02 2009
Elizabeth

The name sounds vaguely familiar, so I probably have come across it somewhere. I would be interested in reading it, since it is a subject I am curious about.
To my knowledge it is not required reading for any class.

I’m not sure I should have been so quick to agree with you in laughter. While I was laughing more at the irony, as I assume you were, I’m not so sure about using the term “buffoon” for fellow human beings, no matter how incompetent I think they were in office.

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