Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Monkey Business: True Story of the Scopes Trial

Monkey Business: True Story of the Scopes TrialMonkey Business: True Story of the Scopes Trial by John Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book not only about the Scopes'  Trail but about the theory of evolution. One of the authors, Marvin Olasky, is the editor of the newsweekly, World. He is also one of our greatest Christian thinkers. If you are interested in learning more about the Scopes trial or about the theory of evolution this is the book for you. As you may know there were two famous lawyers involved in the trial, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. The trial took place in Dayton, TN. The college Bryan helped start in Dayton bears his name and I have been privileged to visit.  A couple of quotes from the book to get you interested:

Bryan summarized a position that would sound strangely familiar to creationists eighty years later:

Science is a magnificent material force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm-tossed human vessels. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endangers its cargo ....

The world needs a Savior more than it ever did before, and there is only one Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. It is this Name that evolution degrades, for, carried to its logical conclusion, it robs Christ of the glory of a virgin birth, of the majesty of His deity and mission and of the triumph of His resurrection ....   p. 171

Perhaps [Phillip E.] Johnson's most dramatic conclusion in Darwin on Trial was that the fossil record showed none of the intermediate steps animals would have taken if they evolved incrementally over the ages. Two examples he and others returned to time and again were the wing and the eye. These structures are complex and highly specialized. If they evolved from a single cell, a fossil record (at least with the wing) would be expected to show a primitive sort of limb that evolved over many years. The fossil record shows just the opposite: every example of a fossilized wing is fully developed and functional.  p. 188

In writing about the eye, Richard Dawkins, author of The Blind Watchmaker, believed, "An ancient animal with 5 percent of an eye might indeed have used it for something other than sight, but it seems to me as likely that it used it for 5 percent vision." Responding in Darwin on Trial, Johnson wrote, "The fallacy in that argument is that '5 percent of an eye' is not the same as '5 percent of normal vision.' For an animal to have any useful vision at all, many complex parts must be working together. Even a complete eye is useless unless it belongs to a creature with the mental and neural capacity to make use of the information by doing something that furthers survival or reproduction."

Furthermore, today the nautilus with its primitive pinhole eye and the eagle with its incredible accuracy of sight exist side by side. The nautilus eye has never evolved into something more complex, and the eagle eye shows no signs of an earlier, simpler form. One is not a refinement of the other because they operate in completely different ways. How could so complex an organ as the eye be preserved by natural selection if it was useless until completely evolved? Why would it have evolved in the first place?  pp. 188-189

Darwin's most formidable opponents were not clergymen but fossil experts.  p. 189

Darwin admitted that for his theory to be true, "the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great." To Johnson this meant that rocks should be full of "fossil evidence of transitional forms." What scientists have discovered instead is that species appeared fully formed in the fossil record.  p. 189

A metaphor by Fred Hoyle has become famous because it vividly conveys the magnitude of the problem: that a living organism emerged by chance from a prebiotic soup is about as likely as that "a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747."  p. 191

President George W. Bush was the first president in years to declare his Christianity openly. When asked at a news conference whether he asked his father, former president George H.W. Bush, for advice. "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength," the president reportedly said. "There is a higher Father that I appeal to."  p. 231

At least in theory, Christians should be less likely than others to bow to any human authority. Christians obey a higher authority and are taught by the Bible not to put their trust in princes.

Christians should be political skeptics in relation to Washington orthodoxy and strict constructionists concerning both the Bible and the Constitution. Most important, Christians must read for themselves what the Bible says about Christianity, letting Scripture - and not those with axes to grind - interpret Scripture. Christians must also read the Constitution to see what the nation agreed to in 1787 and 1788, and how the nation has changed since through the amendment process, not take what today's judges say it is.

The founders of the United States admired Sir Henry Blackstone and his Commentaries on the Law of England. The admiration produced a strong connection between the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and Blackstone's commentaries on law. Foremost among them was the conviction that the law came from God.

Blackstone wrote:
Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being .... And consequently as a man depends absolutely on his maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker's will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For God, when He created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purpose of these laws.  pp. 236-237

A little history clarifies the point. Nine of the original thirteen colonies had tax-supported churches, all of which discriminated against Baptists. John Leland, the leading Baptist evangelist in the colonies, opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution because he was afraid it would lead to a tax-supported national church. Madison promised him that if he would support ratification, Madison would introduce an amendment assuring no national church would be established.

Years later on New Year's Day, 1802, after Leland made a courtesy call on President Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticutt: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

His point clearly is that Congress should stay out of religious matters of conscience. But he said nothing about separating God from government. Two days after Leland's visit, Jefferson attended a worship service in the House of Representatives with Leland preaching. Jefferson's point that government ought to stay out of religion was upheld into the middle of the twentieth century by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who said, "What our Constitution indispensably protects is the freedom of each of us, be Jew or Agnostic, Christian or Atheist, Buddhist or free thinker, to believe or disbelieve, to worship or not to worship, to pray or keep silent, according to his own conscience, uncoerced and unrestrained by the government."

As Richard Land notes in For Faith and Family, "The First Amendment was never intended to keep religion out of public policy, but to keep government out of religion."  pp. 240-241

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