Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Darrow v. Bryan--A Tie!

Patrick J. Buchanan, the old-time Holocaust-denying Hitler-apologist and owner of a mansion and a yacht, blurbs a piece of creationist brilliance in book form excreted by the delightfully-named Eugene Windchy. Buchanan writes:

The most delicious chapter is Windchy's exposure of the Scopes Monkey Trial and Hollywood's Bible-mocking movie "Inherit the Wind," starring Spencer Tracy as Clarence Darrow.

The trial was a hoked-up scam to garner publicity for Dayton, Tenn. Scopes never taught evolution and never took the stand. His students were tutored to commit perjury. And William Jennings Bryan held his own against the atheist Darrow in the transcript of the trial.

Buchanan appears to be drawing his conclusion, as all good creationists must, from what he wants and hopes to be true rather than from the evidence. But in the era of the internet, we can access this information effortlessly and draw our own conclusions. So, let's look at the transcript. I found Darrow's questioning of Bryan here and the table of contents to the whole trial transcript here.

The questioner, Q, is Darrow and the responses are from Bryan (A). After some prefatory remarks on Bryan's expertise on the Bible, Darrow asks,

Q--But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale--or that the whale swallowed Jonah-- excuse me please--how do you literally interpret that?
A--When I read that a big fish swallowed Jonah--it does not say whale....That is my recollection of it. A big fish, and I believe it, and I
believe in a God who can make a whale and can make a man and make both what He pleases.
Q--Now, you say, the big fish swallowed Jonah, and he there
remained how long--three days-- and then he spewed him upon the land. You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?
A--I am not prepared to say that; the Bible merely says it was done.
Q--You don't know whether it was the ordinary run of fish, or made for that purpose?
A--You may guess; you evolutionists guess.....
Q--You are not prepared to say whether that fish was made especially to swallow a man or not?
A--The Bible doesn't say, so I am not prepared to say.
Q--But do you believe He made them--that He made such a fish and that
it was big enough to swallow Jonah?
A--Yes, sir. Let me add: One miracle is just as easy to believe as another

First, clearly, score one for Bryan since he corrected Darrow on the important issue of whether the Jonah-swallower was a whale or a fish. Second, he seems to have stymied Darrow's line of questioning by appealing to miracles right off the bat. And really, why not? Since the Bible requires miracles, why wait to appeal to them? Don't mess around with fakey, pseudo-explanations when one can just go straight to the miracle. Looks like a solid two points for Bryan and none for Darrow.

Perhaps Darrow wants to know what this fish was and whether there are more of them around who might be in danger of swallowing people now before coughing them up three days later. But if there was just a large fish that God caused miraculously to swallow and regurgitate only Jonah, then there's no danger of large-scale (pun intended) fish kidnapping. Clearly that's a testament to God's wisdom that he doesn't allow people-swallowing fish to roam the seas. So what if there aren't actually fish that can swallow people without digesting them? God could just miraculously inflate their bellies to hold the odd human occupant until the person should be released. Jonah could have miraculously had an easy chair and a mini-fridge, too, for all we know. It's really just God's little Guantanamo Bay.

Darrow continues:

Q--Just as hard?
A--It is hard to believe for you, but easy for me. A miracle is a thing performed beyond what man can perform. When you get within the realm of miracles; and it is just as easy to believe the miracle of Jonah as any other miracle in the Bible.
Q--Perfectly easy to believe that Jonah swallowed the whale?
A--If the Bible said so; the Bible doesn't make as extreme statements as evolutionists do....
Q--The Bible says Joshua commanded the sun to stand still for the purpose of lengthening the day, doesn't it, and you believe it?
A--I do.
Q--Do you believe at that time the entire sun went around the earth?
A--No, I believe that the earth goes around the sun.
Q--Do you believe that the men who wrote it thought that the day could be lengthened or that the sun could be stopped?
A--I don't know what they thought.
Q--You don't know?
A--I think they wrote the fact without expressing their own thoughts.

Aha! Score another one for Bryan. For one thing Darrow keeps getting confused about whether Jonah swallowed the whale or the whale--or the fish--swallowed Jonah. On the other hand, maybe Darrow was just hungry. Mmmmm. . . . giant fish. But isn't eating whales illegal? Darrow loses a point for his moral turpitude in wanting to eat whales.

The more important point is Darrow questioning Bryan about whether the "sun stopping in the sky" indicates that the sun goes around the earth or that the earth rotates. Bryan believes that the earth goes around the sun, the Bible is literally accurate, and that the authors made a statement that entails that the sun goes around the earth. This looks like an inconsistency, but to Bryan this only means that they "wrote the fact without expressing their own thoughts." Maybe these are God's thoughts they are expressing and not their own. In any case, Bryan's clever solution to this apparent inconsistency is to point out that their words need not have been inconsistent since those words need not have expressed any thoughts at all. Indeed, we have no reason to think their words meant anything at all; but at least they're all true!

After objections, the judge allows this line of questioning to continue.

Mr. Darrow--I read that years ago. Can you answer my question directly? If the day was lengthened by stopping either the earth or the sun, it must have been the earth?
A--Well, I should say so.
Q--Now, Mr. Bryan, have you ever pondered what would have happened to the earth if it had stood still?
Q--You have not?
A--No; the God I believe in could have taken care of that, Mr. Darrow.
Q-- I see. Have you ever pondered what would naturally happen to the
earth if it stood still suddenly?
A-- No.
Q--Don't you know it would have been converted into molten mass of matter?
A--You testify to that when you get on the stand, I will give you a chance.
Q--Don't you believe it?
A--I would want to hear expert testimony on that.
Q--You have never investigated that subject?
A--I don't think I have ever had the question asked.
Q--Or ever thought of it?
A--I have been too busy on thinks [things] that I thought were of more
importance than that.

Reluctantly, I cannot give this point to Bryan. After all, why does he care whether there is expert testimony on this or any other topic. If the Bible says it, it must be true and no amount of testimony can change that.

But I cannot give the point to Darrow either. Bryan is perfectly comfortable believing that an event occurred without any idea of what the physical consequences of that event would be, and no idea whether those events could even be physically possible without the destruction of all life on earth. Imagine telling your friend, "I think you could jump off a mountain." And your friend says, "Don't you know that you'd be killed?" You reply, "I'd never thought of that." This is a brilliant debating strategy. You can avoid any inconsistency in your beliefs simply by never considering any consequences of or connection to other beliefs.

Darrow turns to questions about the flood.

Q--You believe the story of the flood to be a literal interpretation?
A--Yes, sir.
Q--When was that Flood?
A--I would not attempt to fix the date. The date is fixed, as suggested this morning.
Q--About 4004 B.C.?
A--That has been the estimate of a man that is accepted today. I would not say it is accurate.
Q--That estimate is printed in the Bible?
A--Everybody knows, at least, I think most of the people know, that was the estimate given.
Q--But what do you think that the Bible, itself says? Don't you know how it was arrived at?
A--I never made a calculation.
Q--A calculation from what?
A--I could not say.
Q--From the generations of man?
A--I would not want to say that.
Q--What do you think?
A--I do not think about things I don't think about.
Q--Do you think about things you do think about?
A--Well, sometimes.

Score another point for Bryan. Bryan's stated a basic logical truth. Who can deny that he doesn't think about things he doesn't think about? And better still, he thinks about things he does think about. You cannot go wrong in a debate stating basic logical truths; if you stick to tautologies, you can never make a false claim.

Q--Wait until you get to me. Do you know anything about how many people there were in Egypt 3,500 years ago, or how many people there were in China 5,000 years ago?
Q--Have you ever tried to find out?
A--No, sir. You are the first man I ever heard of who has been in [?] interested in it. (Laughter.)
Q--Mr. Bryan, am I the first man you ever heard of who has been interested in the age of human societies and primitive man?
A--You are the first man I ever heard speak of the number of people at those different periods.
Q--Where have you lived all your life?
A--Not near you. (Laughter and applause.)
Q--Nor near anybody of learning?
A--Oh, don't assume you know it all.
Q--Do you know there are thousands of books in our libraries on all those subjects I have been asking you about?
A--I couldn't say, but I will take your word for it....

Score another for Bryan. We've seen it's easier to keep one's beliefs consistent, or at least not notice their inconsistency, if one never considers their consequences. Similarly, one can keep one's beliefs free from contradiction by never considering evidence against them. In fact, it's best just to avoid any knowledge whatsoever in order to avoid inconsistency. But Darrow does not know when he's beaten.

Q--Have you any idea how old the earth is?
Q--The Book you have introduced in evidence tells you, doesn't it?
A--I don't think it does, Mr. Darrow.
Q--Let's see whether it does; is this the one?
A--That is the one, I think.
Q--It says B.C. 4004?
A--That is Bishop Usher's calculation.
Q--That is printed in the Bible you introduced?
A--Yes, sir....
Q--Would you say that the earth was only 4,000 years old?
A--Oh, no; I think it is much older than that.
Q--How much?
A--I couldn't say.
Q--Do you say whether the Bible itself says it is older than that?
A--I don't think it is older or not.
Q--Do you think the earth was made in six days?
A--Not six days of twenty-four hours.
Q--Doesn't it say so?
A--No, sir....

Bryan is careful not to contradict the beliefs of other creationists, but he also doesn't want to commit to a 4,000 year-old earth either. I think we can count this one against Bryan, though, since he should have agreed that the world is 6,000 years old. And if it's all a miracle anyway, why does it matter if the universe is only 6,000 years old? The histories of those other cultures Darrow mentions were probably illusions created by Satan. But we cannot give the point to Darrow because of his lack of arithmetical skills; 4004 BC to 1926 isn't 4,000 years but 5,930 years. That's a huge difference! If someone asked me, "Are you 50 years old?" and I was 75, I would think that was a big difference.

Q--Mr. Bryan, do you believe that the first woman was Eve?
Q--Do you believe she was literally made out of Adams's rib?
A--I do.
Q--Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
A--No, sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
Q--You have never found out?
A--I have never tried to find
Q--You have never tried to find?
Q--The Bible says he got one, doesn't it? Were there other people on the earth at that time?
A--I cannot say.
Q--You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration?
A--Never bothered me.
Q--There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife.
A--That is what the Bible says.
Q--Where she came from you do not know. All right.

Bryan's casual unconcern for the truths of the Bible is a perfect sign of his dedication to the absolute truth of the Bible.

Darrow, continuing directly,

Does the statement, "The morning and the evening were the first day," and "The morning and the evening were the second day," mean anything to you?
A-- I do not think it necessarily means a twenty-four-hour day.
Q--You do not?
Q--What do you consider it to be?
A--I have not attempted to explain it. If you will take the second chapter--let me have the book. (Examining Bible.) The fourth verse of the second chapter says: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were created in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens," the word "day" there in the very next chapter is used to describe a period. I do not see that there is any necessity for construing the words, "the evening and the morning," as meaning necessarily a twenty-four-hour day, "in the day when the Lord made the heaven and the earth."
Q--Then, when the Bible said, for instance, "and God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day," that does not necessarily mean twenty-four hours?
A--I do not think it necessarily does.
Q--Do you think it does or does not?
A--I know a great many think so.
Q--What do you think?
A--I do not think it does.
Q--You think those were not literal days?
A--I do not think they were twenty-four-hour days.
Q--What do you think about it?
A--That is my opinion--I do not know that my opinion is better on
that subject than those who think it does.
Q--You do not think that ?
A--No. But I think it would be just as easy for the kind of God we
believe in to make the earth in six days as in six years or in 6,000,000 years or in 600,000,000 years. I do not think it important whether we believe one or the other.
Q--Do you think those were literal days?
A--My impression is they were periods, but I would not attempt to argue as against anybody who wanted to believe in literal days.

This is brilliant. Bryan doesn't know what the Bible says about the time of creation, but he knows it's literally true. Why should we have to know what it means in order to know it's true?

But finally we are coming to the end of the cross-examination.

Q--I will read it to you from the Bible: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Do you think that is why the serpent is compelled to crawl upon its belly?
A--I believe that.
Q--Have you any idea how the snake went before that time?
A--No, sir.
Q--Do you know whether he walked on his tail or not?
A--No, sir. I have no way to know. (Laughter in audience).
Q--Now, you refer to the cloud that was put in heaven after the flood, the rainbow. Do you believe in that?
A--Read it.
Q--All right, Mr. Bryan, I will read it for you.
Bryan--Your Honor, I think I can shorten this testimony. The only purpose Mr. Darrow has is to slur at the Bible, but I will answer his question. I will answer it all at once, and I have no objection in the world, I want the world to know that this man, who does not believe in a God, is trying to use a court in Tennessee--
Darrow--I object to that.
Bryan--(Continuing) to slur at it, and while it will require time, I am willing to take it.
Darrow--I object to your statement. I am exempting you on your fool ideas that no intelligent Christian on earth believes.

We have to score this one for Darrow. After all, who could object if he wants to read the good book? Its truth ought to shine through for everyone. But at least Bryan continues his wise policy of not thinking about things he doesn't think about. You can never end up with a false belief if you never believe anything! And Bryan helpfully points out Darrow's immorality and atheism--or at least agnosticism. That's important information we all need for evaluating the truth of the Bible.

Alas, that's the end of the transcript, and I think it's obvious to everyone that creationists, and Windchy in particular, continue to "hold their own" with evolutionists at least as well as Bryan did.

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