In part 1, I was describing how Kanawha County, West Virginia, almost anticipated Dover, Pennsylvania, in provoking the first legal case over the constitutionality of teaching “intelligent design” in the public schools. After a proposed equal-time-for-creation-science policy was unsuccessful in 1999, local Kanawha creationists regrouped with a campaign to press for the purchase of copies of the creationist textbook Of Pandas and People. NCSE was asked to inform the school district about what was wrong with the textbook, and complied, with Molleen Matsumura sending a superb detailed letter and plenty of supporting information to the superintendent of schools. What was the upshot?

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I’ve been volunteering in the NCSE archives since I retired, and it’s been a lot of fun rummaging through old files. I came across one this week that brought me up short, because its contents suggested the possibility that the 2005 “intelligent design” trial, Kitzmiller v. Dover, could have played out five years earlier, in West Virginia.

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07.01.2015

Philip Loeb in The Garrick Gaieties, via NYPL Digital Collections

I’m in the middle of discussing “And Thereby Hangs a Tail”—a sketch based on the Scopes trial that appeared in The Garrick Gaieties, a revue that originally ran in 1925. The lyrics in the sketch are by Lorenz Hart (1895–1943), and can be found in The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart (expanded edition, 1995), while the libretto is by Morris Ryskind (1895–1985) and the revue’s director Philip Loeb (1891–1955), and can be found only in the Scherer Library of Musical Theatre at Goodspeed Musicals, the staff of which courteously and efficiently provided me with a photocopy. The sketch takes place in a courtroom in the jungle, where “[t]he defendant, Abbadaba Darwin, is charged with spreading the pernicious doctrine of evolution, which teaches that that stupid animal, man, is our grandchild.” The characters are wearing monkey masks. When part 1 concluded, the prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan, was waiting for the psychological moment to make his entrance to the courtroom.

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06.24.2015

Cover of Garrick Gaieties souvenir program, via NYPL Digital Collections

In part 1 of “Inherit the Wind Avant la Lettre?” I raised a question. Noting that Inherit the Wind—Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s 1955 Broadway play; Stanley Kramer’s 1960 film; and the three television adaptations (1975, 1988, and 1999)—was such a hit, I asked, “[I]f the Scopes trial was so dramatic … why did it take thirty years for someone to write a play based on it?” The remainder of the post and the two following posts (part 2; part 3) were devoted to investigating the claim, to be found in The New York Times for January 2, 1927, that Majomszínház, a 1925 play by the Hungarian novelist Ferenc Herczeg (1863–1954), was the first play to be based on the trial. (The Times was interested because a translation of the play, Monkey Business, was about to begin rehearsals in New York City. In the event, it seems never to have been produced.) I concluded, “Majomszínház was not based on the Scopes trial. … But I suppose that a theatrical publicist can’t be expected to worry about the accuracy of details when a headline is in the offing!”

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06.16.2015

Robert E. Lee

In my very first post for the Science League of America—“Did Robert E. Lee Come from an Ape?”—I indulged my avocational interest in the American Civil War by discussing a scene in the 1993 film Gettysburg and the 1974 novel The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, on which the film was based. In the novel, the Confederate general James Longstreet tells a visiting British officer about a previous conversation: “Well, we were talking on that. Finally agreed that Darwin was probably right. Then one fella said, with great dignity he said, ‘Well, maybe you are come from an ape, and maybe I am come from an ape but General Lee, he didn’t come from no ape’” (emphasis in original). In the film, the words are put in the mouth of George Pickett (he of the famous bloody charge), and he’s expressing his own opinion, not that of a third party, but the joke is basically the same.

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06.12.2015

The Miracle of Theism cover

In part 1, I returned to David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) to discuss a passage in which the character Cleanthes says, “All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them,” in part because I wanted to identify what may be a previously unnoticed influence on the passage, from Ralph Cudworth’s A Treatise concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality (1731).

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06.04.2015

Ralph Cudworth (via Wikimedia Commons)

A few months ago, I devoted a two-part post (part 1; part 2) to a particular argument and counterargument concerning the age of the world in David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779). I’m returning to the Dialogues now to discuss a different passage, with two aims in mind. I want to identify, first, what may be a previously unnoticed influence on the passage, and second, what may be a previously unnoticed—and certainly is a fairly amusing—typographical error quoting the passage.

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05.27.2015

Arrival of the Fittest cover

The phrase “arrival of the fittest” is seen and heard from time to time, often contraposed with the phrase “survival of the fittest” (due to Herbert Spencer, but adopted by Darwin in the fifth and sixth editions of the Origin). Typically it is used in making the claim that natural selection cannot by itself account for evolution because selection must have variation upon which to act. Thus natural selection (it is claimed) explains the survival but not the arrival of the fittest. The rhyme between “arrival” and “survival” is catchy, and it’s not surprising that Google Scholar lists almost six hundred articles containing the phrase “arrival of the fittest,” with eighteen articles containing it in their title. There are also at least three books with the phrase in their title, of which the most recent is Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution’s Greatest Puzzle (2014), by Andreas Wagner.

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05.21.2015

H. H. Newman, Acc. 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives

“Reluctant as he may be to admit it, honesty compels the evolutionist to admit that there is no absolute proof of organic evolution” (emphasis in original). That’s a passage from H. H. Newman’s essay “Is Organic Evolution an Established Principle?” published as chapter 4 in his 1921 collection Readings in Evolution, Genetics, and Eugenics.

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05.12.2015

Frederick Bridge, via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t want to be morbid, so blame Dan Coleman, who, commenting on part 1 of “Darwin’s Pallbearers,” asked, “Will you also include the anthem that was specially commissioned and written for his funeral?” Well, okay.

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