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Clarence Darrow & William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Trial

Clarence Darrow & William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Trial

Am I the only one who thinks this is funny?

Bryan College is an evangelical Christian school in Dayton, Tennessee, the location of the celebrated 1925 Scopes trial that pitted atheist attorney Clarence Darrow against fundamentalist politician William Jennings Bryan over the legality of teaching Darwinian evolution in the public schools. The college is named for Bryan, the titular winner of the case, who died in his sleep five days later, some say from the strain of the ordeal.

A similar conflict is being played out right now.

Here’s what’s going on, as summarized by Alan Blinder in last week’s New York Times:

“Since Bryan College’s founding in 1930, its statement of belief, which professors have to sign as part of their employment contracts, included a 41-word section summing up the institution’s conservative views on creation and evolution, including the statement: ‘The origin of man was by fiat of God.’ But in February, college officials decided that professors had to agree to an additional clarification declaring that Adam and Eve ‘are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life-forms.'”

Now, here’s the funny part. In defending both the existing and new statements of belief, college president Stephen D. Livesay declared:

“I don’t think you have to believe the Bryan way in order to be a strong evangelical,” he said. “But this is Bryan College, and this is something that’s important to us. It’s in our DNA. It’s who we are.”

In the words of Dr. S. Steven Potter, Professor of Developmental Biology and founder of the Potter Lab at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, who is widely published on the subject, “DNA proves evolution.”

I wonder if it occurred to Dr. Livesay that the acceptance of DNA and its scientific implications are so ingrained in our culture that it naturally came to him as a figure of speech without consciously having to think about it; that it is so ingrained in our culture that it is part of our collective intellectual . . . well . . . DNA.

Which is, in fact, what makes us “who we are.”

One Response to God and Man in Dayton

  1. snowdenlit says:

    I would guess that Dr. Livesay spends most of his life not consciously thinking about things, or, as his hero, Bryan, put it on the stand in 1925, “I do not think about things I don’t think about.”

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