Saturday, September 22, 2007

An Idea is a Greater Monument than a Cathedral

I just watched Inherit the Wind last night. You know the movie - the one based on the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925. A battle royale between the modernists and traditionalists - or intellectuals and religion, so it seemed.

I'm sure everyone knows which side of this debate I fall on. I can't imagine why there would even be a law banning any sort of education. I already feel that the world is undereducated, so to take away anything that would provoke a thought of our own or challenge traditional beliefs is ridiculous... but to have a law banning it is downright unconstitutional. Especially with the whole idea of separation of church and state. Don't argue that America was founded by Christians - it was founded by those seeking religious freedom - and I think that should still be the case. I won't get started on what our government has turned into in the past few years.

It baffles me that 82 years later we're still having this debate on what to teach in schools. Evolution? Creationism? Intelligent design? All three? None of the above? I was never taught evolution. My AP biology teacher, Mr. Eckert, told me to read a few chapters in the book on my own because there would be questions on the AP test about it... but he couldn't teach them to me in class. At the time I was under the impression that "couldn't" meant that we didn't have enough time to cover it in the curriculum, not that he was actually not allowed to. You'd think I was growing up in Kansas, not Pennsylvania.

I can't understand it. Why do our social values and intellect conflict so much? People are fanatical about religion and what they consider moral. And apparently using your mind and the ability to reason, the very thing that sets us apart from all the other animals - and arguably the thing that God himself bestowed upon us - that's what gets all the fundamentalist folks all riled up.

FACT: The sun revolves around the Earth. We didn't descend from slimy sludge. The world is not millions of years old. Not believing in God makes you an amoral heathen. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Man and woman were placed on the Earth by God during creation.

Listen. Thought doesn't undermine values. The thinking men and women still know right from wrong, but they can also see all the shades of grey surrounding the issue. They can see other possibilities. They have found things that don't fit into neat boxes and have striven to make sense of the world. Evolution has gaps. So does genetics. Scientists recently discovered that what they thought they knew about transcription of DNA and what they termed "junk DNA" might be completely wrong. Life is still a mystery... But they know there is not only one solution to a problem, and they will keep working at that problem. Not only that, there will be others working at the problem from a different angle, forming their own opinions on the matter. But they will not be standing still, insisting that they have found all the answers, and they are right... all you have to do is have faith and believe!

Scholars are our future, they are progress.

The thing that killed me about this movie was the song that the mob kept singing. "Gimme that old time religion, it's good enough for me." Since when has anything been "good enough" for us? We like progress. We are fans of enlightenment and intelligence. We are innovators. At least, that's what I always thought. Maybe that's why I like the theory of evolution so much. I want to keep moving forward, not living by the rules of the past. Not believing in the old stuffy religions that leave no room for change, no route for progress. And without those paths open to us, we will be left behind by others who are more open minded.

If you haven't ever seen this movie, or if it's been years since you watched it, I think it deserves another viewing. This movie makes you think. And even though it was made over 40 years ago, it applies to so many things today. Truly a thinking man's movie - and not only that, it was very true to the real life events that occurred in 1925.

Two great, big, opposable thumbs up.

End Blog.


big sis said...

Interesting that you called it a thinking "man's" movie...

I'm reading "Full House" by Stephen Jay Gould. It'll give you another take on progress and evolution if you're into reading another thinking woman's book.

Nikki said...

Does human make you happier? We're all the same species, which was more the meaning I was going for with the word "man". I'm not being sexist, I was simply using the word because "human" didn't sound as nice. Maybe it should be "the thinking homosapien's movie". I think there are larger battles to fight in women's equality. All the he/she stuff is bullshit. We should be more concerned about equal pay than pronouns or nouns and sentence structure.