Happy birthday, culture war!

“Monday is the 90th anniversary of a day significant both in the rise of America’s culture war and the fall of American journalism.”  WORLD

“Two faiths were in conflict in Dayton. The New York Times editorialized for ‘faith, even of a grain of mustard seed, in the evolution of life.’ Realizing there were only two ways up from sin and misery—God’s grace or man’s evolution—a Times editorial stated that evolution offered the most hope: ‘If man has evolved, it is inconceivable that the process should stop and leave him in his present imperfect state. Specific creation has no such promise for man.’”

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The link will display the first page of the article, but when you hit the link for page 2, the whole thing will lock down to about 1 paragraph... unless you are a subscriber.

Here's a bit more from page one...

That faith ran up against Christian faith in God’s sovereignty and the hope offered by Christ’s sacrifice. Tennessee legislators had passed a law forbidding the teaching of evolution as scientific truth. The battle was joined when one young Dayton teacher, John T. Scopes, responded to an American Civil Liberties Union plea for someone to agree to be the defendant in a test case, with the ACLU paying all legal expenses. The ACLU hired Darrow, the defense brought in Bryan, and the presence of those superstars brought out the journalists.

Newspapers dispatched more than 100 reporters to the trial. They wired 165,000 words daily to their newspapers over 12 days of extensive coverage. In theory, trial coverage could have been an opportunity to illuminate the theological debate that lay behind the creation vs. evolution issue. But in practice, with few if any Christians among those reporters, the position established early on by columnist H.L. Mencken went apparently unchallenged: “On the one side was bigotry, ignorance, hatred, superstition, every sort of blackness that the human mind is capable of. On the other side was sense.”

Journalists from New York and Chicago saw the story as one of evolutionist intelligence vs. creationist stupidity. Nunnally Johnson, who covered the trial for The Brooklyn Eagle and then became a noted Hollywood screenwriter, remembered years later, “For the newspapermen it was a lark on a monstrous scale. … Being admirably cultivated fellows, they were all of course evolutionists and looked down on the local fundamentalists.” Leading journalists constantly attacked the theology of the creationists, perhaps because it was something their cultures had only recently “outgrown.”


The Christian exile from mainline journalism—the absence of salt—led to poor reporting. Evolutionist reporters, without anyone to check them, wrote that Christians were trying to make one pro-evolution book “a book of evil tidings, to be studied in secret.” This was nonsense: Hundreds of pro-evolution writings were on sale in Dayton. Even a drugstore had a stack of materials representing all positions. John Butler, the legislator who introduced the anti-evolution bill, had a copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species for his teenage children to read. He told reporters, “I am not opposed to teaching of evolution, but I don’t think it ought to be taught in state-supported schools.”

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.