Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When Will They Ever Learn?

Karen Armstrong:
“Before the Scopes ‘monkey’ trial—when the secular press ridiculed the fundamentalists and said they had no place in the modern agenda—fundamentalist Christians had been literal in their interpretation of scripture but creation science was the preserve of a few eccentrics. After the Scopes trial, they became militantly literal and creation science became the flagship of their movement. Before the Scopes trial, fundamentalists had often been on the left of the political spectrum and had been willing to work alongside socialists and liberal Christians in the new slums of the industrializing North American cities. After the Scopes trial, they swung to the far right, where they remained. They felt humiliated by the media attack. It was very nasty. There was a sense of loss of prestige, and, above all, a sense of fear.”
The "monkey trial" was actually started by the businessmen of Dayton, because Dayton was starting to look like present-day Detroit:

In the hope of reversing three decaeds of declining population, Dayton's town fathers saw in the ACLU's search for a biology teacher to test the legality of the Tennessee law a golden opportunity to put Dayton back on the map. That its high school biology teacher was ill and incapacitated posed no problem; the football coach and general science teacher, John Scopes (who had been drafted to complete the biology course) would do. In the actual trial, Scopes testified that as substitute teacher in the second half of the course he had learned more biology from his students than they had learned from him, for at least they had had six weeks of instruction from someone who knew something about the subject.

The town fathers' strategy exceeded their wildest hopes. Over two hundred reporters alone poured into Dayton, and the trial turned out to be one of the first in America to recieve international coverage.
What it actually did was fire up the fundamentalists and the creationists, who are with us to this good day.


I wish I could find so much as the reference to the "terrorist expert" I heard interviewed on BBC World Service probably a decade gone now. He said Al Qaeda was a minor terrorist organization with no real clout or reputation until the United States and then much of Europe decided they represented an "existential threat" (and why do we use that term?) to Western civilization.  I do know that sometime after we decided that, Al Qaeda became a franchise, with branches everywhere, and Osama bin Laden stopped living in a cave connected to a dialysis machine (what was THAT about, too?) and was finally killed in a compound an Abattabad.

And we're still chasing down segments of Al Qaeda; and it's so well known when it denounces Boko Haram, you know you've been denounced.


The third one was today:  on Fresh Air Terry Gross interviewed Daniel Schulman on the Koch Brothers and how they came to run the country (well, not really, but to hear most people on the intertoobs tell it, they are the cabal that runs the world).  Sadly, it doesn't show up in the highlights of the interview, but Mr. Schulman pointed out that the Charles Koch Foundation became the Cato Institute in 1977.  I've heard of Cato, but it's pretty much fallen of the radar in the past decade or so.  However, the Koch brothers were promoting their ideologies long after CKF became Cato.  It's just that nobody much cared.  They were a fringe group, their seminars and other meetings dull affairs attended only by ideologues like themselves.

And then the Koch brothers became the target of animosity.  They began to be blamed for all the things that others in politics disliked about their ideas.  And suddenly the Koch brothers were popular, and their previously dull and sleepy seminars became SRO affairs.  They kept peddling the same snake oil, but now, thanks to being targeted as "the problem," they were taken up as the solution!


Those who fight dragons too long not only become dragons themselves, they create dragons so they can have something to fight.  I was just watching a first season episode of "The X-Files," the one that introduces "The Lone Gunman."  One of their theories is that the then ruler of Russia was put in place by the CIA, because, with the Cold War over, the CIA needs somebody to oppose.  It's a silly notion; but it has a psychological truth to it.

If you need an enemy badly enough, you create one.

And then what?



  1. I'm having trouble seeing how the Scopes Monkey Trial created the Koch Brothers.

    Generally-speaking, as I believe "sunlight is the best disinfectant", I think the MEGA-rich need MORE sunlight on 1) how they got their money and 2) what they do w/ it (NB: I'm not talking about Kardashians and bling: too much klieg-light on that!).

    If the dragon's going to eat me, I'd rather I "oops'd" into waking it up, not oops'd by walking into its mouth, because I didn't know it was there...

  2. No connection between Koch and Scopes, except that we create the monsters we then think have taken over the world.

    To hear the defenders of "Cosmos" tell it, creationists now run the country. To hear the critics of the Koch brothers tell it, they now rule the world.

    Did you know Koch Industries is responsible for so many consumer products you practically can't avoid purchasing from them? And before Koch's seminars became the locus of political evil in America, did it really matter that they were held, since almost everybody was avoiding them like the plague?

    Sometimes sunshine is a disinfectant; sometimes it's a grow light. Often there is no dragon, until you sow the dragon's teeth yourself.

  3. It's one of the thing you read from time to time is that the textbook that Scopes used taught a particularly racist form of eugenics as high school biology. An interesting footnote to the Scopes trial was that after the trial Scopes went and got a geology degree (from the U of Chicago, if memory serves me right) became an oil company geologist and converted to Catholicism when he married a Catholic. His conversion to the largest and one of the strongest critics of eugenics - Catholics are sometimes credited with keeping eugenics laws out of Britain! - would be interesting to know more about. I wonder if it changed his view of eugenics.

    It used to be that the Cato institute was at the top of just about any NPR rolodex of who to call for an "opinion" on anything. Diane Rehm, Morning Edition, All Things Considered gave them a vastly amplified voice that they wouldn't have had, otherwise. My question was whether or not any of the Cato "studies" ever came to a conclusion that wouldn't have been in line with their ideology. Every one I ever heard of, oddly enough, came done exactly in line with its pre-existing ideology.


  4. Always struck me as odd how easily Cato could get its nonsense mainstreamed, and yet the polar opposite ideas promoted by the UCC (relentlesssly, if futilely) couldn't get noticed if they were on fire in the main window of Macy's at high noon in mid-December.