I. It is an old and bitter observation that, in armed conflicts, the peacemaker frequently gets the worst of it. The truth of the fact is being demonstrated anew in the case of the Tennessee pedagogue accused of teaching Evolution. No matter what the issue of that great moral cause, it seems to me very unlikely that either of the principal parties will be greatly shaken. The Evolutionists will go on demonstrating, believing in and teaching the mutability of living forms, and the Ku Klux theologians will continue to whoop for Genesis undefiled. But I look for many casualties and much suffering among the optimistic neutrals who strive to compose the controversy — that is, among the gentlemen who believe fondly that modern science and the ancient Hebrew demonology can be reconciled.
This reconciliation will take place, perhaps, on that bright day when Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler and the [Honorable] Wayne B. Wheeler meet in a saloon under a Baptist church, and drink Bruderschaft in a mixture of Clos Vougeot and coca-cola. But not before. For the two parties, it must be manifest, are at the farthermost poles of difference, and leaning out into space. If one of them is right at all, then the other is wrong altogether. There can be no honest compromise between them. Either Genesis embodies a mathematically accurate statement of what took place during the week of June 3, 4004 B.C., or Genesis is not actually the Word of God. If the former alternative is accepted, then all of modern science is nonsense; if the latter, then evangelical Christianity is nonsense.
This fact must be apparent, I believe, to everyone who has given sober and prayerful thought to the controversy. It should be especially apparent to those who now try to talk it away. I have, I confess, a great suspicion of such persons. When they pretend to be scientists it always turns out on inspection that they are only half-scientists — that no fact, however massive, is yet massive enough to keep them off the mourners’.
Suggested Reading: (Full Text) Coverage of The Scopes Trial by H.L. Mencken, From The Baltimore Evening Sun, June – September 1925.
Image: First carbon page of typescript for The Tennessee Circus by H. L. Mencken (Henry Louis). Enoch Pratt Free Library.