Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Boobs" perhaps, but...

Winterton Curtis, Damned Yankee prof from my alma mater and avuncular personal hero, in Dayton, 1925:
"Reporters were present in such numbers that I could well believe the statement they numbered more than 200 and that never before had there been so many reporters present at any trial.  Notable among them was H. L. Mencken, who had made himself so odious to the orthodox by his scathing criticisms of the Fundamentalist Crusade and its Crusaders.  As no seats were reserved for the expert witnesses we sat in the press chairs.  Many times I sat next to Mencken.  He resisted my attempts at conversation, but I got the flavor of the man from listening to his talk with other reporters. 
The courtroom audience impressed me as honest country folk in jeans and calico.  “Boobs" perhaps, as judged by Mencken, and holding all the prejudices of backwoods Christian orthodoxy, but nevertheless a significant section of the backbone of democracy in the U.S.A.  They came to see their idol “the Great Commoner” and champion of the people meet the challenge to their faith.  They left bewildered but with their beliefs unchanged despite the manhandling of their idol by the “Infidel” from Chicago...." Impressions of the Scopes Trial by W. C. Curtis, Defense Expert
He and the other scientific witnesses never made it to the stand. But Curtis's 1922 book Science and Human Affairs from the Viewpoint of Biology had already given eloquent testimony to the humane core of the evolutionary perspective. It was the Demon-haunted World of its day, and he was a Saganesque figure: lighting candles of reason rather than cursing the darkness or belittling Mencken's booboisie.  

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