Category Archives: History

July 28, 1840 (a Tuesday)

Edward Drinker Cope

On this date, the American paleontologist, herpetologist, and mammalogist Edward Drinker Cope was born. Cope was a scientist by self-study and personal nature — he held no degrees except honorary ones from Haverford College and, late in life, from the University of Munich. He made many important dinosaur discoveries in western North America but spent 20 years in a protracted battle with his archrival, O.C. Marsh, for professional prestige in what came to be known as the Great Bone Wars. Financially ruined in his later years, Cope had to sell his house and move in with his museum collections. He spent his final days on a cot surrounded by piles of bones.

Cope accepted the fact of evolution but thought that change in developmental (embryonic) timing, not natural selection, was the explanation for how evolution occurs. That is, a new developmental stage would be tacked onto the end of the developmental process, pushing the old end stage further back in development. Such was the view of the American school of self-proclaimed, so-called neo-Lamarckians, who invoked an internal drive for “accelerated growth” as well as Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics to account for the seemingly linear pattern of biological evolution that they detected in specimens from the rich fossil beds of the American West. That is, new developmental stages would cause some body parts to become very well developed if those body parts were in heavy use. Thus, the neo-Lamarckians thought that variation and speciation were due to changes in timing of development in different organ systems due to use. In Europe, important contemporaneous neo-Lamarckians included the German biologist Ernst Haeckel and the British botanist George Henslow.

July 27, 1921 (a Wednesday)

On this date at the University of Toronto, Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolated insulin from canine test subjects — a hormone they believed could prevent diabetes — for the first time. On November 14, following successful trials on diabetic dogs, the discovery was announced to the world.

At that time, the only way to treat the fatal disease was through a diet low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in fat and protein. Instead of dying shortly after diagnosis, this diet allowed diabetics to live — for about a year.

On 11 January 1922, Banting and Best gave 14-year-old Leonard Thompson an injection of a reasonably pure extract of insulin from the pancreases of cattle from slaughterhouses. His blood sugar levels dropped significantly, but an abscess developed at the injection site making him acutely ill. A refined extract was again administered on 23 January, causing a drop in blood sugar levels from 520 mg/dl to 120 mg/dl within 24 hours. Leonard lived for 13 years, taking doses of insulin, before dying of pneumonia (another disease for which no cure was available in those days).

Within a year of isolating the hormone, the first human sufferers of diabetes were receiving insulin treatments, and eventually countless lives were saved from what was previously regarded as a fatal disease. By early 1923, insulin had become widely available, and Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for that year.

References:

July 26, 1925 (a Sunday)

William Jennings Bryan in a Dayton pulpit.

On this date, after eating an enormous dinner, William Jennings Bryan, prosecutor in the Scopes Monkey Trial, laid down to take a nap and died in his sleep. Bryan’s personal physician, Dr. J. Thomas Kelly, concluded, “Bryan died of diabetes melitis, the immediate cause being the fatigue incident to the heat and his extraordinary exertions due to the Scopes trial.” Clarence Darrow was hiking in the Smoky Mountains when word of Bryan’s death reached him. When reporters suggested to him that Bryan died of a broken heart, Darrow said, “Broken heart nothing; he died of a busted belly.” In a louder voice he added, “His death is a great loss to the American people.”

Bryan’s death triggered an outpouring of grief from the “common” Americans who felt they had lost their greatest champion. A special train carried him to his burial place in Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of people lined the tracks. Historian Paul Boyer says, “Bryan’s death represented the end of an era. This man who had loomed so large in the American political and cultural landscape for thirty years had now passed from the scene.”

July 25, 306 C.E.

Bronze statue of Constantine I in York, England, near the spot where he was proclaimed emperor in 306 C.E.

On this date, Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (27 February 272 C.E.–22 May 337 C.E.) commonly known as Constantine I, Constantine the Great, or (among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians) Saint Constantine was proclaimed augustus (Roman emperor) by his troops, and ruled an ever-growing portion of the Roman Empire until his death.

Constantine is best remembered in modern times for the so-called Edict of Milan in January 313, which fully legalized Christianity in the empire for the first time, and the Council of Nicaea in 325, which he chaired. A previous edict of toleration had been recently issued by the emperor Galerius from Serdica and posted up at Nicomedia on 13 May 311. By its provisions, the Christians, who had “followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity”, were granted an indulgence:

Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the commonwealth may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes.

Their confiscated property, however, was not restored until the Edict of Milan was signed. The Christians’ meeting places and other properties were to be returned:

…the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception…

The church could now own land, Christians could worship openly, and imperial patronage resulted in the affirmation of a single creed. However, now that bishops had imperial support, those who dissented from the dominant concept of orthodoxy or othopraxis could be punished. Thus, Christianity was changed from a fairly loose and diverse body of believers into a orthodoxy based on a uniform faith with a disciplined hierarchical institution on the Roman pattern.

Previously reluctant to engage in military action, Christians now joined the army and reconciled violence with their faith. Once Christianity became established as the state religion in the years following Constantine, the state began to impose Christianity on everyone and to persecute dissent, just as it had once persecuted Christians before Constantine’s conversion. Ironically, Christian leaders wasted no time taking advantage of their power to punish heretics, pagans, and Jews, now backed by the coercive power of the state.

When Constantine said “In hoc signo vinces” (“In this sign we conquer”), he wasn’t kidding.

July 24, 1984 (a Tuesday)

Scales of Justice

On this date, the body of nine-year-old Dawn Venice Hamilton was found in a wooded area of Rosedale, Maryland, near her home. The young girl had been raped and beaten to death with a rock.

After witnesses saw a suspicious man in the area of the murder scene, a police sketch was publicized on television and in newspapers. Two weeks later, an anonymous caller identified Kirk Bloodsworth, a 23-year-old ex-Marine, as the man in the sketch. Bloodsworth, who had been in Baltimore (which is close to Rosedale) at the time of Hamilton’s murder, later returned to his home in Cambridge and told friends that he had done something that would “harm his marriage”.

Prosecutors, with little evidence other than this, accused Bloodsworth of murder. During his trial, the defense presented several witnesses who said that they were with Bloodsworth at the time of the murder, but the state had presented five witnesses who testified that they had seen Bloodsworth with the victim. The jury convicted Bloodsworth in March of 1985 for the brutal killing and sexual assault of the nine year old girl and sent him to death row.

On appeal, Bloodsworth won a new trial, on the ground that the prosecution had withheld evidence indicating that another suspect might have been the killer. A few weeks before the second trial, evidence of yet another suspect was made available to Bloodsworth’s counsel, who chose not to pursue the lead. This time, he was convicted and sentenced to two life terms, to run consecutively.

For the next seven years, Bloodsworth maintained his innocence while in prison. In the meantime, forensic DNA testing had come of age. On Dawn Hamilton’s underwear, police had observed a spot of semen, smaller than a dime, and science had finally progressed to the point where this small amount of physical evidence could be tested. Bloodworth’s attorney, Bob Morin, with support from the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic formed to promote the use of DNA analysis to exonerate innocent prisoners, persuaded prosecutors in 1992 to compare Bloodsworth’s DNA with the DNA of dried sperm found on the victim. The DNA testing, performed by Forensic Science Associates, a private California laboratory, excluded Bloodsworth.

After the FBI’s crime lab confirmed this test, prosecutors in Baltimore County had no choice but to release Bloodsworth (but pointedly refused to apologize). On 28 June 1993, nine years after first going to jail, Kirk Bloodsworth was released. He was officially pardoned in December 1993. He had spent over eight years in prison, two of those years facing execution.

PCR DNA tests, Bloodsworth case, 1993 (Forensic Science Associates)

In 2003, after much prodding from Bloodsworth and Innocence Project lawyers, Maryland authorities finally searched their DNA database for a “cold hit” match of the evidence in the Dawn Hamilton case. The search turned up Kimberley Shay Ruffner, a convicted rapist who Bloodsworth had known in prison, who was then tried and found guilty of the 1984 murder.

Bloodsworth thus became the first person to be exonerated from death row through postconviction DNA testing. This led to the Justice for All Act of 2004, which included the Innocence Protection Act of 2004 as Title IV, legislation that, among other things, grants any federal inmate the right to petition a federal court for DNA testing to support a claim of innocence. Title IV also established the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Grant Program to award grants to States to help defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing. By August 2004, a total of 144 prisoners, some on death row, had been exonerated by DNA testing.

Most Americans know that there is at least a danger that innocent people will be executed. Yet according to a recent Angus Reid Public Opinion poll (4 Oct 2011), 81% of Americans still support the death penalty for convicted murderers. Many believe that we can ensure that the innocent are never executed if we take further measures — provide competent defense counsel, improve police methods, and so on. But as the Bloodsworth case underlines, this faith in the perfectibility of capital punishment is misplaced. The system can be improved, but it cannot be perfected.

Today, Bloodsworth is an activist for criminal justice reform and a public speaker. Over 30 state and regional innocence projects are at work.

July 22, 1910 (a Friday)

On this date, the American embryologist and geneticist T(homas) H(unt) Morgan reported in the journal Science:

In a pedigree culture of Drosophila which had been running for nearly a year through a considerable number of generations, a male appeared with white eyes.

White-eyed and wild type Drosophila.

For the science of genetics, the portent of the white mutation was enormous. Quickly, additional sex-linked mutants were discovered by Morgan and his students. By 1913 Sturtevant, with unsurpassed intuition, constructed the first linear genetic map of the X chromosome, followed by Bridges’ cytogenetic proof in 1916 of the chromosomal theory of inheritance. In 1915, Morgan, Sturtevant, Calvin Bridges and H. J. Muller wrote the seminal book The Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity. By 1925 the vast amount of information accumulated by Morgan and his students in less than 15 years was summarized in the monograph The Genetics of Drosophila. Documented therein are those fundamental principles of genetics derived from the study of Drosophila, principles that have withstood the test of time and that are included in all contemporary textbooks of genetics.

Interestingly, the period from approximately 1875 to 1925 has been called “the eclipse of Darwinism.” The phrase refers to the circumstances prior to the modern evolutionary synthesis when evolution was widely accepted in scientific circles but relatively few biologists thought that natural selection was its primary mechanism. In fact, many biologists considered natural selection to have been a wrong guess on Darwin’s part, and during his early career, Morgan had been one of them. In Evolution and Adaptation (1903), he had argued the anti-Darwinist position that selection never could produce wholly new species by acting on slight individual differences.

However, after discovering many small stable heritable mutations in Drosophila, Morgan had gradually changed his mind.  Since Morgan (1915) had ‘solved the problem of heredity’, he was in a unique position to examine critically Darwin’s theory of natural selection.  On February 24, 1916, Morgan began a series of lectures that would later be the basis of a book he published entitled A Critique of the Theory of Evolution (1916). The subsequent lectures occurred on March 1, 8, and 15.  He discussed questions such as:

  • Does selection play any role in evolution?
  • How can selection produce anything new?
  • Is selection no more than the elimination of the unfit?
  • Is selection a creative force?

After eliminating some misunderstandings and explaining in detail the new science of Mendelian heredity and its chromosomal basis, Morgan concluded that “the evidence shows clearly that the characters of wild animals and plants, as well as those of domesticated races, are inherited both in the wild and in domesticated forms according to the Mendel’s Law.”  “Evolution has taken place by the incorporation into the race of those mutations that are beneficial to the life and reproduction of the organism.”  “Injurious mutations have practically no chance of becoming established.”  Far from rejecting evolution as the title of his 1916 book may suggest, Morgan not only laid the foundation of the science of genetics, but by doing so, he also laid the theoretical foundation for the mechanism of evolution: natural selection.  Heredity was an essential  requirement of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, but Darwin had a wrong theory of heredity. Therefore, Darwinism could not progress without a correct theory of genetics. Morgan furnished that foundation, which is why his  work was so important for the neo-Darwinian synthesis, despite his criticism at the beginning of his career.

References:

  • Bridges, C . B., “Nondisjunction as proof of the chromosome
    theory of heredity” Genetics 1: 1-52, 107-163 (1916).
  • Green, M.M., “The ‘Genesis of the white-eyed mutant’ in Drosophila melanogaster: A reappraisalGenetics 142: 329-331 (Feb. 1996).
  • Morgan, T.H., “Sex-limited inheritance in Drosophila” Science 32: 120-122 (1910).
  • Morgan, T.H., A Critique of the Theory of Evolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1916).
  • Morgan, T.H., Sturtevant, A.H., Muller, H.J. and C. B. Bridges, The Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity (New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1915).
  • Morgan, T. H., Bridges, C.B. and A.H. Sturtevant, “The
    genetics of Drosophila” Bibliogr. Genet. 2: 1-262 (1925).
  • Sturtevant., H., “The linear arrangement of six sex-linked
    factors in Drosophila as shown by their mode of association” J.
    Exp. Zool.
    14: 43-59 (1913).

July 21, 1553

Warrior-Monks and Dwarf Pirates

Shaolin monk in contemplation.

On today’s date, 120 Buddhist temple monks met an approximately equal number of “Japanese pirates” in battle.

The so-called Japanese pirates, wakou or woku, were actually a confederation of Japanese, Chinese, and even some Portuguese citizens who banded together. (The pejorative term wakou literally means “dwarf pirates.”) They raided China during the Ming Dynasty for silks and metal goods, which could be sold in Japan for up to ten times their value in China.

By 1550, the Shaolin Temple had been in existence for approximately 1,000 years. The resident monks were famous throughout Ming China for their specialized and highly effective form of kung fu (gong fu).

Thus, when ordinary Chinese imperial army and navy troops proved unable to eliminate the pirate menace, Nanjing’s Vice-Commissioner-in-Chief, Wan Biao, decided to deploy monastic fighters. He called upon the warrior-monks of three temples: Wutaishan in Shanxi Province, Funiu in Henan Province, and Shaolin.

According to contemporary chronicler Zheng Ruoceng, some of the other monks challenged the leader of the Shaolin contingent, Tianyuan, who sought leadership of the entire monastic force. In a scene reminiscent of countless Hong Kong films, the eighteen challengers chose eight from among themselves to attack Tianyuan.

First, the eight men came at the Shaolin monk with bare hands, but he fended them all off. They then grabbed swords; Tianyuan responded by seizing the long iron bar that was used to lock the gate. Wielding the bar as a staff, he defeated all eight of the other monks simultaneously. They were forced to bow to Tianyuan, and acknowledge him as the proper leader of the monastic forces. Zheng narrates these events in his account (written around 1568):

Tianyuan said: “I am real Shaolin. Is there any martial art in which you are good enough to justify your claim for superiority over me?” The eighteen [Hangzhou] monks chose from amongst them eight men to challenge him. The eight immediately attacked Tianyuan using their hand combat techniques. Tianyuan was standing at that moment atop the open terrace in front of the hall. His eight assailants tried to climb the stairs leading to it from the courtyard underneath. However, he saw them coming, and struck with his fists, blocking them from climbing.

A Shaolin monk soars through the air in a kung fu stance.

The eight monks ran around to the hall’s back entrance. Then, armed with swords, they charged through the hall to the terrace in front. They slashed their weapons at Tianyuan who, hurriedly grabbing the long bar that fastened the hall’s gate, struck horizontally. Try as they did, they could not get into the terrace. They were, on the contrary, overcome by Tianyuan.Yuekong (the challengers’ leader) surrendered and begged forgiveness. Then, the eighteen monks prostrated themselves in front of Tianyuan, and offered their submission.

The monks fought the pirates in at least four battles. The second battle was the monks’ greatest victory: the Battle of Wengjiagang, fought in the Huangpu River delta in July, 1553. They chased the remnants of the pirate band twenty miles southward for ten days, killing every last pirate. Monastic forces suffered only four casualties in the fighting.

During the battle and mop-up operation, the Shaolin monks were noted for their ruthlessness. One monk used an iron staff to kill the wife of one of the pirates as she tried to escape the slaughter.

Although it seems quite odd that Buddhist monks from Shaolin and other temples would not only practice martial arts, but actually march into battle and kill people, perhaps they felt the need to maintain their fierce reputation.  After all, Shaolin was a very wealthy place. In the lawless atmosphere of late Ming China, it must have been very useful for the monks to be renowned as a deadly fighting force.

References:

  • Meir Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2008) pp. 69-70.

July 21, 365 C.E.

The Hellenic arc.

Greece is one of the world’s most seismically active countries. The ancient Greeks attributed earthquakes to the God of the Sea, Poseidon, perhaps because so many of them were centered under the waters. On today’s date at about sunrise, the “Cretan earthquake of 365″, an undersea earthquake with an assumed epicenter near Crete and estimated to have been higher than 8.0 on the present-day Richter Scale, occurred. It caused widespread destruction in central and southern Greece, northern Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, and Sicily. In Crete, nearly all towns were destroyed.

Of course, today we know that earthquakes are due to the movement of huge tectonic plates on the Earth’s surface. The Africa plate subducts beneath the Aegean Sea plate along the Hellenic arc (aka Hellenic trench or subduction zone), from the western Peloponnesus through Crete and Rhodes to western Turkey, at a rate of almost 40 mm/year. As a result, shallow-focus earthquakes (focal depths less than 50 km) occur on faults in the boundary-region of the two plates. In the twentieth century, the largest shallow-focus earthquakes to have occurred near the Hellenic-arc plate boundary had magnitudes of about 7.2, but the earthquake centered near Crete in 365 CE was much larger than any Hellenic arc earthquake of the twentieth century. In other parts of the world, convergent-plate tectonic environments similar to that of the Hellenic arc have produced earthquakes of magnitude 8 and larger.

The Crete earthquake was followed by a tsunami which devastated the southern and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, particularly Libya, Alexandria, and the Nile Delta, killing thousands and hurling ships nearly two miles inland. The quake left a deep impression on the late antique mind, and numerous writers of the time referred in their works to the event.

The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus described in detail the tsunami hitting Alexandria and other places in the early hours of 21 July AD 365. His account is particularly noteworthy for clearly distinguishing the three main phases of a tsunami, namely an initial earthquake, the sudden retreat of the sea and an ensuing gigantic wave rolling inland:

Slightly after daybreak, and heralded by a thick succession of fiercely shaken thunderbolts, the solidity of the whole earth was made to shake and shudder, and the sea was driven away, its waves were rolled back, and it disappeared, so that the abyss of the depths was uncovered and many-shaped varieties of sea-creatures were seen stuck in the slime; the great wastes of those valleys and mountains, which the very creation had dismissed beneath the vast whirlpools, at that moment, as it was given to be believed, looked up at the sun’s rays. Many ships, then, were stranded as if on dry land, and people wandered at will about the paltry remains of the waters to collect fish and the like in their hands; then the roaring sea as if insulted by its repulse rises back in turn, and through the teeming shoals dashed itself violently on islands and extensive tracts of the mainland, and flattened innumerable buildings in towns or wherever they were found. Thus in the raging conflict of the elements, the face of the earth was changed to reveal wondrous sights. For the mass of waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning, and with the tides whipped up to a height as they rushed back, some ships, after the anger of the watery element had grown old, were seen to have sunk, and the bodies of people killed in shipwrecks lay there, faces up or down. Other huge ships, thrust out by the mad blasts, perched on the roofs of houses, as happened at Alexandria, and others were hurled nearly two miles from the shore, like the Laconian vessel near the town of Methone which I saw when I passed by, yawning apart from long decay.

July 21, 1645

The non-Chinese Manchurian queue.

The non-Chinese Manchurian queue.

On 7 June 1644, a day after entering Peking, the Manchu (Qing) prince Dorgon, regent for the Manchu child emperor Shunzhi, issued a decree stating that, henceforth, all Chinese (Han) men should shave their foreheads and have their hair braided in back in the Manchu-style queue.

A storm of protest forced Dorgon to cancel his decree, but the following June another order was issued that Chinese military men must adopt the queue; this was to make it easier for the Manchus to identify their enemies in battle, and assure them that those who had surrendered would remain loyal to them in the future. But senior advisers of Dorgon felt that this did not go far enough, and so on today’s date, Dorgon reissued the decree that every Chinese man must shave his forehead and begin to grow the queue within ten days or face execution. This order was popularly summarized as “Keep your hair and lose your head, or lose your hair and keep your head.”

For Han officials and literati, the new hairstyle was a humiliating act of degradation because it breached a common Confucian directive to preserve one’s body intact, whereas for common folk cutting their hair was tantamount to the loss of their manhood. Because it united Chinese of all social backgrounds into resistance against Qing rule, the haircutting command broke the momentum of the Qing conquest. The defiant population of Jiading and Songjiang was massacred by former Ming general Li Chengdong, respectively on August 24 and September 22. Jiangyin also held out against about 10,000 Qing troops for 83 days. When the city wall was finally breached on 9 October 1645, the Qing army led by Ming defector Liu Liangzuo, who had been ordered to “fill the city with corpses before you sheathe your swords,” massacred the entire population, killing between 74,000 and 100,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed before all of China was brought into compliance.

Almost 270 years later, after the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, Sun Yat-sen in the capacity of Provisional President of the newly founded Republic of China promulgated an order requiring all soldiers and civilian men to cut their queues. “Queue cutting rallies” were held where men had their hair cut together with thousands of compatriots. In the early Republican period, queue cutting became an expression of support for the revolution.

July 21, 1925 (a Tuesday)

Darrow addressing the jury and courtroom spectators.

On this date, the eighth day of the Scopes Monkey Trial began. Before the jury was called to the courtroom, Darrow addressed Judge Raulston, “I think to save time, we will ask the court to bring in the jury and instruct the jury to find the defendant guilty.” This ensured that the defense could appeal the case to a higher court, which might rule the Butler Act unconstitutional. The defense also waived its right to a final address, which, under Tennessee law, deprived the prosecution of a closing statement. This greatly disappointed Bryan, who was unable to deliver a grandiloquent closing speech he had labored over for weeks [archived here].

John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution and sentenced to a fine of $100.  After the verdict was read, Scopes delivered his only statement of the trial, declaring his intent “to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom — that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom.”  The trial came to an anticlimactic end.

References:

  • John Thomas Scopes, William Jennings Bryan, and Rhea County Court. The world’s most famous court trial: Tennessee evolution case (Cincinnati: National Book Co., 1925).

July 20, 1822 (a Saturday)

The earliest known photograph of Gregor Mendel.

On this date, Gregor Johann Mendel was born (the day he was baptized, July 22nd, is often given erroneously as his birthday). He performed a series of beautifully designed experiments on pea plants over a period of seven years, from 1856 to 1863, to discover the principles of heredity. His studies were the first to focus on the numerical relationships among traits appearing in the progeny of hybrids; and his interpretation, clear and concise, was based on material hereditary elements that undergo segregation and independent assortment.

Mendel delivered two lectures on the results of his experiments at the meetings of the Society of Natural Sciences in Brünn, Austria on February 8th and March 8th in 1865. He turned these lectures into a (long) paper, published in the 1866 issue of the Proceedings of the Society, but it received little notice. Mendel apparently even sent one of his scientific papers to Darwin, but Darwin never bothered to read it. Mendel abandoned his experiments in the 1860s after he was appointed abbot of his monastery and his time was taken up in administrative duties.

The importance of Mendel’s work was not recognized until about thirty years after the publication of his seminal paper, when Hugo de Vries in 1900 in Holland, William Bateson in 1902 in Great Britain, Franz Correns in 1900 in Germany, and Erich Tschermak in 1901 in Austria were all to acknowledge Mendel’s legacy, and hail him as the true “father” of classical genetics.

Curiously, proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) theory have attempted to appropriate Mendel. Steve Fuller openly declares that ID theorists “would do well to reclaim the likes of Newton, Linnaeus, and Mendel as their own” (2007, p 7). Fuller claims that Mendel was no evolutionist, but a “special creationist with a grasp of probability theory”. For Fuller, the Mendelian rules of heredity are laws designed by God, that define “the range of traits that God deemed permissible in a given species”.

The only occasion that Mendel expressed himself directly on the subject of evolution was in an examination paper he sat in 1850. Discussing the origin of plant and animal forms, in the context of the formation of the earth, he wrote:

As soon as the earth in the course of time had achieved the necessary capability for the formation and maintenance of organic life, plants and animals of the lowest sorts first appeared.

[In time, organic life] developed more and more abundantly; the oldest forms disappeared in part, to make space for new, more perfect ones.

[This is] at the present time the generally accepted view of the emergence and development of the earth (Orel 1984, pp 237-8).

This is far from any “creationism” (even “special creationism”).

When he wrote this, he had been a monk for seven years. He finished his studies at the University of Vienna three years later, in 1853; began his Pisum experiments in earnest in 1856; and did not deliver his talk on those experiments until 1865. Of course, his ideas may have changed in time—and in any case, the views expressed in an examination may not always reflect the writer’s real opinion; but in the absence of any other statement by Mendel on the origin of species, this would appear to undermine any notion that he was a “special creationist.”

References:

  • Fisher, R.A. “Has Mendel’s work been rediscovered?Annals of Science, v. 1: 115-137 (1936)
  • Fuller, Steve (2007). Science vs. Religion? (Cambridge: Polity Press).
  • Orel, Vitěslav (ed.) (1984). ‘Mendels Hausarbeit in Naturgeschichte von 1850′. In: Folia Mendeliana 18 (Special edition).

July 20, 1804 (a Friday)

Sir Richard Owen, photo by Herbert Rose Barraud.

On this date, English anatomist, taxonomist, and paleontologist Richard Owen was born. He studied briefly at Edinburgh (1824), then at a private London anatomy school. Owen established a reputation as a great anatomist with his Memoir on the Pearly Nautilus (1832). He gave us many of the terms still used today in anatomy and evolutionary biology, such as “homology” which he famously defined in 1843 as “the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function.”

In an article published in the Proceedings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in April, 1842, Owen formally named a new group of extinct reptiles, including Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Hylaeosaurus, as the “Dinosauria” — that is, the dinosaurs (from the Greek “deinos” meaning fearfully great and “sauros” meaning lizard). Owen named and described the following dinosaurs: Anthodon (1876), Bothriospondylus (1875), Cardiodon (1841), Cetiosaurus (1841, although Owen incorrectly thought that it was a kind of crocodile and not a dinosaur), Chondrosteosaurus (1876), Cimoliornis (1846), Cladeidon (1841), Coloborhynchus (1874), Dacentrurus (1875), Dinodocus (1884), Echinodon (1861), Massospondylus (1854), Nuthetes (1854), Polacanthus (1867), and Scelidosaurus (1859).

Richard Owen died on December 18, 1892.

July 20, 1925 (a Monday)

William Jennings Bryan (seated at left) being questioned by Clarence Darrow (standing at right).

On this date in the Scopes Monkey Trial, assistant defense attorney Arthur Hays rose to summon one more witness – William Jennings Bryan – as an expert on the Bible. Malone, another attorney on the defense team, whispered to John Scopes, “Hell is going to pop now.” Calling Bryan was a highly unusual move, but Bryan agreed with some enthusiasm, stipulating only that he should have a chance to interrogate the defense lawyers. During his examination, Bryan stated his reason for testifying: “These gentlemen…did not come here to try this case. They came here to try revealed religion. I am here to defend it and they can ask me any question they please.” Judge Raulston, concerned that the crowd massing to watch this clash of legal titans would prove injurious to the courthouse, ordered that the trial reconvene on the adjacent lawn.

Darrow examined Bryan for almost two hours, all but ignoring the specific case against Scopes while doing his best to undermine a literalist interpretation of the Bible. After initially contending that “everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there,” Bryan conceded that the words of the Bible should not always be taken literally. “[S]ome of the Bible is given illustratively,” he observed. “For instance: `Ye are the salt of the earth.’ I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God’s people.” Although Bryan believed the story of a big fish swallowing Jonah, Joshua making the sun stand still, and other miracles, he conceded that the six days of creation, as described in Genesis, were not literally twenty-four hour days but were probably periods of time lasting many years.

Fundamentalists in the audience listened with increasing discomfort as their champion questioned Biblical “truths,” and Bryan slowly came to realize that he had stepped into a trap. At one point, the frustrated Bryan said, “I do not think about things I don’t think about.” Darrow asked, “Do you think about the things you do think about?” Bryan responded, to the derisive laughter of spectators, “Well, sometimes.” It was an embarrassing and bleak moment in what had been Bryan’s brilliant career.

July 19, 1925 (a Sunday)

Rev. Byrd (left) and Rev. Potter (right), with Byrd's children John and Lillian, in front of the parsonage.

On this date, in the midst of the Scopes Monkey Trial, Rev. Howard Gale Byrd resigned as pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church North in Dayton, Tennessee when members of his congregation objected because a visiting minister, Rev. Charles Francis Potter of the West Side Unitarian Church in New York City, proposed to preach on the topic of evolution. Potter was adviser on the Bible to Clarence Darrow in his defense of John Scopes. He also gave the opening prayer one morning of the trial.

Raised in a pious evangelical Baptist family, Potter was a precocious boy who by the age of three was able to recite entire Bible passages from memory. Potter accepted a Baptist pastorate in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1908 and another in Mattapan, Massachusetts, in 1910. During Potter’s years as a Baptist preacher he began to question many of the orthodox Christian tenets with which he had been raised. He was increasingly influenced by liberal theological ideas, especially the “higher criticism” of the Bible. In 1914 frustration with Baptist church leaders who questioned his theological views led to his resignation from the Baptist ministry and conversion to Unitarianism.

In 1919 Potter was called to be minister of the West Side Unitarian Church in New York City, where he served from 1920-25. Under Potter’s stimulating leadership the West Side Unitarian Church became a focal point of liberal thought, activity and interpretation of the scriptures. Potter came to national attention in 1923-24 when he participated in a series of radio debates with the formidable fundamentalist Baptist pastor, Rev. John Roach Straton of the Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan. The debates at Carnegie Hall stirred public interest in the fundamentalist-modernist doctrinal questions that were circulating at the time. They were soon published in four volumes entitled The Battle Over the Bible, Evolution versus Creation, The Virgin Birth—Fact or Fiction?, and Was Christ Both Man and God?

July 18, 1635

Microscope manufactured by Christopher Cock of London for Robert Hooke. Hooke is believed to have used this microscope for the observations that formed the basis of Micrographia.

On this date, the English natural philosopher, inventor, architect, and mathematician Robert Hooke was born at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. Hooke is most famous in biology for his book Micrographia, published in 1665. He devised the compound microscope and illumination system shown above, one of the best such microscopes of his time. With it Hooke observed organisms as diverse as insects, sponges, bryozoans, foraminifera, and bird feathers. Micrographia was an accurate and detailed record of his observations, illustrated with magnificent drawings. It was a best-seller of its day. Interestingly, it was in Micrographia that Hooke gave the word “cell” its meaning in biology by describing a slice of cork he examined under the microscope:

…I could exceedingly plainly perceive it to be all perforated and porous, much like a Honey-comb, but that the pores of it were not regular…these pores, or cells,…were indeed the first microscopical pores I ever saw, and perhaps, that were ever seen, for I had not met with any Writer or Person, that had made any mention of them before this…

Hooke had discovered plant cells — more precisely, what Hooke saw were the cell walls in cork tissue, which reminded him of the cells of a monastery.

In addition, Hooke is famous in paleontology. In the seventeenth century, a number of hypotheses had been proposed for the origin of fossils. One widely accepted explanation, going back to Aristotle, stated that fossils were formed and grew within the Earth. A shaping force, or “extraordinary Plastick virtue,” could thus create stones that looked like living beings but were not. However, Hooke examined fossils with a microscope — the first person to do so — and noted close similarities between the structures of petrified wood and fossil shells on the one hand, and living wood and living mollusk shells on the other. He concluded in Micrographica that such fossils were actually the remains of once-living organisms:

this petrify’d Wood having lain in some place where it was well soak’d with petrifying water (that is, such water as is well impregnated with stony and earthy particles) did by degrees separate abundance of stony particles from the permeating water, which stony particles, being by means of the fluid vehicle convey’d, not onely into the Microscopical pores…but also into the pores or Interstitia…of that part of the Wood, which through the Microscope, appears most solid…

Furthermore, in his Discourse of Earthquakes, published two years after his death, Hooke correctly concluded that many fossils represented organisms that no longer existed on Earth:

There have been many other Species of Creatures in former Ages, of which we can find none at present; and that ’tis not unlikely also but that there may be divers new kinds now, which have not been from the beginning.

Thus, Hooke realized, two and a half centuries before Darwin, that the fossil record documents changes among the organisms on the planet, and that species have both appeared and gone extinct throughout the history of life on Earth.

July 17, 1203 C.E.

On this date, Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, was captured by armies from Western Europe during the fourth crusade. The ancient name of Constantinople was Byzantium (Greek: Byzantion), from which the Byzantine Empire’s name was derived. The name had been changed by Roman emperor Constantine I, who had moved the capital of the Roman empire here on May 11, 330 C.E. Constantine wanted to name the city Nova Roma (New Rome), but this name never caught on. Today, the city is known as Istanbul and is the cultural and financial center of Turkey.

Prior to the fall of Constantinople, Western scholars had had access to Latin translations of the writings of Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher who lived from 384 to 322 B.C.E. These translations were based on texts in Arabic, which in turn were based on translations in Syriac from the original Greek. This was because the West, unlike the East (such as Syria), had never preserved Aristotle’s original writings. The structure of the Arab language is quite different from Greek and Latin (which are fairly similar to each other), so there was unavoidable paraphrasing in the passage from the original Greek to Arabic, and then again in the translation from Arabic to Latin. In effect, the first exposure to the full extent of Aristotle’s writings by Western scholars came in the form of Latin paraphrases of Arab paraphrases of (and commentaries on) Syriac paraphrases of second-hand copies of the original Greek texts. Not surprisingly, the resulting Latin renderings were somewhat unreliable.

However, as a result of the fall of Constantinople, Western scholars gained access to Greek texts that were much closer to Aristotle’s original writings. Around 1265, the Flemish Dominican William of Moerbeke (1215-1286) and other scholars translated these Greek texts into Latin, which can almost be done word-for-word, given the structural similarity between the two languages. Later, Thomas Aquinas undertook to integrate and reconcile the Aristotelian principles of reason and rational thought with Christian theology, resulting in his monumental Summa teologica. Thus fused with Christian doctrine into a philosophical system known as Scholasticism, Aristotelian philosophy became the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church. The view of Aristotle as the indisputable epitome of reason dates from this time.

The ruins of Aristotle's school have been found only 2 kilometers away from the contemporary Naoussa, at the district of Isvoria in Athens, Greece.

Aristotle was called Ille Philosophus (The Philosopher), or “the master of them that know,” and many accepted every word of his writings — or at least every word that did not contradict the Bible — as eternal truth. Consequently, some scientific discoveries in the Middle Ages and Renaissance were criticized simply because they were not found in Aristotle. It is one of the ironies of the history of science that Aristotle’s writings, which in many cases were based on extraordinary first-hand observation, were actually used to impede observational science — a development that Aristotle, no doubt, never intended.

July 17, 1925 (a Friday)

Judge Raulston delivers a ruling.

On this date, Judge John Raulston ruled in the Scopes Monkey Trial that the defense will not be allowed to present expert testimony on evolution or its consistency with Genesis:

This case is now before the court upon a motion by the [prosecution] to exclude from the consideration of the jury certain expert testimony offered by the defendant, the import of such testimony being an effort to explain the origin of man and life. The state insists that such evidence is wholly irrelevant, incompetent and impertinent to the issues pending, and that it should be excluded. Upon the other hand, the defendant insists that this evidence is highly competent and relevant to the issues involved, and should be admitted. . . . In the final analysis this court, after a most earnest and careful consideration, has reached the conclusions that under the provisions of the act involved in this case, it is made unlawful thereby to teach in the public schools of the state of Tennessee the theory that man descended from a lower order of animals. If the court is correct in this, then the evidence of experts would shed no light on the issues. Therefore, the court is content to sustain the motion of the [prosecution] to exclude the expert testimony.

Darrow was livid and accused Raulston of bias. “I do not understand,” said Darrow, “why every suggestion of the prosecution should meet with an endless waste of time, and a bare suggestion of anything that is perfectly competent on our part should be immediately overruled.” Raulston asked Darrow, “I hope you do not mean to reflect upon the court?” Darrow replied, “Well, your honor has the right to hope.” Raulston responded, “I have the right to do something else” and held Darrow in contempt of court. Darrow later apologized for his remark, prompting a big hand from spectators, and Raulston dropped the contempt citation. Darrow and Raulston shook hands.

After expressing concern that the courtroom floor might collapse from the weight of so many spectators, Raulston transferred the proceedings to the lawn outside the courthouse. There, the defense read into the record, for purpose of appellate review, excerpts from the prepared statements of eight scientists and four experts on religion who had been prepared to testify. The statements of the experts were widely reported by the press, helping Darrow succeed in his efforts to turn the trial into a national biology lesson.

July 17, 2011 (a Sunday)

The International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC/CPI), Netherlands.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC/CPI), Netherlands.

On 17 July 2011, the world celebrated the first International Criminal Justice Day. This date is the anniversary of the day in July 1998 when the international community made a pledge in Rome to never again allow impunity to reign supreme in the contemporary world by creating the International Criminal Court (ICC). The observance was adopted by the Assembly of the States Parties during the Review Conference of the Rome Statute held in Kampala (Uganda) in June 2010.

The ICC is the first permanent international judicial body in history capable of trying individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. To date, 139 states have signed and 121 states have ratified the Rome Statute, the international treaty that gave birth to the Court.

Unfortunately, the United States has a recent history of opposition to the ICC. Since Nuremberg, the United States had historically supported international mechanisms to enhance accountability. United States’ President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute on 31 December 2000, the last day that it was open for signature. Shortly after the Bush Administration entered office and just before the 1 July 2002 entry into force of the Rome Statute, US President George W. Bush “nullified” the Clinton signature on 6 May 2002, alleging that the United States would no longer be involved in the ICC process and that it did not consider itself as having any legal obligations under the treaty. The legality of such a “nullification” is unclear and the subject of debate by international legal scholars. Since 2002, the Bush Administration undertook a policy of active opposition to the Court through a global campaign to obtain immunity from ICC jurisdiction through a multi-pronged approach.

Under the Obama administration, the United States has shifted its stance. As of November 2009, it has begun attending the Rome Statute’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) meetings as an observer, signaling a new policy of engagement with the ICC. At the 2010 Review Conference of the ASP, the United States participated fully as an observer.

July 16, 1997 (a Wednesday)

Dharmsala, India.

On this date, Chen Kuiyuan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, gave a speech on “legitimate” art, “acceptable” tradition, and the role of Buddhism in Tibetan culture in which he said:

In inheriting traditional culture, we must distinguish the essence from the dross and continue to create something new.

(…)

Some people say that the Tibetan national culture is connected to religion in form and essence. Some others say that college teaching material will be void of substance if religion is not included and that in that case, colleges would not be real colleges. If what such people talked about were a Buddhist college, I would have no comment. But what they refer to is a Tibet University, so they have no reason whatsoever to make such an allegation. After all, is the Tibetan national culture equivalent to a Buddhist culture? If one should say that the Tibetan national culture came into being after Buddhist culture, one would have shorten the history of Tibetan civilization by more than 1,000 years. As is known to all, there was no Buddhism in Tibet over a long period of time. Buddhism came into being only a little over 2,500 years ago.

(…)

Is only Buddhism Tibetan culture? It is utterly absurd. Buddhism is a foreign culture. If it is said that the Tibetan nationality had no culture before the arrival of Buddhist culture, is it not said that the Tibetan people used to be a nationality without a culture? The view of equating Buddhist culture with Tibetan culture not only does not conform to reality but also belittles the ancestors of the Tibetan nationality and the Tibetan nationality itself. I just cannot understand that. Some people, claiming to be authorities, have made such shameless statements confusing truth and falsehood. Comrades who are engaged in research on Tibetan culture should be indignant at such statements. Making use of religion in the political field, separatists now go all out to put religion above the Tibetan culture and attempt to use the spoken language and culture to cause disputes and antagonism between nationalities, and this is the crux of the matter. [emphasis added]

Later, at a secret meeting held in December 1999 in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, Chen Kuiyuan recommended to the Central Chinese Government that an all-out effort must be made to eradicate Tibetan Buddhism and culture from the face of the earth so that no memory of them will be left in the minds of coming generations of Tibetans – except as museum pieces. Chen Kuiyuan stated that the main cause of instability is the existence of the Dalai Lama and his Government-in-exile in Dharamsala and these must be “uprooted”. He recommended that Tibet, Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhism – in other words the very name of Tibet – must be destroyed and the “Tibet Autonomous Region” be merged with provinces like Sichuan.

Chen’s statements, as arrogant and ignorant as they made him appear to be [which can be illustrated by paraphrasing Chen: Communism is a foreign government. If it is said that the Tibetan nationality had no government before the arrival of the Communist (Chinese) government, is it not said that the Tibetan people used to be a nationality without a government? The view of equating Communist (Chinese) government with Tibetan government not only does not conform to reality but also belittles the ancestors of the Tibetan nationality and the Tibetan nationality itself.], were hardly the isolated or extreme views of a minor CCP official. From July 20 to 23, 1994, Beijing had staged the Third Forum on Work in Tibet, which had expressed deep concern at the continued popularity of Tibetan Buddhism. The Party publicly ordered a halt to any further spread of Buddhist institutions or of the monastic population in Tibet:

There are too many places where monasteries have been opened without permission from the authorities, and having too much religious activity. Some districts have built monasteries without limits and without permission. The waste of manpower, materials and money was tremendous.

(…)

There are problems [p.that have?*] arisen from religion, i.e. sometimes interfering in administration, law, education, marriages, birth control planning, people’s productivity and their daily life…

However, what really had concerned the authorities was not monks wasting social resources but the perceived relationship between the clergy and the continuing activism of the pro-independence movement:

A number of religious institutions [p.trans: including places?*] have been used at times by a few people who harbor sinister motives to plot against us and have become counter -revolutionary bases.

(…)

The influence of our enemy in foreign countries, especially the Dalai clique, was slipping into the monasteries of our region more than ever. They assume that “to get hold of a monastery is the equivalent of [p.trans: getting hold of?*] a district of the Communist Party”, and they are putting great effort [p.hope?*] into achieving it.

Although most recent demonstrations calling for independence in Tibet had been initiated and carried out by members of the Tibetan clergy, few if any of these protests in Lhasa lasted more than a few minutes and none was known to have involved more than fifteen people. In other words, the protests carried out by the clergy were frequent but insignificant in size; the really large-scale demonstrations of this period were entirely lay affairs. The Third Forum’s identification of Tibetan monasteries with opposition to the state was grossly exaggerated. The result of the Third Forum’s policy on religion was to give approval at the highest level for stricter control over the monastic institutions of Tibet:

We must teach and guide Tibetan Buddhism to reform itself. All those religion laws and rituals must be reformed in order to fit in with the needs of development and stability in Tibet, and they should be reformed so that they become appropriate to a society under socialism.

Not surprisingly, then, on 5 April 1996, the Tibet Daily formally announced the ban on public display of Dalai Lama photographs:

The hanging of the Dalai’s portrait in temples should gradually be banned. We should convince and educate the large numbers of monks and ordinary religious believers that the Dalai is no longer a religious leader who can bring happiness to the masses, but a guilty person of the motherland and people.

Religious and cultural rights are internationally recognized human rights. The incorporation of these rights in international law is a recognition that the preservation of these values is of concern to the entire world community. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and thereby represents an international standard applicable to all nations. The inseparability of religion and culture in Tibetan society means that the Tibetan people’s freedom of religion is also protected under article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (signed by the People’s Republic of China in October 1997), which recognizes the right of everyone “(t)o take part in cultural life”. China regularly claims that the Tibetan people’s human rights are being observed and that they enjoy full religious freedom, but this is an unequivocal lie.

References:

July 16, 1925 (a Thursday)

John Thomas Scopes, June, 1925.

On this date, lawyers for both sides in the Scopes Monkey Trial debated the issue of whether the defense should be allowed to present expert witnesses. Mr. Darrow said:

We expect to show that [the Bible] isn’t in conflict with the theory of evolution. We expect to show what evolution is, and the interpretation of the Bible that prevails with men of intelligence who have studied it. [Metcalf] is an evolutionist who has shown amply that he knows his subject and is competent to speak, and we insist that a jury cannot decide this important question which means the final battle ground between science and religion—according to our friend here—without knowing both what evolution is and the interpretation of the story of creation.

The prosecution argued that such testimony was irrelevant to Scopes’ guilt or innocence under the statue. Assistant prosecutor Hicks said:

[W]hy admit these experts? Why admit them? It is not necessary. Why admit them? They invade the province of the jury…If they want to make a school down here in Tennessee to educate our poor ignorant people, let them establish a school out here; let them bring down their experts. The people of Tennesee do not object to that, but we do object to them making a school house or a teachers’ institute out of this court. Such procedure in Tennessee is unknown.

Dudley Field Malone countered for the defense, arguing in a thundering voice that the prosecution’s position was borne of the same ignorance “which made it possible for theologians…to bring Old Galilee to trial.” He concluded by saying:

There is never a duel with the truth. The truth always wins and we are not afraid of it. The truth is no coward. The truth does not need the law. The truth does not need the force of government. The truth does not need Mr. Bryan. The truth is imperishable, eternal and immortal and needs no human agency to support it. We are ready to tell the truth as we understand it and we do not fear all the truth that they can present as facts. We are ready. We are ready. We feel we stand with progress. We feel we stand with science. We feel we stand with intelligence. We feel we stand with fundamental freedom in America. We are not afraid. Where is the fear? We meet it, where is the fear? We defy it, we ask your honor to admit the evidence as a matter of correct law, as a matter of sound procedure and as a matter of justice to the defense in this case.

It was a powerful speech. Anti-evolution lawmaker John Washington Butler (who authored the statute Scopes was charged with violating) called it “the finest speech of the century.” Members of the press gave Malone a standing ovation and most courtroom spectators joined in the sustained applause.

July 15, 1925 (a Wednesday)

Drugstore owner Fred Robinson and his family with chimp Joe Mendi (second from left) sipping a Coca-Cola.

On this date, the prosecution in the Scopes Monkey Trial presented its case against the defendant, calling to the stand Rhea County School Superintendent Walter White, two of John Scopes’ students (Howard Morgan and Harry Shelton), and Fred Robinson, who was a drug store owner and head of the school board. When the time came for cross-examination, Darrow went on the offensive. White conceded that the textbook Scopes was accused of using – Hunter’s Civic Biology- was the official biology textbook of the state of Tennessee. The students admitted that learning Darwin’s theory of evolution from their football coach had in no way damaged their faith or their character. Robinson testified that he himself sold copies of the offending textbook in his drugstore where John Scopes had been arrested.

Towards the end of the day, the defense called its first witness, zoology professor Maynard Metcalf, to explain evolution and to prove that even devout Christians accepted evolution; he was not only an evolutionary biologist from Johns Hopkins University but also a Sunday school teacher at his congregational church. The prosecution argued that Metcalf’s scientific testimony was irrelevant, but Judge Raulston had not yet made up his mind so he excused the jurors while Metcalf was initially questioned.

As court ended that day, Bryan handed Darrow a small wooden monkey, a tiny memento of the trial.

July 14, 1925 (a Tuesday)

A trained chimpanzee named Joe Mendi performs for a group of school children outside the home of Mrs. F. Robinson.

On this date, lawyers in the Scopes Monkey Trial argued over whether it is appropriate for Judge Raulston to begin each court session with a prayer. Darrow stated, “I understand from the court himself that he has sometimes opened the court with prayer and sometimes not, and we took no exceptions on the first day, but seeing this is persisted in every session, and the nature of this case being one where it is claimed by the state that there is a conflict between science and religion, above all other cases there should be no part taken outside of the evidence in this case and no attempt by means of prayer or in any other way to influence the deliberation and consideration of the jury of the facts in this case.” Nevertheless, the judge overruled the objection.

An angry Judge Raulston appointed a committee to investigate who leaked to reporters the story that he would not grant the defense’s motion to quash the indictment on constitutional grounds.

"A Venerable Orang-outang", a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in *The Hornet*, a satirical magazine on 22 March 1871.

Outside the courtroom, two chimpanzees and a strange appearing man who was called “the missing link” were brought today to Dayton and attracted large crowds. One of the chimpanzees — named Joe Mendi — wore a plaid suit, a brown fedora, and white spats, and entertained Dayton’s citizens by monkeying around on the courthouse lawn. Apparently, the stunt was designed to “prove” that it was not man who evolved from the anthropoid, but the anthropoid which devolved from man. Mr. Bryan’s eyes sparkled as he gazed at the chimpanzee. “Wonderful!” he said. “Wonderful!” The so-called missing link was Jo Viens, formerly of Burlington, Vermont where, it was said, he was once mascot for the Burlington Fire Department. He was 51 years old, of short stature with a receding forehead and a protruding jaw like that of a simian, and had a peculiar shuffling walk which was said to be like that of an anthropoid. Mr. Nye asserted he was an example of how men “may go down now even as he [mankind] went down ages ago into the anthropoid.”

July 13, 1925 (a Monday)

The judge (right) and jury.

On this date, the defense in the Scopes Monkey Trial argued that the indictment of John Scopes should be thrown out for violating either the United States or Tennessee constitutions. This was the heart of the defense strategy; the goal was not to obtain the acquittal of Scopes, but to have a higher court – preferably the U.S. Supreme Court – declare laws forbidding the teaching of evolution to be unconstitutional. As expected, Judge Raulston denied the defense motion.

Notably, it was today that Clarence Darrow made the following famous statement during the trial:

If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

July 11, 1977 (a Monday)

The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name

By James Kirkup

Christ blessing - Raphael, 1506.

‘Christ Blessing’ – Raphael, 1506.

As they took him from the cross
I, the centurion, took him in my arms–
the tough lean body
of a man no longer young,
beardless, breathless,
but well hung.

He was still warm.
While they prepared the tomb
I kept guard over him.
His mother and the Magdalen
had gone to fetch clean linen
to shroud his nakedness.

I was alone with him.
For the last time
I kissed his mouth. My tongue
found his, bitter with death.
I licked his wound-
the blood was harsh

For the last time
I laid my lips around the tip
of that great cock, the instrument
of our salvation, our eternal joy.
The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
with death’s final ejaculation.

 Christ at the Column - Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (Il Sodoma), 1514.

‘Christ at the Column’ – Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (Il Sodoma), 1514.

I knew he’d had it off with other men-
with Herod’s guards, with Pontius Pilate,
With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
He loved all men, body, soul and spirit – even me.

So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
lay together with him in his desolation,
caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

It was the only way I knew to speak our love’s proud name,
to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread-
something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
his dear, broken body all open wounds,
and in each wound his side, his back,
his mouth – I came and came and came

as if each coming was my last.
And then the miracle possessed us.
I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
his spirit’s final seed within my hole, my soul,
pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

Christ at the Column - Donato Bramante,  c. 1490.

‘Christ at the Column’ – Donato Bramante, c. 1490.

-This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
one upon the other, till they die of lust and pain
within the horny paradise of one another’s limbs,
with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
They knew what we had done, but felt
no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

And after three long, lonely days, like years,
in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
all others. And took me to him with
the love that now forever dares to speak its name.

Zen stones

'Gay News' issue #96, dated 3 June 1976.

‘Gay News’ issue #96, dated 3 June 1976.

The above poem alluding to Jesus Christ and same-sex attraction was published, along with a drawing by the illustrator Tony Reeves, on page 26 of issue 96 dated 3 June 1976 of the British periodical Gay News. It expresses the fictional love of a Roman Centurion for Jesus and describes him having sex with the Christ’s crucified body. It also suggests Jesus had sex with Pontius Pilate, the disciples, and John the Baptist.

In early November 1976, a certain Mary Whitehouse obtained a copy of the poem and construed it as blasphemous. She announced her intention to bring a private prosecution against the magazine under the Blasphemy Act of 1697. Under Section 8 of the Law of Libel Amendment Act of 1888, intended to protect newspapers from vexatious litigation, this required the leave of a judge in chambers. Leave to bring this prosecution was granted on 9 December 1976. The charges named Gay News Ltd and Denis Lemon as the publishers. A charge against Moore Harness Ltd for distributing was subsequently dropped.

The indictment described the offending publication as “a blasphemous libel concerning the Christian religion, namely an obscene poem and illustration vilifying Christ in his life and in his crucifixion”. The Gay News Fighting Fund was set up in December 1976. Judge Alan King-Hamilton QC heard the trial at the Old Bailey on 4 July 1977, with John Mortimer QC and Geoffrey Robertson representing the accused and John Smyth representing Mary Whitehouse.

'The Dead Christ' - Andrea Mantegna, 1480.

‘The Dead Christ’ – Andrea Mantegna, 1480.

Prosecuting Counsel John Smyth told the court: “It may be said that this is a love poem — it is not, it is a poem about buggery.” The defense argued that far from being “vile” and “perverted” the poem glorified Christ by illustrating that all of mankind could love him. During the six-day trial columnist and TV personality Bernard Levin and novelist Margaret Drabble testified that the Gay News was a responsible paper that did not encourage illegal sexual practices.

On Monday, 11 July 1977, the jury gave their 10-2 guilty verdict in the case of Whitehouse v. Lemon. Gay News Ltd was fined £1,000. Denis Lemon was fined £500 and sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended. It had been “touch and go”, said the judge, whether he would actually send Denis Lemon to jail.

Mary Whitehouse’s costs of £7,763 were ordered to be paid four-fifths by Gay News Ltd and one-fifth by Lemon. Gay News Ltd and Denis Lemon appealed against conviction and sentence. On 17 March 1978, the Court of Appeal quashed Denis Lemon’s suspended prison sentence but upheld the convictions. Gay News readers voted by a majority of 20 to 1 in favor of appealing to the House of Lords. The Law Lords heard the appeal against conviction and delivered their judgment on 21 February 1979. At issue was whether or not the offense of blasphemous libel required specific intent of committing such a blasphemy. The Lords concluded that intention was not required. The appeal was lost.

Man of Sorrows - Maarten van Heemskerck, 1532.  The artist has depicted Christ with an erection, which according to some scholars' interpretation, is a symbol of his resurrection and lifelong power.

‘Man of Sorrows’ – Maarten van Heemskerck, 1532. The artist has depicted Christ with an erection, which according to some scholars’ interpretation is a symbol of his resurrection and lifelong power.

The European Commission of Human Rights declared the case inadmissible to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights on 7 May 1982. The £26,435 raised by the Gay News Fighting Fund through benefits and donations from the gay community and others, including a £500 donation from Monty Python, was sufficient to cover the costs of the trial and appeals.

On 11 July 2002, a deliberate and well-publicized public reading of the poem took place on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square in central London, but failed to lead to any prosecution. Police officers surrounded the campaigners as a collection of people opposed to the reading attempted to shout as loud as they could to prevent anyone from hearing. The protest passed off without any incidents, with campaigners arguing for blasphemy laws to be scrapped. “We have won an important victory for free speech and the right to protest”, declared human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. The author, James Falconer Kirkup, at the time 84, criticized campaigners because he did not want the poem to be used for “political ends”.

For years, publishing this poem was illegal in the UK, although the poem was and is widely available on the Internet. Whitehouse v. Lemon was the last prosecution for blasphemy in the UK. Britain’s ancient laws of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, which made it illegal to insult Christianity, were finally abolished by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008.

'Saint Sebastian' - Guido Reni, 1615, currently at Palazzo Russo in Genoa.

‘Saint Sebastian’ – Guido Reni, 1615, currently at Palazzo Russo in Genoa.

The scandal “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” provoked was out of all proportion to any offense it might have caused to believing Christians, just as the celebrity it achieved was out of all proportion to any merit it might have enjoyed as literature. The poem would probably have been read by only a few hundred people, and perhaps largely forgotten, if it were not for the publicity of the trial.

The poem’s lack of originality is apparent from its title, which is not merely an inverted cliché but one that is a reference to the famous poem by Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945), “Two Loves“, which was itself a reference to the Shakespeare sonnet #144, also named “Two Loves.” The imagery of Kirkup’s poem is relentlessly shocking, from the opening verse where we read that the dead Christ has “the tough, lean body of a man no longer young, beardless, breathless, but well hung” to the fifth verse, an enumeration of Christ’s sexual partners (although it clearly is not pornographic because it is not obscene simply for the sake of obscenity). The mention of Paul is particularly inane, since Paul never met Christ and many Christians suspect that his message might have been very different if he had. Moreover, Kirkup betrays his ignorance of the gospel story by leaving out the most likely candidate for “the disciple whom Jesus loved”: Saint John.

Central figures in Bernini's 'Ecstasy of Saint Teresa'.

Central figures in Bernini’s ‘Ecstasy of Saint Teresa’.

Yet, much classic religious art has always been intensely erotic, whether it be Guido Reni’s Saint Sebastian, which was a favorite painting of both Oscar Wilde and Yukio Mishima, or Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, a sculpture which depicts a truth evident to any open-minded reader of the story of Teresa of Avila: that her “raptures” are essentially orgasmic. The two central figures of the swooning nun and the angel with the spear derive from an episode described by the mystical cloistered Discalced Carmelite reformer and nun in her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582). In the passage, she describes being pierced by a seraphim’s spear: “In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with the love of God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it.”

It was a pity that the furor overshadowed Kirkup’s other achievements as a poet and writer, which were considerable. His poem “No More Hiroshimas” [archived here] is particularly moving.

July 10, 1925 (a Friday)

Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan during the trial.

On this date, the famous Scopes Monkey Trial began in Dayton, Tennessee with jury selection in the Rhea County Court House.

On 21 March 1925, Tennessee Governor Austin Peay had signed the Butler Act, making it illegal “to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals.” In May, the American Civil Liberties Union had announced that it was willing to offer its services to any teacher who challenged the constitutionality of the new Tennessee anti-evolution statute.

Local town leaders, realizing that a controversial trial would bring attention to Dayton and that the resulting publicity might thereby economically benefit the town, had recruited a local high school teacher, John Scopes, to stand trial under the Act. The 24-year-old Scopes was in his first job after graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1924. He taught algebra and physics, served as athletic coach, and occasionally substituted in biology classes at the Rhea County High School. The indictment identified the date of his teaching evolution as “the 24th day of April.”

Clarence Darrow, known as one of the best lawyers of his era, led the defense while William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic candidate for President and a populist, led the prosecution. The stage was set for one of the most famous trials in American history. For many Americans, this event marked the beginning of a re-examination of long-held religious beliefs and a growing acceptance of evolution and its implications for the place of humans on the planet.

More photos are available here.