Later this month The George Eastman Museum in Rochester is set to screen the 1960 courtroom drama Inherit the Wind. Based on the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925, the film remains one of director Stanley Kramer’s most relevant and masterful creations. As the Dryden Theatre wrote in their bulletin: “Inherit the Wind relates the sensational trial of a young teacher, Bertram Cates (Dick York), who is prosecuted for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a high school science class — a violation of state law. Three-time presidential candidate Matthew Brady (Fredric March) is the prosecutor pitted against the controversial and brilliant defence lawyer Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) in a rhetorical battle between fundamentalism and science, while newspaper journalist E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) of the Baltimore Sun gives the case national coverage. Released during the McCarthy era, Inherit the Wind provided a means to critique the present through history.”
The McCarthy reference in particular made me stop and think about Kramer’s film in the context of Donald Trump’s presidency. In 1925 religious fundamentalists refused to accept the evidence and implications of Darwin’s theories. They honestly did not give a damn about facts if they interfered with their version of reality. Today, the policies and views of Mr. Trump are as bigoted, irrational, and unscientific as those who fought to block evolution from schools nearly a century ago. Even as Trump co-opted the language of the McCarthy scare to cast himself as a victim of a witch hunt, the real crusade going on in Washington — and across our nation — has been the one Mr. Trump has personally launched. It is a fundamentalist crusade against the edicts of common sense, the value of moral decency, and the integrity of the scientific method.
Just take Trump’s performance in the past week, in which he made three statements that are as ignorant and close minded as anything introduced and criticized during the Scope’s Trial.
Referencing a comment made by Fox and Friends guest Patrick Moore, a self proclaimed co-founder of Greenpeace, Trump retweeted: “The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it’s Fake Science. There is no climate crisis, there’s weather and climate all around the world, and in fact carbon dioxide is the main building block of all life.” Trump punctuated his re-tweet with “Wow!”
There is a tremendous amount that is wrong with this, but let’s start by getting one fact straight. According to Greenpeace, “Although Mr. Moore played a significant role in Greenpeace Canada for several years, he did not found Greenpeace.” The organization went on to clarify that “Phil Cotes, Irving Stowe, and John Bohlen founded Greenpeace in 1970…and the group eventually voted him (Mr. Moore) out of leadership roles and he left the organization in 1986.”