When I first began reading summer of the Gods I read it as one would read a historical text. Evaluating the arguments and putting myself into these people’s shoes. As I have progressed through the book I am beginning to understand what drove William Jennings Bryan and his Fundamentalist cohorts to go to such lengths to suppress progressive teachings on our origin as a species. It was not just their staunch belief in Christianity that made them so devoted to the cause, but also the idea that they were engaged in a war of ideology, with the classroom and courtroom as the battleground, and the consequence of their failure being the collapse of religion, or so they thought.
It is interesting to note that since evolution has gone mainstream, religious fervor has certainly declined within my generation. However as religious attitudes have waned within the greater populace, fundamentalists, those seeking to live life by the Bible, have turned ever more fundamental. Such is the result of a single minded group of people becoming ever more isolated. In many ways the evangelical resurgence America has seen in recent years mirrors what happened in the prelude to the Scopes Monkey Trial. Fundamentalists had generally stayed away from direct confrontation of evolution until William Jennings Bryan and his followers began staunchly opposing it’s teachings in post-World War One America. Bryan feared that the spread of evolutionary and survival of the fittest ideologies would turn people into violent animals, intent on destroying each other as happened in WW1. His fears would culminate in the Nazi’s eugenics driven drive to create an Aryan dominated world. However in the post WW2 world something amazing happened. Nations didn’t isolate themselves and create genetically perfect races, or continually war with each other on a global. Rather, once humanity saw the awesome destructive power we possessed, we opened our doors to international discourse and for the last 70 years we have not had a war of global proportions. What Bryan failed to realize in his fear of Survival of the Fittest Dogma was the human element. We have evolved past the animalistic view of, “I kill you because I can.” Although the last century was ugly and involved some of the most atrocious conflicts in our history, we have emerged as a population capable of attaining new heights that we could never have dreamed of before. Instead of stripping humans of their moral code, evolution opened a whole new doorway of intellectual pursuit, free from the constraints of a 2,000 year old text.
On a personal level, I can understand the exacerbation that evolutionists must have felt from fundamentalist’s refusal to accept what was essentially scientific fact. Learning about global warming in school, it was always presented to me as “the theory of global warming” or “the possibility of global warming.” Well, with carbon levels at their highest in recorded history and the UN recently releasing a statement saying they’re “95% sure humans are responsible for global warming,” I’d say it’s about time anti-global warming advocates threw in the towel. When I first learned about global warming I accepted it as a fact simply because, it obviously made sense. A quick look at carbon levels and temperature spikes in recent decades shows an obvious correlation with the rapid increase in global industrialization and carbon output. Whether the recent uptick in global natural calamities has any connection between our carbon-footprint is still up for debate but I for one have seen The Day After Tomorrow, and since I don’t have Dennis Quaid to come rescue me, I’d rather avoid that scenario.
All kidding aside though, the debate between accepting global warming as fact or theory mirrors the debate on evolution in many ways. Just as the battle over evolution culminated with the Scopes Monkey Trial, I believe that the debate over Global Warming will soon reach a climax with the general acceptance of manmade Global Warming following soon after. However while the acceptance of evolution marked an ideological turning point, Global Warming represents a far more serious threat to our survival and as such necessitates drastic measures to be taken soon if we are to secure the future of our species. Otherwise we may not be around long enough to get to see World War 3. The confines of what feels comfortable is far more dangerous then what we find when we explore.
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
McGrath, Matt. “IPCC Climate Report: Humans ‘dominant Cause’ of Warming.” BBC News. BBC, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24292615>.