Before there were the famous books of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris on atheism, there were Clarence Darrow's brilliant witty essays on his disbelief in God, Christianity, and the Bible. This book contains several of Darrow's most witty and penetrating essays on his non-belief. Highly entertaining.
As Dr. Andrea Diem-Lane explains: "When Spencer Tracy, playing Clarence Darrow in the movie Inherit the Wind, takes the Bible in one hand and On Origin of Species in the other and clasps them together side by side to illustrate how science and religion can work together, one is led to assume that Darrow was indeed a theist evolutionist. But was he? Hollywood's portrayal of him in this classic film is obviously suspect. Instead of supporting theism, Darrow's own writings clearly show his strong support for agnosticism (literally, "not knowing"). This philosophical position - the argument that one cannot know ultimate or metaphysical truths or even whether there are any - fits in line with the teachings of Socrates, Hume, Darwin, Einstein and many other philosophers and scientists today. Science is inherently agnostic. As a discipline it tends to only investigate those claims that can, in theory, be tested and proven. Indeed, Karl Popper, a well-known philosopher and historian of science, has stressed that for something to be of scientific merit it must be potentially falsifiable. In other words, science doesn't work by proving itself right, but rather by demonstrating where, when, and how it can potentially be wrong. In this way, it can actually correct prior assumptions and make further testable hypothesis, which can either withstand rational scrutiny or be shown to be lacking in sufficient evidence. When a metaphysical (above or beyond the empirical world) claim is made, however, there is usually no way to test it and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that such a thing actually exists. Believing it to be so is insufficient in the realm of science."
©2008, 2016 MSAC Philosophy Group (P)2016 David Christopher Lane
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
This collection of articles and speeches is of historical value, if nothing else. Darrow was, of course, passionate upon this topic. I am not sure I agree with all his contentions. Many of them are much better expressed by Dawkins, Hutchens, etal in more recent times and others are just superficial. However, many others are as strong today as they were when he first articulated them and show the foundation for his "examination" of William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Monkey Trial and the meticulous work that went into that endeavour. I am not persuaded that Darrow's agnosticism shouldn't have given way to atheism, but he would have resisted that almost as fervently as christian fundamentalism.
I enjoyed the debate (albeit one-sided), even given the repetition from time to time of some of the arguments and examples between respective papers. Nolan does a good job capturing Darrow's nuance of speech. At times I could make him out as Darrow, standing on a glorified soap box between the parting cigar smoke, preaching to the audience. Occasionally there is a glitch in the production/recording, but by and large it is passable.
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