Yesterday evening I watched a movie, ' Inherit the Wind', directed by Stanley Kramer in 1960. Teacher B.T. Cates is arrested for teaching Darwin's theories. Famous lawyer Henry Drummond defends him; fundamentalist politician Matthew Brady prosecutes. The period is sometime in the early 1920s. In those times, a heated debate was going on in America between the Bible-centered christians who belived in the Genesis according to the Bible and the scientific theory of evolution by Charles Darwin. Most of the film is shot in courtroom scenes. In spite of the long dialogues, the film is riveting. It is more than Genesis Vs Evolution; it is more about truth Vs faith. It is about the right for an individual to think. It is about breaking away from the accepted, unquestioned notions of life and probing and unraveling knowledge.
The story is very thought provoking from both points of view, the evolutionist and the fundamentalist Christian. Even though the leanings towards rational, scientific thinking is obvious, it goes to the credit of the movie that it offers a balanced view of either sides. Look at the following lines:
"That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it... tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books... because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding.” The advocate for the fundamentalists retort that 'our children will turn into a godless mob with no direction without the teachings of the Bible'. Isn't that what has happened some 90+ years after the story takes place? But then, fundamentalism has not been much different either, has it? While these opposing views draw battle lines in the movie, an interesting third perspective is offered by a cynical newspaper reporter who believes in neither – it is not his cup of tea either to uphold Christian faith or the flag of scientific enquiry. Alone, he is the typical observer who must burn under the glare.
The choice is ours. Between the comfort that faith offers and the suffering in quest of truth. Between ignorance and submission on one side and knowledge and challenge on the other. The problem with faith is that the faithful tends to defend their faith; for that they would go to any extreme, including violence to suppress any force that questions their faith.
Extrapolating the above conflict, one can see that most of the issues in our world are actually between liberalism and conservatism. Be it religion, politics, culture, economics, enviroment – any aspect of our life, the contrasting views are based on either of the above.
************* Balachandran V, 17.04.10