Christ is risen! Alleluia!
As we approach the centenary of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, the mass media are already gearing up to celebrate this “victory” of modern science over “fundamentalist” Christianity. In this newsletter we will see that the Scopes Trial was actually a fantastic display of pseudoscience and anti-Christian bigotry and that all Catholics should learn the facts of the matter so that they can counter this modern mythology with the truth.
The Status Quo Ante Scopes
In 1925, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Butler Act prohibiting the teaching of human evolution in its public schools. When opponents of the law persuaded a physical education teacher to violate the law by teaching from a textbook that taught human evolution, one of the leading protestant populist political leaders, William Jennings Bryan, agreed to prosecute the case and appealed to Catholic and protestant leaders alike to come to his support. With the death of Pope St. Pius X, enforcement of the Congregation of the Index’s 1878 ruling that evolution could not be reconciled with Christian doctrine effectively came to an end—as did a straightforward interpretation of the rulings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Just one month before the Scopes Trial, Jesuit Father Francis LeBuffe argued in the pages of Commonweal Magazine that the 1909 responses of the PBC prohibited Catholics from entertaining the hypothesis of the evolution of the human body from lower life-forms. But neither he nor any of the minority of like-minded conservative Catholic theologians in the U.S. seems to have been willing to answer Bryan’s call for support for his defense of Tennessee’s right to forbid the teaching of human evolution in the public schools.
The effective silencing of Catholic criticism of the mass media’s push for the teaching of evolution as fact in all government schools helped to pave the way for one of the greatest abuses of natural science in the history of the world, as virtually every argument in support of the evolutionary hypothesis assembled by Darrow’s defense team is now acknowledged to have been totally bogus, even by the evolution-believing scientific establishment. As early as 1922, the American Association for the Advancement of Science had passed a resolution that “the evidences in favor of the evolution of man are sufficient to convince every scientist of note in the world.” Darrow deposed some of the most eminent “scientists of note” in the United States in advance of the trial, so that he would be ready to present the overwhelming evidence for the hypothesis of human evolution. Although these depositions were never actually introduced as evidence during the trial, it is still highly instructive to examine them, to see just how flimsy the evidence touted as convincing to “every scientist of note” actually was.
Before looking at the evidence in the depositions collected by Clarence Darrow in advance of the trial, it would be worth considering the fact that Darrow brought a plaster cast of the Piltdown Man skull to the trial. From the day in 1912 when its discoverers announced that they had found a definite missing link between apes and humans, The New York Times launched the “accepted narrative” on Piltdown Man with the modest headline, “"Darwin Theory is Proved True”—not “supported,” “substantiated,” or even “confirmed”—but “proved true”! In 1931, The New York Times underscored the all but universal acceptance of this “proof” of Darwin’s theory with an article on one of the most famous paleontologists of his age, Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935), who pontificated from his positions at Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History that humans had evolved in Europe, and, specifically, in England! From 1934 until 1952, two-thirds of all biology textbooks in the United States hailed “Piltdown Man” as fossil proof of man’s evolution from a one-celled organism through hundreds of millions of years of “struggle for existence.” It was only in 1953 that a careful examination of the Piltdown man skull revealed that it was a fraud.
We might do well to ponder the response of Pope St. Pius X to the news of Piltdown Man, if it reached him—as it probably did—in Rome in 1912. Since he had mandated the teaching of the Roman Catechism as the gold standard for teaching the Faith, we have no doubt that he rejected the bogus claim that Darwin’s theory had been “proven true”—not because he had examined the claim in detail, but because he knew from Divine Revelation that the first human beings had been created supernaturally, body and soul, as Pope Leo XIII, his predecessor, had taught so beautifully in his encyclical Arcanum on Holy Marriage a generation before.
We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep.
For Pope St. Pius X and Pope Leo XIII—as for all of their predecessors back to St. Peter—and for all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church—the question of man’s origin was not a proper subject for natural science but for historical theology. Thus, no forensic evidence, no matter how impressive it might appear to someone operating within a uniformitarian naturalistic framework, could ever prompt them to doubt the truth of man’s supernatural origin by special creation. Yet, to the intellectual elite of the early twentieth century—those who already controlled the secular universities and were gradually taking control of Catholic universities and seminaries—to question Piltdown Man and other fossil evidence for human evolution was most definitely to indulge in a kind of “conspiracy theory.”
Fr. Ryan and the Response to the Scopes Trial
The evolutionists’ legal response to the Butler Act prohibiting the teaching of human evolution was handled by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). When a teacher was found willing to violate the law, and William Jennings Bryan offered to prosecute the case, the ACLU received an offer from superstar attorney Clarence Darrow to handle the defense. Moral theologian Fr. John Augustine Ryan was the only Catholic member of the ACLU board at the time, and he told the ACLU president Roger Baldwin, “I can’t object to your going into a case like this. I don’t care where the body comes from, as long as the soul is recognized as the creation of God.”
It is worth taking a few moments to reflect on this statement from a “rising star” among Catholic intellectuals in the U.S. almost a hundred years ago—a statement that finds an echo in the writings of the overwhelming majority of Catholic intellectuals today. On the one hand, Fr. Ryan’s opinion has become so commonplace among Catholic thinkers that it is hard to grasp the potential for harm that his statement contains. On the other hand, a serious reflection on the negative implications of his statement should lead any informed Catholic to some deeply disturbing considerations. Indeed, Fr. Ryan’s statement ought to have raised the specter of a kind of rising neo-gnosticism within Catholic intellectual circles, of the very sort that the Magisterium had sought to eradicate once and for all with the Firmiter decree of the Fourth Lateran Council against the heresy of the Albigensian-Catharist heretics.
The Albigensian heretics had denied the special creation of the various kinds of plants, animals, and even of the human body, thus rationalizing sexual immorality on the ground that it mattered little what men did with their bodies, since the soul was the only part of man that was directly created by God. Like many of today’s theistic evolutionists, Fr. Ryan and other rising stars in the intellectual firmament of the early twentieth century focused on social justice while withdrawing their support for the foundations of social justice in the traditional understanding of natural law. The creation of man as man and woman as woman with a stable human nature established the norms of human sexual morality for all times and places. The widespread acceptance of human evolution by Catholic intellectuals like Fr. Ryan destroyed this foundation and eventually led to the acceptance of homosexuality, contraception, transgenderism, and other perversions, since the human body of man and woman in its original form was no longer seen as the specially-created “form of the body”—as defined at the Ecumenical Council of Vienne in 1312—but as a transient physical habitation formed through material processes over long ages of time.
Evolving human nature is defined as much by its evolutionary ancestors and close relatives—like the chimpanzees and bonobos—as by the state of its physical organization at any particular point in its evolutionary history. Worse still, to the extent that Catholic intellectuals retained any respect for the natural law, Fr. Ryan’s perspective led to the practice of regarding fallen human nature as the norm, rather than the original human nature specially created by God in the beginning.
Pseudo-Science-Tsunami and the Curse of Galileo
Catholic intellectuals were not only afraid to be associated with protestant fundamentalists. They were also intimidated by secular intellectuals like Edwin Conklin at Princeton University who reminded the readers of the New York Times shortly before the Scopes Trial of the Catholic Church’s role in retarding scientific progress in the Galileo Affair. To this day the myth of the Catholic Church’s role in the alleged obstruction of scientific progress through her persecution of Galileo is so widely-believed that a mere mention of Galileo suffices to silence most Catholics who dare to question the consensus view on any topic related to the origins of man and the universe. That this was already the case one hundred years ago is apparent from the ease with which pseudo-scientific claims were passed off as hard evidence for the evolutionary hypothesis during the Scopes Trial with scarcely a word of protest from Catholic intellectuals.
Besides the Piltdown Man fraud which Darrow enshrined in court in the form of a plaster cast, other examples of “hard evidence” for human evolution submitted by leading scientists included Nebraska Man, embryonic recapitulation, and a host of alleged “vestigial organs” in the human body, left over from the long ages of evolution. It soon came to light that Nebraska Man and his family had been conjured up from a single tooth—the tooth of an extinct pig! Ernst Haeckel’s drawings of embryos constituted the “most striking proof for evolution,” in Sir Julian Huxley’s words, as late as one hundred years after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Yet in the 1930’s, Gavin de Beer, one of the world’s leading embryologists, was already complaining that Haeckel’s inaccurate drawings had retarded the advancement of research in the field of embryology! Professor Hackett, one of the scientists at the University of Chicago deposed by Darrow, testified on the authority of an anatomist named Wiedersheim that there were no less than 180 vestigial organs in the human body, left over from the long ages of evolution from a one-celled organism. One of the organs specified by Professor Newman in his deposition was the much-maligned vermiform appendix. According to Newman, [this] “and numerous other structures of the same sort can be reasonably interpreted as evidence that man has descended from ancestors in which these organs were functional.”
Acceptance of the evolutionary hypothesis by most biologists and medical researchers ensured that the actual function of the appendix in humans remained obscure for over a century after the publication of Origin of Species. According to an introduction to biology published in 1950:
Science has piled up still further evidence for its case. It has found a number of useless organs among many animals. They have no apparent function and must therefore be a vestige of a once useful part of the body. A long time back these vestigial organs must have been important; now they are just reminders of our common ancestry. One example is the vermiform appendix which not only is utterly useless in human beings but which often causes great distress.
In spite of the anti-scientific evolutionary bias, in the 1960's, experimental evidence demonstrated that the appendix actually serves as a center for antibody-producing cells. By 1976, experimental knowledge of the appendix had evolved to the point that a medical textbook on gastroenterology noted the following:
The appendix is not generally credited with significant function; however, current evidence tends to involve it in the immunologic mechanism.
Further research demonstrated that the appendix is part of the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue system (or G.A.L.T.) which produces several kinds of antibodies: IgA immunoglobulins, which help to protect the bloodstream from infection from the contents of the bowel, and IgM and IgG immunoglobulins, which combat infections in the bloodstream. In 1995, a textbook on anatomy and physiology stated categorically that:
The mucosa and submucosa of the appendix are dominated by lymphoid nodules, and its primary function is as an organ of the lymphatic system.
It is now recognized that the lymphoid nodules appear in the appendix roughly two weeks after birth which coincides with the colonization of the bowel with bacteria. The appendix can be safely removed later in life because it plays its most important role in the body's development immediately after birth and because it is only one part of the Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue system.
In spite of the overwhelming evidence for the functionality of the appendix, 164 years after Origin of Species, Darwin's dim view of the appendix continues to be upheld by respected information sources. For example, a visitor to the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Science and Nature Home Page" can still read the following description of the appendix:
The appendix has no known function in humans. Evidence suggests that our evolutionary ancestors used their appendixes to digest tough food like tree bark, but we don't use ours in digestion now. Some scientists believe that the appendix will disappear from the human body.
The extraordinary ignorance of this statement shows how much faith in the evolutionary hypothesis continues to influence leaders in the field of public information, even when the facts contradict their evolutionary presuppositions. But the statement also reflects the degree to which the conventional wisdom pins the blame for diseases of the appendix squarely on the "vestigial" and defective nature of the organ itself, without even considering the possibility that these diseases could be symptomatic of deeper disorders. By conducting an extensive study of non-modernized societies all over the world, Dr. Weston Price found that appendicitis was virtually non-existent in those who retained their traditional diet and way of life. Typical was the testimony of Dr. Romig who lived among the non-modernized Eskimos of Alaska and who stated that:
in his thirty-six years of contact with these people he had never seen a case of malignant disease among the truly primitive Eskimos and Indians, although it frequently occurs when they become modernized. He found, similarly, that the acute surgical problems requiring operation on internal organs, such as the gall bladder, kidney, stomach and appendix, do not tend to occur among the primitives but are very common problems among the modernized Eskimos and Indians.
In the December 2005 issue of the British Journal of Surgery, in an article entitled "The Aetiology of Appendicitis," Dennis P. Burkitt of the Medical Research Council argued that "Extensive evidence from the geographical distribution of appendicitis and its rise in prevalence in economically developed countries in the early part of this century suggest that the change from a high to a low-residue diet is largely responsible for this disease."
By blaming diseases of the appendix on the defective condition of a vestigial organ, Darwin and his disciples, like Clarence Darrow, up to the present time have helped to discourage researchers from following the traditional approach of Western natural science and medical research initiated by Hippocrates and the ancient Greeks and brought to perfection by Catholic theologians and natural scientists which looked for the causes of human disease in the defective diet, habits, or environment of their patients rather than in some intrinsic defect of the body or of its component parts. By blaming diseases of a vestigial appendix on evolutionary degeneration, generations of scientists lost their incentive to ask why these diseases did not exist among non-industrialized societies and to seek to prevent them through constructive changes in diet and life-style rather than by treating the symptoms of the disease through surgical removal of the “vestigial” organ. Today, virtually every one of the alleged “vestigial organs” cited as evidence for human evolution in Darrow’s depositions is known to be fully-functional. Yet few Catholic commentators ever acknowledge the fact that faith in molecules to man evolution—and its uncritical acceptance by Catholic intellectuals—retarded our understanding of the function of every single one of those organs for several generations!
“Where did Cain get his wife?”
Twice in the course of my secular humanist elementary to high school education I was required to read Inherit the Wind, an alleged dramatization of the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the popular mind, the superiority of Darrow’s evolutionary worldview to Bryan’s outdated fundamentalist Christianity was epitomized by the scene in which Darrow calls Bryan to the witness stand and asks him “Where did Cain get his wife?” to which Bryan is unable to give an intelligent answer. The pied piper of evolutionist atheism Carl Sagan similarly delighted in posing the same question, confident that no Christian would be able to give him a reasonable reply. And yet, while the Fathers of the Church had no difficulty in answering this question, cutting-edge genetics makes it even easier to answer today. The Fathers rightly taught that in the first generations of mankind, God allowed close relatives—even brothers and sisters—to marry as a special dispensation. In the light of cutting-edge genetics, we know that Adam and Eve were created genetically perfect, so even if a few genetic mutations occurred in the germ-line of our first parents after the Fall, there would have been virtually no risk of harm to his offspring if Cain married his sister or his niece.
Ironically, Darrow, his scientific consultants, and their cheerleaders in the mass media enthusiastically supported the thesis of the textbook Civic Biology that the human race could be improved by only allowing the “more fit” to reproduce and by prohibiting the “less fit” members of society from procreating. They disregarded the Creator’s prohibition against the marriage of close relatives in the Law of Moses—by which time genetic mutations had built up in the human genome so that partners in such marriages would be likely to carry the same genetic defects and pass them on to their offspring. Instead, the evolutionists focused on removing the “less fit” through compulsory sterilization (as explained in our previous newsletter) while encouraging the “more fit” to reproduce without regard to their degree of relationship. Not surprisingly, recent research has shown that Darwin’s own descendants suffered from the negative effects of the cousin-marriages of their ancestors. Indeed, they fell prey to the same delusion that has overtaken so much of the Catholic intellectual elite in our day, that God did not create a perfect world for us in the beginning but used hundreds of millions of years of death, deformity and disease to evolve the first human beings. This, in turn, has led to the perverse Teilhardian notion that modern science needs to improve on evolving human nature by manipulating man’s genetics, thus simultaneously denying man’s original perfection while arrogantly experimenting with the divine design of man’s physical body to achieve human perfection in the future, with foreseeably catastrophic consequences.
All Perfection Comes from the Hand of God
As we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and look forward to our own Resurrection at the end of time, it is good to remember the timeless teaching of the Roman Catechism that “As, therefore, at the creation, all things came perfect from the hand of God; so, at the resurrection shall all things be perfectly restored by the same omnipotent hand”:
Not only will the body rise, but it will rise endowed with whatever constitutes the reality of its nature, and adorns and ornaments man: according to these admirable words of St. Augustine: " There shall, then, be no deformity of body; if some have been overburdened with flesh, they shall not resume its entire weight; whatever shall exceed the proper habit shall be deemed superfluous. On the other hand, should the body be wasted by the malignity of disease, or the debility of old age, or be emaciated from any other cause, it shall be recruited by the divine power of Jesus Christ, who will not only restore the body, but repair whatever it shall have lost through the wretchedness of this life . . .”
The members, because essential to the integrity of human nature, shall all be restored: the blind from nature or disease, the lame, the maimed, and the paralysed shall rise again with perfect bodies: otherwise the desires of the soul, which so strongly incline it to a union with the body, should be far from satisfied; and yet we are convinced, that in the resurrection, these desires shall be fully realized. Besides, the resurrection, like the creation, is clearly to be numbered amongst the principal works of God. As, therefore, at the creation, all things came perfect from the hand of God; so, at the resurrection shall all things be perfectly restored by the same omnipotent hand.
Through the prayers of Our Lady, Cause of Our Joy, may God grant you His peace, His joy, and unshakeable Faith in His Word—this Easter and always!
Yours in Christ through the Holy Theotokos in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. I will be giving a series of Kolbe seminars in Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin, culminating with a big seminar in Milwaukee with Fr. Chad Ripperger on April 28-29. If anyone reading this newsletter could organize a venue for me, I would be delighted to give a presentation anywhere between Wisconsin and Virginia on my way home, on Sunday, April 30, or on Monday, May 1st.
P.P.S. Our annual leadership retreat has been scheduled to take place from August 27-September 2, 2023, at the Apostolate for Family Consecration retreat center in Bloomingdale, Ohio. For more information or to register, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.