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Arguments Against Science in “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence

It is reasonable to believe that science should be appropriately appreciated by most people in the current time of unprecedented progress in all spheres of life and the availability of various information. It forms the foundation for all the technological advancements making everyone’s living more comfortable and attractive. However, the increased popularity of counter-scientific theories and different conspiracy beliefs distributed via social networks paints a different picture. It is worth noting a poll showing that over forty percent of Americans think that government conceals information regarding aliens, and almost a half trust the stories about haunted houses (Kaufman and Kaufman 12). In this context, Inherit the Wind provides a valuable discussion on the conflicting issues of research and beliefs. Based on the historic trial that took place in 1925, it dwells into the ideas of progress supporters and their opponents. A review of some characters’ arguments is essential for understanding the reasons driving many people against science and finding ways to counter them.

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The most obvious but rarely recognized reason for people not to believe in research is their failure or unwillingness to think. Rachel directly admits this position in several instances throughout the play. When Cates notes that such a simple thing as twilight is different at the top of the world, she mentions living in Hillsboro as a reason not to think about it (Lawrence and Lee 12). This is especially evident in today’s world when many scientific arguments become excessively complicated for a person to understand. In the final part of the play, Rachel gives a statement that can perfectly summarize this position. She notes that she was always afraid of her possible thoughts, and, therefore, “it seemed safer not to think at all” (Lawrence and Lee 77). However, the fallacy of this argument is that it deprives people of their right to think and makes them easily convincible. Rachel realizes it emphasizing the significance of ideas, no matter whether they are good or bad (Lawrence and Lee 59). Although it might be hard, thinking on one’s own is necessary for adequately navigating today’s world.

In a significant number of cases, people’s opposition to science is related to their incomplete knowledge or tendency to follow popular beliefs. It is noted that the “scientific method is a hard discipline,” and even researchers are vulnerable to confirmation bias (Achenbach). In Inherit the Wind, Brady shows a perfect example of this attitude. Participating in the trial dedicated to Darwin’s book, he admits not having read it (Lawrence and Lee 58). He also stands against inviting a zoology or geology professor to the hearings citing such evidence as “irrelevant, immaterial, inadmissible” (Lawrence and Lee 58). Moreover, even talking about the Bible, in which he calls himself an expert, Brady quickly becomes confused when complicated matters are concerned. The inherent weakness of this attitude is that a person fails to see all the available arguments and make a decision based on them. Like Rachel was unwittingly led to testifying against Cates, everyone can become a victim of insufficient knowledge. Following conspiracy theories, which are easy to understand and believe in, is a direct consequence of this approach. Therefore, a person should strive for comprehensive research data despite its complicated character.

Finally, many people refuse to believe in scientific ideas, which differ from their traditional views. Research shows that such concepts as the one that humans originate from primitive species are hard to grasp and intuitively contradicted by many, even if they are accepted rationally (Achenbach). Moreover, people’s tendency to rely on personal experience and create unjustified causal connections support their counter-science argumentation. All this is reflected in Reverand Brown’s ideas stated during the trial. His speech indicates that the world is simple for him, it is created by God as written in the Bible, and anyone opposing this view is a sinner and deserves punishment (Lawrence and Lee 38). In the first scene, he even mentions the need to place a banner indicating the proper views of the community. Brady also supports a similar argument stating that material things are inferior to “the great spiritual realities of the Revealed World” (Lawrence and Lee 44). Such polarization of opinions can often be detected concerning many scientific issues, and increased literacy does not reduce it (Achenbach). Still, it often leads to pseudoscientific conclusions, which are highly promoted on the Internet.

As can be seen, the various arguments against science presented in Inherit the Wind remain relevant in today’s world. People’s desire not to think independently and conduct proper research leads to the increased popularity of easy-to-grasp theories and explanations. The availability of communication means and the influence of views expressed by celebrities further aggravate this issue. A famous actress and anti-vaccine activist, Jenny McCarthy, once noted that she got her degree from “the University of Google” (Achenbach). That quickly reminds of the polarized opinions expressed by Reverand Brown and his simplified understanding of the surrounding world. Thus, science is currently viewed not as a set of data, but as a method of deciding what to believe. Understanding the arguments against it and their inherent deficiencies helps to break the bubble of misleading information surrounding everybody. It teaches to ask proper questions and find the right answers, which is critical as the technology becomes more and more complicated.

Works Cited

Achenbach, Joel. “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?” National Geographic, 2020. Web.

Kaufman, Allison B., and James C. Kaufman, editors. Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science. MIT Press, 2018.

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Lawrence, Jerome, and Robert Edwin Lee. Inherit the Wind. Dramatists Play Service Inc, 2000.

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