Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From the Library: Hell and the High Schools

For those just joining us, "From the Library" spotlights interesting items in the library of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College.

Those having any interest in the Scopes trial are probably familiar with this image of evangelist T.T. Martin's book stall set up behind the court house. From this spot, he sold copies of the latest antievolution works, including Alfred Watterson McCann's God - Or Gorilla, pamphlets by B.H. Shadduck, George McCready Price's Phantom of Organic Evolution, and Martin's own Hell and the High Schools. (Business must have been good, since Ron Numbers records that Phantom is the only book that yielded Price any royalties.) H.L. Mencken described Martin in his July 15 Scopes trial essay,
A somewhat more plausible volunteer has turned up in the person of Pastor T.T. Martin, of Blue Mountain, Miss. He has hired a room and stocked it with pamphlets bearing such titles as "Evolution a Menace," "Hell and the High Schools" and "God or Gorilla," and addresses connoisseurs of scientific fallacy every night on a lot behind the Courthouse. Pastor Martin, a handsome and amiable old gentleman with a great mop of snow-white hair, was a professor of science in a Baptist college for years, and has given profound study to the biological sections of the Old Testament.
Mencken goes on to describe Martin's (over the top) belief that the Levitical kosher laws have a firm biological basis, but this is a creation/evolution blog, so I'll try to stay on topic.

We just acquired this clean copy of Hell and the High Schools for the CORE library (the previous owner stamped his name over the title and, just to make sure we knew his identity, signed the title page and stamped the table of contents). Other than the famous photo, this book would be pretty unremarkable. The content is pretty standard antievolution stuff of the period: evolution is not science, scientists reject/argue/doubt evolution, and evolution causes moral decay.

What distinguishes the book is Martin's flair for the dramatic. Here's an excerpt from p. 62:
In the name of God, where is your Christian manhood? Where is the spirit of those who came over in the Mayflower? Where is the Spirit of 1776? The rule of England over the colonies was child's play, compared to this God-dishonouring, God-defying, Christ-dethroning, Saviour-destroying, soul-dooming curse of Evolution that has us by the throat.

So that's basically Hell and the High Schools in a nutshell. If it wasn't for that photo and the work of Mencken, this book would be all but forgotten. I think that reinforces my point about repackaging the same old rhetoric. Martin's contributions to the evolution debate of the period are all but forgotten, while Price's work endures. Why? At least in part because Martin just rehashed what everyone said and had said for years. Price broke new ground (for good or ill - I suppose the jury's still out on that) and left us with new concepts of catastrophic geology and speciation within created kinds. I hope that creationists of this generation will continue to break new ground rather than just rehashing what's been said for 150 years.