Monday, May 15, 2017

The Darrow Statue and the Friendly Atheist

Well, this was predictable.

I recently griped about the preposterously one-sided portrayal of Dayton in an article in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. The article's author seems to go out of his way to find the most outrageous voice in the county to present as "opposition" to the statue of Clarence Darrow coming to the courthouse lawn. No voices from Rhea County were presented for balance or difference of opinion.  It's just the county vs. the humanists.  Our local TV station WRCB had a similar article, but they talked to the local Historical Society president Ralph Green for a different view.  They still portrayed this statue as "causing controversy," but I have to give them credit for at least talking to someone else in Rhea County.

I saw Ralph at a banquet last week, and I asked him about the article and the statue.  He told me there were a few people who were not really happy about the statue, but June Griffin is the only one making a fuss.  Again, my point here is that while Mrs. Griffin has every right to make a legal fuss about anything she wants, that does not make her a typical representative of Dayton or Rhea County.

And what do you know?  Someone else fell for this fake controversy.

On a blog titled the "Friendly Atheist," Hemant Mehta has a lot of fun with the article.  First, he recommends readers watch Inherit the Wind.  That might be an interesting movie, but it's terrible history.  Next, he describes Dayton as "one of those places where acceptance of evolution is still seen as heretical in many circles."  Ah yes, one of "those places."  I suppose that might be true in some circles I'm completely oblivious to, but I've been involved with teaching evolution in Rhea County for more than a decade now.  No one's tried to lynch me.

Next, we read, "But some activists are still not happy with the decision to allow the Darrow statue to go up."  Some activists?  He cites one.  After quoting the article, he's got one really great conclusion: "There’s your Christian reaction to the statue of Darrow: Evolution is a joke, this ain’t France, and we’re gonna vandalize that piece of art."

Christian reaction to the statue of Darrow?  Really?  One person in Rhea County is held up as the "Christian reaction?"  I'm sorry, but isn't that stereotyping?  At the very least, it doesn't exhibit basic principles of evidence-based reasoning or critical thinking.  A sample size of one is insufficient to represent the entire population of Christians.  It's not statistically significant.  Even more, Ralph Green is also quoted in the same article as being favorable to the statue, and he's a Christian too.

Here is where I should insert some kind of snide comment about atheists or even how terrible Mehta's blog is, but that would be falling victim to exactly what he's done to Dayton.  I don't want to be like that.  I want to do better than that.  I want to think carefully and critically and not just condemn entire groups of people for the behavior of a handful. I know I'm bad at this because it's human nature to jump to conclusions, so God help me!

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