The Theme Of Power And Freedom Of Thought In Inherit The Wind - Nelson ENG3U5 - Essay

2059 words - 9 pages

Damon Karnis
Pamela Blair
13 December 2018
On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres:
The Theme of Power and Freedom of Thought in Inherit the Wind
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and
intellect has intended us to forgo their use” - Galileo Galilei
Today, the right to freedom of thought is one that many citizens of the first world take for
granted, however, many throughout history have faced persecution and hostility due to their
advocacy of ideas that challenge the contemporary dominant notions, which were, historically,
the views of a fundamentalist religious authority. Inherit the Wind, a play written by Jerome
Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, explores the theme of fundamentalism and freedom of thought,
through the lens of the battle between the dominant views of the church and the emergent theory
of Darwinian evolution. Due to the strong conviction that the truths of the universe are all
already known and the fear of speaking out induced in the populace, combined with the necessity
of innovative thinking to social and technological progress, a fundamentalist religious authority
has the potential to discourage the advent of new ideas and progress. Therefore, it is clear that
power and authority can be detrimental to freedom of thought and, in turn, the advancement of
knowledge and society.
The existence of a strongly enforced religious doctrine can give rise to the idea that
everything is already known, and, as such, has the potential to create a feeling of apathy and even
contempt towards science and discovery. One way in which this is done is through the education
of the population, which often rests on a foundation of commonly held religious beliefs and
morals. This serves to bias the people toward a certain way of thinking, creating a barrier to
revolutionary thought. This is shown clearly in the play by Brady’s reaction toward Drummond’s
suggestion that the jury should be educated on Darwin’s theory of evolution before passing
The people of this state have made it very clear that they do not want this zoo-ological
hogwash slobbered around the schoolrooms! And I refuse to allow these agnostic
scientists to employ this courtroom as a sounding board, as a platform from which they can shout
their heresies into the headlines! (Lawrence/Lee, 81-82)
By enforcing what is deemed to be the ‘right’ way of thinking, it is possible for religious
authority to place mental cages on the majority of citizens, particularly if taught at a young age.
It is also possible that the simple conviction that all is already known is enough to discourage
many curious individuals from pursuing answers to their questions, and instead turn to the Bible
or other religious doctrine, thus reducing public interest in science and technology. This view is
reflected in Colonel Brady’s answer to a scientific question about the story of creation: “I do not
think about things that… I do not think about!” (...

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