Upcoming Events

"Inherit the Wind" film still

Inherit the Wind

A free campus screening of this Oscar-nominated classic film, presented by the Isthmus Society.

Tuesday, April 29
7:00 pm

Union South Marquee Theatre
followed with a discussion led by UW Professor Emeritus Ronald L. Numbers

1960 | dir: Stanley Kramer | 128 min
cast: Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Dick York, Donna Anderson, Harry Morgan, Claude Akins

Until the O.J. Simpson affair in the 1990s no trial in American history had attracted more attention—and been more misunderstood—than the 1925 trial in Dayton, Tennessee, of John Thomas Scopes, accused of violating a state law banning the teaching of human evolution. For the contest, the ACLU brought in several big-city attorneys, including the famed criminal lawyer and agnostic Clarence Darrow from Chicago. To assist the prosecution, the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association secured the services of William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, a thrice-defeated Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States and a well-known Presbyterian antievolutionist.

The award-winning movie Inherit the Wind conveys the message that, despite Scopes’s legal conviction, the trial actually represented a public-relations victory for the evolutionists. Numerous historians have made the same contention. But in fact, the Fundamentalists emerged from the trial by and large flushed with a sense of victory and proud of the way Bryan had handled himself.

Professor Numbers will discuss why the makers of Inherit the Wind chose to interpret the Scopes Trial as they did and the influence of the film's interpretation on subsequent American debates over the teaching of evolution in the public schools.

[see the event poster (PDF)]

Isthmus Society Lectures
at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Frans de Waal
Peter Harrison

poster image
click image for PDF of poster

The Territories of Science and Religion


Monday, May 5, 2014
4:00 pm
Pyle Center
702 Langdon St.
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Free and open to the public


Peter Harrison
Director of the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland

cosponsored by

The John Templeton Foundation

The UW Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions

The UW Department of the History of Science

Lecture Abstract
Science and religion are usually regarded as enduring features of the cultural landscape of the West. However, this view is misleading. Only in the past few hundred years have religious beliefs and activities been bounded by a common notion ‘religion’ and set apart from the ‘non-religious’ or secular domains of human existence. The idea of natural sciences as discrete activities conducted in isolation from religious and moral concerns is even more recent, dating from the nineteenth century. The history of these two ideas has far-reaching implications for how we understand the contemporary relations between science and religion.

suggested reading:

Peter Harrison, “‘Science’ and ‘Religion’: Constructing the Boundaries,” The Journal of Religion Vol. 86 No. 1 (January 2006), pp. 81–106.