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Friday, January 21, 2005

God, entrails, immorality and mermaids

In Alberto Manguel’s small study of Bride of Frankenstein there is an account of the amusing impositions upon the drafts of the screenplay made by the then Hollywood capo of the Catholic League of Decency, Joseph Breen. The first Frankenstein had been directed by James Wale in 1931, before the Catholic League of Decency had gotten fairly started. The silent movie, the depression, and the era of the gangster hero closely overlapped. Hollywood had already been pressing against the various taboos against sneaking in shots of those sublimely dangerous portions of the woman’s body – and when it added to the mix a disrespect for authority and the thinly disguised joys of taking a tommy gun to the gendarmerie, the Catholic and Protestant hierarchy pitched up more than their usual pious stink. So by 1934, Hollywood honchos had agreed to let Joseph Breen judge if any release undermined the foundations of civilization, or showed too much tit. Various censorship boards had already been taking whacks at the re-release of Frankenstein, with the Quebec board particularly worried about the Faustian theme, with its blasphemous suggestion that man could become God. The next step is outright Marxism, of course. So Whale decided to pass everything through the Breen mill. Manguel quotes a letter Whale wrote to Breen at one point in the process in which Whale goes to great lengths to satisfy even those of Breen’s objections he’d dropped “…as in your letter of December 5th there are several points about God, entrails, immorality and mermaids which you did not bring up again…”

As Manguel sanguinely notes, “whatever other changes there may have been, God, entrails, immorality and mermaids remained in the final cut of Bride of Frankenstein…”

Making the art of the picture depend on the slips of the censor is a poor way of doing business. But it is an even poorer way of doing education.

Much to LI’s shock and surprise, the liberal end of the blogosphere, this week, was in a conceding mood about ID. In a long post that seemed to bore our readers – and which we might inflict on them again in a eat your spinach kind of mood – we went over the absolute vacuum of scientific claims that is at the heart of ID. We didn’t defend evolutionary theory – the criticisms made by ID of aspects of evolutionary theory are paltry compared to the jostling it has gotten, internally, for one hundred fifty years, and none of the criticisms is theoretically interesting. ID has never gotten over the watch, nor ever explained where the watch factory is – and that is about all you can say for it, from Paley to Behe.

However, as Christian Conservatives scheme to stunt their children’s growth by teaching this fraud in schools, there’s been a liberal retreat from protecting kids from the fraud for ‘political’ reasons. This meme was started over at Nathan Newman’s blog. The cry was taking up by Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum, the Washington Monthly blogger, who wrote:

“If a school district decides not to teach biology at all, that's fine. But if they do teach it, they aren't allowed to include religious proselytizing in the curriculum.”

Ah, the iron pyrite glitters through a crack in the gold brick! The class bias here is as loud and ugly as managerial drunk at a company picnic. One doesn’t believe that Drum, or Yglesias, or Newman, will subject their own kids, when they have them, to the incompetence of ID science teaching, or the downright elimination of biology from the school curriculum. But of course, for the downtrodden, for poor yokels in Dover, PA, why bother? After all, their natural and appointed place is to act as the service class to an elite that did get educated. And isn’t liberalism wonderful?

We prefer the rancid and open bigotries of Joseph Breen to the supposed ‘tolerance’ of this bunch of dealers in the doped consciousness. We were happy to see a libertarian inclined economist, Steven Verdon, take this group to task.


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