History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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William Jennings Bryan

January 20th, 2009 · No Comments

A Progressive Hero?
Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University, is an expert on U.S. politics and social movements. Kazin’s most recent book is A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan, a biography of the 1896, 1900 and 1908 Democratic candidate for president.

1) To what extent are common perceptions of William Jennings Bryan as a closed-minded fundamentalist unjust?

The perceptions are woefully incomplete more than unjust. Bryan did believe the Bible was the literal word of God. But he also believed that a good Christian should embrace and work to implement a variety of progressive policies ­­­— such a­s high income taxes on the rich, strict regulation of corporations, the rights of workers to organize unions and opposition to imperialistic adventures overseas. Even his opposition to the teaching of evolution was motivated by a democratic ethos: he equated Darwinism with Social Darwinism and wanted to shield children from a philosophy which taught that “might makes right.”

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