The great instigator of doubt– but let’s not call it that, let’s call it skeptical reflection leading to spiritual awakening– of both the 19th and 20th centuries, hands down, has been the effort either to assimilate or repulse the human implications of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. That’s why I wish Jennifer Hecht had reserved a slot in Doubt‘s penultimate chapter, somewhere in the vicinity of her discussion of the Tennessee “monkey trial,” for mention of John Dewey’s “The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy.”
But it’s a good discussion of the Scopes circus trial, to which I claim a small “degrees of separation” connection: I lived under the same roof, for a short time, with one of Clarence Darrow’s expert witnesses who was not allowed to testify in Dayton, Tennessee on behalf of John Scopes. I remember Winterton Curtis, my first landlord, as a kindly, charming old man who mysteriously pulled dollars from my ear. (The Dayton judge would’ve seen that as proof of his Satanic nature, no doubt.) He was also very respectful of the locals H.L. Mencken derided as “boobs.”
If you want to learn more about Scopes, Dayton, and Friendly Atheism, read Matthew Chapman’s Trials of the Monkey. Chapman, great-great-great-(great?) grandson of Charles Darwin himself, went down to Dayton to try and understand the curious breed of human known as Young Earth Creationist [more]. He still doesn’t get it (any more than I do), but he actually confesses to liking many of the Darwin Deniers he met and spoke with– including one (Kurt Wise) who studied with Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard, before being hired to teach biology (!) to Bryan University undergraduates.
And if you want to see an entertaining dramatic rendition of Scopes, watch Spencer Tracy and Frederic March in Inherit the Wind.