Sunday, July 10, 2016

ONLY THE CARTOONISTS PREVAIL


Mort Drucker

On this date in 1925, the famous Scopes "monkey trial" began in Dayton, Tennessee.  High school teacher John Scopes was prosecuted for teaching evolution in public school. 

T.S. Sullivant

The lawyer for the World Christian Federation blasted evolution for suggesting that humans were descended "not even from American monkeys, but from old world monkeys."  The lawyer defending Scopes, Clarence Darrow, told the court his goal was "preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States."

Richard Thompson
Scopes lost his trial, but nobody ever seems to lose this battle permanently.  For nearly 100 years, the argument has raged in different forms.  More than a dozen other states attempted to impose similar laws against teaching evolution.  Scientists, theologians, teachers, government officials, clergy and bureaucrats all clashed bitterly over this issue. When the opponents of evolution began losing ground, they switched tactics and attacked anew in the name of "creation science."

It was the generals who proved most persuasive.  Following the Soviet Union's 1957 launch of Sputnik, the US government became so alarmed by the state of science education it passed the National Defense Education Act.    The resulting textbooks included the theory of evolution, but even that didn't stop the resentment.  Texas newspaper editorials and church sermons angrily insisted on the right of Texans to disbelieve science.

The only group that seems to make out well in these kinds of protracted disputes are the cartoonists. At least they get to have fun drawing cool pictures of monkeys.  So in commemoration of the Scopes trial,  here are some of my favorite drawings of apes:

From the great Walt Kelly:






The brilliant Mort Drucker drew dozens of wonderful monkeys in his story about Mighty Joe Kong in MAD no. 94:



 






From Peter de Seve:




And for those who enjoyed last week's panels from Prince Valiant, here is another elaborate (although somewhat stiff) image from Hal Foster: 


And finally, the weirdest of them all, from Gary Larson:

 

22 comments:

Chris Gregg said...

Thank you for a very entertaining post with a thought provoking opening.

Smurfswacker said...

I have loved Mort Drucker's work for decades. Yet to this day whenever I see drawings like these Kong panels, I marvel all over again about just how GOOD that guy is!

kev ferrara said...

Those Drucker apes are just gorgeous drawings. Holy crow. Sometimes I forget just how great he is. Thanks for the refresher. (I think I need to break out my old Mads again.)

Regarding ignorance, we should never forget that it is very thin line between educating people and controlling them. And who are any of us to think we should be in control of another human being's thoughts. Clearly, the world and the west is in dire trouble if too few of its citizens appreciate science or, worse yet, actively reject it. But even a deserving pillar of our civilization, if it becomes a concentration of power, is susceptible to the same threats and seductions as any other of its stronghold. That is to say, concentrating power concentrates corruption, same as it ever was, regardless of the pieties enumerated in the particular institution's charter.

I would never want to live in a society where believing in pseudoscience were made illegal. Sometimes a stance at first taken to be pseudoscience, turns out to be an important critique of the reigning paradigms; the idols of the age. Poetry itself is, in some philosophical circles, considered a pseudoscience to be done away with. Yet, all the greatest scientists were dreamers and intuitionists. For this reason alone, the policing of thought should be treated as a kind of totalitarian sickness; the anxious arrogation of the bean counter mind; and the mass reflex to politicize thought, currently playing in a social media outlet near you, it seems to me, is one of the dire sicknesses of our age. (though maybe that was ever so, as well.)

Sean Farrell said...

Life is like a musical performance. One can only testify to having heard the musical performance, because once finished, it vanishes without evidence. The evidence of life scientifically or anthropologically speaking is made of matter and one can study it until one dies, but the reality of life, or its spirit, is the culture's young people. Mad Magazine is supporting anthropological evidence that America was once alive with young people and the attrition of its young means that the argument over Darwinism missed a curious point, that a culture could become extinct by a willful obsession with evidence.

Sean Farrell said...

Kev,
Your post is well stated and goes beyond science verse non-science into political science. I hope I can say it differently enough that it isn't a replication of your comment. You have hit the current political nerve, or politically correct nerve, which is for every voice to be heard, every wrong to be righted, every misgiving made happy, every truth to be established beyond subjectivity, dismissing even reason for some shred of evidence. However noble sounding, it's a view which undermines default positions as you mentioned, the enumerated pieties. Question Authority, Question Authority but after a while the entire culture is reduced to shopping!

Everything becomes a flea market where all is endlessly negotiated and renegotiated. It becomes a different culture, where university presidents apologize for speaking on behalf of the students and all authorities are tip toeing around and suffering from a severe case of self consciousness, but the universities created this monster. They created a culture which will demand severe power to replace the previous agreed upon cultural default settings. Whatever exactly is going on, it is power politics, it is very sophisticated, has frightening potential and is in our midst.

kev ferrara said...

the universities created this monster. They created a culture which will demand severe power to replace the previous agreed upon cultural default settings. Whatever exactly is going on, it is power politics, it is very sophisticated, has frightening potential and is in our midst.

I was just recently listening to a discussion between Camile Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers on this subject. But I don't think the basis of the issue can be established without emphasizing the prime, crucial role litigation has played. The coercive power of lawsuit threat has flooded into every institution, media market, classroom, and workplace in the country. As the saying goes, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." And the courts (and politically submissive administrators) can take your life and health away as surely as a madman with a Ruger.

The most horrifyingly fascinating thing in all of it, to me, is seeing perfectly nice people get so addicted to the reductively-clarified righteousness of their chosen activist pinhole-education source that they don't realize how fascistic they have become in their worldview, how intolerant, dogmatic and vindictive. They actually seem to want to make any dissent from their beliefs a criminal act. Or they would passively allow that to happen, if some others were to attempt bring that reality about.

Maybe the worst creatures on earth are indeed the self-obsessed strongmen who never learn not to bully. But not far behind, I think, there are the weak who become obsessed with reversing their weakness (and thus anxiety) to the extent that they become bullies themselves. That they could bully the world into becoming their dream of justice and peace, thus producing equanimity. Of course, it has long been known that the utopian mindset is constantly on the verge of Stalinism. To litigate for any given utopian vision is just stalinism under a judicial guise.

Eric Hoffer famously said that “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” I think what we have here are the next two steps in the devolution; first the racket become a religion, and then it becomes the state religion.

David Apatoff said...

Chris Gregg--Thanks for writing.

Smurfswacker-- The same with me. When I go looking for examples from Drucker, he never disappoints.

Kev Ferrara-- I agree there are plenty of reasons to be wary of totalitarian science. There are many kinds of scientists and many kinds of science. But at the same time, we live in an era where science is so crucial to the well being of the community, science deniers cannot be given unlimited leeway. Science was able to eliminate smallpox (which killed 500 million people in the 20th century) because of a vaccine; we were on the verge of eliminating polio from the earth when some groups refused to participate on religious grounds, and now polio is on the rise again, threatening innocent people. So far, we tolerate this risk because we are sensitive to what you call the "thin line between educating people and controlling them." However, we must recognize that when superstitious people reject empirical evidence and refuse education, they can endanger the rest of us as well as themselves.

Similar observations could be made about treatment for HIV AIDS. Even after science invented an effective treatment, science deniers in South Africa caused countless additional deaths by insisting that modern medicine was a western plot against Africa, and insisting that tribal remedies should be used. Even worse, some science deniers in backward countries spread the myth that a man could be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin. This led to the rape of younger and younger girls (to guarantee that a man has found a genuine virgin to provide an effective cure).

You say, "I would never want to live in a society where believing in pseudoscience were made illegal." I say, with Clarence Darrow, I would like to prevent bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States. We live in a country where NASA's report on climate change statistics was edited by a former lobbyist for oil companies with no scientific credentials, to remove offending passages. As I've often quoted here, "Reality is that which, when you don't believe in it, doesn't go away."

kev ferrara said...

However, we must recognize that when superstitious people reject empirical evidence and refuse education, they can endanger the rest of us as well as themselves.

There certainly is that possibility, particularly with contagions.

But, of course, when supposedly non-superstitious people accept as empirical and sufficient, evidence that is not in fact so, they can become dangerous too. Credulity is the only predicate for superstition. And none of us know how ignorant we, or our accepted authorities, are.

Some months ago, you floated an idea that you had read that pretty much all the science relevant to our world was sewn up. In retrospect, I was much more respectful of this position than I should have been. It is, I would argue, the absolute height of scientistic arrogance to presume that all was already known on heaven and earth horatio. The idea that a bunch of crazy monkeys like us figured it all out, figured out all there was to know about our planet and its relevant physics in just a few hundred years is a psychopathic notion. And any claim made on this basis should be laughed out of the public sphere.

It wasn't much more than thirty years ago when we were told, in no uncertain terms, what to eat and what not to eat by agencies of our government. This "Science-based" advice broke out into the mainstream and changed the habits of a hundreds of millions of people, either directly or indirectly. Food companies all over the country shifted into high gear to create palatable food based on these recommendations. These nutritional ideals broke world wide not long after. Yet what was the basis? Claims. Mere claims of scientific consensus and rigor, when in reality there was none. The so-called science was the result of brutal epistemological sloppiness.

But who on the outside knew? And who on the inside dared speak out? The "deniers" of these recommendations were still afraid to speak out as late as the 2000s for fear of their careers being destroyed (see Gary Taubes' and Nina Tiecholz' reporting on this). The final nutritional recommendations that became global paradigms were, in fact, put together by a lowly McGovern staffer with no science experience whatsoever.

So your use of the word "denier" is a bit of a harsh dog whistle to me. Whatever your religion is, whatever inquisition you have planned for "deniers" of science, I am dead against it. I am a true skeptic. Yesterday's Trofim Lysenkos or Ancel Keys' may well, in time, be seen as the precursor's to today's James Hansens or Michael Manns. In fact, I'll bet on it.

Tom said...

David said: As I've often quoted here, "Reality is that which, when you don't believe in it, doesn't go away."

Which remained me of Dom Hans Van der Laan comment on architecture

"Nowadays we are mistakenly inclined to lay the emphasis on a so-called expression, by which the individual feelings of the maker are projected outwards, through the medium of the made object....However, this is contrary to the opinion of all great civilations, which have always striven toward that objective expression which proceeds from the work itself."



On the run but great pictures in the last two posts David! With artist like that you really don't need the words.

David Apatoff said...

Tom-- interesting quote from Dom Hans Van der Laan. I'm not sure I'd say it's true of "all great civilizations" without a little more thought, but I certainly think it's a good starting proposition.

You write: "With artists like that you really don't need the words."
Hah! You've stumbled upon the secret of this blog.

Kev Ferrara wrote: "In retrospect, I was much more respectful of this position than I should have been."

Good! That begins to make up for all the times you were more disrespectful than you should have been.

Kev, if you are in fact a "true skeptic" you should recognize that the power (and virtue) of science lies not in scientists being angels or never making mistakes. It lies in the scientific method. For example: 1.) sources of funding and other potential conflicts of interest that might skew a scientist's judgment are fully disclosed so that additional scrutiny can be applied when warranted; 2.) full transparency is provided for test procedures and findings so they can be peer reviewed; and 3.) all results can be replicated by independent lab testing. This process will always be a superior path to truth than quarrels about whether your volcano god is stronger than my lightning god.

As for science fraud, Taubes does play an important role but for every Taubes there is a scoundrel such as John Dingell whose notorious group of science fraud detectives set out to undermine certain science projects they didn't fully understand and thus wrongly trashed scientists to build up Dingell's reputation. When the smoke cleared years later, it was clear that Dingell only understood the science of public relations.

And just to make sure we understand the purported application of the "core theory," no sane physicist believes that all the science relevant to our world is all sewn up. The point, as I understand it, is that the conflicts between quantum field theory and astrophysics/cosmology, which have so long bedeviled us because we can't reconcile the two systems, is not relevant to anything that happens to us on earth. All of the events that occur here on earth within our knowable experience take place in accordance with the core theory. Or as Sean Carroll wrote, the core theory "has been spectacularly successful at accounting for every experiment ever performed in a laboratory here on earth. (At least as of mid-2015-- we should always be ready for the next surprise.)" For the surrounding details, I'd recommend Carroll's lecture here: https://youtu.be/gEKSpZPByD0

Richard said...

> "you should recognize that the power (and virtue) of science lies not in scientists being angels or never making mistakes. It lies in the scientific method."

It's difficult to determine what the scientific method is. In one camp, you have those who believe a claim must be perfectly falsifiable to be science. In another are those who say that as long as you are collecting objective data you are doing science.

Why should this matter? Well, perfectly true data can lead to perfectly terrible conclusions. That our data was collected carefully does not guarantee, in any way whatsoever, that our non-falsifiable theories are accurate. That is to say, no matter how good your data is, you aren't yet doing science if you can't test your theory.


The problem with 'science' today is that we expect it to be able to answer these larger and larger questions, questions which we don't actually know how to test. That is, we are so invested culturally in science directing our behavior that we can't take "Sorry, no comment." as an answer.

Anthropogenic climate change is a good example. I agree that it is very likely the case that the climate is changing, and that it is man made. That said, it's not particularly scientific to say so. We certainly can't test the claim.

Conversely, look at race and IQ. While IQ correlates heavily with race, I strongly believe that race itself cannot add or subtract a single IQ point to a person.

What's the difference between those two claims? They're both claims built on top of perfectly factual data, and yet I believe one and not the other.

I believe that we are so desperate for science to give us answers today, for things that it may very well not be ready for, that we are moving the goalpost ever closer. Sometimes this may turn out perfectly well, as I suspect will be the case for climate change. Other times, it is much more sinister.

I'm reminded of a quotation from Laurence Peter -- "Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them."

Richard said...

>"All of the events that occur here on earth within our knowable experience take place in accordance with the core theory."

That does not seem like a very strict standard.

kev ferrara said...

Good! That begins to make up for all the times you were more disrespectful than you should have been.

You mean like when I said that Mark Rothko's works function merely as projection tests, and that there is nothing especially moral about any of them despite the attempt to make them unassailably "important" by associating them with a Holocaust memorial (or a Hague judge's emotions)... Would that be an example of me not showing the respect I "should have?"

1.) sources of funding and other potential conflicts of interest that might skew a scientist's judgment are fully disclosed so that additional scrutiny can be applied when warranted;

Really? So what about the most blinkering conflicts of interest of all; activist ideologies? So, for instance, shouldn't a nutrition researcher indicate if he is a Vegan who thinks eating cooked animal flesh is unforgivable murder? Shouldn't a climate scientist, for instance, "fully disclose" if he is an anti-western marxist environmentalist with dreams of nationalizing oil companies and outlawing conservative viewpoints? Should a sexual researcher, for instance, disclose his own sexual idiosyncrasies, which he might have an interest in "normalizing" through his publications? Should theoretical economists disclose that they've never run a business in their lives? Maybe there should be a "Funding Desperation Meter" at the top of every science paper (I've spent a few drunken New Years Eves with geneticists from labs around NYC and have heard more than a few midnight confessions)? etc.

The point, as I understand it, is that the conflicts between quantum field theory and astrophysics/cosmology, which have so long bedeviled us because we can't reconcile the two systems, is not relevant to anything that happens to us on earth. All of the events that occur here on earth within our knowable experience take place in accordance with the core theory. Or as Sean Carroll wrote, the core theory "has been spectacularly successful at accounting for every experiment ever performed in a laboratory here on earth.

When we've harnessed gravity and fusion like we've harnessed electricity and fission, maybe I'll be a bit more respectful of the know-it-all position.

Kevin S said...

It appears that Mort Drucker "swiped" or paid tribute to Frank Kelly Freas' cover artwork to the original Mad paperback cover for "Son of Mad" from 1959.
http://www.themadmuseum.com/son_of_mad.html
Both excellent artists. William Gaines always did have a soft spot for gorillas.

Sean Farrell said...

A man yells from a ledge on a building “He probably never had trains when he was a child! The line is funny because modernism with its bizarre rigidity is so humorless and ridiculous as a means of negotiating life. The drawing of the gorilla isn't real, it's better than real and the hurried looking execution implies an abundance which David and Kev touched upon in a recent post. But none of this can be made clearer by placing the drawing as its own evidence under a microscope, because none of its qualities possess material evidence. Does that mean it's not real, not funny, that we are not real?

To the contrary, a man of great sensual and enthusiastic appetites says I love you to a woman in one breath and curses her in another. After losing a few girlfriends he may figure out that he never actually cared for them, though he enjoyed them. Or he may upon reflection understand in deep sorrow that he should treat people with more consideration. None of this can be found under a microscope but only in the shadowy and abundant reflections of thought. What were those dark stone buildings with their hushed gatherings and subdued gestures in reverence, sorrow and gratitude? And what of their abundance accounting for the audience of Mad, now defunct? How did an abundant family become the 1.0 model with the other 1.0 coming from recent immigrants now an average age of nine? And what of the boomers who rejected those buildings, who had nothing to say they were sorry for, who had nothing to say thank you for, because they were going to make this a much better world than of the limited construct of their brainwashed parents? They, their parents and grandchildren now average 56 years old. Will they escape the tender hauntings of conscience? How can one yearn to love and be stilled at the same time? How can the phrases thank you and I'm sorry merge to become a single experiential state of tender thoughtfulness? What of those sweet lamentations in the Psalms, or the abundant tears of the woman referred to as Mary Magdaline? How can this tenderness be in the drippy noses, the broken teeth, the big deals, the groans of rising from a chair, fast people, flat ties, boredom, wild music, faster cars, pretensions, awards, tears of letting children go and the lumbering defeat of old age? How can all of this life, which upon enough reflection, become sweet sorrows, how can this tenderness, no longer be recognized as the presence of God? What then are we?

MORAN said...

Drucker was famous for his inside jokes like that cover to Son of Mad. I just loved his panels they were full of so much fun. He was the greatest artist Mad ever had and that's saying a lot.

Sean Farrell said...

The Scopes trial pitted two areas of life which really have nothing to do with each other, except to a type of literalism which Scopes saw as the line in the sand.

As a result of science eclipsing the humanities, art, music, poetry and religion are now considered unsubstantiated relics. Our entire emotional reality is being subjected to what is agreeable or disagreeable, but not in accordance with how these simple yes and no impulses reshape themselves in reflections, refinement and their movement through time. This is where the true battle between science and our humanity is taking place and since the hegemony is with the money and the money is with science, there is little in the way of reflection challenging modern assumptions.

Anyway, the Ape images are fun, the Thompson image is a blast and the Drucker's are fantastic. But none of the drawings or giggles exist in the material realm. They belong to a part of being called the imagination.

Tom said...

Sorry David not your words but the words in the caption balloons! What I notice in the last two post is what a wonderful sense of proportion and scale the artists you represented have. The Hal Foster's drawing are incredible especially the scene with the vampire. These artist draw back into the picture and bring a sense of space to the viewers mind, unlike Doonesbury and the penguin strip in which everything is left and right. One person on one side of the panel and the other person on the other side of the panel.

I never saw the Feninger's drawings before they are wonderful. The train picture is great. He seems to be saying everything is alive it remains me of how fascinating and mysterious the world can be when we open ourselves up to it.

chinyew said...

Just stumbled upon your blog and I've to say I'm enjoying it very much and that your writing is very inpiring and informative for an aspiring comic artist like myself.

I especially like how you handled those comments at Chris Ware's post. I myself were handling some negative comments of my work at reddit, and reading your replies has enlighten me.

Thanks and I hope you will keep on writing.

www.ashingtray.tumblr.com

kev ferrara said...

How can all of this life, which upon enough reflection, become sweet sorrows, how can this tenderness, no longer be recognized as the presence of God? What then are we?

Why not just accept your bewilderment and despondency as truths unto themselves? Otherwise you might as well treat every index as a communication, and ever fact as a admissable evidence in some unseen trial.

Sean Farrell said...

A good question Kev. The impulses towards the agreeable and disagreeable are transformed through a process of sorrow, which is itself mysterious. Not unlike the loss of a cat for example, where for no specific reason, the loss of life itself (its innocence perhaps) is of such sorrow that the takeaway is a renewed reverence for life itself, arguments be damned! Such is not eastern in nature, but a relationship between experience and thoughtfulness.

In any relationship there are as many unknowns at work as knowns. I don't really know what lurks in the heart of another and they don't know what's in me. Even desire itself is an unknown, so our emptiness is as powerful a force as what one knows, yet knowledge tries to satisfy its emptiness through its own qualifications and pleasures do the same. What can be verified positively is but a sliver of life. So relationship is alive in such unknowns and people have a natural instinct to towards life. They prefer to postpone certain encounters with life's losses and that's only natural. All of this exists outside of the hubris of knowledge and is even dependent on a certain absence of knowing. It's an inter-relationship of unknowns. The uncertainty of unknowns is greatly subdued by this process of sorrows, which may become thankfulness and reveal itself to be a type of movement. The religious area understands this and cultivates a disposition to the unknown, the loss of life and its replacement life of tenderness. An exchange of resistance for acceptance if that is a fair way to put it.

I never read Zoltan Torey, but in a short passage I did come across, he gives credit to language and its interrelationship with image as the source of human consciousness, the cross hemispheric activity of image and word between both sides of the brain. Whatever his own positions on the unknown are, I believe it is a motivating reality in all living things. Music, art and contemplative prayer for example are three areas where a process of engaging the unknown carries one away and thought plays a part in the process, even if but an initiating part. This process of being carried away is itself erotic, of desire because it is joyous or at least engaging, though it may not be salacious. Theater and poetry too. You know this.

Your second sentence has something to do with conscience and the transformation of encounters to a patience with impulse, as gratuity or civilized behavior, but also as experiential joy in relationship with life itself. Living in a way where the unknown has a presence, a home in one's life. In a sense everything in one's life experientially resides in and moves through a kind of unknown if it is relational. Thanks. I hope that made some sense.

NagaRaj Raj said...

nice