Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Darwin on Trial

Phillip E. Johnson
***** (4)
Date read:
March, 2010
Evolution vs. Creation Book:

Excellent, logical treatment of evolution itself and the debates surrounding it. Johnson is not a “young earth” creationist, so the age of the earth is not treated in the book. This is an advantage, because it enables the argument to focus on the key point:  does the evidence support the claim of Darwinists that all forms of life we see today evolved from a common ancestor through gradual changes due solely to natural influences. This is exactly what I attempt to focus on in approach the subject of evolution: what is the actual evidence for or against, without getting into alternative belief systems.

I tend to view problems and questions logically and analytically, and so I appreciated and related to Johnson’s approach. He makes what I have felt is a key point, which is not clearly enunciated in the other books I’ve read, that if Darwinism were true, the fossil record should be full of transitional forms; i.e., there should be more transitional forms than anything. Darwin and contemporary evolutionists contend that all of life is in a continual transitional state. Richard Dawkins, in “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” states that there is enough evidence for evolution without the fossil record. The problem is that the fossil record is not missing; the fossil record provides evidence that contradicts Darwinism. What we see is stasis, which is not what we would expect to see if evolution were true. Even granting the handful of exceptional fossils that could be interpreted as transitional forms, some more believably than others, the overall record of fossils shows species appearing suddenly, going through directionless and non-substantive changes, then disappearing from the record. This is the opposite of what it should be, if evolution were true.

Johnson provides a very useful explanation of how the term “evolution” is used by evolutionists to describe a broad enough array of concepts so as to make it very difficult to say whether “evolution” is a fact or not. Obviously, there is plenty of evidence for micro-evolution: the guppies, the bacteria, the famous case of the black/white moths, the finches, etc. We can see it happening, and we can see evidence of it happening in the past. Johnson explains how the evolutionists often cite evidence for microevolution as evidence for Darwinism, that is, the evolution of all life forms from a common ancestor. And he explains very clearly why there is no evidence, neither in the fossil record, nor in genetics, that the known mechanisms such as natural selection and mutation can or ever have resulted in development of major organs or new biological types.

Towards the end of the book, the author discusses the philosophical issues involved with naturalistic evolution. He makes the point that it is essentially impossible to separate philosophical/religious concerns from a discussion of evolution, because naturalistic evolution as promoted and taught by evolutionists includes a strong atheistic philosophy. A key aspect of this discussion is that evolutionists start with the assumption that no supernatural forces are nor ever have been at work in the universe. Since all life forms we see have been brought into being by purely natural forces, Darwinism is the best explanation we have of how this could have occurred. Therefore, we accept it as fact. He also explains how evolutionists and their supporters have framed the argument in such a way that “science” refers only to natural forces, and “religion” represents only superstition and fantasy.

Johnson describes some positive interactions he has had with evolutionists, including debates and discussions, and even presentations to university classes. He explains that he frames the question as what he calls “The Blind Watchmaker Thesis.” And he attempts to expose the philosophical, as opposed to evidentiary, approach to the question taken by evolutionists. Some evolutionists agree with him on this question, understanding that evolutionists tend to be dogmatic and guided by assumptions, reacting to criticism in ways that reflect this mindset and approach.

In summary, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the evolution debate, whether tending toward the creation or evolution side. There is lots more worthwhile material in the book that I have not covered in this brief review.

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