Darwin on Trial
The controversial book that rocked the scientific establishment! Why? It shows that the theory of evolution is based not on fact but on faith--faith in philosophical naturalism. Philip Johnson argues courageously that there simply is no vast body of empirical data supporing the theory.In this new edition Johnson responds to critics of the first edition, inlcuding Stephen Jay Gould, and also expands the material in chapter five.With the intrigue of a mystery and the gripping detail of a court trial, Johnson takes readers through the evidence with the lawyer's skill he learned as a Berkeley professor of law specializing in the logic of arguments.

Darwin on Trial Details

TitleDarwin on Trial
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseDec 3rd, 1993
PublisherInterVarsity Press
ISBN-139780830813247
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Biology, Evolution, Christian, Philosophy, Religion, Christianity, Theology, Anthropology

Darwin on Trial Review

  • Randy
    January 1, 1970
    In a culture that supposedly places a high value on open-mindedness and healthy criticism, evolution has somehow been a sacred cow, beyond the reach of serious analysis. Dissent has been effectively marginalized through the use of a caricature which assures us that all educated people recognize that evolution is a fact, even if there are in-house disagreements about the details. We are told that the only dissenters are Biblical fundamentalists who insist on a narrow, literal reading of Genesis a In a culture that supposedly places a high value on open-mindedness and healthy criticism, evolution has somehow been a sacred cow, beyond the reach of serious analysis. Dissent has been effectively marginalized through the use of a caricature which assures us that all educated people recognize that evolution is a fact, even if there are in-house disagreements about the details. We are told that the only dissenters are Biblical fundamentalists who insist on a narrow, literal reading of Genesis and therefore come to the preposterous conclusion that the earth is only six thousand years old. But reasonable people of faith will find that their theism is not threatened by the theory of evolution. Phillip Johnson argues that this caricature is grossly misleading and false. Evolution is a fact only if one starts with a prior commitment to materialism, the belief that the physical world is all there is. With materialism as the starting point, some form of evolution must be true; there is nothing else to explain the origin and history of life. Though the primary claim of the theory of evolution is the blind watchmaker thesis, that an unguided, purposeless process of mutation and natural selection is the means by which the complexity of life arose, it is not necessary (we are told) to be too precise when speaking of just what evolution is. Evolution can mean "changes in gene frequencies in a population," and so dog breeding, for example, is evolution, as is variations from year to year in the average size of finch beaks in a population of finches. Or evolution can mean "relationship." All living things are made of the same biochemical stuff, and that is a relationship we call an evolutionary relationship - that's evolution. Evolution is just a thing to be believed, and to accept one part of it is to accept the whole package. It is a matter of logical deduction, if one starts with the premise that materialism is true. And it is here that Johnson puts his finger on the central locus of the debate over evolution. Evolutionary science is operating by two definitions of science - science as empirical research but also science as applied materialism. Everyone is candid about the first definition, but almost noone will admit to the second, which is actually the more important of the two. This becomes evident when a scientist, doing empirical research, comes to conclusions that don't conform to materialistic philosophy. Then the second definition trumps the first, and the practitioner is said to no longer be doing science. What is at stake here, then, is a commitment to materialism. Discussion of evidence is important, but in a sense it is secondary, because all the evidentiary problems are not troubling to Darwinists who see everything through the glasses of materialism. But take away that prior commitment and it becomes a legitimate question to ask: if we don't know how evolution happened, how can we know that it happened? When a scientist like Niles Eldredge can on the one hand say, that based on his empirical observations, evolution "never seems to happen" but nevertheless refers to himself as a "knee-jerk Darwinist," this suggests a willingness to believe in spite of the evidence. His confidence in evolution appears to reside less in his findings as a paleontologist and more in his philosophical commitment. Regarding the second aspect of the caricature, Johnson believes that it is just so much double talk for promoters of evolution to say that evolutionary science has nothing to say about religion, when in fact it is loaded with anti-theological implications. Darwin's theory was successful primarily because it gave to biology a mechanism - descent with modification - that seemed to get rid of the need for a creator. But in so doing, not only was the creator banished from biology, he was effectively banished from reality. Thus if God exists at all, he is more like Aristotle's First Cause than the God of the Bible. Such a being is thoroughly inscrutable, utterly irrelevant, and certainly not worthy of worship. So if science has nothing to say about religion it's because science also has nothing to say about Zeus. It is not that we gain knowledge from science and knowledge from religion, but rather it is understood that knowledge comes exclusively from science, whereas religion gives us meaning and morality, which do not constitute knowledge but merely subjective belief. With this in view, Johnson doesn't see theistic evolution as a viable solution to the evolution/creation controversy. First of all if it is genuinely theistic, if God did anything, then it's not evolution as the scientific community defines the term. It's not purposeless and unguided. And if it is purposeless and unguided, then it is not in any meaningful way theistic. It seems that theistic evolution is convincing for Christians only if they are vague about the definitions and are convinced that naturalistic philosophy is only an unnecessary addition to an otherwise sound theory. If, however, Johnson is right, and on its own merits the mutation-natural selection mechanism is inadequate to explain the history of life, then why would we want to reconcile our theology with a theory that is false? Having said all this, Johnson isn't discounting a naturalistic theory of evolution out of hand. He is willing to hear evidence that mutation and selection, or any other naturalistic mechanism, can do the job of creation. But he's not willing to assume that it's the only possibility. Currently it's a closed system: if materialism is true, Darwinism is true, and it doesn't matter what the evidence is. But if you're willing to put the materialism in doubt, then the evidence really appears to be inadequate. Just getting the issue of materialism on the table of mainstream academic discourse is the hard part. Once that happens and the scientific culture is reoriented towards the truth instead of towards materialism, Johnson is confident that the scientific story will change dramatically.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Phillip Johnson's DARWIN ON TRIAL should be viewed by most as Creationism's MEIN KAMPF or COMMUNIST MANIFESTO; a slick, well-written legal brief against evolution which is merely a litany of Johnson's anger towards "naturalistic" science and a compendium of alleged flaws made by distinguished 20th Century evolutionary biologists. It soon becomes quite apparent that Johnson neither understands nor appreciates why science must remain an enterprise devoid of supernatural explanations; one should on Phillip Johnson's DARWIN ON TRIAL should be viewed by most as Creationism's MEIN KAMPF or COMMUNIST MANIFESTO; a slick, well-written legal brief against evolution which is merely a litany of Johnson's anger towards "naturalistic" science and a compendium of alleged flaws made by distinguished 20th Century evolutionary biologists. It soon becomes quite apparent that Johnson neither understands nor appreciates why science must remain an enterprise devoid of supernatural explanations; one should only look to the Salem Witch Trials - so brilliantly recreated in Arthur Miller's play THE CRUCIBLE - to see how far the legal profession has come from embracing supernatural explanations to relying instead on credible, reasonable evidence (However, even today, it isn't totally perfect, since some lawyers have relied on quack scientists such as some who think they can find bite marks on long buried corpses.). In twelve relatively short chapters Johnson valiantly tries to make the case that there isn't any evidence for Darwinian evolution, that evolutionary biologists are guilty of committing the crime of tautology for using circular reasoning in citing evidence which supports evolution, and that Darwinisim - and by extension, science, itself - has become a religion since it cloaks itself in a "naturalistic" philosophy which rejects any notion of a Creator intervening in natural processes. Oddly enough, Johnson has the temerity to cite philosopher Karl Popper's falsifiability criterion for good science in explaining why evolution isn't science, but instead, a religion. However, Johnson fails to mention how a "theistic science" - one which acknowledges the possiblity of supernatural intervention - would be consistent with Popper's reasoning. Like classic Young Earth Creationists such as Henry Morris and Duane Gish, Johnson dismisses much of the scientific evidence for evolution. For example, he distorts the important work done by distinguished ecologists Peter and Rosemary Grant on the Galapagos finches; undoubtedly one of our finest ongoing field studies of microevolution and Natural Selection. He also trivializes the important work of Brown University biologist Hermon Carey Bumpus which demonstrated how natural selection works, sarcastically noting that Bumpus killed dying sparrows so he could do his scientific research (Actually these birds were dying, and Bumpus did try saving them, but Johnson ignores this point to make the case that Bumpus was insensitive towards his subjects.). Instead of reading DARWIN ON TRIAL, I would strongly recommend reading Robert Pennock's TOWER OF BABEL, Kenneth Miller's FINDING DARWIN'S GOD, and Philip Kitcher's ABUSING SCIENCE - all of which have devestatingly effective critiques of creationism and its advocates, including Johnson. Of these three books, Pennock's tome does an excellent job pointing out the close intellectual kinship between traditional young earth creationism and Intelligent Design. (Reposted from my 2002 Amazon review)
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  • Booketeer
    January 1, 1970
    I'm rating this book on the assumption of a stipulated umpteen-billion-year history of the universe. That is not my current belief, but I have virtually no knowledge of the science of dating so I have nothing to say about it at this point.I recently read Coyne's much more recent Why Evolution is True. Seems that Darwinists have not been able to improve their presentation, because Darwin on Trial pretty much destroys Coyne as if he were responding to him, rather than writing a book twenty years a I'm rating this book on the assumption of a stipulated umpteen-billion-year history of the universe. That is not my current belief, but I have virtually no knowledge of the science of dating so I have nothing to say about it at this point.I recently read Coyne's much more recent Why Evolution is True. Seems that Darwinists have not been able to improve their presentation, because Darwin on Trial pretty much destroys Coyne as if he were responding to him, rather than writing a book twenty years ago.This covers the issues really well. Given the fossil evidence, paleontology presents us with a picture of sudden appearances of intact species rather than any kind of gradual evolution. The "survival of the fittest" is a tautology rather than a testable hypothesis. And any theory looks good if you disregard all counter evidence.What I learned from Johnson that I didn't know before was how scientists are having to police other evolutionary scientists to punish them when they don't sound dogmatic enough about the evidence for Darwinian evolution. It also seems that evolutionary biology is a "closed system" from biology in any other field even when the scientists are convinced Darwinists. An ape expert who bothers to look at the fossils and say that the idea that the creature walked upright is wishful thinking, will be marginalized and rejected. It is an insular field that expects to be accepted on faith.
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  • Dave Maddock
    January 1, 1970
    I was reminded about this book the other day as I was listening to a UCSD Anthropology podcast. As a child I was taught the typical anti-evolution Christian ideology. I've always been one to do my own research and make up my own mind about things. I finally got around to evolution in college where I minored in anthropology and learned of the ridiculously large body of evidence for this "just a theory". To be fair, I read this book to get a reasoned opinion from the anti-evolution camp.Reading th I was reminded about this book the other day as I was listening to a UCSD Anthropology podcast. As a child I was taught the typical anti-evolution Christian ideology. I've always been one to do my own research and make up my own mind about things. I finally got around to evolution in college where I minored in anthropology and learned of the ridiculously large body of evidence for this "just a theory". To be fair, I read this book to get a reasoned opinion from the anti-evolution camp.Reading this book made me realize just how baseless these arguments are. In that sense, I'd like to rate it higher, however I fear such a rating would be misconstrued. I think that most people who read this book already have an unrational bias against evolution and little-to-no real knowledge of the actual evidence. For those people, I can see how this book might reinforce their ideology. For that, I want to give it negative 5 stars.Some advice for living: learn some critical thinking skills then apply them to your beliefs. If you're right, they'll stand up to actual scrutiny. If you're wrong, be an adult and admit it. In my experience, those most sure about their opinions are those who regurgitate crap they've taken on someone else's authority.
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  • Jacob Aitken
    January 1, 1970
    “The very persons who insist upon keeping religion and science separate are eager to use their science as a basis for pronouncements about religion” (Johnson 8).Natural selection is a tautology. It predicts the fittest organisms will produce the most offspring, “and it describes the fittest organisms as the ones that produce the most offspring” (20). To be fair, there are deductive arguments for natural selection, and Johnson lists one on p.23, but even those arguments don’t establish whether an “The very persons who insist upon keeping religion and science separate are eager to use their science as a basis for pronouncements about religion” (Johnson 8).Natural selection is a tautology. It predicts the fittest organisms will produce the most offspring, “and it describes the fittest organisms as the ones that produce the most offspring” (20). To be fair, there are deductive arguments for natural selection, and Johnson lists one on p.23, but even those arguments don’t establish whether an organism will change into another organism.Darwin wanted to avoid anything that looked like a “sudden jump” from one species to another, and for obvious reasons. Any such jump looks a lot like a specific creation. But that raises another difficulty: it’s hard to see how some variations in an organism (a wing or an eye) can function incrementally. Contra Dawkins, 5% of an eye does not equal 5% more vision. “Many complex parts must be working together” (34).So we see the problem: there must be intermediaries in the chain, but the fossil record is mostly absent of any such intermediaries. Birds and bats appear in the record fully developed.The Problem of the Fossil RecordLike pagan Greek philosophy, evolution needs a chain of being with intermediaries between species. The problem is simple: there are very few examples of such intermediaries. But Darwin’s problem is deeper than that: it’s not so much the absence of transitional fossils, but that the record is supposed to be mainly transitional fossils (again, see chain-of-being ontology). Yet that’s what we do not have.Neo-Darwinists have given several responses to this problem:“Punctuated equilibrium:” the problem here is that it makes the process of change nearly invisible (61).“Saltationism.” A middle ground between creationism and evolutionThe next few chapters deal with molecular biology and vertebrates. This wasn’t Johnson’s strong suit. The material isn’t wrong, per se, but it has been surpassed on both sides.The final section of the book is where Johnson shines. He brings his legal analysis into more worldview areas. Get the naturalists to own up to the metaphysical implications of their system. Let’s end by revisiting the Arkansas court case, which ruled that “creation science” is illegitimate. Real science, by contrast, is the following:(1) It is guided by natural law.(2) It has to be explained by reference to natural law(3) It’s conclusions are tentative.(4) It is falsifiable.It’s clear that the judge who issued this ruling was clueless about science and philosophy. These are easily rebuttable.~1. Indeed, that is the very thing under discussion. What constitutes natural law?~2. See above.~3. This is nice in theory but laughably false in reality. Tentatively suggest that Naturalism can’t explain the origin of life and you will see how “tentative” these conclusions are.~4. Exactly. The fossil record falsifies Darwin, as he himself feared.This isn’t the final word in the debate. Much of it is dated and has been surpassed on both sides. Still, it is an important opening shot in the ID debate.
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  • Kris
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent read! This was just the book I was looking for: an honest and sincere evaluation of the flaws in macroevolutionary theory (or Darwinian naturalism) on its own merits, regardless of creationism or any kind of religion. I greatly enjoyed Johnson’s perspective in this one. His voice was genuine, and he did a good job of keeping his own bias out of the discussion. It's a bit dated, from 1993, but still very relevant for today's audience.Having just read Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth Excellent read! This was just the book I was looking for: an honest and sincere evaluation of the flaws in macroevolutionary theory (or Darwinian naturalism) on its own merits, regardless of creationism or any kind of religion. I greatly enjoyed Johnson’s perspective in this one. His voice was genuine, and he did a good job of keeping his own bias out of the discussion. It's a bit dated, from 1993, but still very relevant for today's audience.Having just read Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong, I found these two books paired together well. Many of the studies Johnson mentions had already been exposed to me by Wells as severely flawed, which gave even more credence to Johnson's points. I still find it incredible that Johnson himself is not a scientist, but a lawyer, and his clear, un-slanted take on macroevolutionary theory is valuable for any layman (any fellow non-scientist) in their quest to judge the case fairly. I want more of this type of writing!Next, I want to read Johnson's Defeating Darwinism.Quote:“I am not a defender of creation-science, and in fact I am not concerned in this book with addressing any conflicts between the Biblical accounts and the scientific evidence. My purpose is to examine the scientific evidence on its own terms, being careful to distinguish the evidence itself from any religious or philosophical bias that might distort our interpretation of that evidence.... The question I want to investigate is whether Darwinism is based upon a fair assessment of the scientific evidence, or whether it is another kind of fundamentalism.”
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  • Aaron
    January 1, 1970
    Philip Johnson fully admits that he is not a scientist--a fact that his critics seem to have brought up as a reason to discredit him. To a certain degree, I think they are right -- if he doesn't have a deep understanding of the science, he misses out on some aspects of the discussion. But to a large degree I think it's an elitist attitude to claim that a lack of complete and deep understanding means that one does not bring anything to the conversation.Johnson specializes in Law -- specifically, Philip Johnson fully admits that he is not a scientist--a fact that his critics seem to have brought up as a reason to discredit him. To a certain degree, I think they are right -- if he doesn't have a deep understanding of the science, he misses out on some aspects of the discussion. But to a large degree I think it's an elitist attitude to claim that a lack of complete and deep understanding means that one does not bring anything to the conversation.Johnson specializes in Law -- specifically, "arguments". He does an excellent job at analyzing the arguments given in favor of evolution, focusing on the inconsistencies. He also discusses the underlying philosophy of modern science that possibly contributes to the drive to explain the world in the context of evolution.One thing to be aware of is that this book was written "ages ago" (scientifically speaking) so some of Johnson's more scientific arguments may or may not still be applicable.
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  • Eric
    January 1, 1970
    The first really intellectually satisfying challenge to Darwinianism I've ever read. Johnson's book is NOT a religious challenge to Darwinian evolution, it is a scientific challenge to current evolutionary theory. Yet as a serious Christian I deeply appreciate the information that Johnson brings to light. It drastically reduced the tension between Christian faith and science for me. As someone who's also been deeply interested in science for most of my life it's also an eye opening presentation The first really intellectually satisfying challenge to Darwinianism I've ever read. Johnson's book is NOT a religious challenge to Darwinian evolution, it is a scientific challenge to current evolutionary theory. Yet as a serious Christian I deeply appreciate the information that Johnson brings to light. It drastically reduced the tension between Christian faith and science for me. As someone who's also been deeply interested in science for most of my life it's also an eye opening presentation of the difference between the mainstream face of Science and the actual practice of science. Great read. Highly recommended.
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  • IWB
    January 1, 1970
    I should like to give this book 1.5 stars but that is not possible. If you want to know what it's like to get the theory of evolution wrong in so many ways, yet think you understand it well enough to refute it, then read this book and believe what the author says. Coming from an intellect of Johnson's caliber, I'm deeply disappointed in the many sophmoric logical fallacies (I do mean of the standard textbook variety) he employs for the sake of rhetorical persuasiveness--the result of promoting a I should like to give this book 1.5 stars but that is not possible. If you want to know what it's like to get the theory of evolution wrong in so many ways, yet think you understand it well enough to refute it, then read this book and believe what the author says. Coming from an intellect of Johnson's caliber, I'm deeply disappointed in the many sophmoric logical fallacies (I do mean of the standard textbook variety) he employs for the sake of rhetorical persuasiveness--the result of promoting an agenda rather than seeking truth. This book is nothing less than a scientific farce and an intellectual junkyard. He posits, what is now a mindless cliche, that Darwinism (a term he conflates with "evolution" and "theory of natural selection") is a faith system. Such nonsense, especially when he doesn't spell out the concept of faith in any robust sense. Does he presume to claim that the faith of the Darwinist is isomorphically analogous to the faith of the religious believer? If so, he does an incredible disservice to the religious believer because, since the Darwinist's 'leap of faith' does not yeild real knowledge of the object of that faith--it does not access truth, then neither does the faith of the religious believer yeild knowledge of God; thus the faith of the religious believer and the faith of the Darwinian scientist are on equal epistemic grounds--neither accesses the truth of reality; hence neither yeilds knowledge. Given this bitter pill, Johnson would do better to claim, on a charitable interpretation, that the faith of the religious believer and the faith of the Darwinian are analogous, but just not isomorphically so. But in what sense are they not isomorhpic? Johnson does not tell us so. He also doesn't give a robust account of a fact. My intuition is that, granting Johnson's claim that Darwinism is a faith system for the sake of the argument (a claim to which I do not subscribe), the faith of the Darwinian and that of the religious believer are disanalogous. But this requires a well-defined notion of faith, which, I'll remind you, Johnson does not provide. I didn't say he doesn't have a definition; He doesn't provide a well-defined notion.
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  • Charlie
    January 1, 1970
    Darwin on Trial, a landmark book on intelligent design, is at the very least an important book for understanding a prominent sentiment in the United States. Johnson, a lawyer and philosopher, decided to examine the arguments of naturalistic (as opposed to theistic) evolution from a forensic (trial-law) standpoint. Really, though, it seems more that Johnson is employing a philosophical framework and using law as a rhetorical packaging, so that he can talk about weighing testimony and rendering ve Darwin on Trial, a landmark book on intelligent design, is at the very least an important book for understanding a prominent sentiment in the United States. Johnson, a lawyer and philosopher, decided to examine the arguments of naturalistic (as opposed to theistic) evolution from a forensic (trial-law) standpoint. Really, though, it seems more that Johnson is employing a philosophical framework and using law as a rhetorical packaging, so that he can talk about weighing testimony and rendering verdicts.Johnson's main contention is that there is a lack of empirical evidence that supports fully naturalistic evolution and that many lines of evolutionary argumentation are invalidated by erroneous assumptions or faulty logic. Both sides of Johnson's undertaking are surely legitimate, since one expects scientific theories both to have empirical support and to be logically sound.Though raising many points of concern, Darwin on Trial has some serious flaws. One set derives from the framing of the book. First, the context of trial law may not be the most appropriate setting for this conversation. There are surface similarities between science and law, such as that both are interested in finding out what happened and in weighing the claims of various sides. Yet, the processes and standards of both are very different. A trial proceeds after all available evidence is gathered, features two opposing sides that each offer one version of the truth, and renders a one-time verdict. Science on the other hand is constantly gathering and refining evidence, a cooperative venture that may include many competing and shifting theories, and is open-ended. Furthermore, at times the roles seem reversed. If "Darwin" is indeed on trial, he ought to be given the benefit of the doubt, but here it seems as though the burden of guilt is on the defendant. Another just as serious group of flaws concerns the science itself. It is not clear how much Johnson really knows about evolutionary science. Very little empirical discussion takes place. Few studies are cited. Interactions are almost entirely with popularizers such as Dawkins and Gould, who have been criticized by their own colleagues at times for mixing science with their own philosophical ideals. There is no bibliography. Many of the discussions seem dated. He shows little awareness of the boom of studies done in biogeography, paleontology, and molecular genetics since the 1950s. Thus, what the reader gets is very much the view of an armchair theorizer, not a field researcher. Finally, Johnson tends to treat gaps in evidence or current holes in knowledge as insuperable barriers to knowledge, thus disproving evolution. That is surely illogical.On the whole, this is a book that raises many valid questions about the empirical bases of and logical consistency of current evolutionary theory. It is greatly handicapped by the author's lack of familiarity with the current state of science and questionable framework for evaluation.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    Read this in college...not sure which edition, but it was definitely a shorter read than the more recent offerings of this book. Read this back before I knew just how controversial evolution could be. From what I recall, this book is boring, poorly written, and naive. Johnson takes the lawyerly approach to presenting a case against evolution and the results feel like the word has been reduced to a rickety grade school diorama. Johnson most likely focused on word play and arguments based on defin Read this in college...not sure which edition, but it was definitely a shorter read than the more recent offerings of this book. Read this back before I knew just how controversial evolution could be. From what I recall, this book is boring, poorly written, and naive. Johnson takes the lawyerly approach to presenting a case against evolution and the results feel like the word has been reduced to a rickety grade school diorama. Johnson most likely focused on word play and arguments based on definitions. It seems many people will often mistake the framework of our language for reality and fail to recognize when we have poorly defined a concept. Instead of trying to view a concept behind the language that has been traditionally used, people will get stuck arguing words off to the side of a topic instead of engaging the topic. Here is a fresh example from the mailer "Awake" warning us of the new atheists: DNA is made of information and the only source of information is intelligence. Bleh!Johnson gave attorneys a bad image for me in college with his attempts to shove reality into his theory of the case. Of course, since then, I was delighted to see much more elegant presentations of fact in the court of law, with my favorite example being a district court judge's opinion accepting evolution as fact. Which also reminds me that I need to finish "Monkey Girl."
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  • Randy
    January 1, 1970
    In a culture that supposedly places a high value on open-mindedness and healthy criticism, evolution has somehow been a sacred cow, beyond the reach of serious analysis. Dissent has been effectively marginalized through the use of a caricature which assures us that all educated people recognize that evolution is a fact, even if there are in-house disagreements about the details. We are told that the only dissenters are Biblical fundamentalists who insist on a narrow, literal reading of Genesis a In a culture that supposedly places a high value on open-mindedness and healthy criticism, evolution has somehow been a sacred cow, beyond the reach of serious analysis. Dissent has been effectively marginalized through the use of a caricature which assures us that all educated people recognize that evolution is a fact, even if there are in-house disagreements about the details. We are told that the only dissenters are Biblical fundamentalists who insist on a narrow, literal reading of Genesis and therefore come to the preposterous conclusion that the earth is only six thousand years old. But reasonable people of faith will find that their theism is not threatened by the theory of evolution. Phillip Johnson argues that this caricature is grossly misleading and false. Evolution is a fact only if one starts with a prior commitment to materialism, the belief that the physical world is all there is. With materialism as the starting point, some form of evolution must be true; there is nothing else to explain the origin and history of life. Though the primary claim of the theory of evolution is the blind watchmaker thesis, that an unguided, purposeless process of mutation and natural selection is the means by which the complexity of life arose, it is not necessary (we are told) to be too precise when speaking of just what evolution is. Evolution can mean "changes in gene frequencies in a population," and so dog breeding, for example, is evolution, as is variations from year to year in the average size of finch beaks in a population of finches. Or evolution can mean "relationship." All living things are made of the same biochemical stuff, and that is a relationship we call an evolutionary relationship - that's evolution. Evolution is just a thing to be believed, and to accept one part of it is to accept the whole package. It is a matter of logical deduction, if one starts with the premise that materialism is true. And it is here that Johnson puts his finger on the central locus of the debate over evolution. Evolutionary science is operating by two definitions of science - science as empirical research but also science as applied materialism. Everyone is candid about the first definition, but almost noone will admit to the second, which is actually the more important of the two. This becomes evident when a scientist, doing empirical research, comes to conclusions that don't conform to materialistic philosophy. Then the second definition trumps the first, and the practitioner is said to no longer be doing science. What is at stake here, then, is a commitment to materialism. Discussion of evidence is important, but in a sense it is secondary, because all the evidentiary problems are not troubling to Darwinists who see everything through the glasses of materialism. But take away that prior commitment and it becomes a legitimate question to ask: if we don't know how evolution happened, how can we know that it happened? When a scientist like Niles Eldredge can on the one hand say, that based on his empirical observations, evolution "never seems to happen" but nevertheless refers to himself as a "knee-jerk Darwinist," this suggests a willingness to believe in spite of the evidence. His confidence in evolution appears to reside less in his findings as a paleontologist and more in his philosophical commitment. Regarding the second aspect of the caricature, Johnson believes that it is just so much double talk for promoters of evolution to say that evolutionary science has nothing to say about religion, when in fact it is loaded with anti-theological implications. Darwin's theory was successful primarily because it gave to biology a mechanism - descent with modification - that seemed to get rid of the need for a creator. But in so doing, not only was the creator banished from biology, he was effectively banished from reality. Thus if God exists at all, he is more like Aristotle's First Cause than the God of the Bible. Such a being is thoroughly inscrutable, utterly irrelevant, and certainly not worthy of worship. So if science has nothing to say about religion it's because science also has nothing to say about Zeus. It is not that we gain knowledge from science and knowledge from religion, but rather it is understood that knowledge comes exclusively from science, whereas religion gives us meaning and morality, which do not constitute knowledge but merely subjective belief. With this in view, Johnson doesn't see theistic evolution as a viable solution to the evolution/creation controversy. First of all if it is genuinely theistic, if God did anything, then it's not evolution as the scientific community defines the term. It's not purposeless and unguided. And if it is purposeless and unguided, then it is not in any meaningful way theistic. It seems that theistic evolution is convincing for Christians only if they are vague about the definitions and are convinced that naturalistic philosophy is only an unnecessary addition to an otherwise sound theory. If, however, Johnson is right, and on its own merits the mutation-natural selection mechanism is inadequate to explain the history of life, then why would we want to reconcile our theology with a theory that is false? Having said all this, Johnson isn't discounting a naturalistic theory of evolution out of hand. He is willing to hear evidence that mutation and selection, or any other naturalistic mechanism, can do the job of creation. But he's not willing to assume that it's the only possibility. Currently it's a closed system: if materialism is true, Darwinism is true, and it doesn't matter what the evidence is. But if you're willing to put the materialism in doubt, then the evidence really appears to be inadequate. Just getting the issue of materialism on the table of mainstream academic discourse is the hard part. Once that happens and the scientific culture is reoriented towards the truth instead of towards materialism, Johnson is confident that the scientific story will change dramatically.
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  • Maggie
    January 1, 1970
    a dense book that takes on both extremes: the neo-darwinists AND the creationists. the writer is a lawyer, not a scientist and lets it be known at the beginning that his book is an attempt to examine the rationality and the reasons for both darwin's evolutionary theory and the creationists' counter-argument. totally an amazing read. actually i think i'm going to have to study this book before i come to a firmer conclusion on where this book informs my already held position on this subject and wh a dense book that takes on both extremes: the neo-darwinists AND the creationists. the writer is a lawyer, not a scientist and lets it be known at the beginning that his book is an attempt to examine the rationality and the reasons for both darwin's evolutionary theory and the creationists' counter-argument. totally an amazing read. actually i think i'm going to have to study this book before i come to a firmer conclusion on where this book informs my already held position on this subject and where it might not hold true for accurate science. highly recommended if you like to think for yourself and think that in this important current science topic that a reliable source that separates the hype from the facts, as they can best be understood, can assist you to sort things out for yourself and be able to ask intelligent and meaningful questions to continue your search for what to believe/understand on evolutionary theory.
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  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a refreshing, logical discussion of why many of the "facts of evolution" are simply not proven. As a child, I had no reason to question evolution. Everywhere I encountered it, biology class, museums, weather reports, astronomy lessons...it was presented as fact, not theory. The elaborate artwork that fills museums and books regarding evolution was not presented with a strong caveat. It was shocking to learn how experts--scientists-- defended evolution, even when faced with huge cou This book is a refreshing, logical discussion of why many of the "facts of evolution" are simply not proven. As a child, I had no reason to question evolution. Everywhere I encountered it, biology class, museums, weather reports, astronomy lessons...it was presented as fact, not theory. The elaborate artwork that fills museums and books regarding evolution was not presented with a strong caveat. It was shocking to learn how experts--scientists-- defended evolution, even when faced with huge counterevidence. I thought scientists were unemotional truthseekers! The new version of this subjective science is the Global Warming Issue. How emotional the experts can be! I found myself continually reminded of the Global Warming Defenders.
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  • Todd
    January 1, 1970
    This book attempts to discredit Darwin's theory of evolution. Johnson has done a great deal of research on the subject and his arguments can't be pushed aside lightly. If nothing else he points out Darwinism for what it is, a faith system that does not require God. As a layperson I found some of the scientific data a little overwhelming at first. I had to go back and reread several chapters before I was able to truly understand his arguments. Overall I enjoyed this book.
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  • Bill Nohmer
    January 1, 1970
    We know so little about it (Darwinian evolution) that many christians think it is possible God used evolution in creation. Phillip E. Johnson takes a courtroom approach to his investigation/examination of Darwinian evolution and concludes: If it were on trial, it would LOSE.
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  • David Gilley
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent legal like discussion regarding the theories of Darwin and how they can be broken down.
  • Cormacjosh
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting and thought provoking work of criticism which makes its points intelligently without sounding like a stereotypical advocate for intelligent design. This book was a gift from my now late co worker Seth Williamson, and it has his notes, marks and comments in pencil throughout. It was somewhat comforting to encounter them; because his opinions were documented, it was like having a conversation with someone I wasn’t expecting to be able to have.
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  • Josh Crews
    January 1, 1970
    The author is not a Phd biologist, but rather and keenly-interested-in-evolution-origins law professor at Berkeley. He very well cross examines molecule-to-man evolution worldview that affects Western culture daily. He makes the case really well and for me delivered the intellectual fatal blow to evolution when I was a young Christian.
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  • Ryan
    January 1, 1970
    The book that launched the Intelligent Design movement. After reading this, you'll never look the same way at the shallow Darwinistic dogma you get in the average news story of high school science textbook.
  • Karla Goforth Abreu
    January 1, 1970
    Full of information concerning fossil records, genetic, and molecular evidence, and such. The author writes as a lawyer, and stands face to face with the likes of Dawkins, Darwin, Gould, and others. Researched and well written.
  • Griff
    January 1, 1970
    Execellent and objective.
  • Debbie
    January 1, 1970
    Great info but I’m not going to pretend that I understood all the science. Worth reading - the author thoroughly fleshes out the nuances in all arguments surrounding Darwinism.
  • Nikhil Gupta
    January 1, 1970
    Regnery Gateway Publication Year-1991Place –Washington (USA)Pages -188, indexPhillip Johnson is a professor at the University of California's prestigious Boalt Hall School of Law. His book has attracted a lot of attention, reportedly selling 40,000 hard-back copies. Darwin on Trial is an antievolution book, not a scientific creationism book; this book certainly establishes his credentials. It complements the anti-evolutionism of the scientific creationists, and provides fuel for those who want t Regnery Gateway Publication Year-1991Place –Washington (USA)Pages -188, indexPhillip Johnson is a professor at the University of California's prestigious Boalt Hall School of Law. His book has attracted a lot of attention, reportedly selling 40,000 hard-back copies. Darwin on Trial is an antievolution book, not a scientific creationism book; this book certainly establishes his credentials. It complements the anti-evolutionism of the scientific creationists, and provides fuel for those who want to get evolution out of school classrooms.The second chapter is talking about the natural selection through which the evolution has accrued. And third and fourth chapters are talking mutations and fossils. The fifth chapter is about evolution. Vertebrate sequence is talked in fifth chapter. The molecular evidence is discussed in chapter seven. Chapter eight is about pre -biological evolution. The rules of science and Darwinism are explained in the next chapters.The author considers Evolution as naturalism. Therefore Darwinism is fully naturalistic evolution, involving chance mechanisms guided by natural selection. In naturalistic evolution God’s intervention is excluded. He claims that Darwinian evolution is based not upon any incontrovertible empirical evidence, but upon a highly controversial philosophical presupposition”. Johnson argues that naturalistic evolution is not scientific but is rather a dogmatic belief system held in place by the authority of a scientific realmAs for Darwin that the species came out naturally and from one species another came. But for john there is no evidence about what Darwin says. Because, over the whole millennia no new species have been born. The comparative study of sera, haemoglobins, blood proteins, and interfertility show that natural selection can never happen. There still is no satisfactory detailed mechanism for producing large enough, non-lethal variation of the DNA to produce a new species in a single attempt, and it remains an act of faith on the part of evolutionists that there is some way for it to have happened bit by bit. Johnson says that Evolution is a naturalistic theory that denies any supernatural intervention. The scientific evidence for evolution is weak but the philosophical assumption of Naturalism dogmatically disallows consideration of the Creationist's alternative explanation of the biological world. Therefore, if divine interventions were not ruled out of court, Creationism would win over evolution .Johnson says that theory of naturalistic evolution, which... absolutely rules out any miraculous or supernatural intervention at any point. Everything is conclusively presumed to have happened through purely material mechanisms that are in principle accessible to scientific investigation, whether they have yet been discovered or not .First, Johnson defines evolution as if it were an ideology: evolutionismEvolutionism to him is a philosophy that excludes the possibility of divine intervention occurring during evolution. Therefore evolution itself is an incorrect explanation of the history of the universe.One of the main arguments that Johnson brings is fossil. According to the fossil collection that we have, there is no possibility of evolution. Because Macro-evolution suggests that it is very gradual and one species comes from other. But fossils that we have have no connection as the evolution describe. According to the evolution there must be connection between each fossil. Even when the old species disappear it is pretty same as they were. It is also true with the new species, which appears in well-formed form. So now the evolutionist should provide the fossils for their theory to be proved. Since it is not possible for them to provide the proof it is obvious that the evolution is not possible.so there must be a power which could have created the all the beings in its kind with purpose. Therefore we have the evidence to the creation according to the bible but not to the evolution.His goal, of course, is to discredit his version of Darwinism, which stresses slow, gradual evolution Johnson wants to prove that Darwinism is not science but an outgrowth of materialist philosophy. He does not recognize theistic evolution as a common compromise between the facts of science and the desire to retain a religious perspective. Darwin on Trial attacks evolution by natural selection in an attempt to bolster a theology based on a personal God who created humankind for a reason, and gave us a purpose. It does this by trying to convince the reader that evolution did not occur, and that Darwinism, as a mechanism, is inadequate to explain how descent with modification could have occurred. The arguments are recycled arguments from the discredited "scientific" creationists, although they are presented with great style and persuasiveness.Johnson worries greatly that children will learn evolutionism rather than "just" evolution, and then lose their faith in there being a purpose for life. Johnson reflects the anguish expressed by many traditional Christians who fear impact of evolution when it will be proved as true,Johnson thinks that Christian children are being taught evolutionism rather than just science. But there are no good data showings that the college or high school teacher goes along with the teaching of evolution occurred, and here's how it happened with therefore you must give up your belief in God. My personal experience is that this is rare; Johnson's worry is that dominates.Johnson is concerned with the implications of evolution. Although he states in his book that theistic evolution (evolution that is God-directed) is possible. He accepts that the earth is old, but rejects evolution, thus he is perhaps describable as an old-earth creationist. His concern with evolution is primarily religious: if evolution by natural selection (Darwinism) really happened, then it is not possible for life to have purpose and for the universe and Earth to have been designed by an omnipotent, personal God. He feels that life would have no meaning, and moral and ethical systems would have no foundation.Thus his goal in Darwin on Trial is to demonstrate that Darwinian natural selection is impossible; therefore evolution didn't take place; therefore his theological views are preserved. He stresses that Darwinism is inherently an atheistic, naturalistic philosophy.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    I read this immediately after finishing Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", so it's been interesting to compare the books.It struck me a long time ago that some evolutionary scientists were saying fairly absurd things in response to identified improbabilities in the theory (I noticed it once when reading what was obviously a completely imaginary narrative about the evolution of flying squirrels, for example). They often seemed to think that the ability to propose any explanatory story, no matte I read this immediately after finishing Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", so it's been interesting to compare the books.It struck me a long time ago that some evolutionary scientists were saying fairly absurd things in response to identified improbabilities in the theory (I noticed it once when reading what was obviously a completely imaginary narrative about the evolution of flying squirrels, for example). They often seemed to think that the ability to propose any explanatory story, no matter how unsupported by actual evidence, was sufficient to settle the matter. That they sometimes do not recognize this tendency is evidence that the theory is, in their minds, an unassailable fact. And if that's the case, why be careful?One of Johnson's most interesting observations is that it is scientists themselves who stir up skepticism about the integrity of their case by veering into philosophy and morality when provoked. I would guess that most people are somewhat indifferent to the issue, until a biologist decides that he is qualified to inform them that Darwin's theory has rendered their faith ridiculous.The book raises a lot of very interesting questions, although it is deliberately short on answers. Johnson is dissenting, not presenting. His background is law, not science, so his goal is simply to identify inconsistencies and non sequiturs in the popular arguments for natural selection as an adequate explanation for all life on earth.
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  • Charles van Buren
    January 1, 1970
     Is Darwinism an established fact?This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)This is the book which reignited widespread public debate about Darwinism. Johnson brought one of America's finest legal minds to the subject, carefully examing all of the evidence purporting to prove the theory of evolution. He found that evidence wanting. As a trained and experienced intelligence analyst and investigator, I read the book with care and came to the conclusion that Johnson is right. The evidence doe  Is Darwinism an established fact?This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)This is the book which reignited widespread public debate about Darwinism. Johnson brought one of America's finest legal minds to the subject, carefully examing all of the evidence purporting to prove the theory of evolution. He found that evidence wanting. As a trained and experienced intelligence analyst and investigator, I read the book with care and came to the conclusion that Johnson is right. The evidence does not support Darwinism as fact. A conclusion shared by my junior high, high school and university science and geology teachers. My geology professors were not advocates. They simply examined the science with open minds and let students think for themselves. I have since read widely on this subject from all sides. If this were a case at law, the jury would be hung. All sides reach a point where it is necessary to either stop, acknowledging the issue as unresolved, or to proceed on faith. In my opinion, logic does not, so far, support the Darwinist position. Let me also note that there seems to be some confusion concerning the content and purpose of the book. In the first edition which I read, Dr. Johnson does not attempt to prove intelligent design, instead he examines the evidence for Darwinism with an open mind.
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  • Ross
    January 1, 1970
    I read about half this book purely out of curiosity as a scientist with a great interest and knowledge of the theory of evolution.The author was a lawyer and the inventor of the idea of Intelligent Design to replace so-called Creation Science which had come to be regarded as silly nonsense by many believers in a God of Creation. The argument put forward is that the genetic mutations that created all the species were not random, as science believes, but directed by a Designer who was doing the de I read about half this book purely out of curiosity as a scientist with a great interest and knowledge of the theory of evolution.The author was a lawyer and the inventor of the idea of Intelligent Design to replace so-called Creation Science which had come to be regarded as silly nonsense by many believers in a God of Creation. The argument put forward is that the genetic mutations that created all the species were not random, as science believes, but directed by a Designer who was doing the design work.The book is simply filled with one error and distortion after another, but is very cleverly composed to convince those who don't know all the facts. The author was a highly skilled lawyer after all.He admits in the preface that he is a deep believer in the God of Creation and that his God must have directed the design of everything, including us.We scientists can't "prove" the author is wrong, but we can show that his idea is highly, highly unlikely. For example why would his Designer make so many mistakes.On the issue of "mistakes" the author has the misconception that Darwinian evolution must not make an mistakes and he actually gives examples of mistakes, saying these were done by a "whimsical creator."
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  • Alan
    January 1, 1970
    I've always wanted to read this book because of its acclaim among the Christian apologetics community. I was certainly not disappointed by this highly thoughtful and articulate critique on Darwinian evolution. While there is much that can be said, the most compelling chapters were the ones that dealt with the reality of Darwinian evolution being treated more like a religion and less like a science.Meaning, Darwinian evolution has slowly become inscrutable among the scientific elite and those tha I've always wanted to read this book because of its acclaim among the Christian apologetics community. I was certainly not disappointed by this highly thoughtful and articulate critique on Darwinian evolution. While there is much that can be said, the most compelling chapters were the ones that dealt with the reality of Darwinian evolution being treated more like a religion and less like a science.Meaning, Darwinian evolution has slowly become inscrutable among the scientific elite and those that deviate from the accepted Darwinian ideas are tossed to the side as religious fundamentalists. All science, even the coveted evolution, should not be immune to criticism. This book makes an excellent critique of Darwinian evolution and many of the dogmatic scientific elite police force that guard its protected reputation. Well done.
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  • Yogy TheBear
    January 1, 1970
    I recommend this book to anyone from both sides (or other side) of the debate .The fact is that what we see as science today, mainly the academic body, have a double body of knowledge . One is what we the average person receives at school ,TV , magazines and even in culture . This one is watered down , simplified, presented as complete, sensationalized and dramatized . Just watch how science is presented on the big science channels . The other body is for academia only !! There you have the real I recommend this book to anyone from both sides (or other side) of the debate .The fact is that what we see as science today, mainly the academic body, have a double body of knowledge . One is what we the average person receives at school ,TV , magazines and even in culture . This one is watered down , simplified, presented as complete, sensationalized and dramatized . Just watch how science is presented on the big science channels . The other body is for academia only !! There you have the real debates and controversies !! This systems resembles an occult one, is a "secret" world .This book does a great job in bringing to light the second body of science !! It is one of those examples in wich you learn more science from an creationist book !!
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  • Jimmy
    January 1, 1970
    This is probably one of the best books on the evolution/creation debate that I've read. Philip Johnson uses quotes from the Darwinists themselves to show that their arguments simply don't hold up to the scrutiny of logic. Mr. Johnson also brings out the bias that is prevalent in the evolutionists' way of thinking. The chapter on prebiological evolution is a good example of their bias: They have no explanation of how biological life could have emerged naturally from the nonliving chemicals on the This is probably one of the best books on the evolution/creation debate that I've read. Philip Johnson uses quotes from the Darwinists themselves to show that their arguments simply don't hold up to the scrutiny of logic. Mr. Johnson also brings out the bias that is prevalent in the evolutionists' way of thinking. The chapter on prebiological evolution is a good example of their bias: They have no explanation of how biological life could have emerged naturally from the nonliving chemicals on their version of an early Earth, forcing them into the philosophical argument that evolution had to have happened by the mere fact that life exists.
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