(This is a re-blog from July, 2012)
I’ve heard about Phillip Johnson’s book, Darwin on Trial, but until recently I haven’t read it. And I’m very glad I finally did. This book does not deal with superficial issues. It gets right to the heart of the matter by examining the logic, presuppositions, and religious aspects of Darwinism. Darwin on Trial captured my attention immediately in the first chapter when Johnson said that the book was going to explore “whether Darwinism is based upon a fair assessment of the scientific evidence, or whether it is another kind of fundamentalism” (p. 14). In other words, is evolution based on fact or faith? Does Darwinism start with fact or with faith? Here’s Johnson:
“I do not think that many scientists would be comfortable accepting Darwinism solely as a philosophical principle, without seeking to find at least some empirical evidence that it is true. But there is an important difference between going to the empirical evidence to test a doubtful theory against some plausible alternative, and going to the evidence to look for confirmation of the only theory that one is willing to tolerate. We have already seen that distinguished scientists have accepted uncritically the questionable analogy between natural and artificial selection, and they have often been undisturbed by the fallacies of the ‘tautology’ and ‘deductive logic’ formulations. Such illogic survived and reproduced itself for the same reason that an apparent incompetent species sometimes avoids extinction; there was no effective competition in its ecological niche.” (p. 28-9).
You may have to read that paragraph again to see the depth of critique there. Johnson later says, along those same lines, “It is one thing to say that there are gaps [in the fossil record], and quite another thing to claim the right to fill the gaps with the evidence required to support one’s theory” (p. 48). Here’s one more quote to give you yet another angle on Johnson’s point.
“The fossils provide much more discouragement than support for Darwinism when they are examined objectively, but objective examination has rarely been the object of Darwinist paleontology. The Darwinist approach has consistently been to find some supporting fossil evidence, claim it as proof for ‘evolution,’ and then ignore all the difficulties” (p. 86).
To be sure, Johnson doesn’t just make these claims over and over. He supports them with examples from scientists and scientific studies. In reading the book, I learned about the basilosaurus, saltationism, mutations, natural selection, materialism, and so forth. It isn’t for beginners! Furthermore, Johnson’s work is well documented so the curious reader can trace out some of his arguments. If you have not yet read this book and are interested in this topic, I strongly recommend it. It isn’t just for Christians; I’d give it to friends or family members who hold to evolution but are willing to learn and be challenged. (If you do get Darwin on Trial, you probably want to get the newest updated edition – from 2010 I believe.) Though others may disagree, I believe the book shows that Darwinism is indeed a sort of religious fundamentalism.