Darwin on Trial
by Phillip E. Johnson

A revealing critique of the Darwinian establishment that controls scientific discussion regarding the origin of the species. He shows that Darwinism is part empirical science and part philosophy.
"As an explanation for modifications in populations, Darwinism is an empirical doctrine. As an explanation for how complex organisms came into existence in the first place, it is pure philosophy." (117)
Unfortunately, the empirical evidence weighs against the philosophical part of the theory. Darwinism is upheld on logical, philosophical grounds as the best naturalistic (atheistic, materialistic) explanation of the origin of the species as opposed to creationism, which assumes the Creator had a purpose and which is outside the realm of empirical investigation.

Johnson does not defend creation-science, which refers to the young-earth, six-day creation story. The Darwinist establishment has classified Darwinism under naturalism and equated naturalism with science and science with fact, thereby making Darwinism impregnable to scientific criticism.

Natural selection has been shown to be valid within a species, but it has not been shown to have transformed one species into another. The latter idea is a hypothesis rather than an established fact. Even purposeful breeding of animals has produced no new species.

"the results of artificial selection provide powerful testimony against Darwin's theory" (18)
Natural selection can be reduced to the tautology that Karl Popper expressed as:
"those organisms that leave most offspring leave most offspring" (21)

Johnson Quotations

"Advantage in the proper Darwinian sense... does not mean improvement as humans measure it. Ants and bacteria are just as advantaged as we are, judged by the exclusive criterion of success in reproduction." (24)

"Bird and bat wings appear in the fossil record already developed, and no one has ever confirmed by experiment that the gradual evolution of wings and eyes is possible." 36

"on rare occasions a lucky accident might produce a "hopeful monster," a member of a new species with the capacity to survive and propagate (but with what mate?)." (37)

"Darwin acknowledged that his theory implied that

"the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must be inconceivably great."
One might therefore suppose that geologists would be continually uncovering fossil evidence of transitional forms. This, however, was clearly not the case. What geologists did discover was species, and groups of species, which appeared suddenly rather than at the end of a chain of evolutionary links. Darwin conceded that the state of the fossil evidence was
"the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory,"
and that it accounted for the fact that
"all the most eminent paleontologists ... and all of our greatest geologists ... have unanimously, often vehemently, maintained the immutability of species."" (46—47)
"Gould and Eldredge proposed a new theory they called "punctuated equilibrium" ("punk eek" to the irreverent), to deal with an embarrassing fact: the fossil record today on the whole looks very much as it did in 1859, despite the fact that an enormous amount of fossil hunting has gone on in the intervening years." (50)

"In short, if evolution means the gradual change of one kind of organism into another kind, the outstanding characteristic of the fossil record is the absence of evidence for evolution." (50)

The sudden appearance of species and the stability of species in the fossil record is the opposite of what Darwin's theory would predict.

"Gould described "the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record" as "the trade secret of paleontology."" (59)

"Niles Eldredge has been even more revealing:

"We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change], all the while really knowing that it does not."" (59)
"That embryos actually recapitulate adult ancestral forms—that humans go through fish and reptile stages, for example—was never borne out by the evidence, and embryologists quietly discarded it. Nonetheless, the concept was so pleasing theoretically that generations of biology students learned it as fact. Gould recalls being taught the formula [Ontology recapitulated phylogeny.] in school, fifty years after it had been discarded by science." (72)

"the molecular clock hypothesis assumes the validity of the common ancestry thesis which it is supposed to confirm." (99)

"Although some components of living systems can be duplicated with very advanced techniques, scientists employing the full power of their intelligence cannot manufacture living organisms from amino acids, sugars, and the like. How then was the trick done before scientific intelligence was in existence?" (105)

Fred Hoyle said a living organism emerging by chance from a pre-biotic soup is about as likely as that "a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein." (106)

"To scientific naturalists, recognition of a supernatural reality amounts to superstition, and hence to an abandonment of science. To theists, on the other hand, the concept of a supernatural Mind in whose image we are created is the essential metaphysical basis for our confidence that the cosmos is rational and to some extent understandable. Scientific naturalists insist, paradoxically, that the cosmos can be understood by a rational mind only if it was not created by a rational mind." (164)

"My primary goal in writing Darwin on Trial was to legitimate the assertion of a theistic worldview in the secular universities." (165)

Halliday: The remaining reasons for believing in Darwinism are:

  1. If we assume there is no Creator and no purpose behind life, then Darwinism is the best known explanation of life (this should be recognized as a philosophical assumption rather than a scientific fact). Despite the gaps in the historical record, it seems plausible that the first creature of a new species had parents rather than that it was created from clay. If it had parents, it should have some genetic resemblance to its parents even though it has some mutated genes.
  2. If there is a Creator, he is a poor engineer. Consider vertebrate embryology. Douglas Futuyma asked,
    "How does God's plan for humans and sharks require them to have almost identical embryos? Why should terrestrial salamanders, if they were not descended from aquatic ancestors, go through a larval stage entirely within the egg, with gills and fins that are never used, and then lose these features before they hatch?" (71)
    Consider designing for function. Gould asked,
    "Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor? An engineer, starting from scratch, could design better limbs in each case." (70)
  3. The case of Australia. Gould continues:
    "Why should all the large native mammals of Australia be marsupials, unless they descended from a common ancestor on this island continent?" (70)
  4. Archaeopteryx, a fossil bird which appears in rocks estimated to be 145 million years old, has skeletal features which suggest a close kinship to a small dinosaur called Compsognathus. It is possibly a transitional animal in the hypothetical reptile to bird evolution.

Year Read: 1997

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