Friday, August 11, 2006

Darwin on Trial

Author: Phillip E. Johnson, Professor of Law - University of California at Berkeley

In this amazing book of only around 200 pages, Johnson succeeds in fairly evaluating the evidence that Darwinists use to support their theory of evolution. I think he has legitimately analyzed the data at hand absent metaphysical assumptions or biases. This makes this work similar to that of Wells in one respect, but very different in terms of content, purpose, and style.

Johnson is a professor of law and naturally views this topic from a legal standpoint as well as from the standpoint of argument style. He has very little to say about "creation-science" or "fundamentalism" since they have nothing at all to do with his topic at hand. He is concerned, rather, with considering whether or not valid and convincing evidence for Darwinist evolution exists when taken out of a naturalistic presumptive framework or metaphysical model. After he has examined the evidence and taken the reader through these steps, he confidently concludes that the evidence at hand does not support the theory that life on earth is the product of purely naturalistic forces acting through natural selection and random mutation. In fact, such evidence is not only rare but nonexistent.

He is well aware that organisms change within population groups to very limited degrees. Bacteria populations can change to resist antibiotics; insect populations change to resist insecticide; and, yes, finches' beaks within a population can change sizes from small to large and back again due to environmental pressures. Johnson is even convinced that the peppered moth example of natural selection is valid which Wells competently defeats in Icons of Evolution. None of this supports anything more than what I just typed. Those small changes occur, but the jump from this data to the assumption that such changes account for the existence of bacteria, insects, and finches in the first place is not empirical but rather the consequence of a certain philosophical presupposition.

While Johnson and Wells both examine Darwinist evidence and the metaphysical assumptions behind that evidence, Wells does more of the former while Johnson does more of the latter. The difference between Wells and Johnson is that Wells took ten specific icons of evolution, examined and debunked them, and lamented the modern state of scientific affairs; Johnson examines more general categories of Darwinist evidence, though he does take time to illustrate their lack of empirical justification, and focuses more intently on the arguments employed in the process.

This book is phenomenal and monumental. Johnson begins by categorically surveying the evidence: the legal setting, natural selection, mutations, the fossil record, evolutionary "fact" vs. "theory", the vertebrate sequence, molecular evodence, and prebiological evolution. Johnson has the genius ability to point out serious problems in reason and argument that may be hard to recognize for the layman. He also has a thorough knowledge of these topics, no doubt through extensive research.

After this he has concluded that Darwinism lacks the evidence it claims to have. He then discusses that given the rules of science that they employ, the lack of evidence is not a problem for them; their theory is metaphysical and doesn't even require empirical data. He then discusses the Darwinist cultural monopoly in regard to religion and education and concludes his book with a chapter titled "Science and Pseudoscience" where he makes the distinction between science (falsifiable) and pseudoscience (not falsifiable).

I was intriguied by his references to Popper and Kuhn in relation to the discussion of scientific paradigms and falsifiable theories. In order for a theory to truly validate itself it must make a risky claim or prediction and then discover that the prediction or claim was specifically true or false. There need to be specific and clear criteria for both the vindication and falsification of the theory in question. Darwinism, as it stands, is not falsifiable since it makes no risky predictions and absorbs everything it comes across as more "evidence" for itself. It therefore explains everything which by consequence explains nothing. Instead of using the theory to predict certain things (data), it merely gathers data and explains it in terms of the theory. This is completely backwards.

As for the scientific paradigms, Johnson mentions Kuhn's theory that science (and really humankind in general) takes on a certain paradigm which it uses to create questions and the rules on how to answer them. Conflicting data is explained away but rarely considered threatening to the paradigm since the paradigm is essentially a worldview through which science views everything. Kuhn postulates that science goes through paradigm shifts from time to time. I think his observation is quite accurate and, more significantly, important for our society to recognize. Our assumptions, metaphysical or otherwise, need to be acknowledged candidly and openly.

This book is amazing. If I hadn't already read Uncommon Dissent I would declare this the best anti-Darwinist book that I have ever read. It certainly lives on the same level as Uncommon Dissent but is different and unique in its own right. Every American student should read this book; it is that profound and important.

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