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In Darwin on Trial, author Philip Johnson argues, not that evolution never happened (p.14 (chapter 1; paragraph 37)), but that naturalistic science is unfair in not allowing those who believe that a supernatural (and whimsical) being created life to present their evidence. The question of which of the several supernatural explanations best fits the evidence is not addressed (p.14 (chapter1; paragraph 38)). His context in writing "Darwin" is as a lawyer and law professor. Professor Johnson knows what makes a good argument (p.8 (chapter 1: paragraph 18) and p.13 (paragraph 34)) and is, therefore, a good judge of truth.

I was troubled by Darwin. I kept asking myself "what's the point ?" and "why does he use Darwinism or Darwin's Theory and evolution interchangeably ?".

Professor Johnson uses a limited group of authors to make his arguments. The authors he's chosen all feel very strongly about science and feel strongly that creation science is wishful thinking. He does not use a wide range of evidence for evolution, or quote scientists who take natural processes for granted but still are practicing spiritualists. Go to a bookstore or web index tool to find material on thesistic evolution or evolution with special creation of man. The fact seems to be that creationism is not monolithic, that it has a great deal of variety, but also the various creationist camps sometimes don't consider the other camps to be truely creationist. Without a statement of his creationist outlook, the book is incomplete.

Professor Johnson looks for the holes in evolutionary theory. Essentially, those holes come down to major changes being unobserved. Simple speciation is all we ever see, no changes from apes into men or monkeys into bats. It is as if fossils do not exist at all. There is no mention of adaptive radiation, or of comparative it possible to talk about evolution without these concepts? Since comparative embryology is a way of thinking about evolution without reference to fossils, and the way to classify species, I can see why he'd avoid it and stick to fossils, which by known natural physical processes are rare. And adaptive radiation is the concept, from the evidence, that explains speciation and the sudden eruption of types. As important as fossils are, as real as the fossil record is, the fossil record is only part of the reasoning that goes into the evolutionary understanding of biology.

I think the author has treated evolution is if it were a religion, and therefore unchangable, rather like evangelicals seem to feel their version of Christianity is unchangeable. In this way, he can use "Darwinism" and "evolution" to be the same thing, despite the development of understandings of evolution after Darwin's day.

As for the context of the book: does anyone really believe lawyering is about knowing how to judge evidence, instead of how to use evidence? It seems to me OJ in Brentwood, Hooker Chemical in Love Canal, and (fill-in-the-blank) should disabuse any layman of the notion that lawyers are in it, strictly, for truth.

page number are from the 1991 hard back edition from Regnery Gateway; paragraph number provided for other, or paperback, editions

Any comments to help me sort this out? Then: Mail me.

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Last update: 12/14/00