Review: Darwin on Trial

Philip Johnson, IVP, 1993, 220 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 2.15.50 PMNo statement serves as a clearer harbinger than the title of Johnson’s fifth chapter: “The Fact of Evolution”. While Johnson deftly illustrates that evolutionists do not know how large-scale evolution could have occurred, it is still considered fact in most scholarly circles.

Johnson’s goal is to show that Darwinian evolution has no evidence to prove that biological innovations took place; this was most clearly proven in the first several chapters, which deal with the theoretical (natural selection), experimental (mutations), and historical (fossil record) difficulties that Darwinism faces.

Johnson’s thorough critique on the Darwinian/evolutionary system unearths the clandestine presuppositions of modern-day evolutionists by debunking their faulty logic and showing evidence contrary to the evolutionary system.

Weaknesses

Early on, Johnson tips his hand that he is not a “Biblical fundamentalist” (later defined as a literal, young earth creationist) nor is he sympathetic towards them. Still, he admits that he is a Christian, though his particular slant is that of theistic evolution. He says, “whether animals evolved more than once remains an open question as far as fossils are concerned” (79) and assumes that there were “transitional steps between apes and humans” (85).

Johnson also concedes far too much. After examining some Darwinian evidence, he admits, “birds did somehow develop from dinosaur predecessors” (81). He even appears to soften the Darwinist’s motives by implying that their theory is not presented with “the intent to deceive” (118).

Strengths

First, I enjoyed a critique on the Darwinian theory as seen through a lawyer’s eyes. Lawyers know how slippery language in debates work (e.g. Darwin used the double negative “not immutable” to describe species). Johnson deftly analyzed the motives, presuppositions, and evidences behind every claim of the Darwinists.

Second, I enjoyed the plethora of logical errors that were exposed on the part of the Darwinists (e.g. 34).

Things I learned

First and foremost, Darwinist’s have a religious motive. Man has no value because there is no God to place value upon him. Even if the evolutionary theory is filled with holes, it is believed because the only other alternative is intelligent design, something unthinkable to the Darwinist.

I also learned that evolutionists are militant. Those who do not accept their theory are called stupid, insane, and ignorant. “Theories” with no evidence (like the Piltdown man) are presented as fact as long as possible until it is finally debunked (e.g. Chapter 11 and the graphic account of zealous Darwinists).

“Natural selection” is the Darwinist’s replacement of God. To use the words of Richard Dawkins, it is the “blind watchmaker” that is capable of producing new kinds of organs and organisms. In order for natural selection to take place, however, two things are needed: massive amounts of time and some kind of intelligent force behind it.

Finally, the deathblow to the Darwinian theory is the historical fossil record. According to Johnson, historically, it is this record, not clergymen and preachers, which was the most formidable opponent to Darwinism. Darwin called the fossil problem “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory” (47).

In sum, Johnson logically and scientifically exposes the myriad of problems behind the Darwinian theory. I would highly recommend this book.

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