“Darwin On Trial” By Phillip Johnson [More Lying For Jesus]
First off, I’m not here to write an extensive review of this book; exposing all of the false, misleading or incorrect information contained in it. Eugenie Scott, of National Center for Science Education (NCSE) fame, already wrote an excellent review doing just that.
I’m here simply to express my frustration with what I perceive as great intellectual dishonesty (lying for Jesus).
I suppose one of my main problems with Johnson’s thesis is that he doesn’t offer any alternatives to evolution in his book. Well, no alternatives other than magic (God).
He also plays a good bluff. You’d think, with his apparent extensive knowledge of evolutionary biology, that his case is quite relevant. This is not so. He merely states the same old misconceptions in a more eloquent, sophisticated manner. He is a lawyer, after all (Truth Modification Engineer?). One of my favorite quotes in Scott’s review of Johnson’s book says:
Johnson has grasped the general picture of evolutionary biology, and even some of the details, but he lacks the deep understanding that is required to make the criticisms he makes. A deep understanding of a field comes from careful study of relevant literature, including primary sources, and communication with specialists in the field.
Johnson also quotes heavily from the “big names” in evolutionary biology, such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. But, his quotes aren’t taken from the biological literature found in journals. They’re found in writings these men provide for a layperson audience. And, taken out of context, these “simpler” renditions could look suspicious to the layreader. Scott says…
…but the works Johnson cites are usually those written for laypersons, such as Gould’s Natural History columns. A casual reader would necessarily miss a great deal of the detail and nuance of the arguments, though perhaps acquiring an understanding of the broad sweep of contemporary evolutionary science.
And I think this is wherein lies Johnson’s hopes. He hopes that the average layperson will take his arguments at face value. That no one will take the time to investigate what’s been said. To take the time to really critique his arguments. And he’s got a pretty good chance of that happening, to a large degree.
It would take the average person countless hours to thoroughly research and learn all of the various nuances and details involved; the sheer depth of effort required to grasp the current state of evolutionary biology is not something you can do in an afternoon.
Johnson’s got the easy job. Make a complicated subject seem easy to understand, poke holes in his misunderstood conceptions of that subject (the Straw Man logical fallacy), and convince those who don’t understand the subject to begin with that he knows what he’s talking about.
I mean, think about it. Seriously. People in this field spend their lives studying this material. They’re out in the field analyzing, pouring over countless fossil samples, looking at all of the evidence and actually placing it in context. Not only that, but the peer-review process is grueling. Their fellow scientists are looking to poke holes in their work all along the way – contra to what Johnson claims in his book. So they’d better make sure what they claim stands up to scrutiny. They don’t need Johnson’s illegitimate criticisms along with all of that.
And yet, Johnson thinks he’s going to put all of this research to rest with a single book? How arrogant. You couldn’t possibly give a thorough, honest, accurate account of the “flaws” or “errors” in any field in a 170-page book. This whole thing wreaks of lying for Jesus. Like there aren’t enough examples of that to go around.
This is why we need more scientists to be “popularizers.” People who bring science to the public. To help people to understand what science is all about. To show the masses that science isn’t some secret ritual that takes place in a laboratory, where the priests and bishops are men in white coats privileged to esoteric information. That with a little effort, one can grasp concepts like evolution for what it is, from a scientific perspective.
Granted, you probably won’t know enough to be an evolutionary biologist, but what you will know is enough to understand the arguments and whether or not a criticism is likely or not to be valid.
On that note, although I didn’t like this book, I recommend you read it to get a feel for what the current state of Intelligent Design (Creationism) logic is. It’s quite informative.
Read a book. It’s good for you.
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