Darwin on Trial

Darwin on Trial

Phillip E. Johnson

IVP, $22.95

Written by Phillip E. Johnson (Professor of Law), this is the 20th anniversary edition of his rebuttal of the theory of Charles Darwin in his Origin of the Species (1859).

It is suggested in the foreword that the evidence for and against evolution “is much better evaluated by a generalist, trained to evaluate the logic of arguments”.

Johnson states that the original Darwinian concept of “natural selection” is a denial of the belief that life is directed by any purposeful intelligence. He points to the tautology in the underlying principle that the fittest of the species produces the most offspring, when the fittest of the species is defined as those who produce the most offspring.

Darwin avoided systemic mutations in which an organ appears in a single generation; but prefers “the gradual operation over long periods of time of familiar natural forces that we can still see operating in the present”.

He proposed that favourable micro-mutations can accumulate and produce new characteristics of formidable complexity, such as wings and eyes. Mammals split from reptiles and one of those lines took to water and ultimately became whales. A different line took to the trees and caves, and here we are today.

The author points to the lack of evidence of gradual changes, from fossils so far unearthed. He concedes that mutations may account for variations within a species but not for the development of an entirely different species. He remains dissatisfied with the recent DNA similarities found in living matter as a sufficient and necessary condition for the acceptance of natural selection.

His original edition attracted a lot of criticism and he frequently castigates those who attempt to fit evolution, as depicted by Darwin, into the recognition of a purposeful creative force. He also denounces the widespread acceptance in the scientific community of Darwinian Theory as scientific fact, without requiring the rigours usually expected in scientific circles.

In going through the book, chapter by chapter, it is helpful to look up the Author’s Notes, which are grouped at the back of the book and to have a dictionary at hand. In reading the Epilogue, it is clear that this has become, for him, not simply a case to argue, but a matter of conviction.

John Atkinson

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