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89 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb introduction to the creation/evolution debate
Although most of his arguments are not new, Johnson brings the most important points together in a remarkably concise yet comprehensive format. He has a gift for summarizing the research in each field, then explaining and elucidating the implications of an issue, in just enough words to make it understandable.
He points out the mind-boggling complexity of...
Published on April 20, 1999

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31 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good start in critically examining evolution
I have read the 1-and no star reviews below and have been struck like several others by how they lack specific examples of Johnson's 'ignorance' of scientific principles, or fail to counter any one of his examples. Like many children educated in public schools I simply accepted what I read in textbooks as true, until as a Senior in high school I realized that in Physics...
Published on March 16, 2001 by Charles


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89 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb introduction to the creation/evolution debate, April 20, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
Although most of his arguments are not new, Johnson brings the most important points together in a remarkably concise yet comprehensive format. He has a gift for summarizing the research in each field, then explaining and elucidating the implications of an issue, in just enough words to make it understandable.
He points out the mind-boggling complexity of structures like wings and eyes, but does not dwell on these descriptions like some critics, for he realizes that nearly all informed people agree that living things are that complex. The Darwinian Richard Dawkins writes, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose," but insists that "Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning."
The premise that appearance can be misleading is not unreasonable. Scientists proved the appearance of the sun revolving around the earth to be an illusion. The problem, which constitutes Johnson's central scientific premise, is that there is no evidence that natural selection has the immense creative power Darwinians attribute to it. The Darwinian claim that the numerous theoretical difficulties with Darwinism are false is based not on scientific fact but almost entirely on pure speculation.
Johnson is not a scientist, but his central thesis is philosophical. Darwinians insist that considering divine intervention is unacceptable because science is committed to purely natural explanations. The problem is, how do scientists know *a priori* that natural processes alone are sufficient to produce the diversity of life on earth? Some may argue that this assumption is well-grounded, but scientists do not have the exclusive authority to tell us whether a *philosophical* assumption is true or not.
His scientific data are all from reputable scientific sources. To this date I have not seen a single valid criticism revealing a major inaccuracy in the data - and I have read many reviews of the book, some by prominent scientists. Stephen J. Gould's review tried to point out several minor inaccuracies, but he misquoted and distorted the book to make that point.
Most of Johnson's factual premises are tacitly conceded by Darwinians themselves. One example: David Raup, an internationally renowned paleontologist, made some remarkable concessions in an essay supposed to *refute* creationism. He wrote the following: (1) Darwin wrote that if smooth evolutionary transitions were not found in the fossil record, his general theory would be in serious trouble. (2) More than a hundred years later, after a tremendous expansion of knowledge about the fossil record, the situation is more or less the same. "We may actually have fewer examples of smooth transition than we had in Darwin's time because some of the old examples have turned out to be invalid when studied in more detail." (3) This can still be reconciled with Darwin's theory in various ways, and although Raup conceded that a more inclusive theory may take its place in the future, he rejected creationism largely because of the belief in a young earth.
While Raup's defense may have seemed reasonable, especially to those who take for granted that all creationists believe in a `young earth,' Raup directly implied that scientists accept Darwin's theory in spite of the fossil evidence. None of the anti-creationist literature with which I am familiar - and I am well-read on the issue - directly contradict what Raup wrote. But with rare exceptions, they try very hard to conceal this implication he was forthright about.
Johnson is careful to avoid certain fallacies earlier critics have made - such as the claim that natural selection is inherently tautological, that it involves pure `chance,' that evolution is `unfalsifiable,' etc. Some reviews of the book, such as one by Eugenie Scott, caricatured his arguments to make it sound like he'd just rehashed old discredited criticisms. In fact, Johnson repeatedly demonstrates an awareness of how Darwinians respond to criticisms of their theory, and he takes these well into account.
The biggest criticism I have of Johnson is his frequent vagueness on whether he is attacking just the theory of natural selection or common ancestry itself. Some proponents of intelligent design, such as Darwin's Black Box author Michael Behe, accept the doctrine of common ancestry. I agree with Johnson that Darwinians use the word `evolution' vaguely to suppress distinctions between different meanings of the term, but he also seems to be saying that common ancestry is too vague a doctrine to be evaluated independently of Darwinian natural selection. The book would be more persuasive if he was clearer where and when he is criticizing each doctrine.
Many of Johnson's articles and essays written after the book are worth reading, but he exhibits a certain shallowness in debating the scientific details of his position with Darwinians. Many other proponents of intelligent design - many of whom are trained scientists - while perhaps not as accessible, support his basic viewpoint with ultimately greater depth and clarity. I particularly recommend the following links:
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79 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is even confirmed by its critics, April 26, 2008
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This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Hardcover)
I have finally read this book, after years of reading criticisms of it, and I am amazed at what a good case Johnson actually makes and how woefully inept most of his critics have been.
For those who have not read the book, Johnson argues the following points:
* The scientific establishment, rather than defending evolution against criticism, has determined that no such criticism shall take place.
* Evolution is defined so loosely that no criticism of it is possible.
* The term "natural selection" is a tautology and so explains nothing.
* The experimental evidence for Darwinism does not provide "any persuasive reason for believing that natural selection can produce new species, new organs, or other major changes, or even minor changes that are permanent."
* Darwinians are so clever at finding evidence that confirms their theory and explaining the evidence that appears to contradict it, that it looks as if all the evidence is supportive.
* The theory of sexual selection contradicts the theory of natural selection.
* Haeckel's hypothesis that "ontology recapitulates phylogeny" is still taught in schools despite being completely discredited more than a century ago. (This I know to be true, as I still teach a syllabus which requires it.)
* Darwinian theory is not falsifiable, because its supporters cannot or will not make the risky predictions which would allow it to be falsified.
* Anyone who questions the orthodoxy of scientific naturalism, or Darwinism in particular, is rigorously persecuted by the scientific establishment.
This must be one of the most vilified books ever written. Johnson is repeatedly accused by critics of trespassing into an area in which he has no expertise, as his whole professional career has been devoted to the practice and interpretation of law. These critics appear not to have noticed that this book is a response to a legal decision. He is also accused of trying to prove the case for creationism, whereas his introductory chapter states explicitly that he is not defending creation-science and his book does not address the Biblical accounts of creation." (p.14)
In addition, Johnson is accused of the following: misunderstanding the scientific process and rules of evidence, misrepresenting the works of respected scientists, discrediting the fossil evidence, neglecting the evolution of plants, poor reasoning, inability to frame an argument, abysmal writing, taking criticisms of creationism personally and acting like a spoilt child when his book is criticised.
There is one important respect in which the book is out-of-date: it was published in 1993, several years before the completion of the human genome project, and can thus give no account of the enormous weight of genetic evidence which has poured in since then. But I think Johnson can hardly be blamed for this.
And yet, the astonishing thing is that hardly any of these critics (even the small number who have actually read the book) have even mentioned, much less refuted, his major arguments. Thus his book, unlike the theory he is criticizing, has withstood the test of falsification. From a scientific point of view, this is the strongest possible confirmation that he is right.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for starters, November 27, 2011
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This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Hardcover)
After reading so many books on evolution and science since the 1970s by secular or even the atheistic writers (Sagan, Dawkins, Hawking and plenty more), this is the first book I bought written by a creationist author. I must admit I'm surprised at the awful passion "rational" non-creationists have against this book. Prof. Johnson highlights just a few of the many faults, inconsistencies, flaws and "just-so" stories factually related to evolution. Much of what he shows are the concepts, thoughts, ideas, theories and proposals common evolutionists (including those mentioned above) believe and from the very books they write for us to read ourselves (as quite a few, I have). Yes, the book is now twenty years old, and some modifying is in order, but by and large the book exposes the many problems evolution really does entail. Many people accept evolution (at least, partly) because they see no other option. Those that believe in God (something science can't negate) see another option, possibly even a better one. Let the theory of evolution's true faults be exposed. The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging it!

Prof Johnson seems to dwell on tautology more than needed but otherwise, the book is an excellent "starter" for those that don't turn a blind eye to the theory of evolution and it's many facets that are highly debated among top evolutionists themselves, not to mention between evolutionists and creationists.

Admitting I believe in a Creator (though not the young earth theory) may superciliously add a lot of "Not Helpful"s to this review, (though I tend to read the posts with the most "Not Helpful"s first anyway, as others do too), please keep in mind, the point of the review is to evaluate the book itself, not to state (or vote) personal problems with individual opinions of the reviewer. I do highly recommend the book. It doesn't go into very great detail, but it reveals plenty of the problems going that the theory of evolution creates for the average reader and up. Over 30 pages of research notes to endorse what Prof Johnson writes is also helpful. Excellent book!
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31 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A devastating critique of the Darwinist faith, May 19, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
It's fascinating to read the few negative reviews of this excellent book that have been posted here. If nothing else, they amply demonstrate the the deeply held bias of evolutionists towards scientism so aptly exposed by Johnson.
If you closely read each of the reviews, you'll notice that, once again, his critics fail to actually to respond to any of the arguments Johnson makes. Instead, they resort to ad hominem attacks in the usual attempt of the scientific "establishment" to marginalize the views of anyone who dares disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy, which for the moment is Darwinian evolution. Johnson has exposed Darwinian evolution for what it is: a theory frantically searching for confirming evidence and finding precious little. All their attempts to marginalize the criticism of Darwin's theory as "anti-science" or "creationist" are simply begging the question. They refuse to admit that which would be obvious to an impartial observer: the theory that people evolved from a single microbial cell through natural selection sounds plausible, but has no confirming evidence and would have been discounted long ago if so many didn't have so much invested in it.
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31 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars May be one of the most influential books of the century, November 10, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
Before I read this book, I would have regarded "evolution" as highly probable and bordering on fact. Not that I particularly wanted to believe it. Nor could I offer any reasons for it being true, except the usual vague arguments about "peppered moths" and the fossil record which I absorbed in High School. And which Johnson dismantles in his book. But as far as I knew, everyone believed (important word) in evolution so it must have been true. Looking back, I can't believe that I bought ridiculous notions like the concept of fetal-development-as-a-recapitulation-of-human-evolution or Cricks theory of Panspermia. What a hoot! But the joke was on me...
In school, I majored in engineering because I thought it was the last bastion of truth. But what interested me most was what I now understand to be the philosophical assumptions of science. Johnson's lucid philosophical analysis of the debate regarding evolution/creation is a breath of fresh air. The philosophy of science should be mandatory in all schools of science and applied science. Many scientists quoted in the book cannot distinguish between science and philosophy. For example, Johnson quotes Carl Sagan's opening line to the "Cosmos" TV series: "the universe is all that was, is and ever will be."
This is an example of one of the most important themes in the book: the assumption of philosophical materialism or naturalism among scientists. The creation/evolution debate as presented by scientists and in the media is grounded on an assumption of materialism/naturalism. Intelligent design is ruled out a priori. Once this is recognized, and once an open-minded reader compares the correlation of the physical data to theories of creation (intelligent design) and evolution (materialism), one can only conclude that the data overwhelmingly supports the theory of creation, broadly defined.
Johnson's second most important contribution to the creation/evolution debate is his strategic refusal to advance specific creation scenarios. He recognizes that current scientific data points strongly away from evolution to creation. But strategically he realizes that before a debate can begin regarding the specific mode of Creation, evolution must be exposed for the intellectual fraud that it is and thoroughly discredited. That will take a long time.
I think Phillip Johnson's book "Darwin on Trial" will be regarded as one of the most influential books of the century. But like most intellectual revolutions, it takes a long time before news of its arrival reaches the general public. But his "wedge" strategy to attack evolution seems to be the right strategy, and judging by the growth of the new ID movement, he seems to be right on the money.
Thank you Phillip Johnson for your wonderful book.
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free...
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37 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific critique of evolutionary theory., August 20, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
Other reviews of this book discuss the broad themes, so I will concentrate on picking out one or two examples. How could a foreleg evolve into a wing? By Darwinian theory every stage of this evolution must be better adapted to survival than the stage before. On the other hand we know that intermediate stages, particularly the not-quite-evolved-wing that is not yet suitable for flight, are useless as either foreleg or wing. Darwinian theory seems to imply that such involved evolution could not occur. Evolutionists might claim that it must have been suitable for something because it did evolve this way, but this would be circular reasoning. It is common to say (or imply) that the wing is better fit to survive and so supports evolutionary theory, but it seems to refute that theory when looked at as a continuous evolutionary process instead of looking only at the start and finish.

It gets better. Consider the bat, an animal that navigates by sonar. It has two sonar organs: an emitter and a receiver. These had to evolve simultaneously for each is useless without the other. There is no room in evolutionary theory to explain this. The author points out numerous holes such as this in the standard theory.

While it is tempting to some to conclude that evolutionary theory is simply wrong, the correct conclusion is that it is incomplete and should be taught as such. Nothing says that the standard theory cannot have been a factor in the development of life that exists today and it seems it almost certainly was, but it is an incomplete theory. Please notice I have said nothing about what the alternative might be and in this I have followed the book, for the author does not appear to be a creationist from its content. The best one sentence summary of Darwin On Trial is that the author makes a powerful critique of evolutionary theory from within the bounds of accepted science.

I never expected to be impressed with this book. I was a dyed-in-the-wool believer in the standard theory until I read this book and found cogent reasoning from observable facts. I confess I read it only to make a point to another person who believes in creationism and said I should at least get some data. I am still not a creationist but have certainly learned the limits of Darwin's theory, something I believe Darwin would have agreed with.
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102 of 150 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking under the rug, August 3, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
Preceding negative reviews of this book have focused on issues of science: arguments about fossils, dating, etc. The real issue, which is addressed by Johnson & others elsewhere, regards philosophy. Most proponents of evolution today insist that only atheist science is "real" science. That implies they don't come to science with open minds, but with a commitment to explain the world in purely materialistic terms, regardless of what evidence (or lack thereof) there might be. It also means that all their pro-evolution arguments use a rhetoric designed to avoid any real argument; this is what Johnson is particularly good at exposing, given his legal training.
Evolutionism is not a development of empirical science, but a far-reaching attempt to offer a new philosophical framework for humanity -- one independent of Christianity. The biological theory is almost an afterthought; it's full of holes because it is only there to support the "new metaphysic". The "logic" of evolution is: there's no God, but we're here, so there must be a means (purely materialistic) by which we came to be. The fault is in the assumption.
Since the Enlightenment, science has not only been a tool to technological development; it has also had a philosophical side, providing a "new metaphysic" to replace that of Christianity, the dominant metaphysic of the previous historial "age". This is critically important -- science not only offers to describe the world, but to interpret it. The theories of the evolutionists are very important to this effort of offering a new interpretation. What do they tell us? That human life has neither meaning nor purpose, nor intrinsic value. In place of the Christian notion of creation in God's image, we now have offered to us creation via accident. In place of a view of human life as sacred, we now have offered to us a fully utilitarian view. The practical consequences of ideologies based on atheism/nihilism/darwinism include: mass murder, abortion, homosexuality (as an accepted "lifestyle"), euthanasia, etc. The horrors of the 20th century, including 200 million dead, show the results of these ideologies when put into practice in real societies. Judge the tree by the fruit.
Philip Johnson (and others) do a great service just by calling into question the dogmas of atheist materialism (masquerading as "science") and evolutionism, which today are held to be unquestionable, particularly in public schools where the young are indoctrinated. This book is just a first step, an icebreaker, to get into the issue. I highly recommend Johnson's other books on evolution, and I look forward to reading "The Wedge of Truth" (having seen a preview in Touchstone magazine).
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31 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good start in critically examining evolution, March 16, 2001
By 
Charles (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
I have read the 1-and no star reviews below and have been struck like several others by how they lack specific examples of Johnson's 'ignorance' of scientific principles, or fail to counter any one of his examples. Like many children educated in public schools I simply accepted what I read in textbooks as true, until as a Senior in high school I realized that in Physics the Theory of Relativity is being constantly tested and assailed, but in Biology Evolution is only tinkered with (by Stephen J. Gould and others), never questioned outright among 'respectable' faculty members. The other reviewers claim that the only alternative critics of Evolution can offer is the Creation story, but with the development of Intelligent Design theory (see William Dembski) there is room for discussion for other possible extraterrestrial origins of life on Earth. One other point I can make here as a Historian - if you insist that the cause of science can never be advanced by a 'fundamentalist Christian' then you ought to reject Sir Isaac Newton's Laws, for he wrote more books on Christian Theology than he did on Gravity.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Crictical Look at Neo-Darwinism, August 31, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
A must-read for anyone tracking the debate. Johnson has thrust a stick into the proverbial hornet's nest by taking a critical look at the logical structure of the argument for evolution posited by what he calls the "scientific priesthood." Johnson openly reveals his position as a "philosophical theist and a Christian" He remarks that his "purpose is to examine the scientific evidence on its own terms being careful to distinguish the evidence itself from any religious or philosophical bias that might distort our interpretation of that evidence" Does he succeed? Not entirely, but the objectivity that both sides demand of the other in this debate seems to be nothing less than capitulation anyway, so the issue is moot. Johnson does show that when the actual evidence is considered numerous failures of logic occur in the scientific community's assessment that evolution is an "established fact." Johnson charges that this has led the scientific establishment to be just as guilty as the creationists of promoting their own brand of "fundamentalism" when there is simply a lack of evidence to warrant such one-sided, close-minded finality on the question of origins. Scientists have in effect, Johnson argues, broken their own scientific creedo of objective analysis by allowing themselves a heavy emotional investment in a theory that at best seems to have great explanative powers if little empirical support for want of what they say is a better alternative. This is the book that sent Stephen Jay Gould infuriated to his word-processor for a response, and has prompted many a hornet to protect the hive with less than courteous remarks. It is sure that many more diatribes, and ad hominem attacks will be flung across the table at those who would "dare" to question the "fact" of evolution as Johnson has in this book.
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52 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Thumbs Up!, January 4, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin on Trial (Paperback)
Over the past several years I have read a number of books both for and against the theory of evolution. One of these books was in fact Darwin's original thesis, "The Origin of Species." Some of the others have been books that try to defeat Darwin by presenting a myriad of counter evidence which the author believes is proof that Darwin's theory is false. However, they usually end up being just as guilty as Darwin in making untested assumptions and sweeping generalizations. The end result is that these books aren't very convincing unless you read them having a completely bias view to begin with.
Phillip Johnson's book is entirely different. He makes the argument that simply showing tidbits of evidence which might be compatible with an evolving earth isn't the same as proving the fundamental tenants of the theory. Providing these tidbits of information is exactly what scientific naturalists have been doing all along. His purpose isn't to prove creationism to be true, but rather to show how flawed the "evidence" for evolution really is. Whatever your personal beliefs may be, you will view the lack of evidence for evolution in a different light after you read "Darwin on Trial." I give Johnson two thumbs up!
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Darwin on Trial
Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson (Paperback - October 5, 2010)
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