8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2014
Don't be put off by the cover or the title, which are both a little cheesy. This book is one of the best introductions to the questions of creation, evolution, and design for junior high and high school students. Rather than picking one viewpoint and showing why it is true, Defeating Darwinism operates by exposing kids to what the whole question is about, why it is important, and how to think more clearly about issues. It includes an exposition of Carl Sagan's "baloney detector" and how to use it, and a lot of the fallacies that people on all sides of the issue use. It also delves into the *core* issue - materialism, and shows why this is such an important and misunderstood aspect of the debate. Since it is for a general high-school audience, it does a good job of showing why these issues are relevant to them, and how to approach similar issues that they face in the future.
119 of 176 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2000
As a defender of creation science, Phillip Johnson is a breath of fresh air. Nowhere are there indefensible scientific arguments for a young earth, or a worldwide flood that accounts for the fossil record, or any of the other endlessly recycled Henry Morris/Duane Gish nonsense that makes up so much of the creationist "young earth" camp. Johnson frames the question more on a philosophical level, pitting the presuppositions of both camps against one another (materialistic naturalism vs. theistic supernaturalism), and attempting to show that adherents of the first camp make just as many untestable and unsupportable assumptions as the adherents of the second. Johnson is a talented writer, and presents a positive argument for "opening" the debate by forcing the evolutionists to relax their dogmatic hold on the thinking in academia, and allow for a more open and free discussion of the actual issues, including evidence for supernatural intervention in the creation and evolution of life.
Unfortunately, the only positive evidence Johnson suggests is Michael Behe's irreducible complexity argument, which is just a repackaged intelligent design model, and the conventional attack on biology's admitted problem with the incompleteness of the fossil record. Throughout the book, Johnson emphasizes the dominance of the materialistic philosophy that pervades every aspect of modern public education and academia. This predisposition, he argues, hopelessly biases any approach to scientific facts and prevents scientists from appreciating the fuller truth that's out there if only they would open their eyes (minds). Johnson repeatedly mischaracterizes the practice of science and the state of affairs in biological circles.
Johnson's representation of the state of open mindedness in contemporary education is questionable. He seems to assume that the dominate role of a college education is to force memorization of a list of "materialistic" facts upon impressionable minds. As an educator, I see the situation as exactly the opposite. Thoughtful reflection and open minded investigation are far more common than Johnson seems to think.
A few specific examples where I think Johnson misses the boat just as badly: page 113 "Evolutionary biology is a field whose cultural importance far outstrips its modest intellectual and scientific content." I think most biologists would take issue with the characterization of the content of their science as "modest."
Page 114 "Biologists are at each others throats in private, fighting over every detail in the Darwinist scientific program. The versions of 'evolution' promulgated by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould , for example, have hardly anything in common except their common adherence to philosophical materialism and their mutual dislike for supernatural creation." He goes on to strongly imply that this ongoing debate is somehow being hidden. Anything but. I assume Johnson has read Dawkins' and Gould's books and should know better. As for their versions of evolution being so different, I'd venture to say that their agreements are far more substantial than their disagreements, and maybe Johnson should examine the actual differences between the scientific views of Michael Behe and Duane Gish, for example. Other creationists have similarly sought to highlight and utilize the differences between various cosmologists and, for instance, the issue of the age of the universe. While there might be legitimate and sometimes bitter disputes between astrophysicists over the size of the Hubble Constant, this dispute hardly gives any hope to the young- earther who is holding out for a 6000 year old universe.
Johnson's use of the example of evangelist Billy Graham deciding against studying the natural sciences and liberal theologies of his contemporaries strikes me as odd. If the naturalistic position is so untenable due to its weak foundation, what does Christianity and creation science have to fear by its presence in academia? How would Billy Graham's witness and testimony for Christianity have been weakened by studying the opposing philosophies? Is Johnson suggesting that attrition from traditional evangelical and fundamentalist circles can be stemmed by preventing the study of modern science?
Johnson's book is admittedly aimed at young readers, students who are going off to college to be faced with the inevitable "indoctrination" of materialism. But I'm not sure what his bottom line advice is for them. Does he wish them to shun the life sciences (as well as astronomy, archeology, geology, and other sciences) where the creation science theories will receive little sympathy? Or does he expect their professors to actually engage in the debate over the relative merits of their respective presuppositions? Does he believe that Christianity (or any religion) actually has anything to fear from the discoveries of science?
I wish Johnson well. His logic and rhetoric are powerful and he's a good arguer. However, I fear that his tactics will not advance the cause of creation science very much. Until scientists who believe in supernatural creation are willing to go toe to toe in the scientific journals, arguments of materialistic bias will yield few advances in the understanding of the origin of life.
And even if they do, this approach is destined to fail. Science is the study of phenomena that can be observed, tested, and replicated. Science relies on the construction of logical arguments that can be supported or falsified by such observation and testing. By definition, science will seek explanations for the apparently unexplainable. This is implicit in the process of scientific discovery. Religious belief systems ask that we accept as true that which cannot be seen or tested (Hebrews 11:1). Religion seeks certainty and welcomes the appeal to authority (e.g., thus saith the Lord). It is at this point that the two belief systems must part ways and agree to pursue their independent goals. Forcing one upon the other results in untenable scientific positions (such as most of creation science) or watered down and compromised religious traditions bereft of their spiritual meaning.
Phillip E. Johnson (born 1940) is a retired UC Berkeley law professor and a co-founder of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and is one of the leading figures in the Intelligent Design movement. He has also written books such as Darwin on Trial,Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education,Objections Sustained: Subversive Essays on Evolution, Law and Culture,The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, etc.
He wrote in the Introduction to this 1997 book, "This book grew out of two conversations. The first was... with ... my usual publisher. The [InterVarsity] Press was ready for me to do another book, but I wasn't sure I was ready... however, it became clear that there was ONE book I needed to write very soon... There was clearly a need for a short book aimed at ... [those] not quite so familiar with university-level subjects. In particular, I wanted to write for late teens... That brings me to the second conversation, which occurred in the faculty club of my own university... [I realized that] If high-schoolers need a good high-school education in how to think about evolution, professors and senior scientists seem to need it just as badly. That's what this book aims to give---a good high-school education in how to think about evolution." (Pg. 9-11)
He comments about the Scopes "Monkey Trial": "Darrow did not want to balance the Bible with evolutionary science; he wanted to get rid of religion and replace it with science and agnostic philosophy. On the other hand, [William Jennings] Bryan truly was a scientific ignoramus, and the wily Darrow really did make a fool out of him. If Darrow had wanted, he probably could just as easily have made the leading evolutionary scientists of the day look foolish. For example, some of these scientists confidently cited the fraudulent Piltdown Man and the tooth of 'Nebraska Man' (which turned out to be from a kind of pig) as proof of human evolution. If Bryan was confused about the evidence for evolution, he had a lot of respectable company." (Pg. 29)
He argues, "Think how much pressure the other physical anthropologists are under to develop standards that will allow SOME fossils to be authenticated as human ancestors... why do you think such a high proportion of the fossils used to prove 'evolution' come from this one specialty? Why do you think Niles Eldredge, a specialist in marine invertebrates, uses hominid examples rather than the vast record of fossil invertebrates to argue the case for evolution?" (Pg. 62)
He observes, "Most readers of this book probably don't feel qualified to judge scientific disputes. For that matter, Richard Dawkins ] himself is a zoologist and not a biochemist, and he told me himself that he doesn't feel qualified to debate [Michael] Behe's scientific claims ]." (Pg. 79) He adds, "Behe is a Roman Catholic who has no religious objection to Darwinian evolution; his argument is simply that the Darwinian mechanism has no scientific merit in molecular biology. Neither [critic] contradicted Behe on any scientific point. Their objections were entirely philosophical, or based on a failure to comprehend the concept of design." (Pg. 80)
Those who enjoy Johnson's other books will surely enjoy this (unless they are looking for a MORE "detailed" presentation, which is admittedly not his aim in this book).
83 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2006
At the heart of this book Johnson seems to be making one very basic point: Darwinism is a religion, NOT science.
Now that's pretty strong stuff - inflamatory even. So consider this comment by Richard Dawkins made, not in the heat of a debate but in the course of an ordinary interview for one of the UK TV listings magazines:
"Thanks to science we now have such an exciting grasp of the answers to such [profound] questions, it's a kind of blasphemy not to embrace them."
Radio Times, London, 7-13 January 2006. Page 27.
(We aren't told what "profound questions" Dawkins has in mind.)
This is precisely the kind of materialist argument (Johnson apparently regards "materialism", "naturalism" and "Darwinism" as being more or less synonymous) that Johnson is addressing in his book rather than evolution as such.
So what chance does Johnson have of making his point?
Going by the reviews on this page - not a lot. And for one very simple reason that was illustrated by an incident that happened to me whilst I was reading this book on the train coming home from work.
Seeing the title of the book an elderly gentleman in the seat opposite waited till the train was close to his station, then made a series of comments and promptly exited before I had a chance to reply (had I wanted to).
As far as I could make out, without having any more knowledge about the book than it's title the elderly gentleman was able to tell, without a shadow of a doubt, that:
- The book was ignorant rubbish
- I must be some kind of religious nut for reading it
- What I need to sort me out is a really good exposition on evolution such as the one he hopes to get published later this year (a bit like the lesbian who only needs an hour with James Bond to convert her to lifelong heterosexuality!)
1. Given that Johnson is dealing with matters philosophical rather than science itself, and that Ultra Neo-Darwinist Richard Dawkins has made it so abundantly clear that his own evangelicalism is indeed quasi-religious (Dawkins - described as "today's most influential evolutionary biologist" - makes numerous appearances throughout the book), it seems that Johnson is neither ignorant nor talking rubbish but is addressing a real situation.
2. Since when does one have to be a religious nut in order to question the status quo? And isn't it worrying that so many people nowadays have been brainwashed into believing that evolution is so sacrosanct that it can only be discussed by those who agree with the establishment view?
As Johnson points out, we have reached a point in history - in the US, at least - where the unthinkable has not only become possible but has become a fact.
"Suppose Mr. Cates had enough influence and lung power to railroad through the State Legislature a law that only Darwin should be taught in the schools!"
In 1955, when Henry Drummond first made that suggestion to Matthew Harrison Brady on the opening night of the play "Inherit the Wind", it probably seemed too far fetched for words. 50 years later it is a simple statement of fact!
So how, as Johnson asks, do you have an intelligent debate when either side has so thoroughly stacked the deck (Johnson is equally opposed to a Christian/religious monopoly of the discussion)?
One previous reviewer asked why Christians should be opposed to evolutionism if it is so full of holes. And Johnson's answer is simple: Because dissenters are virtually barred from expressing their doubts, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the hallowed halls of academe.
By a bizarre piece of logic the neo-darwinists have closed the door on honest debate thus:
- Since evolution is a fact, no intelligent person would want to question any part of it
- Therefore anyone who does want to ask questions must be a religious nut
- And religious nuts can't think straight to save their souls
- Therefore it is unnecessary to answer any of the questions raised about evolution - by ANYBODY!
The real point of this book is that it challenges the reader to GENUINELY ask questions about the status quo and resist the brainwashing that is as prevalent in evolutionism now as it was in the Roman Catholic church when Galileo and Copernicus were getting it in the neck.
Whether the reader ends up agreeing with Johnson or not is almost incidental. Making sure that students are being taught to think critically - the empty claim made by far too many educators at present - is a far more important first step. Mindless faith in a god is no more commendable or worthwhile than blind faith in evolutionism.
I would also recommend Richard Milton's book "Shattering the Myths of Darwinism" (ISBN 0-89281-884-0) for an indepth review of the kind of questions that evolutionists are avoiding by cutting debate off at the knees.
(Milton is NOT anti-evolution and has no religious affiliations. Nevertheless, as a living demonstration of Johnson's claims, he has been extensively misrepresented. misquoted and villified for daring to question the orthodox line on evolution.)
on June 26, 2015
Very good book. Easy read with good details and information. Laid out really well...
23 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 1999
If you've been a fan of Stephen Gould's, as I was for many years, you've noticed from time to time little -- ahem -- difficulties in his easy, engaging arguments and analogies. Gosh, you said to yourself, I didn't quite see the transition there but that's just me, surely. After all, it *had* to be this way, didn't it? I mean, everything came out of somewhere to here, right? Like, Darwinism's not brain surgery.
Well, Phillip Johnson argues that it is. Darwinism is a device for grounding materialism in the culture such that any objection to it can be reflexively dismissed as "fundamentalist" or an "attack on science" conducted by "lawyers" or "Christians". And, he further argues, the trick is done with smoke and mirrors, the sort of dazzle that professors of law like Johnson are skilled in detecting and tracking. Oddly enough, scientists are not very good at this sort of thing (few of us are these days), and only a couple seem worried over all these rhetorical leaps across chasms of missing data to dogma. Darwinism, like Marxism and Freudian psychology, is arguably a failed attempt to account for ourselves *in spite* of what we know. This book is an eye-opener: if it hadn't been written especially for Christians, I'd like to see it everywhere a high school kid might pick it up. It's almost as important to keep children from worshipping false gods as it is to set them looking for the true.
33 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2005
Phillip Johnson's day job is teaching law at UC Berkeley. He moonlights to defend God against evolution-oriented scientists who he feels are disrespecting God by ignoring Him in doing their work and writing about it. Johnson believes "the common people" understand evolution better than scientists - who are too hung up on atheistic materialism to the detriment of God. He feels science is too important to be left up to these scientific elite, but they and the courts unfairly block anyone who wants to remedy things. Johnson aims to correct this situation in two ways: 1) Plead his case for the hand of God and against [other than minimal] evolution, partly through books like the present one, and 2) Use his knowledge of the law to get around the separation of church and state in order to insert God into schools. In both enterprises he uses the pseudonym `Intelligent Design' for God. The term fits in with his assertion that life must have been designed, and the term should be easier than `God' to place into schools.
Near the end of the book, Johnson tells why he is dedicated to disproving evolution and instead moving God to the forefront.
· Denying the reality of God is contrary to reality.
· As long as the secular intellectual world is irrevocably committed to materialism, then Christian doctrine like supernatural creation and the resurrection are false by definition and can hardly survive academic scrutiny.
· Materialism [unfortunately] sets us free from sin - by proving that there is no such thing as sin. There's just antisocial behavior. The Truth Jesus referred to was Himself, and the burden it frees us from is the sin that takes us away from our right relationship with the Father.
In other words, evolution is incompatible with the Bible and all it entails. This, coupled with the many problems Johnson claims evolution has, means that Christians must not cave in or bend to the materialistic philosophy they are constantly subjected to; they must stand up for what is right. A major purpose of the subject book is to tell young people, along with their parents and teachers, how to do this. After all "the most important question we face [is]: Is there a God who created us and cares about what we do?" Some of the reasons Johnson gives for the hand of God instead of evolution are:
· The scientific evidence is strongly against the [American National Association of Biology Teachers] claim that a purposeless material process is our true creator.
· Not a great many transitional fossils have been found. The basic animal groups seem to have appeared suddenly during the Cambrian explosion. [`Suddenly' is a relative term here; it covers millions of years].
· Animal breeders have been unable to create any distinct species.
· DNA is essentially information, which can't assemble itself out of thin air - it must come from some outside agency.
· Evolutionists resort to faulty reasoning. You must use your "bologna" detector" to look out for: selective use of evidence, appeals to authority, ad hominem and straw man arguments, begging the question, lack of testability, vague terms and shifting definitions, and the universal human tendency to believe what we want to believe. Some may feel the pot is calling the kettle black here.
Most of the other reviews here are essentially pro and con arguments for these and other objections Johnson raises to evolution.
I think any fair-minded person would agree that God has lost a lot of clout over the last 500 years or so in the sciences. It used to be that God could, through the agency of the church, burn up or torture people for claiming that the earth went around the sun, in direct contradiction to Psalm 93. Newton was allowed to put the earth in orbit, but believed God created the solar system a short time back, and tweaked it now and then to stabilize it. Also, I suppose Newton and just about every contemporary European believed God when he had written that the species they saw were those He had created from scratch.
Darwin presented a case for species having evolved, but a lot of people haven't gone along with him. In the 1920's, 20 or so state legislatures debated giving creationism and evolution balanced exposure in the schools. Two followed through: Arkansas and Louisiana. Tennessee went further and banned evolution outright in the schools. Johnson obviously detests the movie "Inherit the Wind", about the Scopes trial in Tennessee. He spends a whole chapter and more complaining about how it slammed those against evolution (which it did).
Now days, most scientists, in carrying out their work, go strictly by naturalistic (often defined by Johnson as `atheistic', Godless' or `materialistic') evidence, as they see it, and don't concern themselves with how God may or may not be involved. Many churches don't contest evolution; instead rendering unto scientists what is science. Trying to speak up against the "dogmatic teaching of Darwinian evolution" can get you dismissed as a religious fanatic. God has therefore motivated Johnson to step into the breach.
Johnson has a very easy to read writing style. This book of his is short - 131 pages including endnotes; Johnson's earlier books went into more detail. There is no index.
19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 1999
This is an interesting book, but the author is a bit selective in his facts. This is not entirely his fault, because it's a weakness inherent in attacking science from a religious standpoint. Of course, as is often pointed out, the theory of evolution is simply that --- a theory, which is constantly subject to revision as new facts come to light. But this is precisely the difference between scientific theory and religious doctrine: The scientist (in principle, at least) starts with an open mind and feels free to modify his or her theories as new facts emerge, whereas an author like Johnson starts out with his mind made up and shoehorns the facts to make them fit his position. Ironically, in light of the title of this book, it's Johnson who is unable to maintain an open mind. This is not in any way to suggest that religious "truths" are less meaningful than scientific "truths." In fact it could be argued that it is religion which points to the ultimate truth, beyond the realm of the senses, whereas science is limited to the relative truth, i.e., that which can be empirically observed and quantified. In my opinion Johnson actually trivializes religion by implying that religious insights can have no real value unless they can be proven scientifically. In any case, this will always be a futile endeavor, because the real purpose of religion is different from that of science. In trying to discredit the theory of evolution because he apparently sees it in opposition to his personal religious views, Johnson is forced to focus on just those facts which support his opinions and to disregard the rest. This hardly satisfies the definition of an "open mind."
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2014
This author has been known to make some logical fallacies, but all around a good book excellent for equipping yourself to defend your faith.
32 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2003
I read this book over four years ago and after recently reading a few more books on the Creation/Evolution issue, I dusted off my copy of Johnson's book and reexamined it. After going through the book a second time I was a unimpressed and didn't have the same respect for the book that I did after reading it the first time. Nevertheless, the book does bring up some very valid points and ones that evolutionary scientists need to answer.
For instance, Johnson shows how evolutionary supporters rely on deceptive evidence as an explanation for their views. When asked to prove that life evolves and produces diversity evolutionists point to the variety within the species' Canis Domesticus and Felix Domesticus, or the common dog and house cat. These proofs are inadequate because the variety of cats and dogs that exist today are only proof of variation and differentiation within a species, not of macro-evolution from one species to another. It is a scientific fact that a German Shepherd and a Teacup poodle are both members of the same species and are not different species. Second, and even more damning is that scientists appeal to this as proof of evolution when in fact it completely obliterates their view. The cats and dogs we have today are a product of intelligent design and selective breeding processes. Just visit any breeder and you will see that even today some breeders are breeding select dogs to produce a new type of breed. This screams intelligent design and completely underscores the evolutionist's argument. All of the dogs and cast we have today are a product of human intervention and planning not random forces at work to produce a fitter and better species.
Second, and most importantly, evolutionary principles defy the laws of thermodynamics; This is probably the most common argument used by creationists to discredit the evolutionary position, and with good reason. The second law of thermodynamics states that a system left to itself will continually move towards a state of greater entropy. In other words, if left to itself a system will become more random and more chaotic. This can be countered if an outside force is introduced into the system to organize it and restore order. This can be done very easily by adding energy to a system. This is how evolutionists will try and squirm their way out of this objection by stating that adding enery to a system will produce order out of chaos. In fact, Tim Berra attempt to do such a thing in his book, "Evolution and the myth of creationism : a basic guide to the facts in the evolution debate." Berra uses the example of receiving an unassembled bike in the mail,, he argues that left to itself the arrangement will become more chaotic and unorganized, but this can be altered by adding energy to the system. The energy you add is work from your muscles and tendons striving to assemble the bike, and thus adding energy to the system. Yet, this analagy is completely inadequate and destroys his whole argument. This process is one of logical and cognitive intelligent design. A human being, an intelligent being, decides to put the bike together and uses his cognitive functions to guide his effort to assemble the bycicle. This is intelligent design at it's finest and it utterly destroys the idea that an unassembled bycicle could be assembled by random chance. If a bike couldn't be put together without energy and design what are we to suppose to believe about human beings?
These are just a few of the arguments brought up in Johnson's book and are relevant questions to the debate. Just because science puts together a theory and supports it with some evidence, it does not make that theory immune to skepticism and questioning. If naturalistic evolution is true then the evidence will support it and it will prevail, but if it is not then another theory will replace it. The work of a man like Phillip Johnson is vital to the continuing advance of science. Although he may not be the most knowledgeable and scientifically savy person out there, he is only working to either strengthen the idea of naturalistic evolution or contribute to it's demise. Evolutionary proponents hate books like these because they question their findings. Science is not God and it cannot provide the complete truth, it can only give us tenable and workable definitions for the events and phenomena we see around us. Scientific definitions must constantly be restated, reshaped, and altered to meet new demands and evidence; Thus, the work of a man like Phillip Johnson is providing a benefit to the scientific community by pointing out the weak areas in their theories and this will in turn force the evolutionists to strengthen their assertions where weaknesses are inherent.
I have witnessed some intense and vehement responses against this book from naturalistic evolutionists who disagree with Johnson's work. They are entitled to their opinion, but their reaction is no better than the reactions of the Christian community of the early 20th century. The individuals who opposed Darwinian ideas being taught in the classroom. Now, the situation has been reversed in this society and the ones who originally preached a message of letting all sides express their views and let reason have the final say, these same people are now attempting to silence the indivduals questioning their ideas. People questioning evolutionary principles and pushing for an idea of Divine intelligent design should have their place to speak their views, and the evolutionists who originally complained about exclusivity and discrimination should stop being hypocrites and return to the principles and values believed by their predecessors.