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113 of 170 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars for trying to keep the argument philosophical, September 30, 2000
This review is from: An Easy-to-Understand Guide for Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 26, 2006 11:39:51 PM PDT
Randy Grein says:
"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." Um, that's the entire point - there ARE no credible scientists who hold with a model of supernatural creation as an explanation. There are philisopical issues with creation as an explanation for anything. 'hey, God just ate my homework!' generally isn't very credible, and while humorous the problems with veracity should be obvious. The two problems are:

It's not provable from physical evidence
It provides no new insights we can use to expand our theories and knowledge.

While he does get the 'independent magesteria' arguement I suspect John misses the point of science - it is an entirely physical field of study, and necessarily so. All are welcome to study and contribute. Those who truly wish to promote their ideas and make 'creation science' more than the laughingstock it currently is need to get into the field and work. As science is ultimately self-correcting, if they can state their case and FIND COMPELLING EVIDENCE they will succeed in toppling Evolution. The last major shift I can recall in scientific thought was continental drift - espoused in the early part of the 20th century, it took over 50 years to find compelling evidence and topple the static crust theory of geology. But it did happen.

Posted on Nov 19, 2006 10:17:53 AM PST
Neely says:
John and Randy are examples of people unknowingly caught in a paradigm, one looking out benevolently, the other patronizingly. Johnson is a person who lived much of his life in their paradigm before assessing the evidence, a task for which he is particularly qualified, and moving on. Classical education, as opposed to contemporary education, taught students to distinguish between evidence and inference. Johnson is inviting the scientific community to acknowledge that distinction. Obviously, it's a tough sell!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2007 11:08:14 AM PST
Peter says:
Asserting that a paradigm exists does not imply it is false. I think you are caught in a paradigm of your own.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2007 9:09:42 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Aug 14, 2010 9:27:15 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2007 12:47:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 2, 2007 12:52:21 AM PDT
Lufer says:
What irony.

Peter says: "Asserting that a paradigm exists does not imply it is false [ie the wrong one]."

To clarify, Peter is not saying that paradigms are necessarily bad. He is merely saying a case for or against the correctness of a paradigm is not made simply by pointing out the paradigm exists. What you are accusing Peter of is, in fact, what you deserve to be accused of. You have reading comprehension issues.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 9, 2007 11:36:58 AM PST
John says:
Evolution is a theory which is not contested or disputed at any serious level at biology graduate programs the world over. The exact mechanisms of evolution might be debated a bit, but no one who is in the field disputes evolution. The people who seem to be saying that there is serious doubt about evolution can be broken down into a few main groups:

a. Christian fundamentalists, etc.
b. Pundits and lawyers of the far social right fringe (non-scientists)
c. Contrarians who like to see their names in print and like to generate bogus controversies
d. Very dumb people in rural America who can easily be gulled into believing almost anything, due to a lack of real education.

While we are "home schooling" our kids in Creation Science, the Asians are studying real science. Guess who will be richer in 20 years ? While they control technology and science, our kids will be saying "would you like fries with that ?".

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2008 8:35:37 AM PDT
Ryan Terry says:
The most interesting thing to note about believers in either Creation Science or Evolutionists is that they essentially are identitical in this aspect. FAITH. Neither Creation Science or Evolution have ever been proven, there are massive holes in both theories or beliefs, yet each has the FAITH that their theory will eventually be proven. People can claim all they want to about evolution being a science based theory and creation science being a "laughingstock," but at the end of the day both parties rely on FAITH in their belief system. And make no mistake, believing in evolution and trying to prove that it exists is far more than just science, it is FAITH. Until there is insurmountable and "compelling evidence" that Evolution is correct, anyone who believes in it is excercising FAITH the same way a religious type would in regards to creation science. So let's take the bias out of the argument and call it for what it really is, neither one of the two have proof. Period.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2008 9:58:34 AM PST
Raedwulf says:
John: You are wrong.

And I just used as much evidence as you did to support your assertion that anyone that questions Evolution is a retard.

You've clearly not read the book if you don't think there are any scientists that question Evolution. Except for your convenient claim that if there were any scientists, they are clearly wackos that aren't thinking scientifically.

If Evolution was the equivalent of gravity or the round Earth, then you folks wouldn't be so crazed when the subject comes up. The fact that Evolution gives you a convenient mechanism to dismiss God and the supernatural, makes it imperative that you shout down any challenge.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2010 11:16:03 AM PDT
According to Alex Rosenburg, professor of philosophy at Duke University, "Evolution is a fact". It "is indeed a work in progress, but one whose basic correctness is no more open to doubt than General Relativity", i.e., the geometric theory of gravitation.

What gets these folks "so crazed", as Judge John E. Jones III pointed out, are those who seek "to avoid scientific scrutiny" in their efforts "not to encourage critical thought" but "to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause."

There was nothing "convenient" about attaining a license to teach biology, nothing "convenient" about reading enough material on the subject to fill a bookcase, and certainly nothing "convenient" about the resulting conflict with a fundamentalist upbringing. That one would consider this "convenient" is a good indication that one has given little thought to the subject, much less the effort required to be familiar with the content.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2011 8:46:37 PM PDT
John D. Muir says:
@Ryan Terry: Only someone who has never studied either science or evolution could have written this. There is ZERO faith in the scientific theory of evolution. If that were not the case, it wouldn't be a scientific theory. Only matters which have been studied, empirically and evidentially tested and subjected to peer review are admitted as science. The moment faith is involved, the matter in question is no longer science. That's why creationism is religion and evolution is science. One relies entirely on faith, with no evidence; the other relies entirely on evidence, with no faith. That's why both should not be taught in the same forum- they are simply not the same thing.
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