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A Lawyer Applies Tests of Proof
am 29. August 2012
"Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother." -- Zechariah 7:9 (NKJV)
If you have been interested in evolution for any length of time, you know about the Scopes trial where William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow squared off over evolution. In Darwin on Trial, professor and attorney Phillip Johnson plays judge in assessing the proof for and against Darwin's theory of evolution, Neo-Darwinism, and more recent arguments. In doing so, he relies on legal rules and principles. As an attorney, I am familiar with such rules, but I fear that most readers aren't. Consequently, I believe that those who will get the most from this book are legally trained readers, rather than scientists or laypeople.
Professor Johnson states what many people don't realize: That micro-evolution on a small and limited scale within a species is accepted by almost everyone.
Differences of opinion come in terms of whether major classes of life emerge from prior classes. Since none of us were there, we have to rely on indirect evidence.
Professor Johnson leans most heavily on what has been located in the fossil record and what has been learned about biological divergences among species. These items of evidence don't show a continuous evolution from single-celled creatures to man because there are large gaps in the fossil record, transitional types are missing, and it's hard to imagine how some biological gaps might have been crossed (if they were).
He also looks at how many arguments in popular literature about evolution rely on examples that don't prove the case for what might have happened earlier, ways that the conclusion is assumed from the way the question is posed, and the nature of scientific thought holding to a theory until a replacement comes along.
In using different perspective to look at the argument for evolution, much of the ground is covered several times to make different points. That way of organizing the book will make it less accessible to those who would prefer a single line of argument that avoids repetition of evidence. At times, I felt I was back in law school.
But if you want to read a non-scientific, non-Scriptural look at evolution, Darwin on Trial can be a useful starting point to appreciate the major arguments for and against evolution.