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Darwin on Trial
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am 3. Oktober 1999
Come, come now, all you 1 star reviewers. Johnson's case is justified by the fact that scientists have not once observed random mutations which have added DNA information to an organism. Not one instance of evolution has ever been observed which has resulted in a new species.
Many materialists highlight the classic examples of 'dog breeding', or that finches' beaks have been observed to evolve as a means of proving that natural selection exists - therefore vindicating Darwin's theory. Yet these are merely examples of sifting EXISTING DNA information into different gene pools. The significant point is that NO NEW SPECIES evolve because no new DNA information is created via natural processes. (See Lee. M. Spetner's book 'Not By Chance').
Evolution, as an explanation for new species or life itself, must mean that new and unique information is ADDED to the DNA to create new features and functions: eyes or wings etc. Scientists have not even observed one instance of DNA information being added into the genome.
The belief that Darwin's theory properly explains how we got here, ironically requires even more faith than the Pope has in God.
The materialist must also hold that inanimate atoms accidentally became aware of themselves, merely as a result of natural selection. Inert bundles of matter accidentally had the capacity to experience friendship, love and intrinsic value.
It seems that Philip E. Johnson is more on the ball than many of the one star reviewers below.
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am 21. August 2008
A stunning book on the scientific liabilty of Darwinism which actuated long and intense discussions in the science establishment in the USA. Read it and you know why!
It is from a man, who has a long experience as a law professor at the University of Berkeley where he specialized on the analysis of logical arguments. He shows that the mass of empirical data does not contribute to support the evolution theory and that the theory is not based on facts, but on belief - on belief in the philosophical naturalism.
In the book Johnson works out scientific precisely the question of life development. He does not want to disapprove or prove any theory. He only wants to clearly formulate the original question and free it from verbal nebulisation and blurring. He answers the question: Are the statements on evolutionary theory and the development of life true? He does not ask so much, is evolution a fact. He avoids any conflict between Bible and science in his argumentation. Therefore there is no verse of the Bible in his book. He wants only a factual discussion with the representatives of evolution theory to make them clear that they believe in what they would like to see proved. His goal is to find out, backed by the empirical data, whether the statements of evolution can stand the test. The statements are not from nature, they are by scientists who seek for their special truth, a truth that must satisfy their expectation! Furthermore he wants to find out whether on research of nature the conclusion that there must be a creator can be drawn under scientific premises.
Darwinism ascribes the biologic complexity of the multitude of adaptable micro-mutations to the natural selection. But the creative force of this hypothetical mechanism has NEVER been proved. Also the fossil evidence is not congruent with the assertion that living beings came into existence in the way of evolution.
The mechanism to create complex structures which did not exist before does in the end not belong to the empirical science but rather it is being deducted from the naturalistic philosophy. In the thinking of many scientists science is nothing else than performed naturalism. The naturalistic evolution theory includes not only a scientific theory but it is also the official teaching in our modern culture how the world came into existence. The scientific priesthood which is authorized to interpret the official theory of the origin of world has an immense cultural influence. But it could be lost when the theory is questioned. Therefore it must no be questioned and all who question it are banned and brandmarked "not scientific". Like many authors before him, Johnson also comes to the conclusion, that Darwinism is not a belief, but a fact that finds little support in nature for the expectations of the theory.
Recommendable book for all who believe in the logic and rationalism of scientific theories. You can widen your horizon of knowledge remarkably
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TOP 500 REZENSENTam 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.
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am 20. April 1999
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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am 10. Februar 2000
There is obviously quite a deal of confusion surrounding this book, and the author must take responsibility for some of it. To begin with, the title - Darwin on Trial - creates some misleading expectations. When someone is on trial, the burden for producing the evidence falls on the prosecution, which must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. However, it is not Darwin who is on trial here, but his ideas, or rather the evidence supporting his ideas. In most court cases, it is not the evidence that is in the dock. Readers complaining that Johnson's evidence is at fault or that he doesn't prove his case are on the wrong track, but it's the author who has sent them there.
The confusion is unfortunate, because this book's critical focus on the evidence for the theory of natural selection is just what is needed in the debate. Darwin himself was well aware of the evidence problem, and quite accurately pointed out all the areas in which his theory was vulnerable. Darwinists in the nineteenth century indulged in a free-for-all of skewed and jumped up, sometimes even fraudulent evidence, especially when they came to apply his theory to human beings. Darwinists in our time keep claiming that the evidence is irrefutable and overwhelming, but somehow they never quite get around to citing it in a way that is persuasive to a sceptical reader who knows the difference between evidence and argument. Having ploughed my way through a large amount of the literature written by neo-Darwinists for non-scientists, I can't say that I have ever come across an explicit discussion of the evidence. All I find is countless assertions that the evidence is there, and some not very veiled insults about the intelligence of those who refuse to believe it. There are repeated declarations that all scientists and experts know that the evidence is irrefutable, but that it is so intricate and sophisticated and comprehensive, no lay reader could begin to follow it. In place of the evidence the reader can't be expected to understand, and that a popular book just can't be expected to encompass, s/he is offered argument and reasoning. As a reader who doesn't know much about biology but who is pretty well educated in traditions of rhetoric, argument and reasoning, what I read bothers the hell out of me. It's a mix of empty assertion, blind faith, second rate poetry, pretentious imagery, tautology and fallacy.
Johnson does a great job of pointing out this and other problems, which he illustrates very well. He has a clear line on the evidence problem, concentrating on the question of macro evolution (evolutionary change that can account for large differences between species). Most of Darwin's work was about the differences between varieties rather than the differences between species, so he himself never tackled the problem of macro-evolution. In his work it was just a "hypothetical", and in the end, he had to resort to Lamarck's reasoning to account for it.
I wish that Johnson had given his book a better title, but more than that, I wish he had kept his own agenda out of it. If he's playing the lawyer, he shouldn't double in the role of amateur case cracker and offer a solution of his own, in the form of a commitment to the design argument. Since this argument is favoured by creationists, Johnson simply opens the way for his work to be dismissed as yet another example of special pleading by those who just can't do without what Daniel Dennett calls skyhooks. Johnson himself points out that Darwinians tend to argue as if their only opposition is from dumbos whose brain circuits are hardwired into biblical dogma. This is a huge problem in the debate. The anti-creationist polemic is so entrenched and obsessive, it is quite foolish to present any opportunity for stirring it up if your aim is to clear the ground. Johnson does an enormous amount of ground clearing but the dust just blows right back. This book is a couple of steps away from being the really powerful critique that is so desperately needed in the field.
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am 11. November 1998
This book provides an excellent balance to the many one sided arguments touted by evolution supporters. It provides a clear explanation of the many holes in the theory of evolution and clarifies that, while many tout the theory as fact, the fact is that it is still a theory. Johnson is a lawyer, and provides his arguments from a lawyer's perspective. While one at first would argue that a scientist should be making these arguments, a lawyer truly is the best one to write this book. Truly scientists are needed to provide the many scientific details which are cited in the book, but with the absence of clear physical proof of either the theory of evolution or the theory of creationism, we must turn to legal arguments, citing the evidence, to draw our verdict. Johnson does an excellent job of presenting his arguments. He does not do so one sidedly, but meerly raises the questions which beg to be raised by some one not willing to blindly accept evolution. And in the end, he shows that these questions can not be answered. This book should be a must read in every science class in the United States. While the reader may continue to believe in evolution, at least one would understand that those who do not have a logical basis for not believing.
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am 31. August 1999
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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am 27. September 1999
I found this book in the science section of the local bookstore. After reading it, it quite decidedly belongs in the religion or philosophy stacks.
The author must be quite megalomaniacal to seriously believe that he can overthrow over 100 years of intensive scientific study with less than 200 pages of religious and philosophical rhetoric, skewed facts, and a presupposition that the book of genesis is factual.
This is not the way science is done! The author (like all creationists) bases his entire set of arguments on the assumption that the book of genesis is factual. They then look for 'facts' to support this point of view, usually ignoring facts that contradict their initial assumption.
Science first gathers ALL the available facts and then formulates a picture that best explains the facts. In terms of logic, there simply is no other way to work if you are going to try to explain how the physical world works. This is not scientific dogmatism - it is simply a limitation of reality.
Johnson does not do this. His book is a sham; that he is promoting it as a science book bespeaks a terrible dishonesty on his part and the part of his publishers.
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am 19. März 2000
I read the reviews that disagree with Johnson and would like to point out that the primary question he asks has not been addressed by any: "What is the evidence that natural selection can or has the power to produce major changes in morphology or from one species to another?"
The argument that Johnson should have been published in scientific journals if his argument is so strong demonstrates the bias in such journals. One can only imagine how far one's career in biology might extend if he or she set out to discredit Darwinism today. Johnson's point is very clear: they simply don't want to hear it. Scientific American refused to publish Johnson's rebuttal to Gould.
I too am a scientist but am embarrassed by the arrogant browbeating that goes on in addressing the salient issues of Darwinism. It is as bad as the medieval church ignoring the claims of scientists of the day.
It is easy to say that religion is bad because it controls the discussion, excommunicates those who don't agree for reasons of conscience, and ignores the empiric data. If that is true, modern biology is a bad religion.
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am 2. April 1999
Phillip Johnson is not a scientist. He is a legal scholar specializing in logic. And he uses the science of logic to question the logic of science. His attacks on the logic of Darwinism in this book have defenders of the faith crying "foul" from all corners. But he's had his science checked by professionals.
The book takes on each facet of Darwinism (fossils, molecular biology, origin of life) and argues why the currently accepted academic explanations fall logically short. Evolution, no doubt, has marvelous explanatory power, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that the term is so flexible that it can be bent and shaped any way you want to. This iconoclastic view of Darwinism is understandably being greeted with little welcome by the mechanistic naturalists. But Johnson et al have gained access to the arena of ideas from which intelligent design advocates have previously been excluded. It's up to them to show us what they've got. And if recent publications are any indication, the debate between Darwinists and intelligent design advocates promises to only get hotter.
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