Re: Johnson on James Dobson

David Campbell (bivalve@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Wed, 17 Nov 1999 17:26:55 -0500

> If you'll forward me your address I'll be happy to send you copies of the
>above (ASA members can contact the ASA office for copies). Perhaps you are
>unaware that the concern expressed by Phil Johnson on James Dobson's program
>that philosophical materialism is masquerading as science in our children's
>biology textbooks is based on evidence, not "false information." For
>example, the popular 10th grade textbook, "Biology", by Miller and Levine,
>states that "evolution is random and undirected" and also that "evolution
>works without either plan or purpose" (Prentice-Hall, 1993, 1995 and 1998
>editions, pg. 658). At the Science Ed Commission's request, co-author Kenneth
>Miller has agreed that since such statements are unsupported by scientific
>evidence, he will remove them from subsequent editions.

Again, definitions are key. A lot of evolution is mathematically random or
chaotic (as are plenty of things explicitly said to be under God's control
in the Bible). However, natural selection is directional (towards
function), so there is a strong non-random component to evolution. Because
of the philosophical baggage often attached to words like "random" or
"chance", use of those words should be carefully explained. "Undirected,
without plan, and without purpose" are even more strongly suggestive of
philosophical rather than scientific statements. However, it is true that
there is no evidence for direction WITHIN evolution. God is sovereign over
history, yet history is not a predictive science. What historian would see
significance in an elderly infertile couple wandering around the ancient
Near East, unless he knew that all the families of the earth would be
blessed through them. Thus, we should not necessarily expect to detect
obvious patterns to the course of evolution except in hindsight.

Johnson is right in seeing a lot of philosophical materialism in current
presentations on evolution (including much more blatant examples than those
cited above). However, he is scientifically wrong about aspects of
evolution and theologically wrong in rejecting the possibility of creating
without gaps.

David C.