Re: Wall Street Journal: The Church of Darwin By Phillip E. Johnson

Stephen E. Jones (sejones@iinet.net.au)
Thu, 19 Aug 1999 06:40:01 +0800

Reflectorites

Here is an article in the Wall Street Journal by Phil Johnson, that he was
invited to write, about the Kansas Board of Education's decision that
macroevolution did not measure up to their science standards.

Darwinism is now in *deep* trouble because: a) its philosophical
assumptions are being exposed; and b) its evidentiary claims are
seen to be weak.

Needless to say, the ID movement has arrived at centre-stage!

Steve

===========================================================
8/16/99 Wall St. J. A14

1999 WL-WSJ 5464659

The Wall Street Journal Copyright (c) 1999, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Monday, August 16, 1999

The Church of Darwin By Phillip E. Johnson

A Chinese paleontologist lectures around the world saying that recent fossil
finds in his country are inconsistent with the Darwinian theory of evolution.
His reason: The major animal groups appear abruptly in the rocks over a
relatively short time, rather than evolving gradually from a common
ancestor as Darwin's theory predicts. When this conclusion upsets
American scientists, he wryly comments: "In China we can criticize Darwin
but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but
not Darwin."

That point was illustrated last week by the media firestorm that followed
the Kansas Board of Education's vote to omit macro-evolution from the list
of science topics which all students are expected to master. Frantic
scientists and educators warned that Kansas students would no longer be
able to succeed in college or graduate school, and that the future of science
itself was in danger. The New York Times called for a vigorous
counteroffensive, and the lawyers prepared their lawsuits. Obviously, the
cognitive elites are worried about something a lot more important to
themselves than the career prospects of Kansas high school graduates.

The root of the problem is that "science" has two distinct definitions in our
culture. On the one hand, science refers to a method of investigation
involving things like careful measurements, repeatable experiments, and
especially a skeptical, open-minded attitude that insists that all claims be
carefully tested. Science also has become identified with a philosophy
known as materialism or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that
nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any
knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, and that the
means of creation must not have included any role for God. Students are
not supposed to approach this philosophy with open-minded skepticism,
but to believe it on faith.

The reason the theory of evolution is so controversial is that it is the main
scientific prop for scientific naturalism. Students first learn that "evolution
is a fact," and then they gradually learn more and more about what that
"fact" means. It means that all living things are the product of mindless
material forces such as chemical laws, natural selection, and random
variation. So God is totally out of the picture, and humans (like everything
else) are the accidental product of a purposeless universe. Do you wonder
why a lot of people suspect that these claims go far beyond the available
evidence?

All the most prominent Darwinists proclaim naturalistic philosophy when
they think it safe to do so. Carl Sagan had nothing but contempt for those
who deny that humans and all other species "arose by blind physical and
chemical forces over eons from slime." Richard Dawkins exults that
Darwin "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist," and
Richard Lewontin has written that scientists must stick to philosophical
materialism regardless of the evidence, because "we cannot allow a Divine
Foot in the door." Stephen Jay Gould condescendingly offers to allow
religious people to express their subjective opinions about morals, provided
they don't interfere with the authority of scientists to determine the "facts" -
- one of the facts being that God is merely a comforting myth.

There are a lot of potential dissenters. Sagan deplored the fact that "only
nine percent of Americans accept the central finding of biology that human
beings (and all the other species) have slowly evolved from more ancient
beings with no divine intervention along the way." To keep the other 91%
quiet, organizations like the National Academy of Sciences periodically
issue statements about public school teaching which contain vague
reassurances that "religion and science are separate realms," or that
evolutionary science is consistent with unspecified "religious beliefs."

What these statements mean is that the realms are separate because science
discovers facts and religion indulges fantasy. The acceptable religious
beliefs they have in mind are of the naturalistic kind that do not include a
supernatural creator who might interfere with evolution or try to direct it.
A great many of the people who do believe in such a creator have figured
this out, and in consequence the reassurances merely insult their
intelligence.

So one reason the science educators panic at the first sign of public
rebellion is that they fear exposure of the implicit religious content in what
they are teaching. An even more compelling reason for keeping the lid on
public discussion is that the official neo-Darwinian theory is having serious
trouble with the evidence. This is covered over with the vague claim that
all scientists agree that "evolution has occurred." Since the Darwinists
sometimes define evolution merely as "change," and lump minor variation
with the whole creation story as "evolution," a few trivial examples like
dog-breeding or fruit fly variation allow them to claim proof for the whole
system. The really important claim of the theory -- that the Darwinian
mechanism does away with the need to presuppose a creator -- is protected
by a semantic defense-in- depth.

Here's just one example of how real science is replaced by flim-flam. The
standard textbook example of natural selection involves a species of finches
in the Galapagos, whose beaks have been measured over many years. In
1997 a drought killed most of the finches, and the survivors had beaks
slightly larger than before. The probable explanation was that larger-beaked
birds had an advantage in eating the last tough seeds that remained. A few
years later there was a flood, and after that the beak size went back to
normal. Nothing new had appeared, and there was no directional change of
any kind. Nonetheless, that is the most impressive example of natural
selection at work that the Darwinists have been able to find after nearly a
century and a half of searching.

To make the story look better, the National Academy of Sciences removed
some facts in its 1998 booklet on "Teaching About Evolution and the
Nature of Science." This version omits the flood year return-to-normal and
encourages teachers to speculate that a "new species of finch" might arise
in 200 years if the initial trend towards increased beak size continued
indefinitely. When our leading scientists have to resort to the sort of
distortion that would land a stock promoter in jail, you know they are in
trouble.

If the Academy meant to teach scientific investigation, rather than to
inculcate a belief system, it would encourage students to think about why,
if natural selection has been continuously active in creating, the observed
examples involve very limited back-and-forth variation that doesn't seem to
be going anywhere. But skepticism of that kind might spread and threaten
the whole system of naturalistic belief. Why is the fossil record overall so
difficult to reconcile with the steady process of gradual transformation
predicted by the neo-Darwinian theory? How would the theory fare if we
did not assume at the start that nature had to do its own creating, so a
naturalistic creation mechanism simply has to exist regardless of the
evidence? These are the kinds of questions the Darwinists don't want to
encourage students to ask.

This doesn't mean that students in Kansas or elsewhere shouldn't be taught
about evolution. In context, the Kansas action was a protest against
enshrining a particular worldview as a scientific fact and against making
"evolution" an exception to the usual American tradition that the people
have a right to disagree with the experts. Take evolution away from the
worldview promoters and return it to the real scientific investigators, and a
chronic social conflict will become an exciting intellectual adventure.

---

Mr. Johnson is professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of "Darwin on Trial" (Intervarsity Press, 1993). ===========================================================

-------------------------------------------------------------------- "Reduced to the initial and still crude form in which it is now emerging in the modern world, the new religious spirit appears, as we have said (cf. I), as the impassioned vision and anticipation of some super-mankind ... To believe and to serve was not enough: we now find that it is becoming not only possible but imperative literally to love evolution." (Teilhard de Chardin P., "Christianity and Evolution", 1971, pp183-184, in Bird W.R., "The Origin of Species Revisited", Regency: Nashville TN, Vol. II, 1991, p264) --------------------------------------------------------------------