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

Marcio Pie (
Fri, 20 Aug 1999 11:47:49 -0400 (EDT)

I was very skeptical when I began to read this article, but I must admit
that Phil Johnson has raised a very pertinent point. Modern scientific
method "assumes" that all factors influencing the results are
naturalistic-materialistic and then uses the results of their analyses to
corroborate those assumptions. It looks circular to me, but I would like
to know more opinions about that.

Also, if we *assume* that God influenced directly evolutionary processes,
can modern scientific method detect that influence?

On Thu, 19 Aug 1999, Stephen E. Jones wrote:

> 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)
> --------------------------------------------------------------------