Darwin on Trial. 3rd edition. By Phillip E. Johnson. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2010. 247 pp. Cloth, $17.00.
The first edition of this work came out twenty years ago in 1991. This twentieth anniversary edition contains a new foreword called, “a new introduction” on the cover, by Michael Behe which in itself is fantastic (pp. 9-17). Behe explains why a law professor, Johnson, is not out of his depth to discuss Darwin’s theory of origins. In fact, Behe argues that someone like Johnson is perfect for the task: ‘When a large theory such as evolution cuts across many disciplines, no one can claim to be expert in all of the evidence. Rather, the evidence is much better evaluated by a generalist trained to evaluate the logic of arguments and the assumptions lying behind them, as Johnson himself was exquisitely qualified to do” (p. 11). Johnson himself makes the same case (see p. 32).
Johnson does not argue for a young earth or for the inerrancy of Scripture or anything of the kind: “I am not a defender of creation-science, and in fact I am not concerned in this book with addressing any conflicts between the Biblical accounts and the scientific evidence” (p. 33).
What Johnson does do is attack the logic and the philosophical underpinnings of a Darwinian view of origins: “The argument of Darwin on Trial is that we know a great deal less than has been claimed. In particular, we do not know how the immensely complex organ systems of plants and animals could have been created by mindless and purposeless natural processes, as Darwinists say they must have been. Darwinian theory attributes biological complexity to the accumulation of adaptive micromutations by natural selection, but the creative power of this hypothetical mechanism has never been demonstrated, and the fossil evidence is inconsistent with the claim that biological creation occurred in that way. The philosophically important part of Darwinian theory—its mechanism for creating complex things that did not exist before—is therefore not really part of empirical science at all, but rather a deduction from naturalistic philosophy” (p. 191).
Johnson in the epilogue also states his primary purpose: “My primary goal in writing Darwin on Trial was to legitimate the assertion of a theistic worldview in the secular universities” (p. 199). I believe that he succeeded in a marvelous way.
Over and over again in this book Johnson shows how evolutionists routinely turn an argument on its head and argue for what is either illogical or what is often contradicted by the evidence they cite. This book is filled with wonderful points and outstanding quotes.
As far back as 1975 I was speaking in college classrooms defending the creationist viewpoint versus Darwinism. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from a leading school of biology (U. C. Irvine). I was trained in Darwinism in college. However, I found in this book many fantastic arguments and observations that I wish I had known 35 years ago.
Johnson basically shows that Darwinism is not only not scientifically sound, but it is anti-scientific. Darwinism has for years ignored or glossed over all the evidence that contradicts it. However, change is in the air. The last line of Johnson’s book is powerful and telling: The spectacle will be fascinating, and the battle will go on for a long time. But in the end reality will win” (p. 204).
JOTGES readers will likely see parallels between the evolution-creation debate and the Lordship Salvation-Free Grace debate. I often found myself thinking that the abuse and ridicule heaped on creationists by Darwinian evolutionists is similar to the abuse and ridicule heaped on Free Grace proponents by Lordship Salvation advocates. And similarly I found myself applying the last line of Johnson’s book to the debate about everlasting life: in the end reality will win.
I highly recommend this book. I think it should be required reading for every Christian high school student, especially those attending public schools. And for those of us who have already graduated from high school and Darwinian indoctrination, it is high time we learned the truth about Darwinism.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society