“The Creation/Evolution Controversy is Keeping Me From Believing”

Dear Ray Bohlin,

I read your article Christian Views of Science and Earth History, and at the end it said about how you have been researching about this for twenty years, but still haven’t come to a conclusion about it. If (macro)evolution isn’t proved true, then why would people involved in science treat it as a fact? Two people who come to my mind are Michael Behe and Phillip Johnson. I guess Behe believes in macroevolution and Johnson doesn’t, but they still both support Intelligent Design theory. Does Johnson just not know enough about science, or is Behe perhaps wrong? Maybe I’ve just become way too skeptical. I don’t like being like this, but it’s hard not to be! How can I not let this controversy about evolution keep me from believing? How do you do it? Maybe you just have more faith than I do. I don’t know.

Basically, my only question is concerning the age of the earth and universe. I do not consider this the critical issue so I am willing to live with a certain amount of tension here. There are many good Christians, both theologians and scientists who disagree on the time frame of Genesis, so you are not alone.

Macroevolution is treated as fact primarily because it is necessary for a naturalistic world view. If there is no God then some form of evolution must be true. This is why so many evolutionists are not troubled by evolution’s problems. They are firmly convinced that some form of evolution has occurred and the problems will be solved some day. Here their faith is in their world view and not necessarily science. Phil Johnson does a good job of talking about this in his first two books, Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance.

Being skeptical is OK. If Christianity is really true, then it can stand up to the scrutiny. I encourage you to continue to ask your questions and seek for answers. I have never been disappointed when I have felt the need to dig a little deper. The Lord won’t disappoint you either.

An excellent book you may want to pick up is by Lee Strobel called The Case for Faith (Harper Collins/Zondervan). It’s a series of interviews with top Christian scholars looking for answers to the toughest challenges to faith. One of the interviews is with Dr. Walter Bradley from Texas A & M about evolution and the origin of life. Because each chapter is a retelling of an interview it’s not overly technical but extremely helpful and honest.

I certainly don’t feel I have all the answers about the evolution question either. I am convinced however, that evolution certainly doesn’t have all the answers and some of the missing answers are to the most crucial questions such as a workable and observable mechanism of change.

In the past when I was feeling threatened as you are I would frequently need to return to the basics which I knew were true. The facts of Jesus historical existence, the reliability of the New Testament, the historical reliability of his resurrection, and God’s clear direction and presence in my life. Then I would combine this with Jesus own confirmation of the historicity of Genesis (see Matt. 19:3-6, Matt. 23: 29-37, and Matt. 24:37-39 and “Why We Believe in Creation”) and Paul’s clear statement of the creation exhibiting his character in Romans 1:18-20 and it was obvious that something was very wrong with evolution and somehow God’s creative fingerprints are evident in the natural world. That would keep me going. Now the more I have studied and probed, the more bankrupt evolution has become and the reasonableness and scientific integrity of design becomes more and more self-evident.

Hope this helps.

Respectfully,

Ray Bohlin

Probe Ministries


Tuning Up Your Baloney Detector

Critical thinking skills are necessary for thinking biblically and in a way that glorifies God. Sue Bohlin explores some of the ways to develop those skills.

This article is also available in Spanish.

The Need to Think Critically

One of our main objectives here at Probe Ministries is to help people learn to love God with their minds. You really can’t do that without learning to think biblically, and think critically. In our television-saturated culture, we have discovered that more Christians are conformed to the philosophies and deceptions of the world than the teachings and truths of the Bible. So in this essay I offer some suggestions on how to sharpen our thinking skills. The apostle Paul exhorts us in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” The way to prevent ourselves from being taken captive to unbiblical, ungodly thinking is to build a kind of mental grid through which we filter what we see, hear, and read.

The first element of the grid is to know what the Bible says, so we can compare the ideas that permeate our culture to the absolute truth of what God has revealed. There is no room for shortcuts here; it takes time in God’s Word, reading and meditating on what we read. And in order to understand the context for what we read, we need to work our way through the Bible one book at a time rather than opening it up at random and reading in a hit-or-miss fashion. We know that not everyone is a reader; God made some people auditory learners, and they need to hear the Word rather than read it. That is fine—the Scripture says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). It doesn’t say “reading”! It is now possible to hear the Bible on cassette or CD or even on the Internet.{1} Whatever it takes for you, get the Bible into your head and heart.

As you learn what the Bible says, you will be able to recognize counterfeits to God’s truth. For instance, over the past several years the definition of truth has shifted. It used to be that everyone assumed that there was such a thing as absolute truth: things which are true for all people, at all times, in all places. Today, many people believe that contradictory beliefs, such as the different world religions, can all be true at the same time and that murder, lying, and adultery can be acceptable under certain conditions. The belief that truth is relative is a worldly philosophy that has taken many captive, and Christians should filter this out of our thinking because God has revealed unchanging truth to us in His Word.

In his book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, Phillip Johnson has a great chapter called “Tuning Up Your Baloney Detector.” He lists a number of critical thinking tools that originally came from Carl Sagan, the late astronomer who made science understandable to us lay people. (Unfortunately, Dr. Sagan failed to point his baloney detector at himself as he ferociously insisted that true science was the same as a purely naturalistic worldview.)

A well-tuned baloney detector will be able to filter out several kinds of baloney that would take Christians captive when we swallow the thinking that comes from the surrounding culture.

Vague Terms and Shifting Definitions

One kind of baloney we need to be alert for is the use of vague terms. People with a non-Christian worldview can start off using language that we think we understand and then suddenly veer off into a new meaning. Once when I was a brand-new believer, people collecting money to care for underprivileged kids approached me on the street. I asked, “Do you teach them about Jesus?” and they said, “Yes. . . .” After I gave them money and took their brochure, I discovered that they taught that Jesus and Satan were brothers! We also see this deliberate vagueness happening in the abortion debate. It is much easier to justify getting rid of a glob of unwanted cells if you do not call it “shredding and mutilating an unborn baby.”

We also need to be on the lookout for shifting definitions. In the evolution debate, many people will start out defining evolution as “change over time.” Who can argue with that? But then we find out that the true working definition of evolution is unguided, purposeless change.

Believing What We Want to Believe

We also need to be on the lookout for what Phillip Johnson calls the “original sin” of believing what we want to believe, even if there is evidence to the contrary. It is intellectually dishonest to deny facts that contradict our pet beliefs so that we can stay in our comfort zone. We get critical e-mail at Probe complaining about the fact that we do not take a position on the age of the earth. It comes from people who believe what they want to believe regardless of the fact that there is good evidence for another position. One of the wisest prayers we can pray is “Lord, show me where I’m being deceived.” Whether we are talking about our emotional, spiritual, or intellectual life, we need to move from the darkness of believing what we want to believe, into the light of truth as God shows it to us.

Selective Use of Evidence

Another critical thinking skill is to be watchful of the selective use of evidence. We need to be careful not to jump on bandwagons of all kinds before checking out any evidence that would provide a different conclusion. The creation-evolution debate is a great example of this principle, because it’s awfully hard to find any biology textbooks that provide students with the evidence against evolution. They do not learn that evolutionists cannot account for things like flight, or the eye, or the explosion of fully formed animals in the Cambrian layers of rock.

I know of several women who deeply regret having had abortions based on the selective use of evidence. They were told that this would solve their problem, that it was simply removing unwanted fetal tissue, that it was really no big deal. They were not given a sonogram where they could have seen their babies moving around inside them, or told about how the Bible declares the personhood of even the tiniest unborn human being. They also weren’t told about the horrendous burden of guilt and shame they would carry for years afterwards. We need to know both sides of an argument in order to avoid being held in captivity to the world’s philosophies.

Appeal to Authority

Another critical thinking skill is to be wary of is the appeal to authority. “Nothing is true just because some big shot says it is true.”{2} In our culture, we practically worship experts (especially scientific experts), and willingly set aside our own beliefs and instincts if somebody with a white lab coat or letters after their name tells us something is true or right or good. That is how we got millions of students who are poor readers in the U.S.: educational experts decided to throw out phonics, which works very well, and substitute the whole-word approach to reading, which fails miserably.

But it’s not just white lab coats; the appeal to authority exploits the way our culture values celebrity. Michael Jordan may be the world’s best basketball player, but does that mean he is an authority on underwear too? We need to be skeptical of anybody who says, “Believe it because I say so.”

Ad Hominem and Straw Man Arguments

Two kinds of communication that ought to set our internal alarms off are the ad hominem argument and the straw man argument.

Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man.” When people use this kind of argument, they are attacking the person instead of what he is saying. My son experienced this on one occasion in his college class where he got into a spirited discussion with a girl who was not being too logical. She could not counter his arguments, got frustrated, and dismissed him with, “Oh, you’re just too pretty to be a boy anyway.” That’s an ad hominem argument. It means someone is out of ammunition and defenses for their argument, so they attack the other person or the other side instead.

Now, there is a value to pointing out that someone has a bias, because it is going to impact their conclusions. That is not the same as attacking the person. When people e-mail us here at Probe and accuse us of being biased about Christianity, we freely admit we are very biased. But that does not change whether it is true or not. On the other hand, if a tobacco company releases a study showing that secondhand smoke is not dangerous, one can legitimately question the inherent bias without attacking the people making the argument.

Another critical thinking tool is to watch out for straw man arguments. This is where an opponent distorts someone’s position to make it easier to attack. Recently I participated in a panel discussion on therapies and organizations that help people leave homosexuality. One of the students in the class pointed at me and said, “I just think you shouldn’t try to make gays change against their will. That’s not right.” Well, I agree, and I do not know anyone who tries to change homosexuals against their will. He was using a straw man argument, because the truth is, I work with a ministry that offers help only to those who want it.{3} We do not even let anyone in the door unless they are willing to consider that change is possible, and they are the ones seeking us out. This student twisted my position to make it easier to attack.

Of course, nobody announces that they are using a straw man or ad hominem argument when they do it! But when you recognize it and call it what it is, you are thinking critically about what you are hearing.

Untestable Theories

When I was a young girl, my mind was a sponge—an avid learner, I soaked up everything with a total lack of discernment. There was a time when I was confused about whether the gods of Greek and Roman mythology were real or not!

In this article we have been looking at loving God with our minds by building a mental filter through which we examine what we see, hear, and read. A mental filter consisting of a Christian worldview allows us to keep what is true and right and good, and not swallow the rest like I did! One final baloney detector involves recognizing theories and ideas that cannot be proven either true or false. Many people believe things simply because they sound good, even though there is no way to find out if they are right or not. For example, Carl Sagan opened his famous Cosmos series with the worldview statement that “The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be.” How do you test such a statement to see if it is true or not? At Probe we get e-mail from people who have accepted such untestable theories. What test is there to prove or disprove reincarnation or the existence of the Goddess? How do you run an experiment to prove whether people who have died are sending messages to us when we come across pennies on the pavement?

On the other hand, testability is one of the things that makes Christianity so robust. If someone were able to come up with the bones of Jesus Christ, it would prove Christianity wrong and the millions of believers deluded. It’s a testable idea, not an unprovable, pie-in-the-sky concept. Remember what Paul says in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” In order to do that, we need to work to build a strong mental filter that constantly compares what we see and hear and read to the truth of God’s word. We need to interact with TV, movies, newspapers, and magazines, identifying those things that contradict the truth God has already given us. We should feel free to jot comments in the margins of books, especially when we find baloney in them. We need to remember that the world system and our adversary, the devil, are both continually working to tear down what is good and true, and erect false arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. So we can take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

To mix metaphors, we need to tune up our baloney detectors so we will not be sponges.

Notes

1. bible.gospelcom.net

2. Phillip Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997], 39.

3. Living Hope Ministries. For more information, please see www.livehope.org.

©2002 Probe Ministries.


Darwinism Takes a Step Back in Kansas

Has Oz Returned to Kansas?

Suddenly, the mere mention of the Kansas State Board of Education in most educational and academic circles brings derisive giggles and sneers. In August the Kansas State Board of Education voted to remove references to macroevolution from state science testing standards. A wave of revulsion gripped the nation’s media. In Time magazine, Harvard University paleontologist Stephen J. Gould trumpeted, “The board transported its jurisdiction to a never-never land where a Dorothy of the new millennium might exclaim, ‘they still call it Kansas, but I don’t think we’re in the real world anymore.’”{1} Gould further belittles honest concerns about the teaching of evolution by proclaiming: (1) no other nation has endured any similar movement (this makes us look bad overseas); (2) evolution is as well documented as any phenomenon in science (it is perverse to call evolution anything but a fact); and (3) no discovery of science can lead us to ethical conclusions (believe what religion you want, science doesn’t threaten you).

That’s a pretty scathing reaction. Let’s see what else we can find.

Here’s one from nationally syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe.{2} Ms. Goodman declared that “removing evolution from the science curriculum is a bit like removing verbs from the English curriculum. Evolution can still be taught, but it’s no longer required, it won’t be tested, and it will be discouraged.” (However, natural selection, variation, and microevolution will still be recommended and tested.) Later she decries the fact that “In 1925, creationists dragged a young biology teacher, John Scopes, to the courtroom for the infamous ‘Monkey Trial.’” Actually it was the ACLU that dragged Scopes into the courtroom. He couldn’t even remember if he had actually taught evolution. They needed a “volunteer” to defend to test the new Tennessee law. (See Phillip Johnson’s Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds, 1997, IVP, Chapter 2 for the real story of the Scopes trial and its shameful portrayal in the play and film, Inherit the Wind.) Goodman also pontificates that “there is no serious scientific dispute about the fact of evolution.” Notice that Ms. Goodman indicates that evolution is a fact, therefore beyond question. She also cleverly indicates that if you dispute evolution, you must not be a serious scientist.

In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sean Gonsalves laments, “Educated people everywhere are still in shock over the appalling ignorance displayed by the Kansas state board of education that voted two weeks ago to effectively remove evolution and the ‘Big Bang’ theory from the state’s science curriculum. Is there still a science curriculum in Kansas?”{3}

Well, those unruly, ignorant anti-evolutionists really seem to have overstepped their bounds this time! You would think that we would be cowering in the corner somewhere after all the abuse from such heavy hitters, but no, actually, we’re quite ecstatic. I have given you only a small example of the media and science firestorm, but it is just more of the same. While nobody enjoys being the butt of jokes and verbal abuse, what is significant are two things. First, the Kansas board has dealt Darwinists a severe blow by not mandating creation, thereby eliminating Darwinist’s usual rallying cry of science versus religion. They have simply searched for a more objective means of presenting evolution. That’s tough to argue against. Second, Darwinists have been flushed out into the open. Flimsy, ad hominem attacks, appeals to authority, and question begging have been brought out in the open for all to see. The Kansas State Board of Education has unintentionally raised the stakes in the decades old creation/evolution discussion.

What Really Happened in Kansas?

Given the reaction to the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education you would have thought the six board members who voted for the new standards in a close 6-4 vote were part of some dastardly plan to underhandedly bring God into the classroom. Also seemingly at stake was the reputation of the whole state of Kansas if its citizenry did not rise up in revolt against such an irrational decision. Apparently, Kansas had been set back decades in science literacy.

Well, what actually happened in Kansas? What did the board actually do and why? It is important to realize that the Kansas board authorized a 27-member panel of scientists and science educators from the state to revise the current state science testing standards. These standards do not mandate what can and cannot be taught, only what likely will be included on state science tests. What the board received was a highly prejudicial document making evolution the single unifying concept to the state’s biology standards. When board chairwoman Linda Holloway asked the committee representatives for evidence of macroevolution they essentially replied, “We’re the experts, and that will have to do.”{4} What that means is that she received no evidence, just an admonition that, with their position as scientists, she should just trust them.

Rather than turn the Kansas high school classrooms into a propaganda machine for materialist philosophy, the board decided to amend the standards to maintain microevolution–natural selection acting on genetic variation–but not macroevolution¾the claim that microevolution leads to new complex adaptations and new genetic information. They also left it up to the individual school districts to determine how much or how little evolution to teach. Evolution was not removed from the curriculum, as so many news stories reported. Creation was not mandated, Darwin was not banned, and evolution was not censored.

What this does do is leave open to school districts the opportunity to teach the surging controversy surrounding evolution. Actually, what many in the intelligent design movement would have preferred, if possible, is to teach more evolution, not less. Meaning, let’s teach not only the evidence for evolution, but also the mounting evidence calling the naturalistic creation story into question. Students should be familiar with evolution. It is the major story of origins within the scientific community. But in the interest of a true liberal education, the serious questions regarding evolution should also be included. Students should be allowed the privilege of weighing the evidence for themselves, not just accepting it because their teacher tells them to.

This is really where the threat to the scientific community lies. The more doubt about evolution that’s allowed, the trickier the educational landscape becomes for a fully naturalistic, materialistic approach to education.

In the past, the media barrage over such an anti-evolutionary decision has been decidedly one-sided. What is significant this time is that the Kansas board has received some rather hefty and significant support from invited articles, guest columnists, and op-ed pieces in prestigious news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Times. The debate is indeed changing.

Some Surprising Support for Kansas Board of Education

Amidst the unusual rancor and indignation from the media and scientific community following the decision of the Kansas State Board of Education, many have missed the small, yet significant, support the board has received for the spirit of their decision: namely, to try to find a way to disrupt the universal agenda to present scientific naturalism as the only possible explanation of where we all came from.

On August 16, 1999, the Wall Street Journal published an article by UC Berkeley law professor and Darwinian critic, Phillip Johnson.{5} Johnson quotes a Chinese paleontologist who openly criticizes Darwinism as wryly commenting that “In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.” After summarizing the frantic response of scientists and educators, Johnson commented, “Obviously, the cognitive elites are worried about something a lot more important to themselves than the career prospects of Kansas high school graduates.”

Johnson pointed out that evolution is the main scientific prop for scientific naturalism, a philosophical system that leaves God totally out of its picture of reality. Quoting well-known scientists such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Stephen J. Gould, and Richard Lewontin, Johnson makes clear that this is the real battle. Allowing evolution’s flaws to be detailed in classrooms would allow a broader discussion of fundamental assumptions. Johnson concluded optimistically, “Take evolution away from the worldview promoters and return it to real scientific investigators, and a chronic social conflict will become a chronic intellectual adventure.”

A few days later, the Washington Times{6} chided the rest of its media cohorts for a vast overreaction and actually cited evidence that calls Darwinism into question. The friendly editorial concluded with “No one, and certainly not the Kansas Board of Education, is saying that evolution should not be taught; it remains the prevailing scientific theory of creation. Rather, some healthy agnosticism and scientific open-mindedness on the matter would seem to be in the best interest of everyone curious about the greatest mystery of all.” Hear, hear!

The Chicago Tribune, while openly critical of the action of the Kansas Board of Education, also criticized previous actions of the National Association of Biology Teachers concerning evolution.{7} The association initially used the words unsupervised and impersonal to describe the evolutionary process. These clearly non-scientific terms were eventually and reluctantly removed by the association, who explained they didn’t think the terms would be construed negatively, which the Tribune called either a lie or clear demonstration of scientific fundamentalism.

Finally, the Washington Post{8} printed an article by Jay Richards, senior fellow and program director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. The CRSC is currently the only think tank I know of that openly supports and endorses intelligent design. Richard’s final point, “Fairness and objectivity in the science classroom require that teachers teach the controversy, not deny its existence,” is fair, lucid, rational, and appealing. “Teach the controversy” has become a rallying cry. You are bound to hear it more and more. The debate in Kansas has resulted in similar debates around the country, to which we now turn our attention.

Darwinism Assailed in Other States

Following the recent decision by the Kansas State Board of Education the teaching of evolution was big news around the country. In Kansas there were roundtable discussions, lectures, and debates. Some were in academic settings, such as the University of Kansas and Washburn University, some were in churches, and some were sponsored by a humanist skeptic organization. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) was prompted to publish their own statement deploring the action taken by the Kansas Board of Education.{9}

You might think that all the negative publicity would cause other states to back off any changes in their own science curriculum. But apparently, all this publicity has encouraged other school boards to chart their own course or adopt the methods of other states before them.

The Oklahoma State Textbook Committee voted to adopt a disclaimer to be placed on the inside cover of all biology textbooks. Unhappy with the propaganda-like treatment of evolution in the majority of textbooks they looked at, the committee needed the disclaimer to be able to recommend a sufficient diversity of biology texts for the state. While arguably not the best statement on the subject, the disclaimer labels evolution as controversial, a separation of microevolution and macroevolution, and encourages students to study hard, keep an open mind, and perhaps they can contribute to the origins discussion in the future. Nothing is said about creationism, intelligent design, or any other theories. Basically the statement wants students to think critically about evolution.

What has been missed in the newly swirling controversy about the disclaimer in Oklahoma is that it is nearly a direct copy of the disclaimer adopted by Alabama over two years ago which has not been challenged in court. However, instead of mentioning the obvious connection, journalists attempted to draw parallels to a Louisiana school district directive that was recently struck down because it specifically mentioned creationism. The two disclaimers are not related, but in the attempt to make it look as bad as possible, the chosen tactic is to mislead.{10} Once again, a very reasonable, but not perfect resolution was dismissed as simply another attempt to smuggle creationism into the public schools.

Meanwhile in West Virginia a similar controversy hit the news. The Kanawha County Board of Education is considering a resolution that would allow for the teaching of theories for and against the theory of evolution. It soon came to light that Illinois and Kentucky had previously passed resolutions similar to the one in Kansas. Commentary and editorials were appearing in major and local newspapers across the country taking sides in a suddenly public and heated discussion. Clearly, something has changed. The usual evolutionist hand-wringing is sounding more like whining and the previously unheard-of support for a revision of the instruction in evolution is suddenly receiving a cautious but receptive ear in important academic, educational, and media circles. While it must be kept in mind that all of these “victories” are relatively small and can be easily overturned, nonetheless their simplicity, objectivity, and legal savvy are raising eyebrows that paid little attention before.

What Does All This Mean?

The flurry of nationwide activity concerning the teaching of evolution in our public school systems, while noteworthy, is not terribly new. This battle has been going on for over three decades, but with seemingly little change. However, this time, as I have documented, there has been surprising support and very public discussion over the last few months. Phillip Johnson and others have been invited or allowed to offer their impressions and rebuttals in newspapers, journals, and magazines across the country. Public lectures, debates, and roundtable discussions have been offered before large crowds.

Something has definitely changed. I think we can isolate the change in two places. First some of the cherished, misleading evolutionary explanations are being rebutted openly and decisively in these public discussions. Second, the public is becoming better educated on the issues involved and they are less intimidated by the evolutionary rhetoric.

One of the favorite lines used to dismiss critics of evolution is to label them as religious zealots and fundamentalists. Religion and science, says this argument, have nothing to say to one another so you can’t bring religion into the science classroom. Stephen Gould states the case in his usual journalistic style, “Science and religion should be equal, mutually respecting partners, each the master of its own domain, and with each domain vital to human life in a different way.”{11} Elsewhere it becomes plain that Gould means that science deals in facts and religion in the intangibles of morality and such. This is seen more and more as condescending nonsense. Other evolutionists like Douglas Futuyma readily admit that, “By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of life processes superfluous.”{12} The negation of a theological principle is itself, a theological principle. Besides, any theory which purports to explain where we came from will contain the seeds of ethics and morality.

Robert E. Hemenway, chancellor of the University of Kansas, tried to say that the Kansas decision is a rejection of science altogether.{13} But when you actually read what the Board of Education did, they actually expanded the coverage of evolution from the previous standards and required students to know a very decent description of Darwinian evolution.{14} Skepticism is healthy in science. The new standards actually promoted questioning and critical thinking. This kind of obfuscation was not so easily foisted on the public.

The educational effort of many organizations over the past several decades has begun to yield citizens surer of themselves and not so easily intimidated. Seeing articles appearing in major news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and the Chicago Tribune, as well as appearances on CNN, have galvanized popular opinion and provided means to critically counterattack the bluster of the opposition.

Although the coverage has not always been accurate and completely positive, and the actual decisions by education boards have not always hit the mark, the net effect has been a major opening up of the debate. Change has been accomplished in these few months that would have ordinarily taken years. As mentioned previously, the phrase “teach the controversy” will be found more and more in the public discussion. That’s exactly what needs to happen.

Notes

1. Stephen Jay Gould, “Dorothy, It’s Really Oz, 1999,” Time vol. 154, no.8 (August 23, 1999), 59.

2. Ellen Goodman, “Those Ever-Evolving Creationists,” Boston Globe, Aug. 19, 1999, A19.

3. Sean Gonsalves, “Kansas School Board Fighting the Wrong Theory,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 24, 1999, A11.

4. Jeremy Johnson, “Media Pigeonholes Board into Stereotype,” Kansan, August 19, 1999.

5. Phillip E. Johnson, “The Church of Darwin,” Wall Street Journal, August 16, 1999, A14.

6. “Editorial, Kansas Conundrum,” Washington Times, August 19, 1999, A16.

7. Steve Kloehn, “In a Word, Kansas Tries to Make Evolution Go Away,” Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1999, 10.

8. Jay Richards, “Darwinism and Design,” Washington Post, August 21, 1999, A19.

9. “AAAS Statement on the Kansas State Board of Education Decision on the Education of Students in the Science of Evolution and Cosmology,” Science, vol. 286 (November 12, 1999), 1297.

10. Diane Plumberg, “Panel Plunges State into Debate about Evolution,” Daily Oklahoman, November 12, 1999.

11. Gould, 59.

12. Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 3rd ed. (Sunderland MA: Sinauer Assoc., 1998), 5.

13. Robert E. Hemenway, “The Evolution of a Controversy in Kansas Shows Why Scientists Must Defend the Search for Truth,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 29, 1999, B7.

14. Jonathan Wells, “Ridiculing Kansas School Board Easy, But It’s Not Good Journalism,” Mitchell (South Dakota) Daily Republic, October 14, 1999.

©2000 Probe Ministries


Darwin on Trial: A Lawyer Finds Evolution Lacking Evidence

Darwin on Trial is the title of a book on evolution that has ruffled the feathers of the secular scientific community. Though a Christian, author Philip Johnson critiques evolutionary theory from a secular standpoint as he examines the philosophical games many scientists play to protect their evolutionary ideology.

Evolution as Fact and Theory

Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, attacks head-on the often-heard statement that evolution is both a fact and a theory, an evolutionary dogma that has been a major source of confusion for a long time. Evolution is a fact, Darwinists say, in that they know that evolution has occurred. It is a theory in that they are far from understanding the mechanisms by which evolution has occurred. In the eloquent words of evolutionist Stephen J. Gould,

Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas which explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome. And human beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered. (Evolution as Fact and Theory)

There are numerous problems with this explanation. First, if evolution is a fact, then evolution is equivalent to data. This hardly seems appropriate. Second, the comparison of evolution to gravity is misleading. We can go into any apple orchard and observe apples falling from trees. But where do we go to observe humans evolving from apelike ancestors? Apples falling from trees fits into the category of science we can term operations science which utilizes data that are repeatable and observable at any time. Humans evolving from apelike ancestors, however, would fall under the category of origins science. Origins science involves the study of historical events that occur just once and are not
repeatable. We can only assemble what evidence we have and construct a plausible scenario, much like the forensic scientist Quincy did in the old television show. The so-called facts of human evolution, by Gould’s own definition, are the fossils and the rock layers they are found in. That humans evolved from apelike ancestors is a theory that attempts to explain and interpret these facts.

Later in the same article Gould states the real definition of fact under which evolution fits. He begins by saying that fact does not necessarily mean absolute certainty. Then he says, “In science, fact’ can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’” In other words, evolution is a fact because a majority of scientists say so, and you are “perverse” if you do not agree. We quickly begin to see that evolution holds a privileged place in the scientific community, which will go to extraordinary lengths to preserve that status.

A Theory in Crisis

Johnson’s book, although the most recent, is not the first to question evolution’s status as fact. Michael Denton, an agnostic medical researcher from Australia, caused quite a storm with his 1985 book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Denton’s point is that orthodox Darwinism has such a stranglehold on the biological sciences that contradictory evidences from fields such as paleontology, developmental biology, molecular biology, and taxonomy are passed off as intramural squabbles about the process of evolution. The “fact” of evolution is never really in question. Like Johnson, Denton points out that Darwinism is not a fact. It is a mechanistic theory that is still without a mechanism. While moths and fruit flies do respond to environmental stimuli, our observations of this process have been unable to shed any light on the means by which we have come to have horses and woodpeckers and wasps. The origin of complex adaptations has remained a mystery. The fossil record is pockmarked with gaps in the most embarrassing places. Darwin predicted innumerable transitional forms between major groups of organisms, yet the few transitions that are suggested are surrounded in controversy. Another “fact” that fails to withstand Denton’s scrutiny is the assumption that similar biological structures owe their similarity to a common ancestry. Homology, which studies these similarities, assumes for example that the forelimbs of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are similar in structure because they evolved from the same source. Denton reveals, however, that these same classes of vertebrates go through remarkably different stages of early embryological development. This was certainly not a prediction of Darwinian evolution. Even more importantly, Denton reports that comparison of the sequences of proteins from different organisms actually supports the pre-Darwin system of classification, which was based on creationist principles.

Also, the many chemical evolution scenarios are caught in numerous intractable dilemmas that offer little hope of resolution (see Scientific American, Feb. 1991).

Rules of Science and Evolution

Another issue that Philip Johnson treats in his book is the fact that the rules of science tend to be stated and followed differently depending on whether you are talking about evolution or creation. Professor Johnson refers specifically to Judge William Overton’s decision striking down the Arkansas Creation/Evolution Balanced Treatment law. In his written decision, which was reprinted in its entirety in the prestigious journal Science, Judge Overton reiterated five essential characteristics of science that were given by opponents of the bill during the trial. Science, in the judge’s opinion, must be:

• Guided by natural law
• Explanatory by reference to natural law
•Testable against the empirical world
•Tentative in its conclusions—that is, not necessarily the final word
• Falsifiable

Judge Overton decided that creation-science does not meet these criteria since it appeals to the supernatural and is therefore not testable, falsifiable, or explanatory by reference to natural law. Johnson points out that philosophers of science have been very critical of the definitions of science given in the decision and have suggested that the expert witnesses provided by the ACLU attorneys got away with a philosophical snow job. Critics have pointed out that scientists are not the least bit tentative about their basic commitments, especially about their commitment to evolution. From my own experience, all one has to do is attend any scientific meeting to see that some scientists are anything but tentative about their ideas. Also, scientists study the effects of phenomena (such as gravity) that they cannot explain by natural law. Finally, critics have noted that creation-science, as proposed by the Arkansas law, does make empirical claims (such as a young earth, worldwide flood, special creation). Mainstream science has said these claims are demonstrably false, which raises the interesting question, How can creation-science be both unfalsifiable and demonstrably false at the same time? Johnson clearly reveals that what is really being protected by these rules of science is not necessarily evolution, but the philosophical doctrine known as naturalism. According to Johnson, “Naturalism assumes the entire realm of nature to be a closed system of material causes and effects, which cannot be influenced by anything from the outside.” While this doctrine does not deny the existence of God, it certainly makes Him irrelevant. Science, therefore, becomes our only reliable path to knowledge. The issue as Johnson states it, is

…Whether this philosophical viewpoint is merely an understandable professional prejudice or whether it is the objectively valid way of understanding the world. That is the real issue behind the push to make naturalistic evolution a fundamental tenet of society, to which everyone must be converted.

The consequence of this kind of thinking is that evolution is made the basis of ethical and religious statements, which is precisely what most evolutionists find repulsive about creation.

Darwinist Religion

A frequent refrain from evolutionists is that the evolution/creation debate is actually a collision between science and religion. If creationists would just realize their view is inherently religious and that evolution is the scientific view, then there would be little to disagree about. Evolution belongs in the science classrooms and creation belongs only in the philosophy and religion classrooms. What gets left behind in this discussion, either intentionally or unintentionally, are the very firm religious implications of atheistic naturalism with evolution as its foundation. We only need to look at a few sources to see the religious nature of evolution. The first source is the blatantly religious statements of certain evolutionists themselves. Philip Johnson quotes the evolutionist William Provine as stating quite categorically that:

• Modern science, i.e., evolution, implies that there is no purpose, gods, or design in nature.
• There are no absolute moral or ethical laws.
• Heredity and environment determine all that man is.
• When we die, we die, and that is all there is.
• Evolution cannot produce a being that is truly free to make choices.

Statements such as these make it quite clear: the belief that science and religion are different spheres of knowledge is complete nonsense.

A second source that establishes the religious nature of evolution is the attacks of evolutionists on the God of the Bible using evolutionary principles. In his chapter on natural selection, professor Johnson provides an example from evolutionist Douglas Futuyma. Futuyma states that a Creator would never create a bird such as the peacock, whose six feet of bulky feathers make it easy prey for leopards. (Johnson turns the tables, however, by asking why natural selection would favor a peahen that lusts after males with life-threatening decorations.) It has always amazed me that people who claim that there is no God sure seem to have an intimate knowledge of what He would be like if He did exist. At any rate, if evolution can be used to discredit certain notions about the character of God, then evolution is indeed making religious statements. A third indication of the religious nature of evolution is the knee-jerk reaction of the evolutionary establishment against any statement that even hints that evolution is a tentative theory. In 1984, a group of scientists who are Christians but who do not identify themselves with creation scientists published a booklet entitled Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy and mailed it to thousands of school teachers. The general idea of the booklet was to encourage open-mindedness on certain issues and controversies regarding evolution. Evolutionists quickly chided the publication as a clever disguise of creationism. To quote Johnson, “The pervasive message was that the ASA [American Scientific Affiliation] is a deceitful
creationist front which disguises its Biblical literalist agenda under a pretense of scientific objectivity.” In other words, anything that smells of God must be creationist and must be stamped out.

Darwinist Education

In the later chapters of Johnson’s book, he analyzes the reaction of evolutionists to the challenges that have been leveled against them. It is here that he perhaps makes his greatest contribution. One of these reactions has been to wage what is essentially an evolutionary filibuster in educating the public about evolution. Johnson cites the experience of the British Museum of Natural History when it opened an exhibit on evolution in 1981. The exhibit presented Darwinian evolution as one idea and one possible explanation. Creation was cited as another view. This tentativeness was too much for some scientists to bear. A firestorm of criticism appeared in the British science journal Nature. Many were furious that the museum would actually go public with doubts about evolution, doubts that had previously been reserved for discussion among evolutionary scientists alone. The criticism was so severe that the museum eventually removed the exhibit and replaced it with a more “traditional” evolution exhibit. One of the Museum’s top scientists, Colin Patterson, made a similar reversal concerning his view that he required faith in order to accept evolution. The criticism eventually convinced him to discontinue making these statements public.

In the United States, the Science Framework adopted by the state of California in 1989, which has a significant effect on the content of science textbooks, contained this statement concerning evolution: “[Evolution] is an accepted scientific explanation and therefore no more controversial in scientific circles than the theories of gravitation and electron flow.” This assertion is nothing more than an appeal to authority and has nothing to do with legitimate scientific evidence. As a result of this statement, evolution is being included in science textbooks at increasingly lower grade levels. The purpose is clear: if students can be indoctrinated in evolution early enough and often enough, perhaps all this controversy can be avoided.

Conclusion

In summary, I have pointed out that many critical predictions of Darwinian evolution have not been fulfilled. As a result, naturalistic atheism, the underlying philosophy of much of the evolutionary establishment, has been threatened. The response of many evolutionists has been to issue increasingly dogmatic statements that appeal to authority, not to evidence, play semantic word games where evolution is called both a fact and a theory, and wage an educational filibuster aimed at squelching all dissent. The evolutionists are not likely to abandon these tactics anytime soon, but until they do, they can expect even more criticism from scholars such as Professor Philip Johnson.

© 1992 Probe Ministries International