Book Review: Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds

Phillip E. Johnson lays out a crystal-clear presentation for understanding the case against Darwinism. Not quite as comprehensive as Darwin on Trial or Reason in the Balance, this book was written as somewhat of a primer for those interested in learning about the scientific case against naturalism without being overwhelmed with scientific jargon.

The book was easy to get through and thoroughly compelling. Knowing that atheists would be resistant to arguments involving the Bible, he does not use it as an one of his arguments. The book’s main focus is on showing that naturalism as a foundation for Darwinism is the main problem. He quotes a letter that he received to show some very common mistakes from those that try to engage in this debate.

  1. Wrong definition of evolution – In the letter, the student tried to say that it was possible that God could have used evolution to do his creating. As I have shown here, here and here, this is not possible. But Johnson continues to explain why evolution as understood in the classroom is not a part of God’s creative plan when he shares the definition of evolution from the American National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.” <in 1997 the NABT removed the words unsupervised and impersonal>
  2. God started everything and then retired – The student tries to redefine the God of the Bible for a first cause (remote god) of deism.
  3. Faith vs. Reason – This is a very common intellectual error. Many people mistakenly think that naturalism is a result of reason, and anything that is not naturalism is faith. Firstly, naturalism cannot account for reason, and secondly, assuming naturalism is a faith position.

Johnson does a great job at correctly framing the debate. It is not a debate of science vs. faith, but it is one in which those in power of the “microphone” have overstated their case and suppressed any dissent. He has clear insight into the irony of the Darwinian position with regards to the media. Johnson correctly shows the hypocritical position of the Darwinists by describing the 1960 movie release, Inherit the Wind. The movie is based on the historical 1925 Scopes Trial in which a Kentucky high school PE teacher is convicted of teaching evolution in the classroom, which at the time was against the law in Tennessee. The movie stereotypes the Christians as evil monsters bent on suppressing knowledge, and it stereotypes the evolutionists as heroes of reason and humanity. What Johnson is able to do is show that this movie is actually a representation of what is happening in today’s science classrooms…just the reverse of the heroes and villains. In the movie, Mr. Cates is the persecuted hero, who “righteously” stood for reason by teaching evolution. During the scene described below, the prosecuting attorney takes the stand as a witness for creation while the defense attorney grills him:

“Suppose Mr. Cates had enough influence and lung power to railroad through the State Legislature a law that only Darwin should be taught in the schools!”

That possibility may have seemed remote in Hillsboro, but of course it is exactly what happened later. The real story of the Scopes trial is that the stereotype it promoted helped the Darwinists capture the power of the law, and they have since used the law to prevent other people from thinking independently. By labeling any fundamental dissent from Darwinism as “religion,” they are able to ban criticism of the official evolution story from public education far more than the teaching of evolution was banned from Tennessee schools in the 1920s.

But how was this reversal accomplished in a voting democracy? Given that a majority of Americans still believe that God is our Creator, how have the Darwinists been able to obtain so much influence and lung power?

The play answers that question too. In the final scene of Inherit the Wind, when the jury returns to the courtroom to deliver its verdict, a character identified as “Radio Man” appears in the courtroom carrying a large microphone…

The microphone (that is, the news media) can nullify <Darwin Dissenters> power by (in effect) outshouting him..There is only one microphone in the courtroom, and whoever decides when to turn it on or off controls what the world will learn about the trial…When the creation-evolution conflict is replayed in our own media-dominated times, the microphone-owners of the media get tot decide who plays the heroes and who plays the villains. What this has meant for decades is that Darwinists – who are now the legal and political power holders-nonetheless appear before the microphone as <heroes>.

The rest of the book builds the real scientific case for intelligent design and the wedge strategy. Johnson refers to the wedge strategy as the idea of not accepting the presupposition of naturalism. People should be allowed to question this unprovable axiom without having to face Darwinist persecution.

I highly recommend the book for those who would like a start in understanding the creation-evolution conflict at an introductory level. It is a quick read at only 119 pages.

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