Darwin on Trial may be the most important book on the evolution debate in decades. Johnson goes straight to the core of the problem. By accepting the philosophical assumptions of “scientific naturalism,” scholars have been forced to view the shaping of the biological world in only one way, where nature is seen as “a closed system of material cause and effect.”

Such assumptions about reality shape our ability to see patterns in the data, pass judgment on the acceptability of theories, and turn some explanation into logical necessities. Since evolutionary theorizing has been done in the “warm bath” of such assumptions, its conclusions must be questioned at every level. Johnson proceeds to peel “evolutionary” thought like an onion, showing how one level after another reflects the assumption that nature is independent.

He first questions the “fact” that all forms of life are descended with modification from common ancestors. Is the acceptance of this due to material evidence, or is it simply viewed as the only conceivable independent material possibility? If common descent with modification has been demonstrated, is the Neo-Darwinian mechanism (the selection of random mutations) adequate to produce that modification (especially more complex sets of genetic instructions) without guidance? Johnson thinks it has been accepted only by default, not by proof.

In the next layer, even if mutation-selection is adequate to produce new complexity, that would not prove that it had really done so. Indeed, Johnson points out, the pattern of changing biological forms seen in the fossil record is almost the opposite of that predicted by naturalistic Darwinian theory.

And on to the core: If relationship, mechanism, and historical change could all ...

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