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Darwin on Trial - Phillip E Johnson

Darwin on Trial - Phillip E Johnson

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Page 1 , Darwin On Trial - Phillip E.Johnson
DARWIN ON TRIALby Phillip E. JohnsonCONTENTSCONTENTSChapter One: The Legal SettingChapter Two: Natural SelectionAs a TautologyAs a Scientific HypothesisAs a Deductive ArgumentAs a Philosophical NecessityChapter Three: Mutations Great and SmallChapter Four: The Fossil ProblemChapter Five: The Fact of EvolutionChapter Six: The Vertebrate SequenceFish to AmphibiansAmphibians to ReptilesReptiles to MammalsReptile to BirdFrom Apes to HumansChapter Seven: The Molecular EvidenceChapter Eight: Prebiological EvolutionChapter Nine: The Rules of ScienceChapter Ten: Darwinist ReligionChapter Eleven: Darwinist EducationChapter Twelve: Science and PseudoscienceResearch NotesCHAPTER_1Chapter OneTHE LEGAL SETTINGIN 1981 THE STATE legislature of Louisiana passed a law requiringthat if "evolution-science" is taught in the public schools, theschools must also provide balanced treatment for something called"creation-science." The statute was a direct challenge to thescientific orthodoxy of today, which is that all living things evolvedby a gradual, natural process- from nonliving matter to simplemicro-organisms, leading eventually to man. Evolution is taught in thepublic schools (and presented in the media) not as a theory but as afact, the "fact of evolution." There are nonetheless manydissidents, some with advanced scientific degrees, who deny thatevolution is a fact and who insist that an intelligent Creatorcaused all living things to come into being in furtherance of apurpose.The conflict requires careful explanation, because the terms areconfusing. The concept of creation in itself does not imply oppositionto evolution, if evolution means only a gradual process by which onekind of living creature changes into something different. A Creator
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Page 2 , Darwin On Trial - Phillip E.Johnson
might well have employed such a gradual process as a means ofcreation. "Evolution" contradicts "creation" only when it isexplicitly or tacitly defined as fully naturalistic evolution- meaningevolution that is not directed by any purposeful intelligence.Similarly, "creation" contradicts evolution only when it meanssudden creation, rather than creation by progressive development.For example, the term "creation-science," as used in the Louisianalaw, is commonly understood to refer to a movement of Christianfundamentalists based upon an extremely literal interpretation ofthe Bible. Creation-scientists do not merely insist that life wascreated; they insist that the job was completed in six days no morethan ten thousand years ago, and that all evolution since that timehas involved trivial modifications rather than basic changes.Because creation-science has been the subject of so much controversyand media attention, many people assume that anyone who advocates"creation" endorses the "young earth" position and attributes theexistence of fossils to Noah's flood. Clearing up that confusion isone of the purposes of this book. ** Clearing up confusion requires a careful and consistent use ofterms. In this book, "creation-science" refers to young-earth, six-dayspecial creation. "Creationism" means belief in creation in a moregeneral sense. Persons who believe that the earth is billions of yearsold, and that simple forms of life evolved gradually to become morecomplex forms including humans, are "creationists" if they believethat a supernatural Creator not only initiated this process but insome meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose. As weshall see, "evolution" (in contemporary scientific usage) excludes not just creation-science but creationism in the broad sense. By"Darwinism" I mean fully naturalistic evolution, involving chancemechanisms guided by natural selection.The Louisiana statute and comparable laws in other states grew outof the long-standing efforts of Christian fundamentalists toreassert the scientific vitality of the Biblical narrative of creationagainst its Darwinist rival. The great landmark in thisBible-science conflict was the famous Scopes case, the "monkeytrial" of the 1920s, which most Americans know in the legendaryversion portrayed in the play and movie Inherit the Wind. The legendtells of religious fanatics who invade a school classroom to persecutean inoffensive science teacher, and of a heroic defense lawyer whosymbolizes reason itself in its endless battle against superstition.As with many legendary incidents the historical record is morecomplex. The Tennessee legislature had passed as a symbolic measurea statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution, which the governorsigned only with the explicit understanding that the ban would notbe enforced. Opponents of the law (and some people who just wantedto put Dayton, Tennessee, on the map) engineered a test case. A formersubstitute teacher named Scopes, who wasn't sure whether he had everactually taught evolution, volunteered to be the defendant.The case became a media circus because of the colorful attorneys
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Page 3 , Darwin On Trial - Phillip E.Johnson
involved. William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic presidentialcandidate and secretary of state under President Woodrow Wilson, ledthe prosecution. Bryan was a Bible believer but not anuncompromising literalist, in that he thought that the "days" ofGenesis referred not to 24-hour periods but to historical ages ofindefinite duration. He opposed Darwinism largely because he thoughtthat its acceptance had encouraged the ethic of ruthless competitionthat underlay such evils as German militarism and robber baroncapitalism.The Scopes defense team was led by the famous criminal lawyer andagnostic lecturer Clarence Darrow. Darrow maneuvered Bryan into takingthe stand as an expert witness on the Bible and humiliated him in adevastating cross-examination. Having achieved his main purpose,Darrow admitted that his client had violated the statute and invitedthe jury to convict. The trial thus ended in a conviction and anominal fine of $100. On appeal, the Tennessee supreme court threw outthe fine on a technicality but held the statute constitutional. From alegal standpoint the outcome was inconclusive, but as presented to theworld by the sarcastic journalist H. L. Mencken, and later by Broadwayand Hollywood, the "monkey trial" was a public relations triumph forDarwinism.The scientific establishment was not exactly covering itself withglory at the time, however. Although he did not appear at the trial,the principal spokesman for evolution during the 1920s was HenryFairfield Osborn, Director of the American Museum of NaturalHistory. Osborn relied heavily upon the notorious Piltdown Man fossil,now known to be a fraud, and he was delighted to confirm the discoveryof a supposedly pre-human fossil tooth by the paleontologist HaroldCooke in Bryan's home state of Nebraska. Thereafter Osborn prominentlyfeatured "Nebraska Man" (scientific designation: Hesperopithecusharoldcookii) in his antifundamentalist newspaper articles and radiobroadcasts, until the tooth was discovered to be from a peccary, akind of pig. If Osborn had been cross-examined by a lawyer as cleveras Clarence Darrow, and satirized by a columnist as ruthless as H.L. Mencken, he would have looked as silly as Bryan.The anti-evolution statutes of the 1920s were not enforced, buttextbook publishers tended to say as little as possible aboutevolution to avoid controversy. The Supreme Court eventually heldthe statutes unconstitutional in 1968, but by then the fundamentalistshad changed their objective. Creation research institutes werefounded, and books began to appear which attacked the orthodoxinterpretation of the scientific evidence and argued that thegeological and fossil record could be harmonized with the Biblicalaccount. None of this literature was taken seriously by the scientificestablishment or the mass media, but the creation-scientiststhemselves became increasingly confident that they had a scientificcase to make.They also began to see that it was possible to turn the principlesof liberal constitutional law to their advantage by claiming a right
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