Reviewed by Jon Covey, B.A., MT(ASCP)
Edited by Anita Millen, M.D., M.P.H., M.A.
Phillip Johnson has written a book that could be very useful to middle and high school students as well as their parents. Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds shows how to enter the creation vs. evolution debate without knowing a great deal about science. Johnson explains how people make a mistake when they try to accommodate evolutionary thinking into their Christian beliefs and how they can better defeat evolutionists.
Baloney Detector Kits
One thing people can do is turn on their baloney detectors. What is a baloney detector, and where can you get one? Carl Sagan invented the baloney detector, and Johnson decided that everyone should own one of these.
Baloney detector kits come with these options:
- Selective Use of Evidence. We know we can get the Bible to say anything we want—all we have to do is look until we find something that fits our presuppositions. The same thing is true in the world of ‘scientific’ facts. Most textbooks concerning evolution tend to overemphasize the fossils that have some value as a transitional form and say little or nothing about the absence of transitional forms between the major groups.
- Appeals to Authority. All real scientists believe in evolution, and only loose canons or crackpots believe in creation. Johnson says science experts tend to think they are authorities and what they say must be right because they said it. He says the best check on this tendency is the experimental test. A really good experimental result can rain on their parade.
- Ad Hominem Argument. I’ve seen evolutionists claim Dr. Duane Gish is a liar, and because he’s a liar, nothing he says can be trusted. Evolutionists tend to believe all creationists are either liars or deluded by the lies of other creationists. This kind of personal attack distracts attention from good arguments. Jehovah Witnesses think evangelicals are under the control of Satan, so anything they say has got to be false. Of course, evangelicals accuse Jehovah Witnesses of being deluded by Satan. Both sides of every argument are biased, and this needs to be acknowledged.
- Straw Man Argument. One’s opponent can present a distorted account of one’s belief and then destroy it.
- Begging the Question. Ask an evolutionist why you should believe in evolution and you might be told that you shouldn’t reject a scientific theory just because of a religious prejudice.
- Lack of Testability. Can the speculations of a scientist be tested? Sagan said that the cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be. Has anyone ever tested this? Is it testable?
- Vague Terms and Shifting Definitions. Johnson explains that the key terms in the creation/evolution debate are the words ‘science’ and ‘evolution.’ Everyone accepts science, and all of us believe in evolution. Both terms have more than one definition. The bait and switch technique is used. First, evolution means common, ordinary change. Everyone can accept this. Somewhere in the discussion, evolution takes on the ‘molecules to man’ definition.
- Original Sin. Everyone believes what they want to believe. Johnson calls this the ‘original sin’ in science
Elsewhere in his book, Johnson describes how Inherit the Wind has made it difficult for creationists to get a fair hearing in the public forum. The close-minded, fundamentalist, anti-science wacko image is cultivated in this movie, and people generally accept this characterization of creationists. Some creationists have said some pretty wacky things to help maintain this image, and the mass media continually reinforces the anti-creationist propaganda of the movie. Creationism would destroy science and modern civilization, say some evolutionists. How can creationists get around this bad public relation image? What are three common mistakes Christians make in the creation/evolution conflict? Johnson explains them and their consequences. Have the arguments of Richard Dawkins really proved the point? How can we make better use of the intelligent design argument? Johnson’s book is very helpful in answering these questions.
Did Clarence Darrow or David Hume really put an end to William Paley’s design argument for the existence of God? Paley argued that if one traveled over the heath and found a watch, one would rightly conclude that the watch contained abundant evidence of purpose and design. He applied this logic to living beings and concluded that an intelligent creator must have been designed and made them. Without producing evidence, Darrow argued that Paley was wrong. He suggested that if an uncivilized bushman or wild beast came upon the watch, they would not infer that the watch was designed. Hence, they would not conclude that someone planned and produced the watch. Furthermore, if a civilized man found an unfamiliar object, like a piece of quartz, it would never enter his head it was designed, implying that Paley’s argument from design for the existence of God is invalid. The logical flaws in Darrow’s thinking should be obvious. Your baloney detectors should be humming. The inability to recognize that someone designed and made the watch in no way changes the fact that it was made. Not thinking of design while observing a piece of quartz does not render a creator nonexistent. Does our lack of reflection on quarks mean they don’t exist?