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Demolishing darwin? - not at all
on 3 January 2011
This is a well structured and coherent text in which the eminent law professor clearly lays out his arguments. The premise is that a non-biologist may offer a convincing riposte to the vast body of evidence built up in favour of evolution. However, the book is far too short to offer any kind of convincing argument, and while the author has done a good job of choosing relevant information to make himself appear knowledgable, the case he presents is at worst disingenuous, as he neglects to paint the whole picture of the supporting evidence from the entire subject of biology, as set out in, for example, Dawkins' book "The Greatest Show on Earth".
My big problem is, what makes a law professor think that he can offer convincing arguments against one of the most established scientific theories of our time? I suspect that he would not be so bold as to present arguments against inflationary theory in cosmology (far less evidence) or the heliocentric model of the solar system (about as equally convincing as evolution). No, the only reason that any non-specialist would feel so confident in writing about such a subject is that it is evolution - and the man clearly lays out early on, lest he be accused of bias, that he is a christian. Although not said explicitly, the idea that God could possibly interfere to guide or accelerate the evolutionary process clearly appeals to him, as he fails to provide a suitable alternative explanation, other than supernatural, for the processes which he feels are not explained adequately by the modern synthesis. The sad thing is, the man will be preaching to the converted to many people whose religious beliefs guide them away from accepting the truth of evolutionary fact and it's excellent explanatory power.
The claim that Johnson is, as a professor of law, highly qualified to pronounce on the truth or otherwise of scientific theories surprises me further when the level or proof that would seem to satisfy the author is far greater than that required in a court of law to convict a murderer or rapist. the book argues that because there are gaps in the fossil record and because we have never seen speciation happen right in front of our eyes (how would this be possible anyway?!), this somehow undermines the entire edifice and network of supporting evidence. Yet such is the level of determined disbelief that the actual requirement of 'proof' is absurdly high. He also states that the theory cannot be falsified - well perhaps in the strict Popperian sense, but most scientists regard that requirement as far too strict for the requirement of working scientists. Anyway, as Haldane said, the theory could easily be falsified by "rabbits in the Precambrian". It hasn't been.
Anyway, this book will only convince people who are already convinced. Do yourself a favour and read a book that sets out the beauty of the theory in relation to all of the subjects - biology, zoology, genetics, geology etc. that provide the level of supporting evidence that has led to the theory being accepted, in full not part, not only by scientists, but the pope, the Archbishop etc.