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Perhaps the most dispiriting book I have ever read.
on 11 December 2007
Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds by Philip Johnson is a total sham of a book. If it were possible to give this minus five stars it would still be insufficient to describe how dreadful this book really is. Johnson never has any intention of opening minds in this book except to get them to accept religion and reject science. Otherwise the intention is to nail them shut against any possibility that God never did have anything to do with creation or the universe and most likely never existed in the first place. All claims that this book offers a balanced argument should be dismissed from this point forward.
Johnson, a lawyer by trade, has not a single science qualification to his name. That has not prevented him writing upon a subject of which he is largely ignorant. His understanding of science is partial in the extreme and wholly dependent upon a vast swathe of misconceptions, sweeping assertions, selective presentations of the facts and in places, outright lies. Particularly despicable is the twisting he inflicts upon Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit which Johnson has taken from Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World". Johnson is careful not to apply his twisted version of Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit to his own writing for to do so would expose the vacuous level of his own thinking.
At the bottom of Johnson's view of our existence is the assertion that God did it. Such assertions have only the intention of appealing to those who already have a bias against science who wish to have that bias reinforced. In this respect Johnson become their hero. It would be impossible in this review to highlight all of the things Johnson get wrong, misrepresents or lies about, so I have selected just four, although it would be possible to select four hundred more.
Pg 94 We know that the Darwinian mechanism doesn't work and that complex biological system never were put together by the accumulation of random mutations through natural selection.
Johnson makes this assertion without any evidence to back it up. All attempts made by the ID brigade since the publication of this book to demonstrate what they alone term, irreducible complexity have completely failed. Only one example was ever forthcoming, the bacterial flagellum, and the research accompanying it was shown to be wrong and not an explanation of the flagellum's structure.
Pg. 113 Darwinism in the west is in much the same condition as was Soviet Marxism in its days. Its power and prestige rest not on any real scientific accomplishments but on the theory's role in upholding the ruling philosophy.
Apart from the fallacious linkage the charge of no scientific accomplishment is utterly wrong and a blatant lie. There is overwhelming evidence of the scientific achievements available in every public library. Darwin's work made possible the discovery of DNA and the genetic code that today is making a revolution in medical treatment. Johnson however will not acknowledge any of this for to do so would destroy his position.
Johnson has no intention of being honest with his readers. He is deliberately writing to deceive those who are not in a position to pull his lacklustre posturing to pieces. For this reason the writing style is not an academic one, but one that starts like a friendly chat before going on to become a thinly veiled polemic.
Pg. 114 The biologists are at each throats in private, fighting over every detail in the Darwinist scientific program.
This is Johnson's complete misrepresentation of the scientific method which requires that scientists lay their work open to attempts by others to falsify it. Johnson however twists the process to make it seem as if disagreement means a theory, in this case evolution, is false or unworkable. The only thing false is Johnson for it is his deliberate twisting that is designed to mislead the reader.
Not content with lies, misrepresentations and fact twisting, Johnson attempts to portray scientists as purveyors of a harsh soulless enterprise.
Pg. 96 There can be no science of value, or of beauty or of goodness.
That so much of the legacy of science has already improved human life is not even mentioned. That a world of near infinite beauty has been opened up in biology with human genome project matters not a jot for a man determined to put his God at the centre of creation. Stop looking for scientific answers is his message. We have the Bible. We know better than you do. Sorry Johnson. You don't know better and you are peddling ignorance.
That this book is nearly devoid of footnote references is not surprising. There must be few publications anywhere from which unadulterated quotes can be taken to back up Johnson's position. Rather Johnson turns the notes section into a diatribe for his rhetoric and opinions thus rendering even this section of the book utterly worthless.
Defeating Darwinism is a awful book. If the subject matter had been a living individual as opposed to current science Johnson would more likely than not have sued for libel and deformation of character. But because his target is science Johnson manages to duck under that hurdle. This book will appeal only if you think ID is credible, otherwise it will be a dire read. However, if you are a genetic scientist or paleontologist, get a copy to see the sort of bigotry your years of hard work earns in the minds of those who are determined to replace understanding and science with dark-age theology. You need to know how to answer these people and that is the only benefit of this otherwise awful book: Johnson has at least done us all the service of putting theism's position on paper complete with its dodgy rhetoric and outright lies so it can be challenged and answered.