I had been vaguely aware that there were problems, but Id
never had any intention of taking up the subject seriously or in detail until the 1987-88
academic year, when I was visiting a professor in London. Every day on the way to my
office I happened to go by a large bookstore devoted to science. I picked up one book
after another and became increasingly fascinated with the obvious difficulties in the
Darwinist casedifficulties that were being evaded by tricky rhetoric and emphatic
repetition. I then began delving into the professional literature, especially in
scientific journals such as Nature and Science. At every step, what I found was a failure
of the evidence to be in accord with the theory.
What was it that initially made you suspect that Darwinism was more
philosophy than hard science?
It was the way my scientific colleagues responded when I asked the
hard questions. Instead of taking the intellectual questions seriously and responding to
them, they would answer with all sorts of evasions and vague language, making it
impossible to discuss the real objections to Darwinism. This is the way people talk when
theyre trying very hard not to understand something.
Another tip-off was the sharp contrast I noticed between the extremely
dogmatic tone that Darwinists use when addressing the general public and the occasional
frank acknowledgements, in scientific circles, of serious problems with the theory. For
example, I would read Stephen Jay Gould telling the scientific world that Darwinism was
effectively dead as a theory. And in the popular literature, I would read Gould and other
scientific writers saying that Darwinism was fundamentally healthy, and that scientists
had the remaining problems well under control. There was a contradiction here, and it
looked as though there was an effort to keep the outside world from becoming aware of the
serious intellectual difficulties.
What are some of the intellectual difficulties? Can you give an
The most important is the fossil problem, because this is a direct
record of the history of life on earth. If Darwinism were true, you would expect the
fossil evidence to contain many examples of Darwinian evolution. You would expect to see
fossils that really couldnt be understood except as transitions between one kind of
organism and another. You would also expect to see some of the common ancestors that gave
birth to different groups like fish and reptiles. You wouldnt expect to find them in
every case, of course. Its perfectly reasonable to say that a great deal of the
fossil evidence has been lost. But you would continually be finding examples of things
that fit well with the theory.
In reality, the fossil record is something that Darwinists have had to
explain away, because what it shows is the sudden appearance of organisms that exhibit no
trace of step-by-step development from earlier forms. And it shows that once these
organism exist, they remain fundamentally unchanged, despite the (alleged) passage of
millions of yearsand despite climatic and environmental changes that should have
produced enormous Darwinian evolution if the theory were true. In short, if evolution is
the gradual, step-by-step transformation of one kind of thing into another, the
outstanding feature of the fossil record is the absence of evidence for evolution.
But isnt it possible, as many Darwinists say that the fossil
evidence is just too scanty to show evidence of Darwinian evolution?
The question is whether or not Darwinism is a scientific theory
that can be tested with the scientific evidence. If you assume the theory is true, you can
deal with conflicting evidence by saying that the evidence has disappeared. But then the
question arises, how do you know its true if it isnt recorded in the fossils?
Where is the proof? Its not in genetics. And its not in the molecular
evidence, which shows similarities between organisms but doesnt tell you how those
similarities came about. So the proof isnt anywhere, and its illegitimate to
approach the fossil record with the conclusive assumption that the theory is true so that
you can read into the fossil record whatever you need to support the theory.
If Darwinism has been so thoroughly disconfirmed, why do so many
scientists say its a fact?
There are several factors that can explain this. One, is that
Darwinism is fundamentally a religious position, not a scientific position. The project of
Darwinism is to explain the world and all its life forms in a way that excludes any role
for a creator. And that project is sacred to the scientific naturalistto the person
who denies that God can in any way influence natural events. Its also an unfortunate
fact in the history of science that scientists will stick to a theory, which is untrue,
until they get an acceptable alternative theorywhich to a Darwinist means a strictly
naturalistic theory. So for them, the question is not whether Darwinism is true. The
question is whether there is a better theory thats philosophically acceptable. In
their eyes, Darwinism is the best naturalistic theory, and therefore effectively true. The
argument that its false cant even be heard.
Surely there are some skeptics in the scientific world. What of
Well, there are several, and we can see what happened to them. You
have paleontologist Colin Patterson, whos quoted in my first chapter. He made a very
bold statement, received a lot of criticism, and then pulled back. This is a typical
Another pattern is that of Stephen Jay Gould, who said that Darwinism
is effectively dead as a general theoryand then realized that he had given a
powerful weapon to the creationists, whose existence cannot be tolerated. So now Gould
says that hes really a good Darwinist, and that all he really meant was that
Darwinism could be improved by developing a larger theory that included Darwinism. What we
have here is politics, not science. Darwinism is politically correct for the scientific
community, because it enables them to fight off any rivals for cultural authority.
Darwinists often accuse creationists of intolerance. But youre
suggesting that the Darwinists are intolerant?
If you really want to know what Darwinist science is really like,
read what the Darwinists say about the creationists, because those thingsregardless
of whether theyre true about the creationistsare true about the Darwinists.
Ive found that people often say things about their enemies, which are true of
themselves. And I think Darwinist science has many of the defects that the Darwinists are
so indignant about when they describe the creationists.
Across the country, there has been a growing trend toward teaching
evolution as a factespecially in California, your own state. What does this say
about science education in America?
This is an attempt to establish a religious position as orthodox
throughout the education establishment, and thus throughout the society. Its gone
very far. The position is what I call "scientific naturalism". The scientific
organizations, for example, tell us that if we wish to maintain our countrys
economic status and cope with environmental problems, we must give everyone a scientific
outlook. But the "scientific outlook" they have in mind is one, which, by
definition, excludes God from any role in the world, from the Big Bang to present. So this
is fundamentally a religious positiona fundamentalist position, if you likeand
its being taught in the schools as a fact when it isnt even a good theory.
Why should Christians be concerned about a scientific theory? Why
does it matter?
Well, not only Christians should care about it. Everyone should. It
is a religion in the name of science, and that means that it is misleading people about
both religion and science.
The following is an excerpt from the book "Darwin on Trial"
by Phillip E. Johnson (Regnery Gateway, 1991, p.58-60)
Just about everyone who took a college biology course during the
last 60 years or so has been led to believe that the fossil record was a bulwark of
support for the classic Darwinian thesis, not a liability that had to be explained away.
And if we didnt take a biology class we saw "Inherit the Wind" and laughed
along with everyone else when Clarence Darrow made a monkey out of William Jennings Bryan.
But I wonder if Bryan would have looked like such a fool if he could have found a
distinguished paleontologist having one of those "honest moments", and produced
him as a surprise witness to tell the jury and the theater audience that the fossil record
shows a consistent pattern of sudden appearance followed by stasis, that lifes
history is more a story of variation around a set of basic designs than one of
accumulating improvement, that extinction has been predominated by catastrophe rather than
gradual obsolescence, and that orthodox interpretations of the fossil record often owe
more to Darwinist preconception than to the evidence itself. Imagine the confusion that
Bryan could have caused by demanding the right to read his own preferred evidence into
those famous gaps! Why not, if Darwin could do it? Paleontologists seem to have thought it
their duty to protect the rest of us from the erroneous conclusions we might have drawn if
we had known the actual state of the evidence. (Stephen Jay) Gould described "the
extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record" as "the trade secret
of paleontology". Steven Stanley explained that the doubts of paleontologists about
gradualistic evolution were for long years "suppressed". He wrote that the
process began with T.H. Huxley himself, who muted "his negative attitudes toward
gradual change and natural selection," presumably because "as a believer, Huxley
was not inclined to aid those who were disposed to throw the baby of evolution out with
the bath water of gradualistic natural selection." But why would Huxley fear that,
unless the baby and the bath water were impossible to separate?
Niles Eldredge has been even more revealing: "We paleontologists
have said that the history of life supports (the story of gradual adaptive change), all
the while really knowing that it does not." But how could a deception of this
magnitude possibly have been perpetrated by the whole body of a respected science,
dedicated almost by definition to the pursuit of truth? Eldredges explanation is all
too believable to anyone familiar with the ways of the academic world: "Each new
generation, it seems, produces a few young paleontologists eager to document examples of
evolutionary change in their fossils. The changes they have always looked for have, of
course, been of the gradual progressive sort. More often than not their efforts have gone
unrewardedtheir fossils, rather than exhibiting the expected pattern, just seem to
persist virtually unchanged
This extraordinary conservatism looked, to the
paleontologist keen on finding evolutionary change, as if no evolution had occurred. Thus
studies documenting conservative persistence rather than gradual evolutionary change were
considered failures, and, more often than not, were not even published.
Most paleontologists were aware of the stability, the lack of change we
But insofar as evolution itself is concerned, paleontologists usually saw
stasis as "no results" rather than a contradiction of the prediction of gradual,
progressive evolutionary change. Gaps in the record continue (to this day) to be invoked
as the prime reason why so few cases of gradual change are found. (like
zero!)Paleontologists who have to work under the influence of neo-Darwinism do not have
the same freedom to draw whatever conclusions their evidence leads them to. Eldredge has
described the paleontologists dilemma frankly: "Either you stick to
conventional theory despite the rather poor fit of the fossils, or
you must embrace a
set of rather dubious biological propositions." Paleontology, it seems, is a
discipline in which it is sometimes unseemly to "focus on the empirics."
For more of Phillip Johnson's writings visit his web site at