Opening Salvo by James M. Kushiner
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Phillip Johnson's groundbreaking book, Darwin on Trial. The anniversary was marked this past summer in Seattle by the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, one of Salvo's partner organizations. The tribute was called "The Book That Changed the World: Darwin on Trial at 20."
Really? It "Changed the World"? That's an audacious claim for a book. Nor was it the goal of Johnson, who didn't think Darwin on Trial was revolutionary at all. He originally had hoped that it would simply facilitate a rational discussion of the serious questions about Darwinism that were increasingly being raised by such scientists as molecular biologist Michael Denton, who five years earlier had thrown down the gauntlet with Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Maybe Denton helped changed the world, too?
A Collision Course
But what do we mean by "world"? The word is from the Old Saxon weoruld, which means, roughly, the Age of Man. In Greek, the word is cosmos, "orderly arrangement." Latin translated that as mundus, with the idea of elegance, cleanness. The Romans and Greeks saw the world as ordered out of and against chaos—arranged for a reason, certainly for man.
Darwin's theory, which posited that everything came into being by chance from strictly material causes, can truly be said to have "changed the world" by turning this understanding inside out. Evolution declares that the world is not orderly, but a chance arrangement; that any appearance of elegance is due not to design or purpose, but to accident; and that it came to be, not with man in view, but for no particular reason at all.
So here are two worldviews in collision: one in which the possibility of divine creation is real; the other in which it is completely unnecessary, though it may be allowed as a private religious opinion that has nothing to do with the real world, real science, or the way things really are.
But then along comes Johnson, who shows that the gaps and growing problems in Darwin's theory are substantial enough to warrant a rigorous scientific response. There are facts and hard evidence to be considered. It is unreasonable for Darwinists simply to dismiss these problems and attempt to discredit the critics by calling them "creationists." Yet in schools and think tanks and numerous other venues, the dictum remains: Only materialist explanations need apply.
In Darwin on Trial, Johnson argues that many orthodox Darwinians defend evolution so stridently because of their prior commitment to philosophical materialism or naturalism. For them, the universe and all it contains—including man—must be explained, from beginning to end, by physical laws and events, without recourse to divine creation or intervention. In such a world, something like Darwinism has to be true, whatever the facts may be.
But consider someone who holds to philosophical naturalism and atheism but is able to read Darwin on Trial with an open mind. If he becomes convinced that Johnson's questions about Darwinism are reasonable, and is willing seriously to consider the evidence for the possibility of design, his world may indeed change.
A Real World-Changer
There is a great deal at stake in the two worldviews. You may view the world as an accident—even an incredibly lucky one, as Richard Dawkins does—despite the lack of evidence. Or you may be convinced by the facts and arguments in a book such as Darwin on Trial to see the world as a gift, and to see your life and the lives of others as sacred gifts.
Darwin on Trial, along with the books it has inspired, has helped change the world for many who thought the case for Darwinism was open-and-shut. For others, Johnson helped keep the world from being downgraded from gift to accident.
So, reader, remember: Your life is a gift. That is indeed an audacious claim, and it will change the world of anyone who can see it.
—James M. Kushiner
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