Phillip E. Johnson Replies to Nancey Murphy’s Review of Darwin on Trial

Excerpt from Reason in the Balance

Phillip E. Johnson replies in Reason in the Balance to Nancey Murphy’s review of Darwin on Trial.

“In her review of Darwin on Trial, Murphy faults me for failing to evaluate Darwinism on Lakatosian criteria. She concedes that it is difficult to determine whether a program is progressive or degenerative. (If Catholic modernism is an example of a progressive program, I certainly see the difficulty.) Even specific examples are hard to classify Is the neutral theory of molecular evolution a stunning discovery of the Darwinian research program or an auxiliary hypothesis invented to protect the core concept of evolution by natural selection from falsification? Murphy eventually decides that the Lakatosian criteria are inapplicable to this case, because they are designed for relative rather than absolute assessment of theories. She concludes that it is futile to attack Darwinism, because no replacement is available, and she asks, ‘What would evolutionary biologists do if there is no conception of the field to guide their research?’

The answer is that evolutionary biologists would still have a theory of micro-evolution to explicate, and they could spend the rest of their time looking for a valid theory of biological innovation rather than pretending that they already have one. (That evolutionary biologists fear unemployment tends more to call their objectivity into question than to establish that the theory they cherish is true.) Moreover, the reason Darwinism is the only game in town is that Darwinism (that is, blind watchmaker evolution) actually is the best biological creation story that the scientific naturalists who make the rules have been able to come up with. The true core idea that all the auxiliary hypotheses of Darwinism are protecting is naturalism.”

Phillip E. Johnson

Former Program Advisor, Center for Science and Culture
Phillip E. Johnson taught law for more than thirty years at the University of California — Berkeley where he was professor emeritus until his passing in 2019. He was recognized as a leading spokesman for the intelligent design movement, and was the author of many books, including Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.