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Darwinism Defeated?

The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins Buy book at Amazon

This volume contains a debate between design advocate Phillip E. Johnson and evolutionary biologist Denis Lamoureux, with commentary from other scholars in this debate. Though differing in opinion over evolution, all contributors are Christians who conduct the discussion in a civil manner. 

Dr. Lamoureux asks challenging questions of Johnson, asserting that Johnson’s position is based upon “God-of-the-gaps” type arguments. Lamoureax also challenges Johnson’s arguments on the fossil record, claiming that there are examples of transitional forms. Lamoureax ends by pressing Johnson to list “how many university-level courses you have successfully completed in biology, and could you be specific in your answer indicating what type of biology these were.”

Johnson, who is also Program Advisor to Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, replies that from a Christian perspective, we have good reason to expect that God has revealed himself in the natural world. Romans 1:20 explains that God’s work has made Him “clearly seen.” In contrast, Darwinism tells us that all the design in the world is merely an illusion. According to Johnson, assigning God a detectable role is not bad science or theology. Johnson also points out that many of Lamoureax’s arguments focus on Johnson’s scientific qualifications. Regarding alleged evolutionary transitions, Johnson points out that he addresses these issues in his other books, such as Darwin on Trial (which apparently was well-liked by some Darwinist paleontologists, such as David Raup).

Some of the other contributions in this book also debate whether it is theologically appropriate to give God a role in the creation. 

Director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, Stephen Meyer, takes aim at Lamoureux’s argument that intelligent design commits the “God-of-the-gaps” fallacy. Meyer justifies the fact that evolutionary processes cannot account for the origin of biological information. But Meyer explains that intelligent design does not therefore commit the gaps-fallacy: “Design theorists infer design not merely because natural processes cannot explain the origin of such things as biological systems but because these systems manifest the distinctive hallmarks of intelligently designed systems.” (pg. 92) Meyer thus refutes Lamoureux’s argument because intelligent design is inferred “based upon what we know, not what we do not know, about the causal powers of nature and intelligent agents.” (pg. 92) 

Similarly, Michael Behe, Senior Discovery Fellow, explains that while Denis Lamoureux accuses design proponents of committing the “God-of-the-gaps” fallacy, history shows that in many cases, scientists have committed “materialism of the gaps.” For example, Stanley Miller thought he explained how the prebiotic soup could have formed, but now we know his assumptions about the earth’s atmosphere were incorrect. Moreover, materialist scientists used to use tortured cosmology to argue the universe was eternal, but now we know it is finite and had a beginning. Behe believes that there is no reason to assume that “God wanted to cover his tracks” and Christians are not theologically wrong to state that there is scientific evidence for intelligent design. 

Finally, Jonathan Wells, a molecular biologist and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, writes a scientifically-oriented chapter, explaining some scientific problems with evolution. While Darwin’s theory is very good at explaining small-scale changes about evolution within species, the fossil record belies the claim that animals evolved from a common ancestor. Moreover, genetic data do not show the types of variations needed within populations to allow for large-scale evolution. The genetic data even indicates that the differences between organisms lie not in their basic developmental genes, which are nearly identical. This suggests evolutionary biologists “have been looking in the wrong place” to explain evolution. Wells feels that Darwinism has become falsified orthodoxy, and that religious scientists should feel no need to defend it. 

This is an intriguing exchange between various scientists on both sides of this debate. Other contributors not associated with Discovery include Michael W. Caldwell, Keith B. Miller, Michael Denton, J.I. Packer, Howard J. Van Till, Rikki E. Watts, Loren Wilkinson.

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.