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Doubting Darwin

National | Biblical creationists could learn a lesson from Darwinists

Issue: "Children of Chernobyl," April 13, 1996

What is evolution? Does it simply mean that plants and animals can adapt to changing circumstances? Or does it mean birds descend from dinosaurs and people from apes?

Did life arise spontaneously when clusters of molecules somehow devised ways to increase their complexity and to reproduce their kind? If so, where is a role for God in any of this?

John Wiester, a science instructor at Biola University and Westmont College and chairman of the Science Education Commission of the American Scientific Affiliation, has been asking questions like these for more than a decade. Mr. Wiester is especially concerned by what students are taught about evolution. "What we're talking about here is Darwinian fundamentalism," he observes. "The Darwinists teach their ideology-that we are the result of purposeless, accidental forces-as science. This is a tragedy for authentic science and rational thought."

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A good example of ideology posing as science is the tale of Biston betularia, more commonly known as the peppered moth of Birmingham, England. Prior to 1850 most of these moths were light in color with a sprinkle of dark spots and stripes. Only a few were entirely black. As smoke from industry coated the buildings and trunks of trees around Birmingham with a layer of dark soot, the number of dark moths gradually increased. By the turn of the century virtually all the moths were dark.

Darwinists have long hailed this dramatic change in the peppered moth as a spectacular example of evolution in action. Photographs of both versions of the moth were widely published in high school and university biology textbooks. The late Isaac Asimov's New Guide to Science used the little moth as proof for the entire theory of evolution. Thus, the same theory that describes the color change in the moth somehow explains the origin of its precisely designed brain, eyes, wings, and even the DNA in its cells.

But there's more to this story. The color change in peppered moths occurred after birds could easily find the light versions perched on soot-coated tree trunks and buildings. Consequently the formerly rare dark versions became dominant. Over the past few decades, however, changes in industry and clean air laws have significantly improved the quality of the air around Birmingham. As buildings and tree trunks lost their coating of soot, the pale version of the peppered moth returned.

Textbooks still proclaim the peppered moth a classic example of Darwinian evolution. But the moth never evolved into a cricket, dragonfly, or even a butterfly. Instead, it demonstrates a superb, cleverly designed ability to adapt to changes in its environment. This ability is shared by countless other organisms, ranging from bacteria to people. Yet Darwinists would have us believe that adaptation proves that the various kinds of life arose from simpler forms and that our ultimate ancestors were little different from modern bacteria.

For thousands of years people have conducted a massive experiment in speeding up the evolutionary process by artificially manipulating the reproduction of domestic animals and plants. These experiments have conclusively shown that there are definite limits to change. Cats remain cats, dogs remain dogs, and neither has evolved hooves, antlers, or feathers.

To their credit, some evolutionists have tackled this and other problems with Darwinism, such as the tendency for most forms of life to remain stable through vast epochs of time. But others have vigorously attacked those who would question the fundamentals of Darwinism as unqualified, ignorant, or worse. When professional scientists ask why evolutionism is considered the underlying theme that unifies all biology, they are either ignored or castigated as pseudoscientists or religious fundamentalists.

Phillip E. Johnson, professor of law at the University of California's Boalt Hall School of Law, once watched all this from the sidelines. Mr. Johnson was particularly interested in the underlying agendas of Darwinism. And he was concerned by the methods Darwinists use to advance their agenda-the bashing of creationists, the firing of teachers, the censoring of books, and the intellectual dishonesty inherent throughout Darwinism.

In 1991, Mr. Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial, a carefully crafted exposé of the philosophical underpinnings of evolutionary dogma. Evolutionary scientists were outraged that a non-scientist, especially an intelligent and articulate professor of law at a distinguished institution, would dare to confront them on their own turf. But their sometimes vicious attacks simply bounced off the unflappable professor, who began giving lectures on Darwinism around the country. Johnson's book is now required reading in some college courses, including one taught by an atheist. And Alabama has just distributed 900 copies of the book to science teachers in that state.

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