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How Did We Get Here?

Letter 4
Phillip E. Johnson, November 26, 1996

Dear Kenneth:

The message of Sunday's first installment of the Nilsson series was pure recapitulationism: "The journey of each of us reflects the journey of our species," and "This is the Odyssey of Life as it reflects the course of evolution in days instead of millennia." The program conveyed the impression that embryos start out the same and evolve differences later in development, with no hint that the early stages of vertebrate development are actually radically dissimilar. Haeckel's Law may be dead in science, but its appeal to the Darwinian imagination keeps it alive.

The program also gave Darwin's mechanism of mutation and selection an unqualified endorsement, as the supposed builder of a genetic program directing development. This is the primary point in controversy, because (whether or not all organisms share a common ancestor) the most important claim of "evolution" is that you don't need a mind to produce the vast complexity of organisms.

This "blind watchmaker" thesis is continually presented as fact, but it could better be called materialist mythology. The mechanism is observed only at the micro level, and it certainly hasn't been shown capable of producing the kind of alterations in embryonic development which macroevolution would require. Furthermore, the fossil record pervasively fails to reflect the gradual progressive changes that would be expected if evolution worked through the accumulation of micromutations.

The program cites cilia (hair-like propellers) as a triumph of evolution, but microbiologist Michael Behe has shown that cilia are irreducibly complex mechanisms. Behe reports that there are no plausible Darwinian scenarios for the gradual evolution of cilia or other complex molecular systems. We don't often hear about the troubles with natural selection in Nova specials! Why not?

Difficulties with the mechanism are swept aside because "evolution" aspires to be both a branch of experimental science and a naturalistic religion. The religious objective predominated Sunday night. The message was "believe that evolution is your true creator, and you will find your proper place in nature." To that end all the propaganda stops were pulled out, including the dog that became a dolphin. (Try detailing the functional intermediate steps.) Embryology, which is full of phenomena that disappoint Darwinian expectations, was repackaged as "ontogeny sort of recapitulates phylogeny, if you look at the evidence selectively and through Darwinian lenses."

The heart of the Darwinian religion is the claim, advanced in all the textbooks, that evolution is an undirected and purposeless process that produced humans by accident. Because the Darwinists are so determined to have us believe that, they tend to slide over facts that might raise doubts.

I'll address your fossil points in my next message (the program and the mechanism had to come first). Will you answer this: Why do the textbooks (including yours) insist that evolution is undirected and purposeless? Is that a finding of science, or a philosophical assumption?

Best regards,

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