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How Darwinist Myths Are Spread (Part II)

In Part I of this short response, I explained some false information about intelligent design promoted by George Kampis at East Tennessee State University. This second and final post will discuss the false information about both intelligent design arguments and Phillip Johnson that Kampis spread.

Dr. Kampis’s view was summarized as:

“Dr. Phillip Johnson, ID founder and longtime critic of Charles Darwin, rejects the concept of natural selection”

There are many problems here. “Intelligent design” was founded by scientists, and the term was coined in its modern form by chemist Charles Thaxton in the mid-1980s, before Johnson got involved with the subject. Jonathan Witt’s The Origin of Intelligent Design: A brief history of the scientific theory of intelligent design gives an excellent account of Thaxton’s coinage and early usage of the term.

But does Phillip Johnson “reject the concept of natural selection”? In reality, Johnson observes that natural selection occurs and that it works just fine; he just questions its creative power.

The problem for Darwinian evolution is giving natural selection something to select for: “Natural selection is the most famous element in Darwinism, but is not necessarily the most important element. Selection merely preserves or destroys something that already exists. Mutation has to provide the favorable innovations before natural selection can retain and encourage them.” (Phillip Johnson, Darwin On Trial, pg. 31)

Johnson even recounts six established examples of natural selection, including the Galápagos finches: “There is no reason to doubt that peculiar circumstances sometimes favor drug-resistant bacteria, or large birds as opposed to small ones…” (pgs. 26-27). This is ironic because Kampis’ claim that “evolutionary theory is well grounded in facts” was based upon a discussion of Darwin’s observations in the Galápagos Islands. Yet Johnson is rightly unimpressed with the minor variations between finch species on the Galápagos Islands:

None of the ‘proofs’ provides any persuasive reason for believing that natural selection can produce new species, new organs, or other major changes, or even minor changes that are permanent. … That larger birds have an advantage over smaller birds in high winds or droughts has no tendency to prove that similar factors caused birds to come into existence in the first place. (Darwin on Trial, pg. 27)

Has Kampis read Johnson’s work? Kampis’s viewpoint continues to misrepresent both Johnson and Discovery Institute:

“Johnson co-founded the Discovery Institute, a think tank that promotes the teaching of ID in the science classroom.”

This statement is doubly wrong: First, Discovery Institute was founded in 1990 by Bruce Chapman and George Gilder; Phillip Johnson had nothing to do with it. In fact, Discovery Institute did not start considering the ID issue until around 1995, and Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture was not founded until 1996. This lecture sounds like Darwinist mythology. Second, Discovery does not favor mandating ID for inclusion in schools. As Discovery’s Science Education Policy page has long-stated, “As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education.” Kampis then goes on to discuss the “wedge document”, apparently failing to mention Discovery’s response.

There is one Darwinist quoted in the article who got something right. Philosophy professor Dr. David Harker was quoted supporting suppression of the debate: “to engage in the debate seems to fuel it. When eminent scientists respond to ID supporters, it provides them with a platform and a sense of credibility.”

Given how Kampis barely managed to engage ID, I assume that Harker had nothing to worry about after sponsoring this lecture.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.