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Darwin's Proof: The Triumph of Religion over Science

Cornelius G. Hunter

Brazos Press, (Paperback edition), 168 pp., 2003

Item# B081
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I had the opportunity recently to chat with Cornelius Hunter in his home in Cameron Park, California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada about 40 minutes from Sacramento. His first book, Darwin's God, was an instant success and I wanted to find out where this relatively unknown name in the origin controversy had come from. Hunter came across as a man deeply motivated by ideas. With a household of children and friends enjoying the warmth of a wood burning stove and a cup of hot apple cider, we talked about his journey from a successful high tech career in Silicon Valley to his recent Ph.D degree in molecular biophysics. We also talked about his personal journey from atheism to Christian theism, and his recent experience with a local school district when he presented a scientific critique on how the evidence for evolution was being misrepresented in their biology textbook. Like many of his colleagues in the ID movement, he was not raised as a Bible-believing fundamentalist, but rather has been on a personal and scientific journey that started from the Darwinian worldview. But having been on both sides, Hunter now realizes the Darwinian Evolution is not a scientific theory, or even a compelling theory. It is a religious philosophy that has found a home in science.

At first glance, the subtitle of Hunter's new book, Darwin's Proof: The Triumph of Religion over Science, might lead you to believe it is the rantings of some Fundamentalist about how the Bible is superior to science. However, his thesis is the exact opposite. He argues that it is evolution rather than ID that makes the strongest religious assumptions.

In his first book Hunter's focus was a scientific and historical critique of Darwinism. In this book he addresses both the scientific and historical shortcomings, as well as the philosophical and theological shortcomings of Darwinism. He explains why he finds Christian Theism a more satisfying theology, and Intelligent Design a better fit with the scientific evidence as well as a better framework from which to conduct scientific research.

Many readers new to the origins debate will also find his appendix helpful which contains an easy reference guide to Faulty Arguments for and against Evolution. If you find yourself debating classmates at school or engaged in an online forum debate on the topic, you will want to read this section first and avoid the grief of arguing down a dead end path, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on.

Endorsements:

The most perceptive analysis of the Darwinian controversy I have seen. Hunter teaches you a wealth of recent biological findings and, in a nuanced way, looks at the conclusions that can be fairly drawn. - Lawrence Johnston, University of Idaho

Table of Contents

  1. Darwin's Deceptive Idea
  2. Swallowing a Camel: The Fundamental Argument against Evolution
  3. Swallowing a Camel: The Fundamental Argument against Evolution, Part II
  4. Straining at the Gnat: The Scientific Argument against Evolution
  5. Straining at the Gnat: The Scientific Argument against Evolution, Part II
  6. Blind Guides: The Philosophical Argument against Evolution
  7. Another Gospel: The Theological Argument against Evolution
  8. A Reason for Hope: The Only Explanation for Life
  9. What Has Been Made: One Long Parable
  10. Come Let Us Reason: The Intelligent Design Theory

Appendix: Faulty Arguments for and against Evolution

EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK

From the preface
If it is true that to err is human then science is very human. From alchemy to radium tablets, science has a long history of blunders. But science learns from its mistakes and it is better known for its great triumphs. The mistakes are just part of the process. Scientists must watch for them and weed them out. Hence an important part of science is its constant introspection. It must always evaluate and reevaluate what it thinks is true. Scientists are taught that nothing is sacred--even the most popular theory may well be a mistake.

Introspection can be a difficult thing. It is far easier to see the blunders of the past than those of the present. Mistakes in the history of science can be analyzed dispassionately, but there is more at stake in contemporary thought. This book is about Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. It is, I believe, a blunder but a complicated one. Evolution is not good science, but this is not the whole story. It is not enough merely to point out how the scientific evidence is at odds with Darwin's theory. For evolution is an explanation of our origins, and inevitably the subject of origins involves religious sentiment. Ultimately, to understand evolution, we must understand the religious ideas that feed it

This book examines both the history and impact of those religious ideas. The story is complicated because it involves a subtle and deceptive mixture of fact and assumption. The facts are the observations of biology and the natural world; the assumptions are beliefs about how the world should work and about the actions of God. It can be exceedingly difficult to tease these facts and assumptions apart. The powerful arguments for evolution may sound scientific but there are imbedded crucial metaphysical premises.

There is a great consistency to evolutionary thought. The same rationale is used over and over. The reasoning and mode of argumentation may be subtle, but once it is understood it becomes obvious--a common thread running through the arguments for evolution. And once it is understood our view of evolution changes dramatically. It is not a scientific theory or even compelling theory. It is a religious philosophy that has found a home in science and dictates the underlying assumptions. It is still true, as it was said long ago, that theology is the queen of the sciences.

Finally, this book presents a better way to understand biology and life's origins. It will always be rejected by evolutionists for it is not based on evolution's religious philosophy. Again, despite the obvious evidence at hand, evolutionists are guided by the religion at the core of their theory.

From chapter one, "Darwin's Deceptive Idea"
Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution in 1859. Darwin said that all the species arose naturally. He claimed that populations in the wild are far more fluid than they appear to be. Whereas we observe distinct species, Darwin believed that over long periods of time those species could gradually evolve to become something completely different. A fish, for example, could become a frog. Thus the species were not created as they are, but rather arose gradually via natural processes.

No one doubts that species adjust to changing conditions. It is a fascinating and critical part of biology. The beaks of birds, for example, have been observed to change slightly during drought years. But the beaks are still beaks and the birds are still birds. Darwin's theory of evolution is not that such modest levels of change are possible, but that they somehow add up to far greater levels of change.

So while everyone agrees that evolution occurs to a very limited degree, what remains unobserved and downright questionable is Darwin's claim that it created all the species. Nonetheless, practically since Charles Darwin first proposed his theory, evolutionists have insisted that the controversial idea is a fact. The details may not all be known, they allow, but the overarching idea is not in question.

In the decades following the publishing of Darwin's works, Berkeley professor Joseph Le Conte argued that those who believe in evolution should not be referred to as evolutionists any more than those who believe in gravity should be referred to as gravitationalists. Evolution, according to Le Conte, was not to be regarded as mere theory, but as an unquestionable fact, or scientific law, on par with gravity.

Today, evolutionist Ernst Mayer echoes Le Conte's message that evolution should no longer be called a theory. Professor emeritus of zoology at Harvard University and one of the twentieth century's foremost evolutionists, it would be difficult to find a more authoritative voice in Darwinism than Mayr. The fact of evolution is "so overwhelmingly established," says Mary, "that it has become irrational to call it a theory."

The idea that evolution is a fact beyond rational dispute is broadly popular among Darwinists. In the hundred years or so separating the comments of Le Conte and Mayr, many evolutionists have made a similar claim. It is now seen as accepted wisdom in biology textbooks and popular literature.

The Fact of Evolution
This is a curious argument since the scientific evidence does not establish the fact of evolution. The evidence cited in favor of evolution does not hold up well under scrutiny, and there is plenty of evidence against evolution. In my previous book, Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil, I reviewed all the major evidence that evolutionists say proves their theory to be a fact. In every case the evidence is ambiguous or even argues against evolution. How then can evolution be a fact if even the positive evidence does not support it very well? The answer is that evolution is considered to be a fact because Darwinists believe they have disproven the alternative: divine creation. I showed how the evidences are repeatedly interpreted as powerful evidence for evolution by virtue of their implications for divine creation.

With divine creation, evolutionists point out, we must believe, for example, that God created species that later became extinct, that God created species with many similarities, and that God created a world with parasites and other dangers. I showed that these and many other arguments are consistently used by evolutionists when arguing for their theory. I also showed that this sentiment was popular in the years leading up to Darwin. I gave examples of traditions within the church that anticipated and even motivated Darwin.

As early as the seventeenth century, almost two hundred years before Darwin published his theory of evolution, philosophers and theologians were calling for an intermediate process between God and creation. By the time Darwin came around this call had only increased in volume. What was needed was a credible explanation of how the process worked. This was Darwin's contribution, for he filled in the details. With Darwin a rather ill-defined tradition, or set of traditions, became formalized.

But this was only part of the story. It was not merely a happy coincidence that Darwin's theory enjoyed support from certain areas outside of science. It was not serendipity that science was now proclaiming what many thinkers had envisioned in the preceding centuries. The other part of the story was that Darwin's development of the theory, as well as its continuing success, hinged on these sentiments about God and creation.

The Religion in Evolution
My conclusion in Darwin's God was not that evolution lacks evidence or that it is false. It has plenty of strong arguments but they rely on a certain view of God and creation. There is no way to reformulate the arguments without this key premise except by stripping them of their force, but then evolution would no longer be a fact; it would not even be very likely.

Is it not true, some will ask, that all of science incorporates religious assumptions? After all, physicists and chemists assume that there is a uniformity behind nature yet they cannot prove this to be true. This assumption must ultimately derive from a religious belief. This is true but not relevant to Darwinism. Modern science does include certain unprovable assumptions such as uniformity and parsimony, but Darwinism relies on more assumptions than just these. In particular, Darwinism's view of God and creation would be difficult to reconcile with Christianity.

Darwinism depends on religion, but only to overrun the opposing theory. Once this work is done evolutionists are free to pursue an entirely mechanistic explanation of life. Evolution, by default, becomes the explanatory filter for all we observe in nature, no matter how awkward the fit. About two thousand years ago the great mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy developed his complicated explanation for his Earth-centered system. He added epicycle upon epicycle to explain the motions of the Sun, Moon, and the planets. He could even predict eclipses.

So it is with Darwinism. Evolutionists add layer upon layer of circuitous explanation to fit nature into their theory. It sounds scientific because the explanation is purely mechanistic. There are no religious claims, for example, in the technical research journals, but journal articles do not attempt to prove the theory. They attempt to explain how evolution must have occurred, assuming that it did occur.

All of this means that Darwinism is subtle. It is not merely a case of science versus religion, or a case of atheism making its way into science. Nor is it a case of controversial religious ideas undermining science. The religious claims of Darwinists are, for many people, quite reasonable. They may not square with Scripture, but they sound good. Indeed, Darwinists usually state their claims as though they were simply a matter of fact. The religion that fed into Darwinism is taken for granted.

In the past half-century or so it has become fashionable to see science as a social construct driven by politics, funding constraints, personalities, and so forth. While such influences are obviously a reality in science, I do not believe they are usually dominant. Science can and has transcended outside influences to produce new and unique findings, but Darwinism is not one of them. Darwinism is an example of how powerful and yet subtle outside influences can steer our scientific thinking.

It was a sufficient task for me in writing Darwin's God to reveal these subtleties and expose the true nature of Darwinism. My aim was not to provide an alternative or to argue that evolution was wrong, therefore I did not detail the many evidences against the theory nor provide a replacement theory. I also did not discuss my personal religious belief, as it was not relevant to the task of critiquing Darwinism.

An Alternative Explanation
In this book I will argue that Darwinism is wrong, and I will present an alternative view. I will argue that Darwinism is wrong on four levels. First, in chapters 2 and 3 I will detail a sampling of the evidences against evolution. These are some of the many examples of complexity in biology that defy naturalistic explanations. It is always possible to contrive naturalistic explanations for what we observe in biology, but we must ask how likely such explanations are. On what basis should we believe that the most complex of machines that we know of arose on their own? As we shall see in these chapters, the Darwinist account is long on speculation and short on compelling explanations.

Chapters 4 and 5 argue against Darwinism on the second level. They show that even the positive evidences do not support evolution. Chapter 6 shows how Darwinism fails on yet another level: it is self-contradictory. Finally, Chapter 7 argues against Darwinism on the theological level.

Darwinism fails scientifically, philosophically, and theologically. It is not a good creation story. Chapters 8 and 9 argue that the biblical account is the only one that makes sense. It may not provide many scientific details, but it accurately describes the situation with which we are faced. As a Christian I know what the Scriptures say, and as a scientist I understand what we have discovered about nature. These two sources of revelation tell the same story. It is a myth that Christians must, in one way or another, reconcile their religious beliefs with what science has discovered.

How then should Christians conduct scientific research, especially in the life sciences? In Chapters 10 and 11 I argue for the intelligent design (ID) framework. Some argue that ID is not a very good Christian apologetic. Others argue that ID doesn't provide enough details--it doesn't tell us how the species were created or the age of the earth. Both criticisms are correct. ID is not an argument for the Bible, and it is not a theory of everything. It does, however, make predictions and provide a framework for scientific research.

One common criticism is that ID is a religious theory by virtue of its appeal to a designer. As we shall see, it is evolution rather than ID that makes strong religious assumptions. ID is unacceptable to Darwinists because ID does not incorporate evolution's religious assumptions, but ID has no problem with the existence of particular evolutionary processes to the extent that they are supported by the empirical evidence. This is one reason why ID allows for more diversity in its explanation that evolution. Darwin's exclusive focus on natural laws fails to account for our complex and interconnected biological world.

Another failed criticism is that ID is a stop-gap explanation that depends on our lack of knowledge. According to these critics, ID is merely a label used to explain things we have not yet figured out about biology. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The design inference is based on empirical evidence and rational analysis, not ignorance. Again, we shall see that it is evolution, rather than ID, that is a stop-gap explanation. Evolution loses its explanatory power as our knowledge increases. ID makes scientific predictions and provides a framework upon which to formulate subhypotheses and pursue further scientific investigation.


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