The December 19, 1997, program of "Firing Line" was billed as a creation/evolution free-for-all. Creationists nationwide anticipated a resounding victory in the panel discussion/debate.
And why not? The four "creationists" included three anti-Darwinian champions; law professor Phillip Johnson, biochemist Michael Behe, and philosopher David Berlinski (all authors of outstanding works critiquing evolution), and political observer William Buckley. Certainly they could expose evolution for the failed and religious theory that it is.
On the evolution side of the table were philosopher Michael Ruse, biologist Kenneth Miller, anti-creationist activist Eugenie Scott, and advocate for liberal causes Barry Lynn, together comprising an equally all-star cast.
As the dust settled, both sides claimed victory. Unfortunately, the forum had not been conducive to careful, well-reasoned arguments; rather it was for showboating and TV ratings. My assessment was that while the evolutionists had the better showmen, and their opponents probably had the better arguments, all-in-all it was a frustrating waste of a good opportunity. A look at the arguments of the anti-Darwinists will explain why.
Phillip Johnson has wonderfully articulated the philosophical nature of evolution, equating it with the "religion" of naturalism. Naturalism, by definition, excludes the possibility of supernatural activity. Unfortunately, his argument was blunted as two of the four evolutionists identified themselves as "theists," allowing that a supernatural God may have orchestrated evolution. But what God?
Michael Behe, whose presentation of biochemical design has captured the thoughts of many, found his analogies attacked rather than his main points by the charismatic Miller. No evolutionist would deny design anyway. They just attribute it to natural selection.
David Berlinski, whose telling articles have admirably exposed the lack of scientific evidence for evolution, especially the lack of transitional fossils, found that the-4 on 4- banter obscured the truth and allowed evolutionist claims to go unanswered. Besides, how could the "intelligent design" theory explain fossil extinction?
William Buckley pleaded for openness in education and science, but advocated little other than theism as a possibility. Imagine his consternation when he was reminded that the Pope has evidently sanctioned evolution. Since both Buckley and Behe are Catholics, this further weakened their position.
Here's the problem, as I see it. None of the anti-evolutionists were Biblical creationists, choosing to leave God and His record of origins out of the discussion. By not relying on the Genesis Flood to explain fossils, the curse as the ultimate source of mutations and extinctions, the God of the Bible as the intelligence behind the design we see, their position was weakened and disunited.
ICR very much appreciates the work of Johnson, Behe, and Berlinski, but we recognize that without Biblical creationism they fall short of a God-pleasing mark. Any form of old-Earth thinking, theistic evolution, or progressive creation is so similar to secular evolution that their defense is ultimately a waste of time.
*Dr. John Morris is President of ICR.