Evolution And Burden Of Proof — Open Letter to Pastor Ronn Johnson

Tonight as a part of the Project42 Convention, Minnesota Atheists president August Berkshire and Northwestern College professor Pastor Ronn Johnson had a debate, “Theism vs. Atheism: Which is the More Reasonable Worldview?”


I very much appreciate Ronn Johnson’s willingness to debate on this topic, and respect his right to hold whatever views he feels are correct. However, it was a painful experience for me to watch the debate.

There is one point in particular I will address with this post.

Pastor Ronn Johnson Is Not Impressed

Ronn referred to Richard Lenski’s Long-Term Experimental Evolution research and was not impressed by the demonstrated ability for organisms to evolve. It amounted to a combined argument from personal incredulity and an argument from ignorance.

Burden of Proof

In the first 50 years or so after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species the proponents of the theory had the burden of proof. It was a new theory, and all new theories must go through the rigorous process science demands to become accepted.

Today, the Theory has many independent lines of evidence converging on the same conclusion: evolution is a fact. It is one of the, if not the, most highly verified scientific theories ever.


As with any theory with massive explanatory power, there are debates in the scientific community about subtleties of mechanisms and their respective weights on outcomes.

The Burden Is On the Deniers

There are two options if someone wants to claim evolution is not a fact today.

  1. All of the individual scientists who have contributed to our understanding of evolution are part of a giant conspiracy. They are manipulating the results of their research in a monumental way to reach a conclusion they want.
  2. The scientific method itself is flawed, and can not reveal truth about reality.

Ronn, you must prove that one of the above options is true. As a part of that, you would need to also discredit all of the fossil, DNA, chronology and geographic evidences, etc. You would need to show that ALL scientists are either villains hiding the truth from everyone and are well organized and competent enough at conspiracies to pull off the sham, or they are all incompetent in using a scientific method which does not reveal truth.

Until you do these things, you must realize that your denial of evolution is a purely faith-based position.

Good luck. I’ll be waiting for your response.


Josh Nankivel, iamSkeptic.com

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Comment by Loren Miller on September 25, 2011 at 11:09am
The Berkeley website you cite is excellent.  Thanks for putting that up!
Comment by Nick on September 25, 2011 at 9:57am
I fully agree ,he must answer the two items and then give at least one item off verifiable proof that their is a god ,the ball is now in his court.

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