Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Bill Dembski remembers Phil Johnson (1940–2019)


Dembski begins by reminding us of the book, Darwin’s Nemesis (2006), which introduced Johnson as “the leading figure” in the intelligent design movement—which he was.

Johnson was perhaps the first person after David Berlinski to just ask, point blank, never mind religion or whatever, why does all this tabloid-level nonsense rule biology?

Dembski, himself author of The Design Inference and many other ID works, goes on to say,

Phil was a law professor specializing in criminal law. In fact, he wrote one of the key textbooks on criminal law (you can find his legal texts on Amazon, where one of the volumes retails for over $400). In criminal law, guilt must be decided to a moral certainty and beyond reasonable doubt. Phil’s standards of evidence were thus always high. He therefore eschewed the porous Darwinian thinking that could see evolutionary connections and the hand of natural selection not because there was hard evidence for these but because materialistic bias required it.

This is why, to this day, the ID community is, by and large, unconvinced of common descent (and not just skeptical of the power of natural selection). It’s not that common descent is inimical to ID (Mike Behe, a key ID proponent, accepts both common descent and ID). It’s just that, to a hard-nosed criminal attorney like Phil, common descent, to be credible, requires compelling evidence and not a handwaving argument to the effect that reasonable minds must needs explain biological similarity in terms of evolutionary connectedness.

Phil’s habit of mind of following the evidence where it leads and not being misled by assumptions that are suspect is perhaps Phil’s greatest gift to the ID community. We see it in Steve Meyer ’s book Darwin’s Doubt. We see it everywhere in the ID community to this day!

Bill Dembski, “Phillip E. Johnson (1940-2019), Some Reflections” at Freedom, Technology, Education

See also: Thinkmag tributes to the late Phillip Johnson. Stonestreet and Morris: Johnson’s articulation that naturalism had not only poisoned science but also law and ethics shaped Chuck Colson’s thinking, and consequently, shaped BreakPoint.

Phillip Johnson: Jun 18, 1940–Nov 2, 2019 (aged 79) The father of intelligent design theory. Peacefully in his sleep.


Remembering the impact of Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial (1991) “Biochemist Michael Behe explains how a biased critique of Darwin on Trial in the journal Science led Behe to join the ID movement.” – Casey Luskin And, as a tenured professor, Behe went on to be a thorn in the Darwinians’ side insofar as their strategy had, for so long, been to prevent critics from acquiring accepted credentials.

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Clearly Johnson and his fellow ID’ists under estimated the Darwinists ethical and intellectual dishonesty which is rooted in the intolerant self-righteous dogmatism of secular progressivists and atheistic materialists who have replaced religion, which at times can be irrational, with a world view which is even more irrational. What society needs is a moral and spiritual revival. Pride, dishonesty and self-righteousness are the things which stand in our way. These are people who are willing to bring down the whole culture rather than admit they are wrong. john_a_designer
Get this howler- there are evos who think that a zygote developing into an adult is a natural process cuz it happens in nature. Too bad for them there isn't any evidence that nature produced the process of embryo development. Evos are such a clueless and question-begging ilk. ET
ID was a legal strategy to rename creationism and it failed miserably.
Your willful ignorance is duly noted. ID traces back to the ancient Greeks. We all know of Aristotle and Plato- they were IDists. We know of them because ID won all those millennia ago. But like a zombie, materialism has been resurrected and is feeding on the brains of a/mats. ET
If I were Dembski I'd be depressed too. ID was a legal strategy to rename creationism and it failed miserably. DerekDiMarco
Dembski is pessimistic about ID's progress, but my experience talking with atheists is that ID has won. No one I talk to, except online, really believes in Darwinian evolution. The big thing that Johnson did is ask the fundamental question: can natural processes create? Asking that question is the bomb that blew up naturalism. EricMH

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