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Nancy Pearcey: What Phillip Johnson’s Wedge of Truth made clear

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From 2000, but the basic conceptual outline hasn’t changed:

Shortly after Johnson finished his book, his forewarnings were confirmed by the appearance of a book titled The Natural History of Rape, which argued that, biologically speaking, rape is not a pathology; instead, it is an evolutionary strategy for maximizing reproductive success: In other words, if candy and flowers don’t do the trick, some men may resort to coercion to fulfill the reproductive imperative. The book calls rape “a natural, biological phenomenon that is a product of the human evolutionary heritage,” akin to “the leopard’s spots and the giraffe’s elongated neck.”

The book roused sharp controversy, but as one of the authors, Randy Thornhill, said on National Public Radio, the logic is inescapable: Since evolution is true, it must be true, he said, that “every feature of every living thing, including human beings, has an underlying evolutionary background. That’s not a debatable matter.” Every behavior that exists today must confer some evolutionary advantage; otherwise, it would not have been preserved by natural selection.

The “fact” realm has even expanded into the philosophy of mind, where consistent Darwinists tell us there is no single, central “self,” residing somehow within the body, that makes decisions, holds opinions, loves and hates. Instead, in the currently popular “computational” theory, the mind is a set of computers that solve specific problems forwarded by the senses. The notion of a unified self is an illusion, Pinker says–an illusion selected by evolution only because our body needs to be able to go one direction at a time.

Of course, computers operate without consciousness, so the question arises why we are conscious beings. Some neuroscientists conclude that we aren’t–th at consciousness too is an illusion. Philosopher Paul Churchland says mental states do not exist, and suggests that we replace language about beliefs and desires with statements about the nervous system’s physical mechanisms–the activation of neurons and so on.

Piling example upon example, Johnson illustrates the epistemological imperialism of the “fact” sphere. This explains why moral and religious conservatives seem to have little effect in the public square: Their message is filtered through a fact/value grid that reduces it to an expression of mere emotional attachment and tribal prejudice. To turn the tide of the culture war, conservatives must challenge this definition of knowledge, and make the case that religion and morality are genuine sources of knowledge. We must “assert the existence of such a cognitive territory,” Johnson writes, “and be prepared to defend it.”

Of course, others have offered philosophical arguments to undercut the fact/value dichotomy, notably Michael Polanyi and Leo Strauss. What makes Johnson’s approach unique is that he takes the battle into science itself. He proposes that Darwinian evolution itself can and should be critiqued, since it functions as the crucial scientific support for philosophical naturalism. For if nature alone can produce everything that exists, then we must accept the reductionist conclusions described above. If, to take the last example, the mind is a product of material processes at its origin, then we must concede that it consists of nothing more than material processes–that our thoughts are reducible to the firing of neurons.Nancy Pearcey, “ A New Foundation for Positive Cultural Change: Science and God in the Public Square” at Human Events (September 15, 2000)

Recently, it has begun to be much more common for people to just make clear that they aren’t just PR for the Darwin lobby. David Gelernter, for example, still has a job.

Nancy Pearcey is Professor of Apologetics & Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist University, and the author of The Soul of Science, How Now Shall We Live?, Total Truth, Finding Truth, Saving Leonardo, Love Thy Body

See also: Brit Commentator Melanie Phillips Weighs In On David Gelernter Dumping Darwin

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2 Replies to “Nancy Pearcey: What Phillip Johnson’s Wedge of Truth made clear

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    The Ten Commandments include prohibitions against coveting your neighbor’s ox or making graven images (so much for freedom of thought and expression} but none against rape – of any kind. I wonder why that is?

  2. 2
    ET says:

    Ahem: Catholicism and the Ten Commandments:

    9- “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”

    The Ninth Commandment forbids the intentional desire and longing for immoral sexuality. To sin in the heart, Jesus says, is to lust after a woman or a man in your heart with the desire and will to have immoral sex with them. Just as human life is a gift from God and needs to be respected, defended, and protected, so, too, is human sexuality. Catholicism regards human sexuality as a divine gift, so it’s considered sacred in the proper context — marriage.

    LoL! I just noticed that the Catholics version of the TC is different from Judaism’s. The Catholics merged the first two and split the tenth commandment into the 9th and 10th.

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