Intelligent Design

Phillip Johnson: Jun 18, 1940–Nov 2, 2019 (aged 79)

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Phillip E. Johnson

The father of intelligent design theory. Peacefully in his sleep.

See also: Phillip E. Johnson: The man who lit the match.

He was Jefferson E. Peyser Professor of Law, emeritus, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. His was the first book to draw attention to the fact that the nonsense marketed in Darwin’s name manly supported naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism,” not science as such:

Phillip Johnson, law professor emeritus of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, is widely recognized as the godfather of the contemporary intelligent design (ID) movement. As the author of several books and numerous articles explaining scientific, legal, and cultural dimension of the debate over ID and Darwinism, Johnson was one of the most prolific authors in the formative years of the movement.

It was Johnson’s 1991 book Darwin on Trial that first convinced many thinkers that neo-Darwinian evolution was buttressed more by a philosophy of naturalism than by the scientific evidence. Johnson’s influential writing became the magnet of scholars from a variety of fields—biology, chemistry, physics, philosophy, theology, and law—to forge the intelligent design movement.


Casey Luskin, “The Significance of Phillip Johnson” at Darwin on Trial

From Intelligent Design 101 (2008):

Fifteen years ago I published a book that I thought might add a few ounces of balance to the debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution. The main thrust of that book, Darwin on Trial, was that evolution is propped up more by naturalistic philosophy than by the scientific evidence. Much to my pleasant surprise, this book turned out to be the match that lit the tinder beneath a stockpile of dry logs. This is not to my credit; the logs had been piled high, and the tinder gathered. Darwinian naturalists had accumulated a large stock of public discontent. [p. 23]

A bit of his personal motivations:

Johnson’s early thirties became a period of disillusionment. His wife left him to raise the kids while she moved on to pursue a career in “artistic politics.” He found his academic career boring and shallow, and his “nominal agnosticism” left him feeling unfulfilled.

Johnson knew he needed centering, at he found it in his conversion to Christianity at the age of 38. He married his present wife, Kathie, and their experiences at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley became an increasingly important part of their lives.

Johnson’s “evolution” made him increasingly skeptical of academic culture. Everywhere he looked, he found what academics were calling “reasoning” he saw as “rationalization.” “The problem with rationalism,” as Johnson put it, “is that it isn’t rational.” The premises that academics operate from are a matter of choice—and to Johnson’s mind, in many cases the choice is highly suspect.

Eventually, Johnson’s interest in exposing suspect premises led him to evolution. Johnson, by his own account, recognized that “if Darwinism is true, Christian metaphysics is fantasy.” He felt compelled to test his Christian beliefs by taking a sabbatical in London and plunging into the diverse and complex literature (Johnson calls it “circular reasoning, deception, and pseudo-science”) on the subject of evolution.

What Johnson found as he read Richard Dawkins, Isaac Asimov, Stephen Jay Gould, and the other authors of well-known Darwinist books was, in his words, a “stunning” indifference to facts and reasoning that appeared to him “unscientific, illogical, and dishonest.”

Doug Linder, “Phillip E. Johnson” at University of Missouri, Kansas City

Top 25 Phillip E. Johnson quotes, including:

A Chinese paleontologist lectures around the world saying that recent fossil finds in his country are inconsistent with the Darwinian theory of evolution. His reason: The major animal groups appear abruptly in the rocks over a relatively short time, rather than evolving gradually from a common ancestor as Darwin’s theory predicts. When this conclusion upsets American scientists, he wryly comments: “In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.” – Phillip E. Johnson

Some of Johnson’s other books.

His articles, reviews, and reviews from Books and Culture.

and

22 Replies to “Phillip Johnson: Jun 18, 1940–Nov 2, 2019 (aged 79)

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    Like so many, my journey into the ID movement began with Darwin on Trial. Rest in peace Phil.

  2. 2
    vividbleau says:

    BA
    Ditto
    Vivid

  3. 3
    hnorman42 says:

    One of the greatest men of the present age.

  4. 4
    Bob O'H says:

    RIP. Whatever side of the ID debate you’re on, I don’t think Phillip Johnson’s contribution to it can be underestimated.

  5. 5
    Johnnyfarmer says:

    I have Darwin on Trial.
    Is it RIP or more like Dancing in the Stars !!!!!
    Ran his race to obtain…. and has !
    Thanks for reporting this Barry !

  6. 6
    Robocop says:

    I sent the following letter to a small number of friends here in New Zealand… some are, let’s say, pro ID but are not really very well read in this area.

    Hi guys, it is with great sadness that I report to you that Professor Philip Johnson, father of the modern Intelligent Design movement, has passed on into glory.

    Johnson was a brilliant man, a Berkley Law Professor, an evangelical Christian, who applied his analytical skills to the job of critiquing the materialist priesthood of the 20th century. That priesthood was based upon the works of Freud, Marx, Neitzche, and Darwin. Johnson analyzed the materialistic worldview created by the ideas of these men, and devised a “wedge” strategy to bring it to its knees. Unlike young or old earth creationism, both of which focus upon science and the Bible, Johnson’s strategy was to use a “big tent” approach in order to include all those who wanted the freedom to think outside of the straightjacket of materialist ideology. This strategy would open the university and the larger culture to ideas such as — shock, horror — analyzing and critiquing Darwinism. Johnson did this in numerous forums and did not shy away from engagement with the priests such as Professor Will Provine. Provine died perhaps 10 years ago (can’t remember exactly), was an ex-Evangelical, and he had Johnson present the case for ID and against materialism to his biology students at Cornell.

    Philip Johnson has a huge effect upon me. 20 years ago I listened to MP3s of him lecturing to large audiences in the USA, and taking questions following the talks. He was brilliant in his recall of facts, and lethal in his logic in front of a live audience. About 5 years ago he had a stroke and seemed to fade from the public scene.

    Johnson’s brilliance seems to me to have been his ability to take in vast quantities of information outside of his area of training, and analyze it in a way that brought great clarity to the key points. This I what he did to the materialist worldview, and especially to Darwinism. Johnson inoculated me and shaped my thinking in a way that perhaps only Francis Schaeffer, William Lane Craig, and Greg Koukl have done (outside of Jesus and the Apostle Paul). All of these men were or are solidly theistic and evangelical, and all fiercely competed in the marketplace.

    I listened to three of Johnson’s lectures today (see below) from the 1990s and they are as brilliant as when I first heard them. I highly recommend that you take the time to listen to them — they are life shaping.

    Hope you are all well.

    PODCAST: Search for “Darwin on Trial” (Gordon Cornwell) for three lectures addressing (a) The science issues, (b) The cultural issues, and (c) The philosophical issues.

    VERITAS FORUM MP3: http://www.veritas.org/can-sci.....aturalism/

  7. 7
    News says:

    Two things stand out, for me, about Phillip Johnson. As a law prof, he applied legal standards of evidence to the case for Darwin as opposed to the standards of people who desperately want and need to believe, for whom Darwinism is part of what gives their life meaning.

    For unrelated reasons, I had already become suspicious of Darwinism when I first read his book. But he provided me with a clear way of summarizing my objections to the Darwinian approach to how information is created.

    I recalled that Stephen Jay Gould insisting that legal standards didn’t apply to the belief system he and others of the science elite were marketing. It wasn’t hard to see why Gould needed that out.

    Johnson’s other inestimable contribution was exposing “theistic evolution” for what it really, mostly is: a stop on the road to pure naturalist atheism. If all someone wishes to say is that the Almighty could have created our universe such that we would not know that an intelligent author underlies it, Omnipotence has the power to do so.

    Very well. Point taken. But fine-tuning shows that he did NOT do so. And sacred Scripture affirms that he did not intend to do so either. Rather, as Scripture affirms, he does things in such a way that “All men may know My works.” Note: ALL men, not only persons who happen to have been brought up to believe a certain thing.

    And not a sparrow falls but the eye of the Father sees it.

    So what really is the point that “theistic evolution” has been trying to make all these years? I came to see it as just another church-emptying intellectual scam. That might account for my, admitted, lack of charity at times.

    Note: I didn’t run any other news stories on Saturday, out of respect for Phillip Johnson’s memory. Regular service will resume shortly and we will catch up. – O’Leary for News

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    ‘In their opinion, a bad answer is better than no answer at all…..’

    Yet another example of the high-comedy entertainment available to anyone paying any attention to the, frankly, scandalously-vapid nonsense resorted to by the naturalists, posing as scientists and philosophers of science. Look at that quote. It sounds as if Mr Johnson were deliberately mocking the latter, but he isn’t, is he ? He is merely stating a fact ; even a banal fact ! And yet this surreal modus operandi, a natural consequence of their whole ‘intellectual’ ethos, is all they have : vacuous bluster.

  9. 9
    johnnyb says:

    I can’t remember what first turned me on to Phillip Johnson. It was probably Larry Witham’s “By Design”, which was the first science and faith book I remember digging into deeply. I knew Johnson more by reputation than explicitly reading him for a while. Also, his videos and video debates were excellent. However, the book of his that really had the most impact on my thinking was Reason in the Balance, which showed the importance of the questions he was asking to society at large. It made me start thinking of ID in a more expansive way, which in part led to my current research program (amusingly enough, the radical left-wing seminary I attended also helped in this way, though it would pain them to know it).

    The homeschool co-op that I teach at, Classical Conversations, uses Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Based on the cover and the title, I thought it would be one of those cringe-worthy creation books. However, after reading it, it actually is one of the very best general audience introductions to the subject I have read. I often guest teach for tutors at that level when they are reading that book to help students get more out of it, because a lot of students (as well as critics!) read into Johnson a lot of the cringe-inducing anti-evolution stuff that actually isn’t present there. I did an overview of Johnson’s thoughts for Classical Conversations (see here, here, and here) to help students and tutors get the most out of it.

    I only recently read Darwin on Trial (well, actually, I listened to it). I was surprised by how well it held up. Johnson’s arguments were leveled largely at the philosophical level, and, while one or two of them were out of date, the majority of them could be made today, 30 years later.

    Most importantly, Johnson led the way in helping non-professionals, or professionals in other areas, understand that they had things they could contribute to the conversation. Most importantly, he pointed out that if scientists believe that the evidence for evolution is so straightforward that they could mass-communicate it to the general public in the expectation that the general public will understand and go along, then the general public is also competent enough to respond to the deficiencies in the presentation.

    Anyway, I never got to meet him, but many thanks to Johnson for his leadership and far-sightedness. Without him, most of us would never have made it to where we are.

  10. 10
    john_a_designer says:

    One of the things Johnson clarified so brilliantly were the dire philosophical and cultural implications of Darwinian thinking. Indeed, it was during a public debate with Cornell University professor Will Provine that the atheist biologist more or less conceded Johnson’s point when he tells Johnson and the audience:

    Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. What an unintelligible idea.

    Christian humanism has a great deal going for it. It’s warm and kindly in many ways. That’s the good part. The bad part is that you have to suspend your rational mind. That part is really nasty. Atheistic humanism has the advantage of fitting natural minds trying to understand the world, but the disadvantage of very little cultural heritage — and that’s a real problem.

    So the question is, can atheistic humanism offer us very much? Sure. It can give you intellectual satisfaction. I’m a heck of a lot more intellectually satisfied now that I don’t have to cling to the fairy tale that I believed when I was a kid…

    https://evolutionnews.org/2015/09/william_provine/

    To his credit off stage Provine and Johnson were good friends. But of course that required an initiative on the part of both men. After all, true friendship must be freely desired and reciprocal. Unfortunately, that friendship was only temporary and ephemeral. For Christians like Johnson there is hope of something beyond the grave, including friendship. Provine had no such hope and said if heaven and hell really existed that he would “be really surprised! But at least I’m going to go to hell, where I won’t have all of those grinning preachers from Sunday morning listening.”

    Hell, unfortunately is the end of friendship.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    My deepest condolences.

  12. 12
    ET says:

    Evidence. Phillip Johnson understood evidence and its importance to any claims being made. He saw that the evidence for blind watchmaker evolution was nothing more than a house of cards- a façade without any substance. And because of that he understood why evos are such table- pounders.

  13. 13
    EricMH says:

    Philip Johnson’s work changed the direction of my life. First, the Torrey program at Biola, based in part on his vision, showed me Christian thought was much deeper than the shallow apologetics and truisms I’d been exposed to growing up, and become disenchanted with. But, I was still skeptical because of the atheistic nature of methodological naturalism. If one of the most successful and useful ways of thinking in history didn’t need God or any metaphysics to work, what was the point of the Athens and Jerusalem integration? Seemed to be merely something for intellectuals detached from the real world. However, ID showed me methodological naturalism was an artificial restriction of science. These topics have consumed my life for the past decade and a half.

  14. 14
    AaronS1978 says:

    My deepest condolences, rest in peace good sir

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N, on Provine: “and no free will for humans, either.”

    Take such off the table and freedom to actually reason evaporates. Rationality is not reducible to blind, dynamic-stochastic computation on a material substrate.

    Johnson, again, was dead on target. Here is a favourite clip from him as he answers Lewontin’s notorious cat out of the bag remark:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence.

    [–> notice, the power of an undisclosed, question-begging, controlling assumption . . . often put up as if it were a mere reasonable methodological constraint; emphasis added. Let us note how Rational Wiki, so-called, presents it:

    “Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method. Methodological naturalists limit their scientific research to the study of natural causes, because any attempts to define causal relationships with the supernatural are never fruitful, and result in the creation of scientific “dead ends” and God of the gaps-type hypotheses.” [NB: I am aware that Rational Wiki has backed away, un-announced, from the cat-out-of-the-bag direct phrasing that was in place a few years ago. That historic phrasing is still valid as a summary of what is going on.]

    Of course, this ideological imposition on science that subverts it from freely seeking the empirically, observationally anchored truth about our world pivots on the deception of side-stepping the obvious fact since Plato in The Laws Bk X, that there is a second, readily empirically testable and observable alternative to “natural vs [the suspect] supernatural.” Namely, blind chance and/or mechanical necessity [= the natural] vs the ART-ificial, the latter acting by evident intelligently directed configuration. [Cf Plantinga’s reply here and here.]

    And as for the god of the gaps canard, the issue is, inference to best explanation across competing live option candidates. If chance and necessity is a candidate, so is intelligence acting by art through design. And it is not an appeal to ever- diminishing- ignorance to point out that design, rooted in intelligent action, routinely configures systems exhibiting functionally specific, often fine tuned complex organisation and associated information. Nor, that it is the only observed cause of such, nor that the search challenge of our observed cosmos makes it maximally implausible that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity can account for such.]

    That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphasis added.] [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    22 years later, still spot on.

    KF

    PS: Greenleaf on evidence gives food for thought:

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. [–> that is, his focus is on the logic of good support for in principle uncertain conclusions, i.e. in the modern sense, inductive logic and reasoning in real world, momentous contexts with potentially serious consequences.]

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. [–> the issue of warrant to moral certainty, beyond reasonable doubt; and the contrasted absurdity of selective hyperskepticism.]

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. [–> moral certainty standard, and this is for the proverbial man in the Clapham bus stop, not some clever determined advocate or skeptic motivated not to see or assent to what is warranted.]

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved. [–> pistis enters; we might as well learn the underlying classical Greek word that addresses the three levers of persuasion, pathos- ethos- logos and its extension to address worldview level warranted faith-commitment and confident trust on good grounding, through the impact of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in C1 as was energised by the 500 key witnesses.]

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind [–> in British usage, the man in the Clapham bus stop], beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal [–> and responsible] test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest.

    [= definition of moral certainty as a balanced unprejudiced judgement beyond reasonable, responsible doubt. Obviously, i/l/o wider concerns, while scientific facts as actually observed may meet this standard, scientific explanatory frameworks such as hypotheses, models, laws and theories cannot as they are necessarily provisional and in many cases have had to be materially modified, substantially re-interpreted to the point of implied modification, or outright replaced; so a modicum of prudent caution is warranted in such contexts — explanatory frameworks are empirically reliable so far on various tests, not utterly certain. Morally certain facts of observation and experience in our common world are not necessary truths.]

    [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

  16. 16
    SethCooper says:

    The passing of Phillip Johnson brings sadness. But his finishing well the race brings thankfulness. And the continuing legacy of his work brings hopefulness. His journey from a career as a highly credentialed law professor at UC Berkeley to a second career as the catalyst of the theory of intelligent design – the primary scientific challenge to the modern version of Darwinian evolution and to its metaphysical materialist underpinnings – is so unexpected and unlikely and yet so intriguing and important. Through Johnson’s writing, speaking, and personality, he drew a small dedicated following of scientists and other thinkers. In turn, Johnson encouraged them and what has become a movement posing an increasingly sophisticated scientific challenge to Darwinian evolution and materialist-driven philosophical claims made in the name of science.

    In our last conversation, Johnson said that he wasn’t a science guy, but a logic and evidence guy. This is no doubt true, yet his grasp of technical scientific knowledge was surely impressive in its own right and it enabled him to spar effectively with leading proponents of Darwinian evolution. Public debate over the origin of life and of species often comes entangled with theological sideshows, cultural baggage, and other rabbit trails. Yet Johnson filtered out distractions and focused his razor sharp mind on questioning the sufficiency of the evidence for the alleged creative power of natural selection as well as for universal common ancestry. His closely reasoned and tightly written book Darwin on Trial was a tremendous success in calling both of those pillars of Darwinian evolution into question. And it was through Johnson’s focus on the evidence that the metaphysical materialist assumptions propping up chemical origin of life scenarios, Darwinian evolution, and sociobiology were so clearly revealed. Johnson’s book Reason in the Balance as well as other writings further highlighted and challenged those materialist assumptions and their implications.

    Anyone who spent time around Phillip Johnson knew his friendliness and good humor. Those spent time around Johnson also benefitted from his wise counsel. He has inspired many people, inviting them to consider some of life’s most meaningful questions. He found the deepest answers to those questions in the words of Jesus Christ, in whose company he now resides.

    The generous and kind Kathy Johnson was indispensible to her late husband and his work. She also deserves our thankfulness and our prayers.

  17. 17
    Latemarch says:

    Another encomium to a great man.

    The Godfather
    Some critics would like to call Johnson the father of ID. In fact, they sometimes claim that Johnson, a non-scientist, invented the term “intelligent design” as a scheme to get around a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that declared creationism unconstitutional.

    Aside from the fact that this story isn’t true, it’s also grossly anachronistic. ID thinking and arguments date back to the ancient Greeks, and even in its modern form, the term “intelligent design” was used long before Johnson got involved with the issue, and before any court contemplated creationism.

    In this sense, Johnson is not, and cannot be the “father” of intelligent design. But the Godfather? Most definitely.

    Remembering Phillip E. Johnson (1940-2019): The Man Who Lit the Match

  18. 18
    john_a_designer says:

    There are two ways one can look at immortality. The first way is life after death. The second way is leaving a lasting legacy. Many modern secularists who eschew the first for some reason willingly embrace the second. Why is this? It appears to me that on some level we are compelled or even “hardwired” to believe that our lives have meaning and significance. However, if materialism is true this is nothing more than an accidental quirk of a mindless evolutionary process. You are nothing more than a fleeting and ephemeral “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” In other words, the first is false and the second is totally delusional because ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, your life means nothing.

    I don’t believe that neither did Philip Johnson. That’s why in death we celebrate his life. That’s also why we need to make sure that his legacy a lasting one by continuing what he started.

    Here is a poem I find not only inspirational but captures the feeling of the moment:

    Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

    by Mary Elizabeth Frye

    Do not stand at my grave and weep,
    I am not there, I do not sleep.
    I am in a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the softly falling snow.
    I am the gentle showers of rain,
    I am the fields of ripening grain.
    I am in the morning hush,
    I am in the graceful rush
    Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
    I am the starshine of the night.
    I am in the flowers that bloom,
    I am in a quiet room.
    I am in the birds that sing,
    I am in each lovely thing.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there. I do not die.

    This poem is in the public domain.

    Mary Elizabeth Clark Frye (1905-2004) was born in Dayton, Ohio, and was orphaned at the age of three. A housewife and florist who lived in Baltimore, Maryland, after marrying, she wrote this poem after learning that a friend’s mother had died. Because Mary was not a recognized poet, and because this poem was never officially published or copyrighted, there has been much debate over its origins and many different people have tried to claim it as their own or have written variations on the original. Extensive research has generally, if not fully, confirmed Mary to be the author.

    Source: yourdailypoem,com

    And here with some editing of the lyrics is a beautiful musical version:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv9bAma0ft8

  19. 19
    Belfast says:

    For his epitaph;

    And there in America gave his body to that pleasant country’s earth,
    And his pure soul unto his captain Christ,
    Under whose colours he had fought so long.

    (Very slight amendment of Shakespeare)

  20. 20
    Anselm says:

    Phillip Johnson had a keen legal mind and a non-religious upbringing. A late-in-life convert, he understood how secular folks thought, and he saw that the core issue in the ‘origins controversy’ wasn’t the age of the earth or how to interpret the scriptures. The core issue was not even about religion. The core issue was whether naturalistic ideas can scientifically account for our world. Here’s what Johnson said:

    “My objective was never just to be a one man show writing books, expounding my ideas. I like to say that most people who have taken up this subject have wanted to produce a body of writings that answers all the questions. Here’s what the Bible says. Here’s what science says. Here’s what’s true, here’s what’s false. And any question you ask the authority can answer on all of these things. And if you want answers to all the questions, you can definitely get them. You can go to the young earth creationists, they’ll give you one set of answers. You can go to the old earth creationists, they’ll give you a different set. You can go to the scientific materialists and they’ll give you a different set. So whatever answers you want, you can get them. And if you don’t like those answers, go elsewhere and get a different set.

    “Now I didn’t have that kind of an ambition. My ambition was not to answer all the questions. I had a much more modest ambition. It was to create a worldwide cultural revolution that would totally overthrow the existing paradigm of knowledge. And in order to achieve this modest goal, you have a different way of proceeding — that the important thing is to go directly to the heart of the problem, the heart of the enemy encampment as it were, and blow up the ammunition dump. And to stick to the most fundamental question. And that most fundamental question is: Can you really do the creating without a creator? Can natural processes really do this?

    “We can afford to leave unanswered for now such questions as just what the history was, and patterns of relationships, and did one thing somehow by some mysterious process get transformed into another? All those interesting questions for down the road. But the big thing is do you have this natural process that can do the job of creating? Everything else depends on that. … Then a movement begins to coalesce — the intelligent design movement.”

    (From the second Youtube video posted above, Darwin on Trial: The Philosophical Issues – Phillip E. Johnson, https://youtu.be/FJDlBvbPSMA?t=1162, 19:22-21:33)

    So the ID movement made (and continues to make) its arguments. But it’s true, that lots of scientists won’t listen to them. Some will even mock them, persecute them, file lawsuits to get their ideas banned, and hound them out of the scientific community.

    The point is not to write obituaries for the creationist, ID, or theistic evolutionist movements. ID is far from dead and new scientists join the ranks of the ID movement on a regular basis. The point is this: You stand for the truth because it’s the truth, not because it’s easy, for there is no guarantee that your ideas, even if right, will become popular in your lifetime. Phillip Johnson was a model for everyone at doing this.

    And here’s a guarantee: Popular or not, Phillip Johnson’s ideas won’t die because they describe the world as it actually is. Nobody has all the answers, but the answers that we do have show that there is scientific evidence for an intelligent designer. This destroys the very core of scientific materialism. This is precisely why ID has been opposed bitterly at every turn, and also why naturalistic creation myths keep getting weaker as time goes on.

    You can reject Phillip Johnson and his ideas. You can mock him and persecute his followers. You can file lawsuits and hound them out of academia. You can declare ID to be dead. But you can’t change the scientific evidence for ID that has been brought to light by the people Johnson inspired. And you won’t change the fact that thousands upon thousands of people — including a great many scientists — have already been turned away from scientific materialism because of his work, a legacy which continues to this day.

    You can say whatever you want. But you can’t stop Phillip Johnson’s ideas because his ideas were right.

  21. 21
    EricMH says:

    > But the big thing is do you have this natural process that can do the job of creating? Everything else depends on that.

    Very well put. In all the science fields that is the sticking point:
    – biology it is darwinian evolution
    – physics it is string theory and multiverse
    – in chemistry it is emergence
    – in computer science it is artificial intelligence
    – in mathematics it is Hilbert’s quest for the one set of axioms to rule them all

    Same basic problem in each case. We have a whole bunch of things. Where’d they come from? Some machine crunching numbers or intelligence creating things?

    Phil Johnson identified the key question of our age.

  22. 22
    jstanley01 says:

    Perhaps as important as Johnson’s books, were his efforts to open communication among academics who were already skeptical of the Darwinian enterprise.

    In 1993, Professor Philip Johnson, of the University of California at Berkley, invited a group of scientists and philosophers to a small beach town on the central coast of California. They came from major academic institutions, including Cambridge, Munich, and the University of Chicago, to question an idea that had dominated science for a hundred and fifty years…

    Persons in attendance at the Pajaro Dunes retreat included many who became leading lights in the Intelligent Design Movement such as Michael Behe, William Dembski, Dean Kenyon, Stephen Meyer, Scott Minnich, Paul Nelson, and Jonathan Wells.

    Of all of Philip E. Johnson’s virtues, the one which made his work landmark was his courageousness to point out the obvious with all the uncontrived forthrightness of the child in Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fable.

    …The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something — that was his train — as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

    “How well Your Majesty’s new clothes look. Aren’t they becoming!” He heard on all sides, “That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.”

    Then the minister of public processions announced: “Your Majesty’s canopy is waiting outside.”

    “Well, I’m supposed to be ready,” the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. “It is a remarkable fit, isn’t it?” He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.

    The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn’t dare admit they had nothing to hold.

    So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, “Oh, how fine are the Emperor’s new clothes! Don’t they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!” Nobody would confess that he couldn’t see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

    “But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

    “Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

    “But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

    The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.

    “Until the dawn breaks and the darkness forever flees,” R.I.P.

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