Wedge and Phillip Johnson
The Legal Implications
- What does it take to move society's attention from a narrow orbit of thought to the unique revelations nature holds for us—to see this even by way of science?
- Turning our minds, looking around, is like repentance—facing hard fact or seeing a glimmer of missed truth—that demands an extraordinary frankness within, simply to look at the present evidence for all it has to tell us, but can humanity do this?
- What are the appropriate terms and approaches leading us to reconcile a wayward academic track that for so long has been defined by rails of material and naturalistic viewpoints?
- How did humanity get sidetracked in the quest to reveal our origin and what is the switch to put us back on the main line?
- Can a wedge split open the 'old trust' to expose what is really at the core of this life experience?
For a moment we turn our attention to the words and thoughts of an academic lawyer who has worked to draw our attention to the Darwinian shortfall and to point to evidence for a universe and a biology full of telltale signs of design. Prof. Phillip Johnson has become a lightening rod. He could easily be accused of a new dogmatism, but a dogma with its own magnetism that repulses other dogma run amuck. Keep your eye on the main point here ... it's not all about Johnson, he is simply pointing to something. Might we stop to listen a while ...
''... it is paradigmatic of so many modernist intellectuals who thought they were dedicating themselves to a life of reason when, in reality, they were mostly learning to rationalize, to justify what they felt like doing. We all like to believe we are more rational than we really are. The painful truth is that we are naturally inclined to believe what we want to believe, and we may adopt some fashionable intellectual scheme because it allows us to feel superior to other people, especially those unenlightened masses who need the crutch of the discipline of religion. Of course people may also adopt a religious creed in order to justify themselves, especially in times or places where religion is fashionable. Everybody is subject to the temptation to rationalize. The temptation is probably greatest for those with the most intelligence because the more intelligent we are, the easier we will find it to invent convenient rationalizations for what we want to believe and to decorate them with high-sounding claptrap. Unless we take the greatest precautions, we will use our reasoning powers to convince ourselves to believe reassuring lies rather than the uncomfortable truths that reality may be trying to tell us.'' Johnson (WDG) Page 36
Note that this illustration from a 1924 elementary biology book shows evidence for early human habitation in England. Years passed by before this highly prized discovery was revealed as a hoax. The lesson to learn here brings us back to the role of critical thinking. We need to probe with questions and to challenge what is reported as fact. Science depends on critical but objective review. Assumed relationships have lead to misleading examples such as this, simply because certain individuals want a result that matches expectations. But that's not science. A similar precaution is needed when we consider evidence for origins.
These are highly charged words. But there is a certain ring of truth in what is cautioned here. None of us can pass the implied challenge without some introspection.
The short answer is simple. Prof. Johnson looked around and recognized that humanity was following a standard story that was fraught with problems. This academic lawyer is conducting an effort of discovery, shaping a case, developing arguments, and sees that an appropriate defense leads to raising a unique view to our attention. If something is wrong with evolution theory, then what else is wrong about what we accept as truth? To quickly dismiss his case is like throwing away all the special characteristics to our life's foundation. This is even throwing away good science!
To break through the old line, to counter an errant main stream, comes with a demand of personal energy, building evidence, and gathering credible, knowledgeable supporters. To Johnson's credit, the supporters are there all round—from many academic disciplines. The professor's case has amassed incredible depth by its own ability to add multiple perspectives together.
Prof. Johnson believes that a wedge must be pointedly used to break through the misguided notions of materialism and naturalism. Breaking through brings us to an updated orientation. It's not simply an effort to defeat Darwinism, for an empirical approach is needed here. Science loses nothing if an objective review is employed throughout. But a universe and a biology that brings design into the discussion means we need to correct our course to understand information in an appropriate context.
Resistance from the Darwinian camp is clearly evident. They decry the effort to explain intelligent design and related concepts as nothing but a religious agenda. But why should anyone argue against discussing every facet of our life experience—no matter where that might lead us! And what if there is a Designer or some intelligent agency behind our being here? Why argue against something that reveals life is truly extraordinary? Seems a pity to be so stubborn as to decide that only science explains all ... to the point of lifting science to a competing theology. Is that then science?
Johnson and those who identify themselves with the 'movement' that explores intelligent design are making a presence known before boards of education, in special symposia, at scientific meetings, and at other events focusing on the science that makes for the wedge. One critical strike to the back end of this weighty device will send the point through. The wedge will split the old line. Raw emotion and frustrations will give way to adding something important to the window's panorama of information. Be informed. Explore what the wedge is composed of (it's information, science findings, and proposed design theories) and consider the implications. There is evidence for design and thus a Designer.
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The name of a Berkeley academic lawyer, Phillip Johnson, may already be quite familiar to you. This name may engender a response that is as negative or as truly favorable to the most opposite of extremes. But if you know the name it is because Prof. Johnson has set out to raise issues in a most effective way. In that effort he expects others—many who represent a broad array of science and other disciplines—to join in. And many have done so. This is not a matter of one man’s opinion. Seeing something about where humanity has put itself ideologically and taking time to think it all through critically is very much of importance to all of us.
Prof. Johnson’s effort to discuss design issues begs the questions: Have we been fooling ourselves?
Are we thinking in the most constructive way possible?
Indeed how does this affect the entire fabric of our Western society?
How does this translate to what we see in human activity around the globe?
The following observations made by Johnson stem from the mid-1990s. This is the period of time when he published his well known book entitled: Darwin on Trial. While Johnson has pushed the envelop beyond what you will consider here, the ideas presented here are an important initial stop along the way to building a larger view.
At the end of a recently published volume—that compiles many of the presentations given at the Mere Creation conference (see MC; use reference palette link below)—Johnson makes a series of comments on what has shifted the Western mindset over time. He reviews the consequences and in his other recent publications reveals his expectation that we will all soon see a reversal of thought within society at large. A realist, Johnson sees much debate and hard work ahead. But in building a personal window view—by your own exploration—you can begin to appreciate why Johnson is compelled to cast evidence into the brightest light… because for too long humanity has assumed our origins to be something different from what science is now telling us! Our origin is much more special than we’ve been taught and thus been lead to believe. In this regard, WindowView is an exercise in seeing evidence and considering how that might recast our understanding… and ultimately provide grounds for a well founded belief.
Phillip Johnson writes about several key events that symbolize the ideological shift in thinking during the 20th century. This is a follow-on commentary of sorts to what we addressed elsewhere from the 19th century perspective. Here, for the first event, in the era of neo-Darwinism, Johnson gives an account of festivities celebrating the 1959 centennial of Darwin's publication of Origin of the Species. On this occasion ...
Julian Huxley, grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley and brother of Aldous, was the most prominent speaker. He declared that supernatural religion was finished and that a new religion of evolutionary humanism based upon science would become the worldwide creed. We might say he proclaimed the death of an aged tyrant called God and then credited Charles Darwin with supplying the murder weapon. Johnson (MC) Page 446
The second event is the release of Hollywood's account of the Scope trial. You know this as Inherit the Wind. Johnson notes how Spencer Tracy plays the role of an agnostic lawyer— in real life Clarence Darrow—who pulls off a great propaganda masterpiece in the courtroom. Science wins the day over religion, but scientific truth is not under review here, so what we end up with is ...
Inherit the Wind is a simple morality play in which the Christian ministers are evil manipulators and their followers are bumpkins who sing mindlessly in praise of "that old-time religion." In the movie it appears that the theological content of Christianity amounts to threatening people with damnation if they dare to think for themselves. The overthrow of this caricature provides a liberation myth, which goes with the triumphalism of the Chicago celebration. The movie teaches that the truth shall make us free, and the truth, according to science and Hollywood, is that biblical religion is an oppressor to be overthrown. Johnson (MC) Page 447
While this characterization may at first appear overblown, similar treatment continues from the silver screen to present day academic reality. Johnson notes how good science arguments—supporting the existence of irreducible complexity and thus evidence for design in nature—published by Dr. Behe, in his book Darwin's Black Box (Free Press, 1996), were reviewed in Nature (scientific journal) with a hostility and a focus other than science itself. This is a diversionary tactic seen elsewhere. Dr. Behe's book is not about replacing science with a biblical view. It's biochemistry and cell structure ... it's written for the general public ... with as technical an explanation as can be given to bring the reader to a wonderful insight that science itself reveals. We need to look, be thinkers, and not slip into well traveled misguided ruts.
Like Marxism, Darwinism is a liberation myth that has become a new justification for ordering people not to think for themselves. Johnson (MC) Page 447
Johnson's third event is the 1962 school prayer decision of the United States Supreme Court. The decision was based on a court contest in the state of New York (see Johnson (MC) Page 447, which includes the text of the prayer). Johnson notes that the prayer itself is not at issue—rather the key question concerns "what unites us as a people and what we regard as divisive." Prior to 1962, the US was unified by the concept that very different peoples—many immigrants or descendants of same—could all "worship their common Creator, the God of the Bible." But Darwinism claims an origin free of God and the creator in Darwinist eyes is a chance-based random process. In 1962 the Supreme Court decided that any reference to God ...
"was a divisive sectarian practice, warning that government endorsement of religion is inherently associated with religious strife and oppression." (Johnson (MC) Page 448)
These three events symbolized a tremendous change in the ruling philosophy in the United States. Science now teaches us a purposeless material process of evolution created us; the artists, poets and actors teach us that biblical morality is oppressive and hateful; and the courts and teach us that the very notion of God is divisive and so must be kept out of public life. The pledge of allegiance may say that we are "one Nation, under God," but we have become instead a nation that has declared its independence from God. Johnson (MC) Page 448
And science strayed to the point that scientists engaged in beliefs rather than returning to closely scrutinize what their data reveal. To interpret evidence by expectation or assumption thus put society entirely on a belief-based course—not Judaism nor Christianity but instead a scientific belief system.
What happened in that great triumphal celebration of 1959 is that science embraced a religious dogma called naturalism or materialism. Science declared that nature is all there is and that matter created everything that exists. The scientific community had a common interest in believing this creed because it affirmed that in principle there is nothing beyond the understanding and control of science. What went wrong in the wake of the Darwinian triumph was that the authority of science was captured by an ideology, and the evolutionary scientists there after believed what they wanted to believe rather than what the fossil data, the genetic data, the embryological data and the molecular data were showing them. Johnson (MC) Page 448
One of Prof. Johnson's goals is to separate materialist philosophy from empirical science. As an academic lawyer, we might suspect he'd be lacking in science, but science is not the greater strength of his participation here. Any lawyer who succeeds in appropriate discovery will build a strong case. So Johnson has grasped many of the scientific details, but as well he understands the far reaching implications that take us beyond science and into philosophical space. Not that philosophy is wrong, but the transition from evolutionism to material naturalism is fraught with problems. So, along the way—if one is of a discerning mind—there are errors to identify and corrections to be made. Johnson weighs in to debate the points that reveal the errors.
Now well along his path, the professor is a nucleating point and he is joined by many academics and writers who contribute from all areas of science—from astronomy, biology, chemistry, philosophy, physics, zoology and more. The lawyer's arguments have merely kicked free a cascade of valuable perspectives. Now varied disciplines bring the discussion to the point where one can recognize the importance of concepts such as intelligent design, irreducible complexity, and other empirical evidence. All this serves to clarify the picture muddied by the standard story on evolution. This is a process of returning to a rational approach to identifying our origin.
When materialism is fully understood, objective truth goes into the trash can along with objective morality. Johnson (MC) Page 449
Teaching evolution may not seem to bring harm, but that is because this is a backdrop that is accepted into so many areas of current thought. If something is incorrect here, then rational thinking is derailed without notice.
The postmodernist irrationalism that is sweeping of our universities is thus the logical outcome of the scientific rationalism that prepared the ground by undermining the metaphysical basis for confidence in objective truth. A wrong view of mind has come out of science because science has become confused with materialist philosophy. And that wrong view has become a compulsory dogma for every discipline and for the intellectual culture in general. Johnson (MC) Page 450
Johnson cautions us to follow the advice of Richard Feynman with regard to how science ought to be practiced. Feynman warned "against self-deception, the original sin of science, saying that 'the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.'" (see Johnson (MC) Page 451) To avoid deception the practitioners of science find themselves going to great lengths to even report data that cast doubt on scientific theories. Unless such findings become instantly greeted as great success and news to trumpet to the world, the audience typically resists any form of counterpoint. In the end the public is left with an unwarranted trust in scientific authority.
... Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins, both of whom have been highly honored by the scientific establishments of their respective countries for promoting naturalism and materialism in the name of science. We need to replace Dawkins-style and Sagan-style science with a science that is humble about what it can do. A science that sticks to its data, that is careful to consider alternative explanations, and that does not allow itself to be ruled by a philosophical or religious agenda of any kind. A science that does not commit the original sin of believing what you want to believe. A science in which the scientists do not fool themselves and therefore do not try to fool the public either. Johnson (MC) Page 451
Perhaps this is the entry point for the wedge. Why are scientists—those harboring naturalism and materialism—arguing so hard against even entering into discussions on design. The public may simply begin to wonder, what is the design issue ... tell us more. After all , what harm is there in hearing additional information, even if it differs from the current curriculum. Is not school about learning and learning more than one view alone? The potential backlash to the evolutionist community could be large. This is why they wish to squash the discussion before it starts ... yet start it has (see links below on Ohio's Science Standards).
In some respects the parents, schoolteachers and youth workers have the most important role in preparing the next generation of thinkers to understand the difference between real science and materialist philosophy. It is never too early to learn good critical thinking—but sometimes, after years of indoctrination in a biased educational system, it is too late. ... the Darwinists ... have even taken to saying that "critical thinking" is a code word for creationism and hence for religious oppression. They have cause to worry, because when the young people learn to spot hidden assumptions and know about the evidence the textbooks slide over, they will be very hard to indoctrinate. Johnson (MC) Page 452
As intelligent design enters into discussions on school curricula and changes that historically have been difficult for boards of education to make ... we will still see resistance. There will always be those who claim religion and not science is defining the underlying agenda. But this point is well recognized by Johnson and his colleagues. If anything, those concerned with the proper presentation on design have worked hard to build support based on science. This is not a matter of restricting scientific inquiry. In fact, while there is no true funding of science in support of intelligent design theories, the struggle is to move more work into considering aspects of design as part of future research programs. Only materialist bias has thus far prevented entertaining such additional research. Design is not a research program concerned with religious studies. To confuse the issue of research objectives only prevents novel—absolutely unique opportunities for—cutting edge research. And still, what if there is a harmony between science and Scripture?
We can wait until we have a better scientific theory, one genuinely based on unbiased empirical evidence and not on a materialist philosophy, before we need to worry about whether and to what extent that theory is consistent with the Bible.
One by one the great prophets of materialism have been shown to be false prophets and have fallen aside. Marx and Freud have lost their scientific standing. Now Darwin is on the block.
Darwinists have to rely on confining their critics in a stereotype. They have learned to keep their own philosophy on the stage with no rivals allowed, and now they have to rely almost exclusively on that cultural power. Johnson (MC) Page 453
The activity associated with intelligent design is ongoing. The perspective here is one of looking for and anticipating more support for Johnson's wedge. In fact, during February and March 2002, there has been consideration of teaching intelligent design concepts along with evolution. This activity hit the American heartland in Ohio. We list a couple to links here in relation to intelligent design. Some links (therein) may be time sensitive and we apologize if you hit a dead end. This material can also be accessed at the ARN website, for which you will see links within the following pages:
1) Reports related to the news on intelligent design and Ohio Science Standards.
2) A separate paper on: Peering into Darwin's Black Box: The cell division processes required for bacterial life
3) Another paper on: Science and Religion in the Nation's Capital
Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org
The WindowView drops many of the typical presumptions to take another look. What does scientific data tell us if we start without assumptions? And ... how contiguous is science information if examined along with scriptural perspectives provided by the Bible? The Bible is the only religious or holy book we know of that is in fact consistent with science. While not a textbook, the Scriptures are either contradictory or complementary to scientific perspectives. Have you looked at these perspectives? To see 'Science and Scripture in Harmony' is to reveal life, reality, and your future.
Quotations from "The Creation Hypothesis" (CH) edited by J. P. Moreland and "Mere Creation" (MC) edited by William A. Dembski are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.