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Johnson says academic freedom makes evolution’s days numbered

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The future of Darwinian evolution is limited because its opponents have two major factors on their side — academic freedom and truth, said Phillip E. Johnson during a lecture at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary June 27.

Johnson, professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley and author of “Darwin on Trial,” said it is only a matter of time before evolution opponents win the day in the academic setting.

“We have the best arguments on our side,” Johnson said. “We have the principles of academic freedom on our side — the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of thought. … When the scientific evidence is argued on a level playing field with all the possibilities being able to be considered, intelligent design is going to win. It’s not going to win because we’re the most brilliant arguers. It’s not going to win because we have certain tricks to play. It’s going to win because that’s the truth. It’s going to win because the evidence supports that position.”

During the three-day event, titled “Equipping for Ministry in Today’s University Culture,” Johnson commented on recent controversies that resulted in pro-evolution victories. At Baylor University last year, the faculty succeeded in pressuring the administration to remove intelligent design proponent William Dembski from a campus-based research center. In Kansas last fall, conservatives lost three seats on the Kansas State Board of Education, resulting in evolution language being reinserted in state tests. It had been removed the year before.

Intelligent design — the belief that the universe was created by an outside, intelligent force (God) — will win in the end, Johnson said. But first, it must be given a fair hearing.

“Academic freedom — freedom of thought, freedom of expression — is the most bedrock principle of our movement,” he said. “It’s unchallengeable. It’s every bit as important as the idea of intelligent design in biology itself. The reason is that all we need to do is get the idea on the table and it will prevail. … The other side knows that. That’s why they’re so desperate to prevent it from getting on the table.”

Contrary to popular belief, Johnson said intelligent design proponents are not wanting to censor Darwinian evolutionists.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent censorship,” he said. “We’re trying to have [an] open liberal conversation, and it’s the other side that wants to produce a dogma and not allow any criticism over it.”

For such a movement to succeed, intelligent design proponents in the academic world must join forces with the political world, Johnson said. Support is needed from students as well as parents. However, everyone must be knowledgeable.

“You don’t want to have a wild mob descend on the university and act in some ridiculous manner,” he said. “We want people prepared. What they do — if they do it really intelligently — is they stand up for academic freedom. That’s all they have to do, and that’s the easiest thing in the world to defend.”

Johnson said a defense of intelligent design could be as simple as arguing, “‘Is that a university, where you shut down ideas because you’re afraid they might be convincing?’ It’s that kind of argument that … we need.”

Johnson pointed out that the intelligent design movement crosses political lines. He said that politicians such as Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D.-Texas, have supported the teaching of intelligent design.

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  • Michael Foust