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Law prof out to change strategy in creation-evolution debate

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–With Darwinian evolution soon to collapse under the weight of its own internal inconsistencies, creationists need to be unified in drawing attention to the bad science and the underlying bad philosophy within the evolution camp rather than debating theological differences among various creation alternatives, according to evolution critic Phillip Johnson.
Johnson, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, spoke at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary March 6 in chapel and in a two-hour lecture and question-and-answer period in a philosophy of religion class.
The only way of eventually establishing creation as superior to evolution as an explanation of origins, Johnson said at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, is to present a unified strategy of challenging the reigning evolutionary paradigm on philosophical and scientific grounds. Johnson defines “evolution” as the view that “a mindless, purposeless process is our true creator.”
Johnson said he wants to separate two main issues that often get mixed together in the ongoing creation-evolution debate.
The first issue, he said, is the question of theology, of the Bible, of the interpretation of Genesis, involving the age of the earth or universe and the amount of time God took to create it.
On this issue, Johnson said he is not taking sides. This kind of theological debate, he said, is constantly used by evolutionists as a diversionary tactic to confuse the matter and make their position more respectable by pitting the Bible against science.
Johnson said he would prefer the intramural debate on the creation age or time take place at a later date, or at least as a completely separate issue, as a difference of biblical interpretation to be worked out among Christians.
Not wishing to enter the theological debate, Johnson said he sees himself between two kinds of creationists: “young-earthers” such as Henry Morris and the Institute for Creation Research and “old-earthers” such as Hugh Ross and his organization, Reasons to Believe. Johnson emphasized he is friends with both sides, the proof being that both evangelical organizations endorse and sell his books, “Darwin on Trial,” “Reason in the Balance,” and “Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.”
Johnson said he is not asking anyone to change positions on the age of the earth, noting the evidence is the only thing that can do that for either side. Johnson said he merely wants both kinds of creationists to change strategies.
In addition, Johnson clearly distanced himself from “theistic evolutionists” by asserting there is no difference, practically speaking, between atheistic evolution and theistic evolution: Both view the scientific evidence without allowing intelligent design into the discussion.
“It is a complete trivialization of this issue,” Johnson said in refutation of either kind of evolution, “to think that the importance of the theory of evolution is that it contradicts the time span of the Book of Genesis, involving millions of years rather than thousands of years, and that you could somehow come to terms with it by adopting a more figurative interpretation of Genesis.
“From the evolutionary point of view … the Bible is just as wrong figuratively as literally; it’s telling the wrong sort of story,” Johnson said. The Bible tells “the top-down story of God existing first and then doing the creating, and mankind getting out of the right relationship with that God,” when the “true story” according to evolution is “a bottom-up story, the reverse in every way. In the bottom-up story, man creates God, rather than the other way around.” The other main issue besides theology, Johnson said, involves philosophy and how it relates to science, describing the area of philosophical assumptions as the Achilles’ heel of evolution. If creationists can put theological differences aside momentarily and get together long enough to consistently point out that evolution as understood in the mainstream is bad science because it’s based on bad philosophy, it will be the end of Darwinism, Johnson insisted. The only way the scientific evidence leads to evolution, he said, is if the evidence is interpreted through materialist philosophy first, if “in the beginning were the particles (matter in mindless motion)” rather than “in the beginning was the Word (intelligence).” If everything can be reduced to the material or physical, the creator is not real but imaginary; evolution then follows even though it still finds little support in the empirical world, he explained. Of the prevailing philosophy that scientists uncritically embrace, Johnson noted scientists have no more insight on philosophy than those who are not trained in science. “Do we live in a God-created world or not?” is a question that doesn’t have to be answered in the negative in order to be scientific, Johnson said.
The leader of what has come to be known as the “intelligent design” movement, Johnson and numerous colleagues, including scientists such as Michael Behe who recently authored the popular “Darwin’s Black Box,” are in the process of legitimating discussion of intelligent design in the academic world and media, the first goal of the movement.
The next goal, Johnson said, is to rally the monotheistic religious world into a unified position in order to confront the entrenchment of Darwinian evolution at all levels of society.
As word spreads to the grassroots level that Darwinism is declining, there will be “an immense clash in the near future,” Johnson said. Before that backlash occurs and the evolutionists make a last-ditch effort to save their modern creation myth, Johnson said he hopes the public will be educated enough to withstand the onslaught.
“The counterattack is inevitably going to come,” he said. Once the intelligent design issue is on the table, “don’t worry about how it’s going to come out,” he said. Like the former Soviet Union a decade ago, “the whole Darwinian structure is ready to fall.”
In another discussion later that night, Johnson said “while Christians have in many ways done a great work with the heart …, they haven’t done well with the mind at all in the 20th century.”
He recalled a 1992 symposium on evolution involving both religious and secular scientists and philosophers from all over the world, held in the very same Southern Methodist University room, as the beginning of the intelligent design movement, “an effort to challenge that basic underlying naturalistic ethos of the university world.”
“You can’t challenge that by waving the Bible at (university) people or by arguing for the biblical account, because they have already figured out what that stands for; that’s mythology in the mind of the dominant university culture; the fact that something’s in the Bible is reason (for them) not to believe,” Johnson said.
“If you’re quoting the Bible at them, you’re as much as admitting that you’re rejecting the plain evidence of science, which everybody knows is just ‘fact.’ So, in order to argue and get into the university, you have to have a different approach; you have to have an understanding of what their thinking is and where the weak points of it are and where you can begin to get the discussion going.
“And I’ve found that place is in raising the issue of whether evolutionary theory, particularly the claim that mindless material processes can do the creating, is really founded on reliable scientific testing and experiment which can give valid knowledge, or as in fact is the case, it’s founded on philosophy, on philosophical assumptions.”

Couric is a freelance writer and Ph.D. humanities student at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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  • Dave Couric