News Articles

Phillip Johnson gains new forums for challenging Darwinian evolution

TOPEKA, Kansas (BP)–In the wake of the Kansas State Board of Education’s unprecedented decision to dethrone evolution from school curricula, a leading creationist proponent has gained added opportunities to challenge the science community in public forums such editorials in The Wall Street Journal and on talk shows such as CNN’s “TalkBack Live.”
Philip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of several books debunking claims that evolution explains the unfolding of life, told Baptist Press the media firestorm generated by the decision has put the science community on its heels.
Noting, however, he did not favor the specific approach the Kansas school board took, Johnson said, “I want to teach more about evolution, not less.
“I think we should teach the students a lot more about evolution than the science educators want them to know.”
Johnson described the Kansas decision as “a great victory for truth” no matter how it fares in legal battles that loom ahead.
The Kansas State School Board, on Aug. 11, adopted the nation’s most anti-evolution science standards by voting to eliminate references to evolution theory on state assessment tests designed to measure student competency in science. But before the decision is final, state lawyers say, a copyright on the standards must still be cleared — and the pro-evolution National Academy of Sciences holds the copyright.
The new Kansas standards do not prohibit the teaching of Darwinian evolution by natural selection — the scientific theory that all life derived from common ancestors through mutation and adaptation over millions of years — but the decision could discourage teachers from spending a lot of time on the subject.
Speaking Aug. 16 on CNN’s TalkBack Live, Johnson charged that public school students are being indoctrinated instead of educated about evolutionary theory.
“The problem is what we’re getting is a philosophy that’s claimed to be scientific fact,” Johnson said. “This is indoctrination, not genuine science education, which should teach people to raise those tough questions and to look at the philosophy and separate the philosophical claims from the real facts. That’s the kind of education we need, and there’s a public protest that is going on that wants to get that kind of education.”
In a Wall Street Journal column Aug. 16, Johnson wrote, “Science has also become identified with a philosophy known as materialism or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, and that the means of creation must not have included any role for God.”
Credited as the father of the anti-evolution argument called “intelligent design,” Johnson is working tirelessly to change the focus of the debate from science versus biblical creationism by challenging the reigning evolutionary paradigm on philosophical and scientific grounds.
Johnson, whose books include “Darwin on Trial,” “Reason in the Balance” and “Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds,” spoke last year at three Southern Baptist seminaries, Southwestern in Fort Worth, Texas; Southern in Louisville, Ky., and Southeastern in Wake Forest, N.C.
“Life requires an intelligent cause,” Johnson said on TalkBack Live. “You can’t turn non-living chemicals into a living organism by chemical laws and chance and natural selection. The claimed Darwinian mechanism of creationism doesn’t have any creative power.
“If you look at the evidence of science objectively and not through naturalistic philosophical binders, you’ll see that’s the case. Life looks like it was intelligently designed, as even the Darwinists concede, and the reason is because it was.”
Johnson said the intelligent design movement is trying to establish “an open philosophy of science that allows freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry and freedom of discussion.” These questions become all the more important in light of an Aug. 13 announcement by Australian scientists who discovered complex life forms they claim existed 2.7 billion years ago. The dating was 500 million to 1 billion years earlier than previously thought for the appearance of complex life forms.
In his Wall Street Journal column, Johnson charged that evidence for evolution is often cited when “real science is replaced by flim-flam.” Such is the case, he argues with science textbooks’ standard argument for natural selection involving a species of finches in the Galapagos.
Scientists suggest that larger-beaked finches survived a drought in 1997 that killed most of the species. Yet, Johnson wrote, the National Academy of Sciences omits facts in its 1998 booklet, “Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science,” on the return of the finches’ beak size to normal following a flood. The booklet goes even further to suggest that a “new species of finch” could arise in 200 years if the initial trend toward increased beak size continued indefinitely.
“When our leading scientists have to resort to the sort of distortion that would land a stock promoter in jail, you know they are in trouble,” Johnson wrote.
“Nonetheless, that is the most impressive example of natural selection at work that the Darwinists have been able to find after nearly a century and a half of searching.” With the lack of evidence and internal inconsistencies, Johnson said evolutionary theory is becoming “the science educators’ Vietnam.” Evolutionists are now voicing a rally cry for scientists to become more politically active by seeking election to local and state school boards.
“If the Academy meant to teach scientific investigation, rather than inculcate a belief system, it would encourage students to think about why, if natural selection has been continuously active in creating, the observed examples involve very limited back-and-forth variation that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere,” Johnson wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “But skepticism of that kind might spread and threaten the whole system of naturalistic belief.”
In his column, Johnson identified unanswered questions which he suggests evolutionists do not want students to consider such as:
1) “Why is the fossil record overall so difficult to reconcile with the steady process of gradual transformation predicted by the neo-Darwinian theory?”
2) “How would the theory fare if we did not assume at the start that nature had to do its own creating, so a naturalistic creation mechanism simply has to exist regardless of the evidence?”
Johnson suggested further in his column that the Kansas school board decision was “a protest against enshrining a particular worldview as a scientific fact and against making evolution an exception to the usual American tradition that the people have a right to disagree with experts. Take evolution away from the worldview promoters and return it to the real scientific investigators, and a chronic social conflict will become an exciting intellectual adventure.”

Dave Couric contributed to this article.

    About the Author

  • Lee Weeks