Johnson's assumptions

Paul Arveson (
Mon, 27 Jan 97 12:42:37 EST

I have a lot of respect for Phil Johnson's civility and his general
theological stance. I remind you all that he attends a Presbyterian
church a few blocks from the campus of Berkeley, in a milieu in which
sometimes it's good to have a lawyer on your side to defend the faith.
Furthermore, sometimes scientists and professors don't do a very good job
of arguing their views, which is one reason they don't have the
readership and attention of a good orator and persuader like Johnson.

Walt Hearn, who also lives in Berkeley, gave me a copy of the book
that transcribes the previous debate between Johnson and Ruse, Behe
and others. The upcoming meeting in Austin is Round 2 (or more) of
this dialog.

In carefully reading Johnson's remarks here
(I'm sorry I don't have it at hand to quote from), it is clear
to me that Johnson in effect presupposes that Darwinism and
theism are contradictory. This is one of Johnson's starting-point
assumptions, apparently, and the rest of the argumentation
follows from that, leading inexorably to a view that supports
some kind of special creation. This irritates the secular
opposition, of course, but it also frustrates some of us who
are trying to sort out the scientific and theological problems.

When a writer is reasonably consistent, as Johnson is, then
identifying his starting point is sufficient to understand his
position. As is usually the case, all the detailed arguments
about particular animals and plants and rocks and fossils and
so on are merely window dressing on the starting point thesis.
Generally, in this debate, it is a waste of time to listen to
the details.

If an alternative view is ruled out a priori, with no discussion
but simply by dismissal, then we need to question whether the
starting point is valid. A big rock on top of a mountain will end
up on one side or the other, depending on a little push at the top.
Once the rock is set in motion, one should stay out of its way.

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
9500 MacArthur Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-4511 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)