Re: Phil Johnson's Approach

Keith B Miller (
Sun, 23 Feb 1997 20:44:21 -0600 (CST)

>"Recently some Christians in higher education have asked me why
>scientists affiliated with ASA and/or IVCF seem often to be unhappy with
>Phil Johnson's work. I'd like to hear some response to that question
>from both questioners of and supporters of Phil's work."

My impressions of Phil Johnson are based on his book "Darwin on Trial" and
on hearing him, and briefly interacting with him, on a couple occasions.
My displeasure with Phil's work are two fold. Firstly, I believe that he
fundamentally misunderstands the nature of science. He seems to insist
that scientific theories (esp. evolutionary theory) be measured by
standards of proof that any scientific theory will fail. Confidence in a
scientific theory is developed over time with the progressive accumulation
of observations that are consistent with it. The more explanatory power a
theory has and the more powerful and productive are its predictions, the
more influential it is in organizing our understandig of the world. No
theory is free of unanswered questions or internal inconsistencies. It is
those very things that drive research. However, Phil seems to view this
openess as a symptom of theoretical weakness. Furthermore, he objects to
"methodological naturalism" when many (most?) Chistian scientists
understand the search for the continuity of cause-and-effect as central to
science itself. I do not see how _scientific_ research could proceed on
any other basis. He also does not seem to understand the theological basis
for understanding God's action through and in natural causes.

The second issue is Phil's weak grasp of the scientific issues involved in
evolutionary theory and the paleontological record. His book "Darwin on
Trial" is very heavily based on Michael Denton's book "Evolution: A Theory
in Crisis." The arguments presented there are very flawed, and have been
quite thoroughly rebutted by many people. The most disturbing thing for me
is that Phil seems unwilling to respond to those critiques. I have
personally talked to him and have given him a point by point rebuttal of
Denton's arguments. He has never once responded to them, or even
acknowledged their existence. I have talked to several others who have had
similar responses from him. Someone who is untrained in science would do
well to at least seriously entertain the critiques of those who have
devoted their lives to scientific study.

Keith Miller

Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506