Re: Reply to Glenn

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 16 Mar 1997 21:58:52 -0600


I appreciate you comments but I don't see this as "bashing" Johnson as much
as bashing what he is saying and doing. There is a difference between the two.

At 03:44 PM 3/16/97 -0500, John W. Burgeson wrote:
>Glenn bashes P. Johnson, recently (again) by writing, in part:
>"I was recently pointed to a book review by Phillip Johnson which clearly
>shows the disdain in which Johnson holds scientists. It is in Books and
>Culture, March/April 1997, p. 11..."
>How Glenn can see "science distain" in this story lifted from the German
>biochemist Bruno Muller-Hill is beyond me. Phil uses it, of course, only as
>an anecdote to illustrate his point -- that -- in some cases -- not
>necessarily all cases -- the trait of "docility" plays a part in what
>people, including educated people, including scientifically educated
>people, perceive.

But Burgy, these were not scientifically educated people, they were
children. You and I share a lot in common, but I do not understand how you
can miss the implication of this story, in fact, your further comments about
yes-men, show that you did understand what Johnson was saying. What is the
difference between what Johnson wrote about scientists going along to get
along and what Steidl says,

"The entire scientific community has accepted the great age of the
universe; indeed, it has built all its science upon that
supposition. They will not give it up without a fight. In fact,
they will never give it up, even if it means compromising their
reason or even their professional integrity, for to admit creation
is to admit the existence of the God of the Bible." Paul M. Steidl,
_The Earth, The Stars, and The Bible_ (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian
and Reformed , 1979) p. 94.

When we tar our adversaries, honesty, motives, intelligence etc. we can't even
get to a discussion of the facts, because no one will believe the
facts a person presents. I have run into many christians who think I am a
liar about geological data because Christian apologists told them that
geologists are not trustworthy. Johnson is clearly tarring the honesty and
integrity of all scientists. Steidl is doing it also. As does Wilder-Smith
when he writes:

"The facts are purposely concealed in order to render plausible a
materialistic philosophy of life. Thus science is manipulated in
the interests of popular materialistic philosophies."~A. E.
Wilder-Smith, The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution, (San
Diego: Master Books, 1981), p. 22-23



"Due to the common practice
among geologists to ignore evidence that does not agree with
evolution theory or uniformitarianism, it is difficult for us to
obtain an accurate picture of the geologic data."~Luther D.
Sunderland, Darwin's Enigma (Santee, California: Master Books,
1988), p. 158-159

Notice that Sunderland has no proof of this supposed selective presentation
of the data, but Phil does the same thing with the AIDS issue. Phil is
certain that AIDS researchers are hiding information. He writes:

"Big science is a virtual government monopoly dominated by very
ambitious people, who have every incentive to put the most
favorable spin on the data to further their own careers. The
notorious cases involving Robert Gallo and David Baltimore
illustrate how difficult it is to confirm allegations of brazen
fraud, let alone the much more common practice of selective
presentation of the data."~Phillip Johnson, "The Limits of Pragmatism", First
Things, Jan. 1996, pp 52-54, p. 54.

To quote the Red Queen, "Verdict first, trial later" He implies that they
are guilty during his admission that it is difficult to get CONFIRMATION of
the fraud which he appears to know happened. He seems to give no possibility
that they might be innocent. He also appears to know that there was
selective presentation of the data. A truly unbiased way of saying this
would be that it is difficult to investigate charges of fraud.

By engaging in a technique which makes scientists out to be self-deceptive,
liars or dupes or docile, one demonizes them and then one doesn't have to
listen to anything they say, because they are self-deceived, liars, dupes or
docile, eager for advancement.

Are there yes-men scientists? Sure. But I doubt that there are more
yes-men scientists, willing to be unethical, than there are lawyers willing
to stand up and tell a jury that their clearly guilty client is as innocent
as a new born babe. If I were to imply that all lawyers are dishonest
because of those bad apple lawyers, I would be doing the same thing Johnson
is doing.

>Again, Glenn writes: "If Johnson had any experience with science himself,
>especially astronomy, he would have noticed several technical errors in
>this story and would have been more skeptical about this tale that I think
>may be false.... Anyone who has had a telescope will recognize the
>following problems in the above tale."
>The story is not Johnson's but the other guy's.

But Johnson is using it for his purposes, and thus can not escape
responsibility for the story by saying it is someone else's. He is the one
who is passing it along. Talk to Procter and Gamble about how they treat
people who repeat those false stories about their religous preferences. The
fact that the story was "someone elses'" does not alleviate those passing
the story along from the legal liability for slander. Nor should moral
responsibility be passed to someone else.

>And why Johnson has to be
>real familiar with telescopes to use it escapes me.

Because he is using this as an example of why scientists are not to be
trusted, and he doens't know enough to recognize pitfalls in the story he is

But even so, Glenn's
>"problems" are bogus. (BTW, I used to teach astronomy classes to young
>female students (tough job, but someone had to do it) as a grad student
>(1955) at Florida State on a telescope that sounds like the one used in
>the example).
>Glenn writes: "First, this was a portable telescope. ... he does not know
>that a portable telescope must be carefully aligned (often by trial and
>error). You can't simply set a telescope out in a playground and have it
>automatically be pointing at the object of interest. To align the scope,
>the teacher would have had to have looked through the scope and make
>adjustments to its aim, even if it were pointed in the general direction of
>the planet. It is absolutely impossible for the professor NOT to have
>noticed that the lens-cap was on the scope prior to showing the students
>the planets. If the professor didn't know this simple truth about scopes,
>then this is a story about stupid teachers, not slothful scientists."
>The scope I used was "portable" in the sense that I dragged it from its
>shed on the Science Hall roof, and found the celestrial object by looking
>through a spotting scope. When the spotting scope was on target, the main
>one was also.

But, that is my point. Those spotting scopes are often NOT aligned. Storing
a scope over a period of time, if thermal expansion and contraction will
cause it to misalign. Carrying the scope also mis-aligns them. And even
when the spotting scope is properly aligned, it doesn't always place the
object in the center of the field of vision. In such cases a few
adjustments by looking through the actual telescope are required to place it
there. I have not taught astronomy but have used a number of scopes in my
life and experienced these types of situations.

>"Third, the constant fiddling with the focus (which is mentioned in this
>story) would be quite likely to cause a problem. Motorized and
>unmotorized telescope mounts can be moved by putting too much pressure on
>the scope. A slight bump is often enough. This has happened to me a lot.
>Surely one of these inexperienced students would put too much pressure on
>the mechanism, causing the telescope to rotate off target.
>This in turn would cause the teacher to have to realign the scope. But
>Johnson's inexperience with telescopes shows through as he gullibly
>believes Muller-Hill's tale."
>After 40 years, I can't remember how much fiddling was required. I do
>remember advising folks NOT to touch the instrument and, being a somewaht
>bored grad student, would probably have not looked myself as lind as
>everyone reported they were seeing what they were supposed to see.

But these students were told to touch the scope. They were told to play with
the focus. Their amateur hands would easily have knocked the scope out of
>"Fourth, it was not the "docile" students nor was it the scientists,who
>forced poor Harter to work in a factory. It was most likely his financial
>condition or temperment, or the lack of patience with the stupid teachers
>he had to endure."
>WHo knows? A useless part of any argument meant to bash Phillip.

But it is Johnson who made up the hypothetical event in Harter's later life:

"If in later life he was ever tempted to question any
of the pronouncements of his more illustrious classmates, I am
sure he was firmly told not to meddle in matters beyond his

Why would Johnson do this? I don't know other than to tar scientists as
snobs or bullies.

>"Fifth, the docility of the students might be explained by the treatment
>Harter received when he challenged the teacher."
>Fair point. We have all, I expect, run into some of his relatives along our
>"Sixth, I might step on some toes here, but I don't think a teacher is
>necessarily a scientist. .... Thus this is not a tale of a scientist
>teaching his charges to go along in order to get along, but simply a bad
>Fair point.
>"Unfortunately, this story reveals more about Johnson's opinion of
>scientists than it reveals about scientists themselves. Johnson's contempt
>for scientists colors all that he writes, and it appears to be getting
>worse with time. It also would appear that Johnson is susceptible to the
>same self deception that he accuses scientists of. Afterall, he can tell
>no difference between a thirteen-year-old school child and a trained
>scientist. This must be self-deception of the highest degree."
>Sorry I can't agree, my friend. The story is just that -- a story. What you
>& I "see" in it appears to be quite different. I don't understand at all
>why you find such delight in Johnson-bashing.

I don't. I wish I didn't have to say an apologist was getting their facts
wrong. I don't find it fun at all to be told by Christians over and over how
dishonest, stupid etc any scientist is who believes in evolution. Johnson
then goes on to give erroneous data to his readers such as saying that
Zuckerman proved that australopithecines couldn't walk or that evolutionists
believe rodents gave rise to whales and birds.(Phillip E. Johnson, "A Reply
to My Critics: The Evolution Debate Continued," First Things, November,
1990, p. 52; Darwin on Trial 2nd ed. p. 104). Can you or Phillip name a
single article in which it was advocated that rodents gave rise to birds and
whales? Rodents are first found about 100 million years after birds and at
the same time as the earliest whales.

I simply want Christians to get their facts straight. We treat facts like
they are something we have a choice to accept or not accept according to our
whim. Johnson may not like evolution, but at least he should represent the
fossil record as it is, and rodents did not give rise to birds. Christianity
can no longer afford to say unfactual things and then act like the offended
when someone points out that what we advocate is wrong. When this happens,
too often, we throw the blame to the evolutionist and say that he is hiding
the REAL data. If only he would show us the REAL data we would know what a
fraud he and his science are.

>Phil and I disagree on a
>number of points -- that makes us opponents on issues, not personalities.

Let me ask this. Is it only acceptable to criticise young-earth
creationists when they get their facts wrong but not to criticise Phil
Johnson when he does the same? You have agreed with me in lots of the YEC

This is not an issue about personality. It is an issue about whether
scientists are self-deceptive which was Johnson's claim. I have not said
anything about Johnson's quite pleasant personality. Johnson is implying
that scientists are self deceptive and I frankly disagree with that. I have
not found this to be the case and find Johnson's claim to be an unacceptable
argumentum ad hominem.

This is not the only place that Phil denigrates scientists. He writes of
the AIDS issue:

"In a better world, the journals would be full of demands
for a fundamental reconsideration of a premise adopted in such
dubious circumstances, especially now that the campaign based
upon that premise has resulted in so much scientific failure.
But too many reputations are at stake for that to be allowed to
happen. Instead the President met with the AIDS lobbies in
December 1995 to reassure them that the national effort will
continue to proceed along the same lines, but with more money.
The scandal of the circus of death is not so much that essential
scientific procedures were short-circuited in a time of emergency
as that after a decade of failure the researchers are unwilling
to figure out where things began to go wrong."~Phillip E.
Johnson, "The Circus of Death," First Things, March 1996, p. 49

"What went wrong in the wake
of the Darwinian triumph was that the authority of science was
captured by an ideology, and the evolutionary scientists
thereafter believed what they wanted to believe rather than what
the fossil data, the genetic data, the embryological data, and
the molecular data were showing them."

Phillip E. Johnson's concluding remarks at the Mere Creation
conference,Biola University, November 17, 1996 [from "The Real
by Phillip E. Johnson Placed on the ASA reflector by ~Allen Roy
( Sat, 25 Jan 1997 14:46:47 -0700 (MST)

Here Johnson is saying that scientists are believing what they want to
beleive. Burgy, you know my background. I tried real hard to beleive that
the geological data was anti-evolution. It isn't. Johnson is simply
misleading people here. Scientists are not simply believing what they want
to believe. Johnson makes it sound like scientists are stupid dupes unable
to figure out up from down without a lawyer to help them.

>I disagree with you, too, on some issues. Shoot -- I can't think of many
>people I DON'T disagree with on one thing or another. But that makes us
>issue-opponents, not enemies.

I know that we are friends and share many many areas of agreement. And I
appreciate your comments. My issue is not with Phil's personality but with
what he is saying about scientists. But as I told you once before, when I
found out how badly Christians were dealing with the data of science I had a
choice, I could remain silent or work to fix it. I have chosen to try to
fix it. I will probably fail.


Foundation, Fall and Flood