More on PJ

John W. Burgeson (
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 10:06:39 -0500

Off line, a reflector participant wrote to Glenn and me as follows:

>>Would you agree that there is a substantial difference between

1) Speaking to scientists and saying, "Beware of self-deception, as the
story I just told you illustrates. You should especially check yourselves
for this on the theory of ____________."


2) Speaking to non-scientists and saying, "Scientists ARE self-deluded
about things, as the story I just told you illustrates. This is especially
true about the theory of ___________."


If you agree that there is an important difference between these two
scenarios, would you also agree that Philip Johnson's choice of rhetoric,
when speaking to non-scientists (his usual audience), all too often strays
too close to the second?>>

No doubt a large difference. But I would not agree, based on what I've
seen, that PJ is any closer to #2 than to #1. And I quickly point out that
PJs audiences are more frequently scientists, philosophers and other
academics. I have never heard him lecture (I'm sure he has) to an audience
of "just plain folks." Based on what I know of him, and on a few private
conversations with him, and on some private e-mail correspondence with him,
I would guess that he tries to optimise his speaking time towards academia
as much as possible. So the term "his usual audience" in the above I'd not
agree with.

The argument could be made that his books reach largely non-scientists. I
am skeptical of such a claim. I've had numerous dialogs on Compuserve &
various LISTSERVs on Johnson over the past two years -- I do not recall a
single correspondent who was not science-trained in these dialogs. A copy
of DRWIN ON TRIAL has languished in our church library for two years; those
who have looked at it (I am pretty sure, but not positive, of this) have
been science or engineering trained. But not many of them. The "laity" stay
away from anything like that in droves! And we are (First Pres of Austin) a
large upper class church of mostly professionals.


(BTW -- Glenn and I are not having a "fight" over this! < G >)