I'm also posting it to the ASA list, having been informed that the
broadcast has ignited a discussion there. "If the shoe fits, wear it."
As you rightly say, discussion should proceed from a secure factual basis
rather than from the often unreliable testimony of memory. Note that this
is a rebroadcast of a program first aired in September, 1997.
DARWINISM: FUZZY THINKING?
Guest: Phillip (Phil) Johnson
* * *
JCD: Dr. Johnson is a professor of law at the University of California
Berkeley; has been since 1969. Phil, I'm glad to have you back. I always
love talking to you about a subject that clearly fascinates me.
Phil: It sure does, and it ought to fascinate everybody. You know, it's the
most interesting topic in the world. Are we the products of a mindless,
material process like the educators are telling us today? Or, are we here
because a purposeful creator, who cares about us and what we do, brought us
into existence for a purpose? That's the issue.
JCD: The answer to that question affects absolutely everything, doesn't it?
I mean, everything changes on the basis of how you come up with the answer
Phil: Yes. If God created us for a purpose, the most important kind of
knowledge to have is: what is that purpose? How can we live in accordance
with God's purposes and by his standards? If God is a myth, sort of like
Santa Claus--see, that's the materialistic view of it--then God's moral
authority collapses, and of course, he can't set any purposes for our
lives. So, this is basic to everything else that we have to think about.
JCD: So that mechanistic, naturalistic view strips us of meaning. We don't
know why we're here. We don't know the answers to the great questions of
life: What's my purpose? What's my meaning? Is there a set of rules that
I'm supposed to live by? Is somebody keeping score? Does anybody love me?
Is there life after death? Is there something I ought to be doing or not
doing? All of that changes on the basis of the subject we're here to talk
Phil: That's right. Now, if it were true that we were the products of this
materialistic, mechanistic force, then we'd have to face the truth, even if
we don't like it. But it isn't true. What we need to do is to really look
carefully at the evidence and arguments so that we get to the truth.
JCD: You were here not too long to speak to another class--the predecessors
of those who are here in the studio with us today--and you talked about
these subjects. I was there for one of those classes, and I took excellent
notes, and I dug them out today.
Mike: If you say so yourself!
Phil: One of my best students.
JCD: You guys want to borrow them? (Laughter) It's better than CLIFF NOTES,
I'll tell you that.
This is something that you said at that time, and I want you to comment on
"It is possible that the great monolith, the great stone, called
naturalism and relativism, which has been protected from intellectual
scrutiny, will collapse like a house of cards in the not too distant
Could that be true?
Phil: Sure it can. Just look at what happened with the Soviet Union. Look
how enormously powerful it seemed only a decade ago. And it was rotten at
the core, because even the leaders had lost faith that they had the vision
for the future.
Now, materialism has been the creed of the 20th century, and different
versions in east and west. The scientific materialism of our day, in our
country, has been individualistic, relativistic, do your own thing, and so
on, but it's the same basic philosophy. And when we get it on the table as
a philosophy and scrutinized it, oh, it will be weak; it will be
JCD: To use your own words, how has the great monolith called naturalism
and relativism been protected from intellectual scrutiny?
Phil: It's been protected by it's identification with that term "science."
And science, in our culture, has two meanings. Everybody has assumed that
they're the same, but they're really very different. One meaning is, you do
observations, you follow the facts, experiments and calculations and so on.
And then you follow the evidence wherever it points, even if it points to
something you didn't expect or even don't like. Follow the evidence
wherever it leads. That's why science said it had to be independent of the
Bible, for example.
Now, the other definition is that science is an attempt to explain the
whole of reality and the whole history of the cosmos in strictly
materialistic terms. In the beginning were the particles, NOT "In the
beginning was the Word." In the beginning were the particles and impersonal
laws, and nature had to do all its own creating, and that's taken for
granted--that's definitional. And then the only question is: what are the
So, the impression has been given that materialist philosophy, because it's
called science, is fact. And it comes from open-minded investigation of the
facts and observations. But it's not. It's a philosophical dogma. And what
the scientific community is facing right now, and many of them don't like
it at all, is this problem: What do we do if the evidence points in a
different direction from the philosophical dogma?
JCD: Because they're committed to a faith.
JCD: It's not a faith in God, but it is a belief system that they're highly
emotionally committed to, isn't it?
Phil: Absolutely. And you can see this in the bitter denunciations they
give when anybody challenges this. They feel that it's immoral to question
this materialist philosophy. Now that's been protected, because if you're
questioning the philosophy, they'll say, "You're against science. You're
against the facts. You must be a religious fundamentalist," and that's the
dirtiest word they can use.
JCD: Extremist. Let's include that one, too.
Phil: Yes, we're extremists, and so we're not open to the facts. But it's
quite the reverse. It's the materialist dogmatists who are not open to the
facts, and that's what we're trying to show.
JCD: What could make that whole system of thought collapse? What's the
pressure that's on it?
Phil: Well, that in a way is the central theme of my new book; it's
Defeating Darwinism -- By Opening Minds.
JCD: Very good segue, isn't it?
Phil: Yes. One of the things we've got to do is awaken a sleeping giant,
which is the Christian community with it's bright young people, and you can
see evidence of that all around us today. With it's own tremendous
spiritual resources, but that, I think, has handcuffed itself in a way in
dealing with this issue. That a large part of it--the intellectual part,
the academic part--has said, "Well, what we must do is make peace with
science." So we must go along with Darwinism, and find a way to live with
it. That's called theistic evolution. And it doesn't work because you're
going along with the materialist philosophy.
The other part has largely separated itself into a religious community--a
Christian community--and said, "Well, we're going to form our own
institutions. We're going to protect ourselves." But they come after you. I
think what we need to do is learn to understand the thinking of that
secular academic community much better so that we can go into it and
challenge it successfully.
JCD: Now, in your previous books, which you were here to discuss, you laid
out the case against evolution, and it's pretty impressive as we indicated.
In this new book, you're not talking basically about scientific facts. Here
you're talking to students, high school and college students, to pastors,
to youth ministers, to college professors, to others in giving them the
rationale and the tools with which to argue our point of view. Is that a
fair summary of the book?
Phil: That's right. In many ways the heart of the book, or the basic
starting point, is Chapter Two where I talk about the "Inherit-the-Wind
stereotype" from that famous movie-- a real good movie and terrific
propaganda, but very misleading. The Inherit-the-Wind stereotype says that,
"Oh, evolutionary scientist-darwinists, they're open minded, they're
liberal, they're tolerant, they follow the facts, and people who don't
agree with them are fundamentalists, are extremists, they're religious
bigots, they're Bible thumpers."
And so when a parent gets up at a school board meeting and says, "This
subject, evolution, is being presented dogmatically. Children aren't
getting all the facts. The high school students aren't getting the other
evidence that would cast this into doubt." The newspapers say, "Ah, this
reminds us of `Inherit the Wind.'"
JCD: Which goes back to the Scope's trial.
Phil: It's a fictionalized version...
JCD: The Monkey trial.
Phil: ...of the Scopes trial in 1925, not an accurate version, I described
the differences. So they report the story as: "religious extremists are
trying to prevent young people from learning about science."
Now, they're not lying. They really think about it that way, because the
media people have been taught to think that way and the educational
systems. They view this through that filter of their preconceptions. So we
have to learn to reverse that stereotype. That's why "by opening minds" is
in the title. You know, because it's so fundamental.
JCD: You make the point in this book, which surprised me, that according to
opinion polls only 10 percent of adults believe in mechanistic,
naturalistic, godless evolution. Ninety percent do not, and that 90 percent
is divided into two groups--those who believe in creation with the biblical
account, and those who believe in a kind of a theistic evolution that...
Phil: God guided evolution.
JCD: ...God did it. But that 90 percent reject classical evolution. Now,
when you consider that they have controlled 100 percent of the public
schools, and virtually 100 percent of the universities, and the media and
everything else, how have they failed to convince the people of the
accuracy of this theory?
Phil: Well, in part, the answer is that the science educators send mixed
messages, and they do so deliberately. In Britain, which is must more post
Christian--is [a] much smaller active Christian community than
America--they're much more frank in saying "This is atheism. This is
philosophical materialism. God has no part in this system." When the
American science educators issue statements, they will say, "On the one
hand, we were created by evolution, which is an unguided process. And on
the other hand, this is saying nothing about religion or the existence of
JCD: You can believe in God, if you're crazy enough to do so.
Phil: That's sort of it.
JCD: He just didn't play a role!
Phil: That's right. But it's a mixed message. It comes across as
doubletalk, which is what it is, because they understand that there's a
huge resistance to the theory when it's stated particularly in it's full
philosophical meaning. And so they don't want to have a political problem
over this. So, in part, they're failure to convince people has been that
the message has been, to some extent, blurred.
JCD: Well, they get the message through in subtle ways and some not so
subtle. I've always enjoyed watching nature films on television. I enjoy
programs on the Serengeti in Africa and other places. They nearly always
bring in the evolutionary point of view into those messages. I mean, it's
just pumped into our veins through the media, isn't it?
Phil: There clearly is a policy, particularly these things that come out of
the science organizations and the government, to always use them as an
opportunity to deliver a commercial for naturalistic evolution. Now, I
think the reason for this is that the scientific leadership and the science
educators think that if the public doesn't think as the scientists are
suppose to do--doesn't think naturalistically, that is--then they won't
turn to science for all their answers, and they won't fund it generously
enough. So, it's a matter of building public support.
JCD: Yes, I can see it.
Mike: Phil, when someone does the kind of study that you have done on this
particular subject, it usually grows...or often times grows out of
questions that you have yourself. What doubts did you work through? What
Phil: Well, when I went away to college at the age of 17 to Harvard, I
thought I was leaving all the small-town things behind, including the
rather nominal Christianity that I picked up as a boy. And so I'm a
Christian convert in my late 30s when I'd already been, for a good 10
years, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. This left
me with the kind of a question--I can put it crudely--if Christianity is
true, and if God is our real creator, why do all those intelligent people
think otherwise? You know, why is the completely dominant position in the
educational world, academic world, this naturalistic position? Not just in
the sciences, but in all the other disciplines, including law as well.
So, when I had the opportunity to take up Darwinism in a sabbatical year,
1988, in Britain, I saw this is the creation story that gets God out of the
picture, and it's identification with science as this mind-confusing
effect. So that's really what got me started.
JCD: Well, let's talk a little bit about your book and how you can prepare
students to deal with the classroom situation especially. That's the
greatest concern because a professor towers over you in experience, and in
education, and in, many cases, intelligence, and status, and respect, and
authority. And you're 18 years old, and you're sitting there, or you're 21
years old, and you're in a graduate program now. And he is presenting, or
she is presenting this information as fact. How do you prepare people to
deal with that?
Phil: We have to prepare them to develop good-thinking skills, good ways of
think about the subject rather than learning a lot of detail. If a student
gets into a debate over the details over the fossil evidence with a
professor who has a doctorate...
JCD: He's going to lose.
Phil: ...they'll lose. They will bluff you all the time with slides and
But what we have to do is step back and learn, first, the difference
between science and pseudo science. True science tests its hypotheses
fairly against the evidence. Pseudo science says, "Well, let's go looking
through the evidence, and we'll find something that fits our theory, and
that becomes all important, and we can throw out all the rest."
And so, what I want to do is show students how that's exactly what the
Darwinists do with the fossil record. There are hundreds of millions of
fossils, and so they'll find a couple that fit the theory and everything
else is forgotten. But if you step back and look at the fossil record as a
whole and say, "Does this fit our theory?" what you find out is that it
doesn't at all; it's been a complete flop, and that the fossil record is
most definitely and uncompromisingly against Darwinism in exactly those
areas where it's most complete. It's not the incompleteness of the record.
In fact, the stories of evolution all come from the areas where the fossil
record is most incomplete because it's easier to make up imaginative
So you have to learn how the thinking is done and how the bad thinking gets
in there in order to be inoculated against these examples that might
otherwise seem persuasive.
JCD: Boy, there is so much here, I tell you.
Phil: There's a lot here.
JCD: You know, I went to Elk Canyon Ranch not too long ago. This is a
place, Mike, we've mentioned before on the air. It's a wonderful ranch in
Montana, and we're in individual cabins, and there are stuffed animals on
the walls around the individual rooms there.
I was lying on the bed one day, and I was just looking up at those
beautiful animals up there. There was a goose on one wall, and I looked at
it and each of the feathers was kind of hand decorated. The tips of each of
the feathers were a different color. Then I looked over on another wall and
here's this gorgeous deer that was there, and I just thought, "Somebody
believes--the scientific community believes--that all of that happened with
no design and no designer. That it just evolved on it's own." That is crazy
Phil: Well, it shows the power of that materialist philosophy over their
minds and how it wears down common sense. You know, it's true, even with
bacteria. You find the single-celled creatures, [and] they have this
internal transport system, and it's a factory. Much more complex than any
human factory, and no one knows how this could have come about.
JCD: How did that information get in there?
Phil: Well, that's it. It's the source of the information, and once you
bring that up, I think you get to what is the key point to understand. And
that is that an organism is roughly analogous to a book or to a computer
program, like say, Windows '95, or whatever. Information is the important
thing about it. So that while a computer may be made of metal and plastic
and silicone and so on--these various products--you can know all that there
is to know about those products, and you don't know anything about the
computer. You don't know anything about that program that makes it operate.
Now, the great error of materialism is to think that the information comes
from the matter. That is like saying that, if we knew how to mix ink and
paper together in all sorts of ways, we'd have the plays of Shakespeare. Or
even a humbler product like my books or yours, you know, that...
JCD: Speak for yourself!
Mike: Knew you were going down a dangerous path there!
Phil: But of course, it's utterly impossible that the information comes
from the mind that produces it. The information in living organisms is much
more complex than the information in a book or computer program.
JCD: We spoke of a few minutes ago in my office before we came down here,
Phil, and I was very gratified to learn that you're doing a lot of
speaking, that the doors are open to you on university campuses and in
churches, denominations, that people are more and more interested in this
perspective. It's gaining credibility. But I want to ask you something
that's really delicate, and I hope people understand my motive here.
My wife and I believe in Christian education. Both our kids went to
Christian elementary schools and Christian high schools and both graduated
from Christian colleges. I believe in Christian higher education and have
supported it very strongly. But I heard you say when you came here to speak
that you have taken this message--challenging Darwin and challenging
classical evolution--onto some of the most prestigious university campuses
in the western world, and yet, it has been resisted--your message has been
resisted--more on some Christian campuses than on the secular university
campus. How do we explain that?
Phil: Well, in the first place, I want to say it's not universal. There are
Christian college professors among my closest associates, and some of them
are really on top of this. So that's the good news. The bad news is that in
Christian higher education, there is a lot in the faculty culture--it's not
coming from the trustees or the presidents; it's in the faculty culture--a
lot of resistance to raising the questions that I'm raising.
The basic reason for this, as I see it, is that a generation has grown up
which has seen it as their mission to make peace between Christianity and
the secular academic organizations. Indeed, even their own
constituency--the parents and the trustees and so--want them to educate
their young people so they can go on to Stanford and Berkeley and Harvard
for graduate school, for example. And they want their professors to have
good reputations in the secular academic organizations, you know, of
professors. So to get that you have to think like the secular academic
people, and so various ways have been found to say that, "Well,
Christianity even of an evangelical sort can be reconciled with the way the
secular thinking is done." And the biggest area of this is theistic
evolution. Because, you see, if you are typed in the leading circles as
challenging evolution, then you become a fundamentalist, anti-intellectual,
an enemy of science and so. So, you can't have that respect and prestige.
One Christian college professor put it in writing. He said, "If we listen
to Johnson, the gap between the academy and the sanctuary will grow wider."
And so we must shut this out and not listen to it. I responded to that was
by saying that if the secular academy is founded on naturalistic and
materialist thinking, then there ought to a very wide gap between it and
the sanctuary--meaning the church, meaning the Christian mind. And I
believe we have to raise that issue and challenge it.
So, I'm very...as you know, I feel very strongly about this, and I'm going
to continue to say it. I want to have those people for friends. I don't
want to make war on them, because they're often very, very good people. But
this issue is too important not to face squarely.
JCD: I want our listeners to know that you go into these universities
settings, and you take on the most well-known and published evolutionists
in their own den and come out whole.
Phil: Oh, I do. I enjoy it. We have a battle often, but sometimes it's
friendly, not always. Some people get very, very bitter and angry about
this. But my job is to open minds, and I want to go into those secular
universities and the Christian ones, too, and say, "Think about this. Put
these issues on the table. If you are willing to face them honestly, then
you don't have to come to the same conclusions I do. That's okay. You're
advancing the program if you just look at the issues squarely." It's the
ones who want to avoid the issues that I don't get on with.
JCD: You said you want to open minds; the title of your book is an easy to
understand guide for DEFEATING DARWINISM BY OPENING MINDS, and that's the
whole purpose of your book.
Phil, it's good to have you here. I admire you for being part of a secular
university system and still having the courage to stand up for what's
right. That takes a lot of guts, and I know very few people who've been
willing to do it. You're doing a great work for the Lord.
Phil: Thanks. One of my models for this is yourself, so...reflects credit
JCD: Blessings to you, friend. Thanks for being with us.