Re: Phillip Johnson at Northshore Church

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Sat Apr 21 2001 - 23:25:51 EDT

  • Next message: Bill Payne: "Re: Darwinism Defeated"

    Thank you Keith for posting this extraordinarily candid and illuminating answer
    from PJ. Where (and how) did you get it? A citation would be helpful as this is
    well worth adding to my collection of PJs pronouncements. Sections that
    particularly caught my eye.

    Keith B Miller wrote:

    > >When I took up the study of evolution in England in 1987-88 what I
    > >discovered was that this isn't really about science. It's about thinking.
    > >It's about logical thinking and illogical thinking. It's about given
    > >assumptions and definitions. You define the terms so you get the answer you
    > >want.

    Hence PJ's contempt of science and scientists, presumably. It also shows that
    arguing science with PJ won't get us anywhere. The issue with him is not science
    but argument.

    > >
    > >In our legal system when we teach people how to argue cases before a court
    > >we have a brief. A written argument to the court. The first section is the
    > >question to be presented. What is the question? And you always tell them,
    > >if you can get the court to accept your carefully drafted statement of the
    > >question presented, they will give the answer you want. Get the question
    > >right, it's likely the answer follows. So there is a target that leads to a
    > >plan in the question. So, since the Darwinists insist on defining the
    > >question asked, "How did creating get done without God?' The rules of the
    > >game are that you cannot bring God into the courtroom. I recognize that.

    This cuts both ways of course. PJ is here defining the question to get the answer
    he wants. Evolution means creation without God, creation by God therefore rules
    out evolution. So much for ID (as interpreted by PJ) being a non religious
    research program.

    The fact that Darwin never defined the question in these terms, indeed that the
    issue is defined only in these terms by those who are opposed to evolution or
    creation on metaphysical grounds has either escaped PJ or is ignored by him. PJ
    also ignores the fact that the most of the early evolutionists (Lamarck, Darwin,
    Wallace, for example) presented their evidence and argued their case
    scientifically, rather than in a court of law or as a propogranda tool of
    metaphysical naturalism (although it was soon used by some for that end). Also
    ignored are those Christians and non-Christians who do not see any conflict.

    Then there is the unanswered question as to why is biology singled out. The
    question "How did creating get done without God?" could be applied with equal
    force to rocks, planet, stars, and galaxies, and the universe. Indeed, it would
    also be applied to the individual. The fact that Johnson does not suggests that
    either he sees the evidence for naturalistic creation of these things as
    overwhelming, or that in regards living things as fundamentally different from non
    living things in the nature of their creation - a closet vitalist perhaps. I
    wonder how he regards the formation of the individual person?

    > >Now biologists are not trained to recognize that court sort of thing.
    > >They're trying to do what other biologists do. Good thinking is thinking
    > >like other biologists do. They would never question things that are
    > >fundamental knowledge, the way I did. So it was a matter of finding the
    > >tricks. The definitions. The way in which the argument was skewed by tricky
    > >words and changing definitions. The very tricks of logic and arguing.

    That the converse might also be true also escapes PJ, or is ignored - "lawyers are
    not trained to recognize that scientific sort of thing. They're trying to do what
    other lawyers do. Good thinking is thinking like other lawyers do." Saying that
    biologists "never question things that are fundamental knowledge, the way I did"
    is not only gross arrogance, but also untrue. Doubtless it went down well with
    the gallery though.

    > >The other thing that was different about my approach from the scientists
    > >view, lots of people made arguments against Darwinism and they made good
    > >arguments. The same kind of ones I made in 'Darwin on Trial." Theres a lot
    > >of antecedents for every point. But, they couldn't win. They couldn't win
    > >the argument. Why not? They were caught in the "Inherit the Wind"
    > >stereotype. They were caught in the stereotype of the argument. They were
    > >trying to argue about the evidence and the real problem was the whole game
    > >was stacked. It had to come out with the answer 'nature did the creating.'
    > >So it was futile to make a specific argument.

    To me it seems that PJ is admitting that his tactics of trotting out the tired old
    anti-evolutionary arguments that he did in "Darwin on Trial" was a mistake. Also
    interesting is his admission of futility in arguing about the evidence, he
    realised he could not get anywhere. Whether it is because the game is "stacked"
    as he claims, or because that is where the evidence points is another matter.
    However changing his attack again fits in with his legal approach - you don't
    attack the other side where their case is strongest but instead look for where you
    think it is weakest. Having just been involved in a corut case I have first hand
    experience of such tricks.

    > >I understood that and understood how to craft a winning strategy. And
    > >that's why I immediately became the leader of the whole movement. That's
    > >what everybody wanted. A strategy that would win in the sense of getting
    > >the right questions on the table and having a fair debate in which case the
    > >proposition that you really do need a creator would tend to prevail because
    > >thats what the evidence supports. So that is how we have been able to come
    > >in ten years or a dozen from nowhere to the front page of the New York Times.

    Another important comment. We must never forget that the ID movement as headed by
    PJ has a crafted and led strategy. With people of PJs intellectual calibre in
    charge we cannot ever assume that a particular aspect is the result of ignorance.
    Therefore the many aspects of the ID agenda under PJ must be seen a deliberate
    strategy, not simply ignorance or blindness.

    > >It was a job for someone who understood logic. Who understood how people
    > >argue and how they think. And then if you are thinking of becoming, and
    > >the point of law school, that, that is the most valuable thing you learn
    > >there, if you do learn something. Is, how people think. How they argue. And
    > >how illogical and badly reasoned ideas can become powerful by the use of
    > >power. Now that is a knowledge can be used for good or evil. But used
    > >rightly, it is a powerful way to bring out the truth. And to free peoples
    > >minds and that is why I titled one of my books, "Defeating Darwinism by
    > >opening Minds." Thats always been my objective. To free people to think
    > >their own way to the right answers.

    Once again PJ is saying that the issue is not science, but logic (and philosophy
    and rhetoric). Hence the emphasis on philosophy in the ID movement. Theology
    once again does not get a mention, despite the fact that evidence for God's action
    is the prime reason for the whole movement.

    The question is, how do those of us who believer that God's creation and
    naturalistic explanations of formation are not mutually exclusive respond (or
    better yet, become proactive)? Most of us argue like scientists and theologians
    because that is what we are. The fact that the ID movement and in particular PJ
    never discusses theology and relatively rarely science is not an accident, but is
    part of a well thought out strategy of trying to bypass the real intellectual
    stake holders (scientists and theologians). That is why they won't discuss
    sciences such as population or ecological genetics, developmental biology, or
    palaeontology. That is why they generally (not always) excluding from discussion
    people who do not see the question of darwinian evolution as having metaphysical
    significance and always belittling their importance. It is also why they dodge of
    the issue with respect to the formation of stars, planets, and rocks.

    I think the response to this must be on many fronts. We need to play on our
    strengths and the weaknesses of PJ's movement. Thus we should emphasise the
    explanatory power of organic evolution and its consistency with the evidence.
    Critically deal with the mathematical and biochemical issues. Emphasise the
    theological and metaphysical assumptions of PJ. Expose the rhetorical and logical
    tricks being used, especially in the false dichotomies. Do all of this in a
    gracious manner.

    I am cautiously sympathetic to some forms of ID. I would hate to see the
    reinstatement of Paley type arguments. However some of the general concepts of
    ID may seem to be an extension of the anthropic principle to biology, which could
    be valuable. However the nascent suggestions of ID (for example as expressed by
    Behe) has been hijacked by PJ for his religious and political agenda so such an
    extent that the actual cause of ID as an idea has probably been hindered. After
    all, PJ seems only interested in ID as a tool in his crusade against metaphysical
    naturalism, not in it as an idea (and perhaps a discipline) in its own sake.
    Supporters of ID must be aware that its long terms may not be served by its
    alignment with PJ.


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