Re: Phillip Johnson at Northshore Church

From: george murphy (
Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 10:39:54 EDT

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    Jonathan Clarke wrote:

    > PJ doesn't know much about science or medicine either, but that does not stop him commenting on
    > them (what is happening to these days to his anti HIV agenda these days?). After all you don't
    > need to know the subject, only the logic. Nor would personal ignorance stop him from recruiting
    > theologians to his cause. Indeed there are theologically competent people as part of the DI.
    > Therefore I suspect (in the absence of evidence to the contrary) that PJ's silence is a deliberate
    > strategic decision to avoid discussion of the topic.
    > We must always remember that PJ is approaching the issue as a lawyer and the jury is not the
    > scientific or theological community, but the American social scene as a whole (not even the
    > specifically Christian part of it). Hence the benchmarks for success are recognition by major
    > newspapers, not scientific or theological journals. Experts, scientific and theological, are
    > called on if they help his case, and ignored if the do not (unless of course they are the
    > defendants in the box). The fact that theologians are not called would suggest that he believes
    > they would not help his case. Interestingly, theologians who disagree with him are not (as far as
    > I know) subjected to the same cross examination as those Christians in science disagree are.
    > Perhaps he is concerned that this would give too much of the game away about his only theological
    > stance or alienate and divide his Christian constituency. But I speculate.
    > One last question. If we must "think lawyer" when responding to PJ, how do we avoid sinking to
    > the level of lawyers?

            No doubt he sees engagement with theology to be a detriment to his case. Whether or not he
    knows anything about it is perhaps of secondary importance. What does seem clear from this is that it
    is to the advantage of Christians who disagree with the anti-evolution crusade, including ID, to
    highlight its theological deficiencies.
            In response to your last question, perhaps we can't avoid "sinking" entirely. One approach
    might be to do the type of thing a lawyer would try to do with an "expert" witness for the other side,
    destroy his or her credibility as an expert. I think, e.g., of the "expert" who was called as a
    defence (I think) witness in the trial of Demjanjuk (Sp?) in Jerusalem to testify about the
    authenticity of what had been presented as documents showing that the defendant was the death camp
    guard "Ivan the Terrible". It turned out that her qualifications in this area were essentially
    non-existent, and her testimony about the documents concluded with her plaintive statement, "I have
    the right to my opinion."
            Johnson can say all he wants to that the real issue is "logic", but serious questions can be
    raised about his credibility and the relevance of his expertise in the court of public opinion if it
    is pointed out rather relentlessly that he has no qualifications, and demonstrably little knowledge,
    in the areas of either science or religion. After all, most people think that evolution has (or is
    supposed to have) something to do with science, and that creation has some connection. (I am cheating
    a little bit here by using "religion" instead of "theology" but I think that's legitimate
    popularization here.)



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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