Re: TE/EC ad hominem against Johnson (was re-whales from rodents)

Stephen E. Jones (
Sun, 29 Aug 1999 21:27:14 +0800


On Mon, 23 Aug 1999 14:51:08 +0000, wrote:


GM>People can speak outside of their areas of formal training and can be quite
>good at it. But such people also know enough to avoid the silly little
>errors I see Johnson making. Reading one or two books on a topic,
>extracting quotes out of context, or only reading authors that agree with
>one's preconceptions and then writing a best seller does not qualify one as
an expert.

These are just assertions by Glenn, with no substance. The fact is that
Stephen Jay Gould went through "Darwin on Trial" with a fine tooth comb
to write a hostile review for Scientific American. The only mistake of
any substance that Gould found concerned polypoidy, and Johnson
corrrected that in the second edition.

Gould is a paleontologist and a stickler for detail, but he found no fault
with Johnson referring to the putative ancestor of mammals as a "rodent".

I have pointed out that Johnson, in a more technical article, *a year
before* "Darwin on Trial", referred to the ancestral mammal as "a primitive
rodent-like predecessor" (Johnson P.E., "Evolution as Dogma: The
Establishment of Naturalism", 1990. p35).

If Johnson knew *a year before* Darwin on Trial that the putative ancestral
mammal was "rodent-like", it cannot be claimed that he made a mistake a
year later through ignorance of the fact that the ancestral was not literally
a "rodent". Johnson was clearly using "rodent" in a shorthand, non-technical

For Glenn (and other TE/ECs) to keep harping on this minor point, even
after I have provided the above evidence, only shows Glenn's (and other
TE/ECs) irrational prejudice against any effective critic of evolution.

GM>How many years did it take for you to become an expert in
>geology? It took me about 10 years as I am a slow learner. I don't think
>Johnson spent his time in the trenches learning his subject.

Glenn `shoots himself in the foot' here. On hisown argument, he (a
self-confessed " slow learner" in his own subject "geology"), cannot
claim to be any more "an expert" than Johnson in areas other than

On what basis then is Glenn claiming that Johnson has made "errors" in
fields other than "geology"?

GMBut by telling
>people what they want to hear, he has had a great impact.

This is just Glenn usual practice of `scraping the bottom of the barrel' to
find some fault (real or imaginary), in Johnson so he doesn't then have to
face up to his arguments.

It is just another version of what Copi calls "the Argumentum ad Hominem
(abusive)", namely:

"The phrase arguments ad hominem translates literally as `argument
directed to the man.' It is susceptible to two interpretations, whose
interrelationship will be explained after the two are discussed separately.
We may designate this fallacy on the first interpretation as the `abusive'
variety. It is committed when, instead of trying to disprove what is asserted
one attacks the person who made the assertion." (Copi I.M., "Introduction
to Logic", 1986, p92).

But Glenn is not alone here. Even Howard J. Van Till thinks he can
dismiss Johnson's arguments by continually referring to Johnson
as " the law professor":

On Mon, 23 Aug 1999 09:57:15 -0400, Howard J. Van Till wrote:

>Arthur Chadwich took an interesting strategic path in his defense of
>Phillip Johnson's references to specific scientific concepts and their
>significance to the ongoing discussion regarding the character of the
>Creation's formational history. In the context of questions about whether
>or not Johnson got the facts straight, Art asks us to withhold from
>expecting too much: ...
>But Johnson, the law professor, is repeatedly claiming to know enough about
>biology, paleontology, etc., to warrant his declaration that the
>professional scientific community has gotten its theorizing about the
>formational history of the universe entirely wrong! Shouldn't such a bold
>claim be based on a foundation of thorough familiarity with the
>professional judgment that he declares null and void?

First, it is simply false that " repeatedly claiming to know
enough about biology, paleontology, etc., to warrant his declaration that
the professional scientific community has gotten its theorizing about the
formational history of the universe entirely wrong".

Johnson makes no claims about "the formational history of the universe".
He accepts that the "universe" is billions of years old, for example. Johnson's
focus is on *Darwinism* and particularly its underlying *philosophical*
assumptions, as he states in this recent interview. For that he is eminently

"CJ: So, your outside perspective coming at the problem from a
background in law has been a real benefit to you, while you've also had to
deal with the criticism you've taken for not being a scientist?

Phil: That's right. It's really within my field. Biologists who spend their
lifetimes studying biology will be legitimate authorities, obviously, on the
details of what they've learned in that investigation, and an outsider can't
really challenge that, but an outsider definitely can challenge their thinking,
particularly when it turns out that they believe in what they believe in not
because of what they know as biologists, but in spite of what they know as
biologists. It's a philosophical movement based on materialism. And they
say, "Well, materialism--that's science and that's our philosophy, and you
should believe it because we believe it." At this point, you know, they're
not entitled to any particular respect because they are not telling you what
they know as biological specialists. They're telling you the prejudice that
dominates the their field. So, that's a thinking issue, and it's really more
within my discipline than it's within theirs."

(Lawrence J. "Communique Interview: Phillip E. Johnson," Communique:
A Quarterly Journal, Spring, 1999.

And second, Howard is, AFAIK, an astronomer, so on Howard's own premises, one
could ask how `Howard, the astronomer', would know that what Johnson is
"claiming to know...about biology, paleontology, etc" is wrong? On Howard's
own premises, why should an astronomer know more about "biology" and
"paleontology" than a law professor?

If Glenn (or Howard) thinks he can dismiss Johnson and his arguments so
easily, he is kidding himself!


Stephen E. (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ Email:
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