Philip E. Johnson: Godfather of Intelligent Design

ARE YOU one of those who still thinks that intelligent design (ID) is some kind of scientific theory that offers a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution? If so, you may find this interesting.

In the Christian Post, described by Wikipedia as “a pan-denominational, Evangelical Christian newspaper based in Washington, D.C.,” which includes among its contributors such writers as Charles Colson, Billy Graham, and Rick Warren, we read Biola to Feature Leading Christian Apologist, ‘Godfather’ of Intelligent Design.

Let’s introduce the players:

Biola University is described by Wikipedia as “a private, non-denominational, Evangelical Christian university located near Los Angeles, noted for its conservative theology.” They also say that Biola was founded in “1908 as the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles by Lyman Stewart, co-owner of the Union Oil Company of California ” And they say this: “As the birthplace of fundamentalism, Biola remains one of the few Evangelical institutions to still proudly hold to the key doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.”

That’s how they like it, so it’s fine with us. Now then, let’s see what the Christian Post has to say:

Biola University will conclude its centennial year Friday with a fall commencement that will feature renowned apologist Lee Strobel and the “godfather” of the Intelligent Design movement, retired UC Berkeley professor Philip E. Johnson.

… Strobel will serve as the keynote speaker while Johnson will be awarded with an Honorary Doctor of Laws for distinction in public service.

Strobel is interesting, but we’ll concentrate on Johnson, who is, according to the Christian Post:

… best known as one of the founders of the intelligent design movement, which asserts that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”

Johnson is also listed as a “Program Advisor” at the Discovery Institute. According to Wikipedia, Phillip E. Johnson was a law professor with a fine education, but he has no degree in science. With that background, it’s remarkable that he is a founder of the ID movement which is challenging the foundation of biology.

The Christian Post article continues:

The idea of intelligent design, which critics view as a variation of creationism, has led to heated debates, a number of court battles, and the dismissal of several highly respected professors. It was also a key part in the highly successful documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” which featured actor Ben Stein.

Whether that film was “highly successful” is debatable; and it’s also debatable whether there was any “dismissal of several highly respected professors,” but let’s not quibble over that. Moving along:

According to Biola, Johnson will be awarded for having “a clear evangelical Christian testimony” and having demonstrated “significant service and achievement over an extended period of time, which is national or international in nature” and is relevant to the mission of the university.

Biola’s mission — to which Johnson’s ID work is relevant for this award — is described in some detail at their website, but it’s summarized as follows:

The mission of Biola University is biblically centered education, scholarship and service — equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.

We’re delighted that this honor is being bestowed upon Mr. Johnson by such a worthy institution in their centennial year; but we’re also somewhat puzzled. Perhaps you are too.

Isn’t it odd that Johnson’s ID work — claimed to be entirely scientific in nature — should result in such an award?

Copyright © 2008. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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2 responses to “Philip E. Johnson: Godfather of Intelligent Design

  1. 3 points:

    1. I think the most significant thing about Johnson’s role in ID is the notion he defends, and others represent, that lawyers are most qualified to judge evidence on “both sides” of a controversy — any controversy. (There seem to be a lot more lawyers than scientists in that lot — from Johnson himself to Calvert to the yapping yelping Luskin.) Theirs is a FORENSIC model, imposed on science, which is the view of science presupposed by their arguments for “strengths and weaknesses,” and the image of science that would be transmitted to students under that regime.

    2. There’s an anthology celebrating Johnson’s contribution to the cause, titled “Darwin’s Nemesis.” See the front cover at . It’s hilarious.

    3. That cover boasts a FOREWORD BY SENATOR RICK SANTORUM. The foreword was written before Dover (in Santorum’s state), but published shortly after the decision in that case. Santorum tried to back away from his pro-ID posturing, but it’s one of the many things that led to his defeat.

  2. A final comment on that book cover:

    Don’t it look like Darwin has a gnat in his beard?

    Come to think of it, it does seem like Darwin gave birth to an environment in which the parasitic ID virus finds its niche.