Discovery Institute Praises Phillip Johnson

This is a treat, dear reader. Why? To begin with, it’s the latest in a flood of articles proclaiming the 20-year anniversary of the publication of Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial, which spawned the cult of intelligent design.

Second, because it’s posted at the blog of the cult he founded — the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

And third, because it’s by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist. He seems to be the only Discoveroid who isn’t a “fellow,” so last year your Curmudgeon compassionately remedied that cruel insult (see: Casey Luskin Is Named a Curmudgeon Fellow).

Casey’s article is titled Why Phillip Johnson Matters: A Biography. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and Casey’s links omitted:

Phillip Johnson, law professor emeritus of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, is widely recognized as the godfather of the contemporary intelligent design (ID) movement. As the author of several books and numerous articles explaining scientific, legal, and cultural dimension of the debate over ID and Darwinism, Johnson was one of the most prolific authors in the formative years of the movement.

Always note what isn’t said. There is no mention of any scientific evidence provided by Johnson to either: (a) contradict Darwin’s theory, or (b) support the theory of the magic designer. That makes the book scientifically irrelevant. Casey gushes on:

It was Johnson’s 1991 book Darwin on Trial that first convinced many thinkers that neo-Darwinian evolution was buttressed more by a philosophy of naturalism than by the scientific evidence.

Huh? As we translate Casey’s writing into comprehensible English, he’s saying that Johnson’s big complaint against Darwin was that Darwin relied on the scientific method instead of mysticism. Let’s read on:

Johnson’s influential writing became the magnet of scholars from a variety of fields — biology, chemistry, physics, philosophy, theology, and law — to forge the intelligent design movement.

He attracted very few credible biologists, we should add. But the movement attracted loads of dentists, proctologists, sociologists, political science majors, and insurance salesmen. We continue:

Part of Johnson’s vision as a legal scholar has been knowing how to ask the right questions. The 1980s was an era of controversy for Biblical creationists. While young earth creationists and old earth creationists squabbled about whether Noah rode a dinosaur, or a camel onto the Ark, elite materialists were happy to take over the culture.

Did Johnson really “know how to ask the right questions”? It can certainly seem so when he writes a book from his own perspective, without alternating chapters with someone on the other side. But that’s fantasy. When a trial lawyer is going to cross-examine a scientific expert in court, he doesn’t just read the expert’s book and jot down some questions — imagining that his courtroom adversary is going to crumble. To be properly prepared for the courtroom ordeal, he should refine his questions by hiring his own expert and bouncing his questions off that guy, to learn about the responses he’s likely to get in court. That’s how to avoid looking like a fool. Merely asking your own questions doesn’t begin to do the job. Here’s more:

With the mind of a law professor, Johnson was a master at spotting issues. And the key issue he saw in the origins debate was not the age of the earth or the differing interpretations of Genesis by Christians. It was a more fundamental question of interest to theists and non-theists alike: Is life the result of blind, undirected natural causes, or is it the result of purposeful design? By focusing on this question, Johnson transformed the entire origins debate.

Yes — is the world a natural phenomenon, or is it the product of Oogity Boogity? That was Johnson’s key issue, albeit by no means a new one. Moving along:

It has been often said that all truth passes through three stages. First it is ignored. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as being self-evident. This seems to be the arc that intelligent design is traversing.

Uh … no. Let’s not assume that the Discoveroids’ dogma is even close to being “truth.” Therefore we shall re-phrase Casey’s attempt at ancient wisdom, as follows:

A declaration of hogwash passes through three stages. First it is laughed at and ignored. Then it is shoveled over so it doesn’t smell up the area. Finally it becomes the core doctrine for yet another crazy cult.

Much better! Here’s another excerpt, and in this one Casey attempts to downplay the importance of their wedge strategy:

ID critics quickly learned that the most effective way to target ID was not to address its arguments, but to make accusations of secret, sinister motives among proponents. One imagines the godfather Phillip Johnson in a smoky dark room handing “wedge documents” to his eager followers, charging them to go forth and baptize converts to intelligent design.

That’s pretty much how we see it, so we’ll skip over Casey’s attempt to say why that’s wrong. On with the article:

Ironically, intemperate efforts to attack Johnson often ended up drawing people to him, creating a growing network of scientists and other scholars interested in intelligent design. Biochemist Michael Behe explains how a biased critique of Darwin on Trial in the journal Science led Behe to join the ID movement: [Behe quote omitted].

What a lucky day that was for the Discoveroids! Here’s one more excerpt:

Behe’s story is not unusual for members of the ID movement. Attracted by his intellect, character, and boldness, a new generation of scientists and scholars became connected to each other through Johnson.

We imagine that’s true. Think of some demented creationist, alone in the wilderness, screaming at Darwin and all those other scientists. Suddenly he reads about Johnson and his movement. O the joy! The solitary creationist isn’t alone any longer. He can join a community of like-minded souls. We should definitely give Johnson credit for that. He not only founded a cult, it’s also a lonely-hearts club for creationists.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Discovery Institute Praises Phillip Johnson

  1. SC said:

    it’s by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist.

    I disagree. My favorite is Hambo. He’s megalomaniacal yet vapid.
    Oh, and possible grammar issue. First sentence of second paragraph: “the blog of cult he founded”. Should that be “the blog of the cult he founded”? Or “the blog of a cult he founded”?

  2. Gary says: “Oh, and possible grammar issue.”

    Right again. I left out a “the.” Thank you.

  3. Was Darwin on Trial about intelligent design? From the reviews, it appears to be just another attack on evolution. By a lawyer, no less.

    It is fitting that the DI would consider an attorney who wrote an attack on evolution, personifying it by using Darwin’s name, to be the Godfather of ID. His work encapsulates all that intelligent design is, to this day. A creationist rhetorical argument against modern science, often made by attorneys. Even the title of the book, Darwin on Trial, hints at one of the major approaches the DI would adopt. (The others being government action and appeals to the Christian community) As exemplified by Johnson’s book, which included none, original research and evidence-based science would not be part of intelligent design creationism.

    The DI has just reason to celebrate, and likewise they have afforded us a good opportunity for another long laugh. Cheers!

  4. Ceteris Parabus

    Casey says: “Ironically, intemperate efforts to attack Johnson often ended up…”

    Ironically? If there is one linguistic concept that the creationists do not understand it is irony.

    Recall that in order to save the literal biblically prescribed dimensions of Noah’s ark, creationists changed all the species of animals to mean just a small collection of “kinds” of animals, or “baramins” to use their literal but non-scriptural term, who then could easily book passage for the voyage.

    When the yacht duly arrived at the port of Mt. Ararat, the cargo of baramins was put ashore just as literally written. Now it was only at this point in time, according to the creationists, that the baramins underwent evolution at a rate so spectacularly rapid that they were able to produce all the species that we can now visit museums and wonder at.

    If this creationist tale were true, the pace of baramin evolution would give any evolutionary biologist studying the situation a bout of vertigo sufficiently extreme as to give up the diagnosis, and recommend that all the baramins go out and seek the advice of a qualified oncologist.

  5. There was, actually, one experiment done regarding Darwin on Trial:


    How did that work out Research Coordinator Luskin?

  6. Always note what isn’t said. There is no mention of any scientific evidence provided by Johnson to either: (a) contradict Darwin’s theory, or (b) support the theory of the magic designer. That makes the book scientifically irrelevant.

    And the most glaring omission, (c) describe “Intelligent Design”.

    And don’t restrict that to “scientifically”. Anything that would get a passing grade in a secondary-school class in expository writing. (Or, think of a detective story which not only didn’t tell us the “method, motive, and opportunity”, but didn’t even identify the suspect and the corpus dilecti.)

  7. Funny … Casey seems to have left out this quote from Johnson:

    “I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world.”

    – The Berkeley Science Review, “In the matter of Berkeley v. Berkeley,” Spring 2006

    Click to access evolution.pdf

  8. Tomato Addict

    Gary says: “Oh, and possible grammar issue.”

    Curmudgeon: “Right again. I left out a “the.” Thank you.”

    The article was missing an article!