Discoveroid Phillip E. Johnson Has Died

You have all heard of Phillip E. Johnson, upon whom the Discovery Institute has bestowed the title of Godfather of Intelligent Design. Casey Luskin wrote about him with that title, and we blogged about it eight years ago in Discovery Institute Praises Phillip Johnson.

Today, dear reader, we bring you the news that Phillip Johnson has passed away. He was 79. That’s what we learned at this new Discoveroid post by Klinghoffer: Remembering Phillip E. Johnson (1940-2019): The Man Who Lit the Match. It’s mostly a copy of Luskin’s post from eight years ago, so you can either read Klinghoffer’s copy today or our post from long ago.

Among the many honors Johnson received was when BIOLA University, a bible college, had him as a featured speaker for their centennial celebration. We wrote about that here: Philip E. Johnson: Godfather of Intelligent Design.

We’re not certain as to whether Johnson was ever a Discoveroid fellow, but he’s described as “Program Advisor” of their Center for Science and Culture.

And that’s the news. As is our custom, we will not speak disparagingly of him in a post like this one. We trust that you too will be somewhat moderate in your comments.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Discoveroid Phillip E. Johnson Has Died

  1. Alastair Noble, Director of Glasgow’s own Centre for Intelligent Design, spoke of how Phillip Johnson had been his inspiration.

  2. Michael Fugate

    One does wonder about a god who supposedly tells a lawyer (after a divorce) that said god can best be served by attacking evolutionary biology – with lies and half truths – no less.

  3. Karl Goldsmith

    As it was shown to just be creationism, he in fact just called it by a different name.

  4. “We trust that you too will be somewhat moderate in your comments.”
    Like “Johnson was somewhat an IDiot”?

    OK. Let me honour the man by torturing myself a bit and listening to a YouTube video. Let’s see if I can pass the three minutes limit.

    https: //www. youtube.com/ watch?v=T3ozxKMbHAQ

    After three minutes he hasn’t said anything substantial yet, so that was easy. His voice is actually quite pleasant.
    Six minutes: just more prattling around about Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
    Ah – finally in the 7th minute he starts lying – by suggesting that A Brief History has anything to do with the meaning of his suffering from Gehrig’s disease. He then goes on kicking in another door – the GUT Hawking wrote about will not provide any. Duh.
    Eight minutes: Johnson deserves a compliment. Yup, since 200 years science is not about teleology anymore. Of course I don’t expect him to conclude that that’s left for theology, that IDiocy is about teleology, which means that it’s not science.
    Wow. Eleven minutes already and Phillips only now uses the infamous e-word and the even more infamous c-word, the one I prefer to replace by creacrap.
    Twelve minutes. Enough. Nothing substantial yet; he starts telling another anecdote. Granted, it’s about the Galapagos, but still unsubstantial.
    Like IDiocy, actually.

    So we’ve lost a great anecote teller.

  5. To honour Phillips a bit more I’ll spread the Good News that Dutch Young Earth Creationism outfit Logos.nl has come to the defense of no-one else than Michael Behe!

    https://logos.nl/intelligent-design-getamd/

    Tamminga’s “bezwaren tegenover het concept van onherleidbare complexiteit bij Behe is …”

    Tamminga’s [apparently an evolutionary theist – FrankB] “objections against the concept of Irreducible Complexity by Behe is …..”

    A bit further:

    “wordt Behe en andere ID-ers een kwade wil toegedicht.”

    “Behe and other IDiots are accused of malevolence.”

    Isn’t this heart warming?

    Of course there is more (nonsense and lies) to it, but hey, let me remain somewhat moderate today.

  6. I’ll satisfy myself with Christopher Hitchens’ observation on the death of Jerry Falwell. You can look it up.

  7. FrankB says: “To honour Phillips a bit more”

    You mean Johnson, don’t you?

  8. chris schilling

    From the Wikipedia page on Johnson:
    “Despite having no formal background in biology…”

    Many of us here don’t have any formal background either, but then, we’re not the ones taking issue with the mainstream consensus on such an important subject as evolution. Johnson did.

    Wikipedia: “…Johnson stated that he approached the creation evolution dispute not as a scientist but as an academic lawyer by profession…”

    That makes his hubris doubly damnable, in my estimation.

    To add to @Karl G’s assessment: Johnson amounted in the end to no more than a kind of Jason Lisle, but with a law degree.

  9. @chris schilling
    Did Johnson have any formal background in any science or religion. He had a BA in English literature from Harvard, which might include an “Introducton to Philosophy” class (one semester of elementary logic & one semester survey, maybe?).

  10. Michael Fugate

    Read the review of Darwin on Trial by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Nancey Murphy. I don’t agree with some of her conclusions, but she thought Johnson’s book to be oh so shallow. In response, he apparently tried to get her fired – he claimed it was just a friendly chat with a trustee who also didn’t appreciate her review…

    https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1993/PSCF3-93Murphy.html

  11. chris schilling

    @TomS
    It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Who gets to opine on a subject, when they have little or no formal or expert background in such weighty areas as science and religion. I don’t think a lack of academic qualifications should necessarily preclude an (informed) opinion on these subjects, though obviously it helps to at least acknowledge our limitations. Clearly, not all opinions are equal.

    What bothers me about Johnson — and people like Lisle — is the presumption of “logic” they claim to bring to their arguments. And the misplaced authority that Johnson — as someone trained in law — was simply accorded by his followers. All that did, to my mind, was somehow make the practice of law seem questionable (though really, it was just Johnson exceeding his limits, and mistaking his strong feelings for “logic”).

    When creationist JW’s — with whom (like FrankB, perhaps) I’ve been unwise enough to engage — have countered anything I might have proposed with “That’s just your opinion!” or “Are you an expert (on biology)?”, sometimes my only defence or excuse as to, no, I’m not an expert, has been: what difference would it make? They don’t accept what the experts say, anyway.

  12. Well, either he is now finding out how right or wrong he was, and my money, FWIW, is on “wrong”…

    Or he isn’t.

    I hope I can be forgiven for preferring the first of those two options. Notice I said “preferring”. I would prefer not to have Parkinson’s disease. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe I’ve got it.

  13. @SC: yes.

    @TomS: no. Johnson was just a lawyer.

    @ChrisS: indeed I’ve been engaging with creationist JW’s since four decades or so; I always thought them amusing. When I had the time my strategy was to keep them at my door so long that they hadn’t time anymore to bother neighbours, who likely had different views on entertainment. In the past, when JW’s were more persistent than now, they decided to avoid my address after three or four times. A few years ago one of them gave me the compliment that my atheism is rock-solid.

    I’ve met “that’s just your opinion” only on internet. At the door my game is that I don’t need to convince them, they need to convince me. So if a JW would give my that rebuttal I would just shrug and reply something like “yup and yours is incorrect for the reasons I just gave.” Your second option is even weaker. Good replies are “neither are you” and “I took my views over from well-educated professional biologists, unlike you.”
    Of course they don’t accept what the experts say, but holding it against them means that the burden of proof on them becomes even weightier and that’s always an advantage. Just ask WL Craig – he often has pulled off this trick as well in public debates.

  14. @FramkB
    I’ve met “that is your opinion” in face to face talk. To which I say, “No, and that is an admission that you have nothing to say, and are reduced to empty words.”

  15. I imagine that works equally well.

  16. I wonder if he’ll be buried with a copy of his beloved Wedge Document.

  17. Michael Fugate

    Everything was done with a wink and a nod – deny three times before the cock crows that ID has anything to do with Genesis, God and Christianity. His The Wedgie of Truth book garnered a 2001 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Award, but it was all about science…

  18. Well, let me funnel my inner Fundie by saying:

    “Well, he knows there’s no god now!”.

    🙂

  19. @chris schilling
    In “Darwin on Trial” (2nd paperback edition), on page 13, he wrote, “I am not a scientist but an academic lawyer by profession, with a specialty in analyzing the logic of arguments …”

  20. Michael Fugate

    It has been a long time since I read Darwin on Trial – what are the logical failures of evolution? That it doesn’t assume a creator god?

    Sometimes people try to use an English sentence as analogous to a DNA/protein sequence – assuming change in letters and change in nucleotide or amino acid. The problem is that one doesn’t start with a complete grammatical sentence (a perfect catalyst for a single chemical reaction) – of course changes are almost always detrimental in that example – a better analogy is to start with a word like “food” or “eat” and then adding to it to make it more “functional” – subject object verb adjective etc..

  21. The law is not a search for the truth. It is after justice.
    For example, it is not justice to use testimony which is obtained by illegal means.
    There is eventually an end to the legal process, whether or not there are sufficient grounds to decide one way or the other.
    One must decide which of the two sides wins, and there cannot be a decision that neither is right, or both.