Johnson in World Magazine


Following Pharyngula's lead I have read the current cover story of World magazine. In it, the editors asked four contributors to imagine a future time, 2025 to be exact, when ID has replaced evolution. They are to write essays explaining how this change took place.

Pharyngula has already written an admirable dissection of Jonathan Wells' fantasies. Over at EvolutionBlog I offer my thoughts on Phillip Johnson's contribution.

In next few days I will have a look at Dembski's and Schwartz's contributions, unless other bloggers beat me to it, of course.


I am mind-boggled by Johnson’s piece, and somewhat flabbergasted that World magazine even published this and its companions. I can’t imagine more telling evidence for what I truly considered the warped perspective that drives the Wedge.

This Philip Johnson statement I find especially bizarre:

We no longer expect to meet intelligent beings on other planets, for we have learned how uniquely fitted to shelter life our own planet has been created to be.

But the Universe is just plain ENORMOUS. Which only supports the old argument of Metrodorus of Chios,

To consider the Earth as the only populated world in infinite space is as absurd as to assert that in an entire field of millet, only one grain will grow.

And overall, his arguments have a remarkable crybaby quality to them, as if he expects to triumph by getting people to feel sorry for him. Yes, much of his “arguments” seem to be that he is being picked on by those Evil Metaphysical Naturalists.

A permanent link to Jason’s article.

Isn’t the referenced Jonathan Wells the TV writer for several series? Some of his series are getting weird. Any connection evolving or just literary creationism?

This part is also bizarre:

First, literary intellectuals had pushed naturalism to the limits of its logic and drawn the conclusion that, since an uncreated nature is indifferent to good and evil, all values are merely subjective, including even the value of science. It seemed to follow that nothing is forbidden, and pleasure can be pursued without limit. Both highbrow literature and popular entertainment became strongly nihilistic, scorning all universal standards of truth, morality, or reason.

This is an apparent reference to post-modernism. The irony of his blaming post-modernism on “naturalism” is that Johnson has elsewhere defended the post-modernist approach and even employed it to critique evolution. So he’s perfectly happy with post-modern relativism whenever he can use it to support his case, but then he takes all of its less desirable baggage and tries to blame it on the other side. You can see a similar tendency with nearly everything he talks about – if it’s useful in his crusade against evolution, then he takes it as a “good thing” regardless of its merits. But when it works against his cultural crusade, that very same viewpoint is now dismissed as the twisted spawn of “naturalism”.

And of course, it should be a simple matter of logic that naturalism cannot both be a truth claim which is “dogmatically” adhered to while simultaneously scorning any universal standards of truth.

Consistency isn’t Johnson’s strong suit.

I think that you could make the case that an implicit post-modernist approach lies behind much of the current controversy on environmental issues as well. You get the distinction between Junk Science (ie. anything which does not support a right-wing corporate agenda) and Sound Science (anything which does), and it’s obvious - well, maybe I’ve slanted my definitions, but I still think it evident - that the criteria for judging science, here, is a political one. The scientific hierarchy is a power structure, and truth is only what those at the apex say it is; the individual who thinks otherwise is oppressed by this hegemony, etc. Of course you’re never going to get the anti-evolutionists (or the anti-environmentalists, or, what the hell, call the whole lot of them contrascientists) admitting to this - how leftish, might as well wear tie-dyed jeans and eat tofu - but it seems implicit in their approach.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on March 29, 2004 10:17 PM.

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