The Legacies of Phillip E. Johnson | The Institute for Creation Research
The Legacies of Phillip E. Johnson

Former University of California law professor Phillip E. Johnson passed away on November 2, 2019. His significant contribution to his many law students, plus his faithfulness to his church and family were not his only legacies. As a legal scholar, he applied his unique legal logic and persuasive argumentation to origins issues. He exposed the poor logic that underlies Darwinism.

His odyssey into the crux of evolutionary biology began in London in 1987 when he purchased a copy of Richard Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker and Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Neither author had a theological starting point, but were at opposite ends when it came to vertical evolution, also known as macroevolution. After several hours of reading, Philip Johnson was captivated by the debate. The rest is history.

Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial helped spearhead the intelligent design movement. In it, he clearly exposed Darwinism’s core doctrine of methodological naturalism as being philosophical, not scientific. Methodological naturalism insists that scientists investigate only material interactions and ignore information. Information, such as the intricate genetic language found stamped on the DNA of all living creatures, always comes from an informer, never from matter. Johnson argued that the presence of real information in the world demands a real information-giver as its origin. Michael Denton said, “Darwin on Trial is unquestionably the best critique of Darwinism I have ever read.”1

Who could counter professor Johnson’s insights?

Johnson’s book The Wedge of Truth unmasked the illegitimacy of institutional consensus as a substitute for honest scientific inquiry. In it, Johnson also probed the poor logic that underpins evolutionary doctrines like how natural selection somehow crafted the human mind. He wrote, “The scientists who believe that natural selection made the brain do so not because of the evidence but in spite of the evidence.”2

Sometimes the vitriol of one’s enemies confirms that you’re on the right track. Johnson’s words riled Darwin’s defenders. His unflappable logic pierced naturalist’s core beliefs enough to incite some of them to angry dodges or personal jabs. Ironically, their passion refuted their own materialistic worldview. Particles give no reason whatsoever why people should defend any idea—including the idea of a universe made merely of particles.

Professor Johnson left a legacy of how to present a winsome case for clear thinking in origins issues. He will be remembered as the godfather of the modern intelligent design movement and as a pioneer in impacting our culture with the reasonableness of origins by design.3

References
1. Johnson, P.E. 1993. Darwin on Trial. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
2. Johnson, P.E. 2000. The Wedge of Truth. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 123.
3. Klinghoffer, D. Remembering Phillip E. Johnson (1940-2019): The Man Who Lit the Match. Evolution News & Science Today. Posted on evolutionnews.org November 3, 2019, accessed November 4, 2019.

Dr. Thomas is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool. Mr. Sherwin is Research Associate at ICR and earned a master’s in zoology from the University of Northern Colorado.

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