Phillip Johnson Reflects on Darwin on Trial Anniversary

Evolution News

At Touchstone magazine, Phil Johnson himself, ID’s godfather, recalls some of the history that began twenty years ago with the publication of his path-breaking book Darwin on Trial. As he notes, arguably the most important contribution the book made was a philosophical one, providing a fresh and scientifically valid way of framing the debate of evolution. Because of that accomplishment, the controversy around Darwinian evolution has born his intellectual imprint ever since.

My first step in devising this framework was to decide that the all-important fundamental claim of neo-Darwinism, the ruling scientific (i.e., naturalistic) theory of biological evolution, is not that the theory contradicts the Bible, or that a pattern of relationship between species indicates that they derive from a common source. It is that Darwinian science knows of a mechanism that can and did transform the first single-celled microorganism into all the species of plants and animals that have ever existed — including our own Homo sapiens, from Conan the barbarian to Shakespeare, Bach, and Newton, with any intelligent causes both absent and unnecessary.

Johnson gives an interesting snapshot of how the seed of the intelligent design movement was planted and began to grow.

From the beginning, the process of building a movement on the basis of Darwin on Trial was one of picking up friends and allies as they came along. My first partner was [Stephen] Meyer, who was then in the process of attaining his Ph.D. in the philosophy of science from Cambridge University. Steve and I found that our minds were moving in the same direction during a long conversation as we walked along the “backs” at Cambridge.
The next ally was a professor of biochemistry from Lehigh University, Michael Behe, who wrote a splendid letter to the editors of Science magazine after Science published a dismissive review of Darwin on Trial. This was my first indication that Mike, among other talents, writes the best letters to editors of anyone I know.
My third ally was William Dembski, a muscular philosopher with two Ph.Ds. — in philosophy and mathematics. He was already well along in developing the ideas that inspired his many books.
So, from the start, the ID movement was a team effort in which I was for a while first among equals, but never a celebrity. Now that I am 71 years old and in retirement, leadership of the movement has passed into other hands. This is not a disappointment for me, but a fulfillment of what I had planned all along.

Read the rest here.

Evolution News

Evolution News & Science Today (EN) provides original reporting and analysis about evolution, neuroscience, bioethics, intelligent design and other science-related issues, including breaking news about scientific research. It also covers the impact of science on culture and conflicts over free speech and academic freedom in science. Finally, it fact-checks and critiques media coverage of scientific issues.



Darwin on Trialintelligent designPhillip E. Johnson