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Jonathan Witt, Matti Leisola, and the “Line of Despair”

David Klinghoffer

Matti Leisola

My colleague Jonathan Witt is the co-author with heavyweight Finnish biochemist Matti Leisola of the new book Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design. On a new episode of ID the Future, Dr. Witt chats with Criswell College president Barry Creamer about Dr. Leisola’s story, which in a sense begins in 1972 in Helsinki, Finland.

As Jonathan recounts, Leisola’s journey toward intelligent design was sparked by a lecture he heard that year by an American philosopher and theologian, Francis Schaeffer. Like Stephen Hawking, Matti had previously thought that philosophy was effectively dead. Not so.

In an auditorium at the University of Helsinki, Schaeffer described what he called the “line of despair,” an assumption in European culture dating back to the previous century that faith and reason are separated from each other permanently, by an unbridgeable divide. Theism expects evidence of purpose in nature. To see such purpose was, therefore, to commit yourself to unreason. Schaefer, however, also pointed out that we often think in line with an invisible picture of reality, a worldview, which constrains our reason. And often we can know when this is the case when we find ourselves getting angry at being challenged. Leisola recognized himself in that description. He realized that, regarding evolution in particular, his own thinking had been distorted by hidden assumptions. The realization set him on the path to fundamentally reevaluating his views on origins, and thus toward ID, and heresy.

You’ll enjoy the podcast — Jonathan is a thoroughly charming talker. Download it or listen to it here. The conversation also covers the “junk DNA” myth, what’s at stake in the design debate, how Jonathan Witt came to join us at the Center for Science & Culture, and more. As a bonus, you will learn how to pronounce Matti Leisola. It’s MAH-tee LAY-suh-luh, not MAT-tee Lye-SOH-la. I realized I’ve been saying it wrong for years. Sorry!

Photo: Matti Leisola.