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Phillip Johnson: A Fond Farewell

Phillip Johnson

Editor’s note: Phillip E. Johnson, Berkeley law professor and author of Darwin on Trial and other books, died on November 2. Evolution News is sharing remembrances from staff, friends, and Fellows of Discovery Institute. Philosopher of biology Michael Ruse, cherished by ID proponents as a longtime friendly antagonist, is the author of The Problem of War: Darwinism, Christianity, and their Battle to Understand Human Conflict and other books. Professor Ruse directs the Program in History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University.

I have just learned of the death of Phillip Johnson. We were very much on different sides of the IDT [intelligent design theory] debate, but I think I can truly say that our intellectual (and faith) disagreements made no difference to our personal respect and (dare I say) affection.

Phil was born on June 18, 1940. I was born on June 21, 1940. I used to joke that not only was this the best proof I had ever encountered for the existence of God, but that it showed that God had a great sense of humor. Having made Phil, he made me to give him a lifetime’s work and aggravation.

I have the unique distinction of having contributed in the same year to the Festschrifts of both Phil Johnson and Richard Dawkins. I feel a bit like a double agent, but I don’t quite know whose side I am on! But then, in the 1981 Arkansas trial, where I was an expert witness for the ACLU, on being cross-examined about my religious beliefs, I blurted out — “But Mr. Williams, can’t you see I am not an expert witness on my own religious beliefs?!”

Rest in peace Phil — at least until I turn up and start teasing you again.

Photo at the top: On a 1997 episode of Firing Line, Phillip Johnson (l., with William F. Buckley Jr., David Berlinski, and Michael Behe) debated Michael Ruse (r., with Barry Lynn, Eugenie Scott, and Kenneth Miller), with Michael Kinsley (c.) moderating, via Hoover Institution/YouTube (screenshot).