Separating Materialist Philosophy From Science -- By: Phillip E. Johnson

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 10:2 (Spring 1997)
Article: Separating Materialist Philosophy From Science
Author: Phillip E. Johnson

Separating Materialist Philosophy From Science

Phillip E. Johnson

Phillip E. Johnson, a professor of law at Berkeley, is known for his efforts to confront the scientific establishment of Darwinism. His first book on the issue, Darwin on Trial (InterVarsity Press, 1993), has been reviewed by almost every major evolutionist. He also wrote a follow-up called Reason in the Balance (InterVarsity Press, 1995). His most recent book, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (InterVarsity Press, 1997), was released this summer.

I’ll start by remembering three important events that occurred when I was a young adult, events which symbolize the ideological shift that occurred in the second half of the 20th century.

The first event was the Darwinian centennial of 1959, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The celebration was held at the University of Chicago, where I entered law school shortly thereafter. Chicago was a particularly appropriate place to have the Darwinian centennial, because it was associated with other seminal events in modern science: the first atomic reactor was built there under Stagg Field, and in 1952 the famous Miller-Urey experiment had given scientists confidence that the Darwinian principle of materialistic evolution could be extended back to the ultimate beginning of life.

So, in 1959 the mood at the Darwinian centennial was one of triumphalism. Darwinism had gone through a rocky period when there was much dispute about the mechanism, but then the neo-Darwinian synthesis had come to the rescue with its mathematical population genetics. Neo-Darwinism seemed like the ultimate truth, a biological “Theory of Everything.”

Julian Huxley, grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley and brother of Aldous, was the most prominent speaker. He declared that supernatural religion was finished and that a new religion of evolutionary humanism based upon science would become the worldwide creed. We might say he proclaimed the death of an aged tyrant called God, and then credited Charles Darwin with supplying the murder weapon.

The second event to recall was the 1960 Stanley Kramer movie of “Inherit the Wind,” starring Spencer

Tracy as the agnostic lawyer patterned after Clarence Darrow. It was one of the great propaganda masterpieces of all time. In the context of presenting a very distorted account of the notorious Scopes trial, the film portrayed the moral side of the Darwinian triumph over Christianity.

“Inherit the Wind” is a simple morality play in which the Christian ministers are evil manipulators and...

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