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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Phil Johnson goes on the attack

Lawyer Phil Johnson, considered the founder of the modern Intelligent Design political party published his thoughts on the current campaign. The ID movement has faced a number of political defeats of late and Johnson knows that the ID party is facing the same sort of problems faced by Ross Perot's Reform Party. The group enjoyed some success, but later faded off into the sunset. Johnson does not want that to happen to the ID party because, of course, souls are at stake in this political race! Nevertheless, Johnson has to be worried about that 'giant sucking sound' that came from Dover, Pa back in Dec 2005.

To be fair, at least Johnson is not worrying publicly over which t-shirts will sell the best. In his latest epistle, Johnson attacks 'Darwinism' and complains about variety in the beak of the finch as if this were the only evidence available for evolution. He gets it all wrong from the outset, but then again, political moves need not be accurate, they only need to instill faith in the voters. Johnson starts off:

The claim that evolutionary science has discovered and verified a mechanism which can account for the origin of biological information and complexity by involving only natural (unintelligent) causes is supported by an immense extrapolation from limited evidence of minor, cyclical variations in fundamentally stable species.

Johnson gets it so wrong in this statement, that it's impossible to know where to begin. Then again, in order to defeat a strawman, one must build the strawman first. So, Johnson creates a caricature of evolutionary biology and then pretends to crush it by showing how variability in beak sizes in finches supports his claim. Johnson of course ignores the fossil record which clearly shows a temporal change in biological organisms over time. Of course, Johnson will claim that an intelligent designer had a hand in forcing that change, but there is nothing to scientifically support that claim. Let's face it though, ID is not about science. Science is merely a facade for the political ambitions of the ID institute and sure enough, those goals positively shine in Johnson's latest letter.

The first ploy is to make note of a famous convert. Sure enough, Johnson makes note:

One early sign of the way the world is headed came in December 2004, when there was much comment in newspapers and internet discussion groups about famed atheist philosopher Anthony Flew.

I have to be honest, philosophy is not my field, but yntil this was circulated around the internet, I had never heard of Anthony Flew (and I suspect not many other scientists recognized the name. However, this 'conversion was a big deal. I suppose one might liken it to the conversion of a staunch Republican over to the Democratic party or vice-versa.

The problem with Johnson, as with most other ID'ers is that simply cannot write a long essay without bringing up the religious aspect of Intelligent Design. Johnson cannot escape the trap that ultimately doomed the ID political movement in Dover. He notes:

I agree with this point (--that there is a first causer), and my personal view is that I identify the designer of life with the God of the Bible, although intelligent design theory as such does not entail that. Scientific materialists fiercely resist consideration of the existence of a designer of what we see in nature, in part because they fear that even the most minimalist version of a deity will tend to become understood as something like the God of the Bible, who communicates with humans and cares about how we behave. Perhaps that fear is justified, but so what? That the cosmos is ruled by a God who cares about us is a possibility we ought to be considering, rather than a forbidden idea from which we ought to flee.

The rest of Johnson's gospel is merely a tirade against materialism and the accusation that science won't follow the evidence where it leads. It contains poll data (like any good campaign), but sadly very little science. Keep writing Phil and try to ignore that giant sucking sound the ID party keeps hearing.


Joe Meert


At 12:01 PM, Blogger Blake Stacey said...

Flew's conversion has already been addressed in the TalkOrigins FAQ, actually, and the "scientific evidence" behind it has been ably dissected by (among many others) Sean Carroll and Victor Stenger.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger nsfl said...

The Flew issue is more than just a weak appeal to authority -- it's grasping at straws. The man doesn't believe in any sort of deity that interferes with natural law...including evolutionary biology.


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