Unlikely Champion

How do you honor a man who started a groundbreaking movement that challenged the scientific establishment and is changing the way the world thinks about the origins of life? Phillip Johnson’s friends came up with a great way to answer that question. In honor of Phil’s many accomplishments, they have commissioned and published a collection of essays, in a book titled Darwin’s Nemesis. That’s the perfect title, because that’s exactly what Phil has become over the past fifteen years. This feisty Berkeley law professor became the unlikely spearhead of the intelligent design movement with the publication of his book Darwin on Trial, in which, from the perspective of a skilled lawyer, he examined and cross-examined Darwinism and found gaping holes. His legal and rhetorical training had convinced him that the Darwinists were acting like people with “something to hide.” Indeed, they are. His investigation showed him exactly what they were hiding. As geophysicist Stephen Meyer puts it, the best Darwinists can put forth is “a panoply of euphemism and wishful thinking masquerading as evidence.” So Phil dared to start questioning what many believed to be unquestionable and to enlist many scientists to start questioning it as well. The rest, as they say, is history. Through all the controversy—and just plain mud-slinging—that followed the publishing of Darwin on Trial, Phil has maintained his stance, continuing his lawyerly probing and careful research, and he has kept his good humor and graciousness. In these ways, he serves as a magnificent example to all of us involved in worldview teaching. Just the list of authors who have contributed to Darwin’s Nemesis shows the effectiveness of Phil’s approach. It’s full of essays by distinguished scientists and philosophers who support the intelligent design movement. And it even includes a couple of articles by critics of intelligent design, including philosophy professor and evolution advocate Michael Ruse—the kind of balance you’d like to see in classrooms. In the contentious debate that surrounds the intelligent design vs. evolution issue, getting the participation of someone like Ruse is a testimony to Phillip Johnson. There’s no doubt that Phil’s willingness to encourage the work of scientists and help create a network for them has allowed the movement to flourish. This book really shows just how far the intelligent design (ID) movement has progressed in a relatively short time, despite the best efforts of many Darwinists to shoot it down—because, as is becoming clearer and clearer, ID has the evidence on its side. But Darwin’s Nemesis is far more than a tribute to one man—it’s an insightful, enjoyable, highly readable explanation of the intelligent design movement as a whole. And as the passages I’ve quoted demonstrate, this is very much in keeping with Philip Johnson’s practice of keeping the focus on the movement and the questions it is asking, not on himself. The paradox is that by doing this, he has shown how one informed and dedicated individual can literally shape the course of history—just one more lesson from Phil Johnson’s work from which we all can benefit, and one more reason why he’s one of my personal heroes.  
For Further Reading and Information
Today’s BreakPoint offer: The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning, and Public Debate by Phillip Johnson. William A. Dembski, ed., Darwin’s Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement (InterVarsity, 2006). Visit the Discovery Institute website for more information on intelligent design, evolution, and academic freedom. Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial (InterVarsity, 1993). Phillip Johnson, “Intelligent Design, Freedom, and Education,” BreakPoint WorldView, May 2003. William Dembski, ed., Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI Books, 2004).


Chuck Colson



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