Home » Intelligent Design » Phillip Johnson on the recent PBS Nova program on the Dover Trial – partial transcript

Phillip Johnson on the recent PBS Nova program on the Dover Trial – partial transcript

A friend was kind enough to provide a transcript of a podcast of Phillip Johnson talking about the recent PBS Nova episode on the Dover Trial. The interviewer is Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute.

Here are points I thought particularly salient:

Johnson: … What’s going on here is a process of soothing. The scientific establishment has decided that the way to get a reluctant American public to put aside their doubts and believe what they’re being told in the mass media, and in the textbooks, and in the museums about evolution is absolutely true is to reassure them that it doesn’t threaten [their] religion. Then after they have been talked into accepting the theory, then the types like Richard Dawkins will come out and say, “Well actually now that you’ve accepted it, we have to tell you that it does destroy your religion.”

 …

Luskin: And all this raises a question that I would be very interested in your answer in Professor Johnson, because you have followed this debate for many years. You’re aware that for decades the scientific community has been issuing statements to the effect of science and religion do not conflict. They may even say they’re totally different spheres that can’t even conflict in principle. And yet public skepticism of evolution remains very high. What does this say to you? Why are these attempts to, as you put it, soothe religious people regarding evolution, really seems like it is failing (at least) the public that is largely religious and is still very skeptical.

Johnson: Yes, they are still very skeptical, and they don’t believe the reassurances. They know in fact what’s going on. The fact is that the public is not as stupid as the experts wish them to be.

Um, no.

Here’s the whole of my friend’s partial transcript.

Also: And what if the Dover school board had just put an alternative text in the library?

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42 Responses to Phillip Johnson on the recent PBS Nova program on the Dover Trial – partial transcript

  1. I think it is somewhat disingenuous to ask a question starting with

    “And all this raises a question that I would be very interested in your answer in Professor Johnson, because you have followed this debate for many years”

    what in fact he is very much a part of the debate and deeply entrenched on one side.

  2. Johnson: Yes, they are still very skeptical, and they don’t believe the reassurances. They know in fact what’s going on. The fact is that the public is not as stupid as the experts wish them to be.

    Yes. And computer software engineers are especially not as stupid as the experts wish them to be, because software engineers know something about what it takes to make information-processing systems and machinery work, while evolutionary biologists engage in storytelling and unsupported extrapolations from the trivially obvious.

    Once it was discovered in the mid 20th century that living systems are not fundamentally based on chemistry, physics, and probability — but on information and information processing — the entire Darwinian blind-watchmaker edifice should have collapsed immediately. Attempts to prop it up are becoming increasingly desperate and embarrassing, not to mention unethical.

    Such attempts will last for a while longer, but ultimately these efforts will represent one of the most embarrassing and shameful episodes in the history of science.

  3. Leo: why? I don’t follow your reasoning.

  4. “Judgment Day” has a meaning not at all intended by its creators. It is the worldview produced by Darwinism that is on trial, not any specific movement such as ID. The arrogance and bias on display in the film are signs of fear. No serious rebuttal to the Dover ruling was permitted because the Darwinists see their empire crumbing and are working frantically to preserve it. But what they fear will come upon them. Judgment day is at hand in the court of public opinion, where philosophical empires rise and fall. Materialism cannot account for the mystery of life.

  5. The scientific establishment has decided that the way to get a reluctant American public to put aside their doubts and believe what they’re being told in the mass media, and in the textbooks, and in the museums about evolution is absolutely true is to reassure them that it doesn’t threaten [their] religion.

    First, I want to say that I was pleased to see Prof. Johnson present as well as he did in the NOVA special. I was also pleased to see a reenactment of Kenneth Miller’s Dover testimony emphasizing that scientific belief is anything but absolute.

    Scientific beliefs are the consensus of a self-identifying community of investigators into empirical phenomena. The community continually asserts that all of its beliefs are tentative explanations, though certain broad assertions seem firm (e.g., that species do evolve — a belief accepted by many ID advocates). How one would come by the notion that any Christian scientist would assert the absolute truth of scientific explanations is beyond me.

    In contrast, most Christians believe that absolute Truth is something a person apprehends in an individual, not communal, relationship with God. The Truth is not just a matter of what people can agree upon (consensus) when they look outward (make empirical observations), but what a single person knows when he or she turns to prayer or contemplation and listens to a still, quiet voice.

    I am a person of conscience and intelligence. I spent a number of years of my life working to come by a dialectic in which the two modes of belief I just described could coexist. While I can see that other people of conscience might disagree with me, I can’t see the excuse for any Christian to insult someone like me. I am doing nothing but to seek the light, and to share whatever light I have found with others.

  6. This is really responding to Denyse’s final sentence (which is the inevitable link to one of her own blogs), but I seriously doubt that the ACLU or anybody of like mind would sue if the book were placed in the library. If — as with the books at issue in the Dover trial — they were donated.

  7. All I can say about this fiasco is I cannot wait until I get elected to a school board.

  8. Joseph, are you running?

  9. Semiotic007,

    You don’t get to decide what’s Truth. Truth is decided for you by God. It’s written down in the Bible for you to see plainly. If you don’t understand it as written, have someone explain it to you.

    It’s not up to you to decide what’s Truth and to compartmentalize like that. It’s up to God.

  10. I can’t wait for “expelled” to come out.

  11. I think what the ID movement needs is more private donations. To have a strong research program that can flesh out a system comparable to darwinism, it takes money and time and effort. I’ll donate once I have a job. :)

  12. Semiotic 007,
    If “most Christians believe that absolute Truth is something a person apprehends in an individual, not communal, relationship with God” then most Christians don’t understand Truth. Yes, the Holy Spirit speaks personally to us, but we are accountable to the community of faith for our interpretations of Truth. That’s why church councils met to condemn heresies.

    The Trinity is a community; so also, no Christian is an individual, but part of the body of Christ. Luther used to like quoting Cyprian: “He who does not have the church as his mother cannot have God as his Father.”

  13. Joseph writes:

    All I can say about this fiasco is I cannot wait until I get elected to a school board.

    Run, Joseph, run! Now that ID has won the battle with science, we need to get back into a courtroom in front of a good Republican judge.

  14. Collin,

    That’s what I’ve been saying all along. I would love to donate to some ID programs. So far, the only option presented has been the ivory tower options of pure research (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But I would like to see us cure some diseases using our ID paradigm. That’ll turn some heads!

    I’ll donate to the first disease-researcher that is using ID as part of his paradigm. Let’s win a Nobel prize, here!

  15. May God bless Phil Johnson

  16. See high activity in discussion blog at pbs.org Nova Judgment Day
    Encourage thoughtful contributions

  17. Now that ID has won the battle with science, we need to get back into a courtroom in front of a good Republican judge.

    It seems like this blog has been overrun with trolls lately.

    They are totally harshing my mellow man.

  18. DLH, here’s the link to the PBS discussion:

    http://discussions.pbs.org/viewforum.pbs?f=231

  19. we need to get back into a courtroom in front of a good Republican judge.

    Or just a judge whose background was not buying large quantities of liquor with other people’s money.

  20. getawitness,

    I plan on running in the next election- my youngest enters the public school system next year.

  21. I don’t think we’ve won the science battle quite yet, but we’re getting close.

  22. I wonder if Judge Jones was always a darwinist stooge, or if ever had principles. I myself was skeptical when he claimed to be Lutheran, as I have never even met a Lutheran and I wasn’t sure if they were even christians.

    But ye shall know them by their fruits, and it realy made me mad to hear a federal judge ruling on the truth of religious beliefs. that is not what my ancestors fought for, and I pray that our country is not descending into a mudstorm like Europe is in now since they have abandoned their principles and faith and are reaping the consequences of liberal multiculturalsim. Thank God for Phillip Johnson, who is not afraid to call it as others see it!

  23. I watched the Nova special and I liked how Phillip E Johnson explained the wedge strategy. That guys like him (lawyers , etc) are the sharp point of a wedge, they get the door to crack open. Then the large, heavy part of the wedge that splits the log is made up of the scientists like Dr Dembski and Dr Behe and Dr Wells.

    I never really got the whole wedge strategy until I heard him interviewed by Nova, so you can’t say the whole show was bad.

    Tim

  24. Here’s what New York Magazine had to say in advance of the special:

    It’s a good week to practice watching documentary television…For instance: “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” (November 13, 8 p.m.), a two-hour episode of Nova that goes to court with parents, teachers, and politicians from Dover, Pennsylvania, to decide whether a public-school science curriculum must give equal time to Darwin and wishful thinking. In this rerun of the Scopes trial, Judge John E. Jones III, all by himself, adds up to more than William Jennings Bryan, H.L. Mencken, and Clarence Darrow combined.

  25. Whoops: Here’s the link http://nymag.com/arts/tv/features/40626/

  26. Tim I am confused, is it a log or a door? And what is the analogy? Is materialism the log? Or the door? and what’s on the other side?

    I would think if it was materialism it would be more like a hole in teh ground or a cave. and on one side would be like in CS Lewis the last battle when they were in the barn and the believers had to go through a door and the muslims went to see Tash and he ate them but those who believed in the lion Jesus went to paradise. thats just the way i see it.

  27. I see Hugh Ross has chimed in again on this:

    http://www.reasons.org/blogs/average_joe/

    agreeing with Judge Jone’s decision, and basically saying “what these guys needed was me”

    I liked this:

    NOVA went on to make sport of Michael Behe (played by an actor) and his irreducible complexity argument—another obvious place where a key witness from RTB might have helped—and made it clear that ID was not science, but merely recycled creationism.

    and this:

    One brand of ID has failed miserably, but other expressions exist. It’s up to the Christian community to assume responsibility for specious science. Rather than resorting to name calling and threats and regrouping for the next battle, maybe it’s time for an actual scientific model.

    It seems Ross believes the portrayal of Behe. Sorry, but I think Behe would tear the Reasons folks to shreds in a debate on the “science” of things.

  28. By the way, if you listen to the full podcast of Philip Johnson discussing his interview, he experienced basically the same setup up that the Darwinists interviewed for “Expelled” experienced. In both cases, the interviewees didn’t realize the bias/tone of the films involved. Do you think the NY Times will do an article about the “outrage” perpetrated on Johnson, as they did for Dawkins and the other poor victims featured in “Expelled”?

  29. I am rather perplexed at how people who promote ID have allowed the scientific establishment dictate the grounds of the debate. For instance, the presupposition that Evolution is a ‘theory’ should be challenged. My understanding is, that for a concept to be called a “theory”, it requires that it’s models are to be observed over time. All these models in evolution list huge time segments, over which the so-called changes took place. Yet, no living person was around during that “time” to observe these occurances. All they have shown, is a large cache of data that proves similarities between various species of life. While living things have been observed to adapt to their environment, no species of living things have EVER been observed to evolve into a completely different species. (except in the imagination of the researchers) This leaves evolution to be defined, at most, as merely a hypothesis, and a sketchy one at that.

    Let’s all start to challenge this presupposition!

    I will address the misuse of the1st amendment in a future post.

  30. Russ,

    Thanks. That proves that the New York rag doesn’t have a clue as NO ONE wanted equal time for Intelligent Design.

    But anyway-

    It is obvious that Jones figured out that at least one of the scholl board members was lying and therefore decided to punish ID.

    Also it is obvious that he didn’t listen to, or didn’t understand, the testimony of the real ID experts- the ID proponents. but he did take the word of the anti-IDists who pretend to be ID experts. It is too bad that reality demonstrates there isn’t any such thing as an anti-IDist who is an expert on ID.

    If there ever is a non-religiously motivated school board that wants to introduce ID in a public school, one with at least one member who understands both sides of the debate, anyone who challenges that decision in Court will get hammered by the facts.

    Heck if I get to testify I will ask- “How can the opposition say out of one side of their mouths that the cause of the universe and life is unknown, and out of the other side say that we know it wasn’t due to intelligent design?”

    Then I will sit back and watch the opposition implode. ;)

  31. Joseph perhaps we should be working on organizing a group of ID supporters to run for public offices including school boards but also every level of the governemt all the way up to and including the president or even ambassadors to foreign nations!!! Surely if we can all co-ordinate this movement it will be more succesful. I wonder if the Discovery institute will help out?

  32. Joseph, let us know when you do declare your candidacy. I am sure there are plenty of folks around here who would gladly support your campaign. It would be great to get someone who is knowledgeable about ID on the stand and in the face of the ACLU.

  33. For me this has gotten personal. For example I think it is imbecilic to think one can either adjudicate or legislate what can and can’t be discussed in a public school’s science classroom.

    But anyway, one of the first things I would do as a school board member is to get the other members to watch “The Privileged Planet”, “Unlocking the Mystery of Life”, and “The Incorrigible Mr Berlinski”.

    That way they could see that ID is NOT a religious concept.

    Then we formulate a plan to get these videos presented in our school system. I would even suggest to have a “parent night” so that they could see the videos and see that ID is not a religious concept.

    For reference books I will see if we can get “The Privileged Planet”, “The Design of Life” and “Darwinism, Design and Public Education”.

    (I still think that someone should bribe a teacher in Dover to discuss ID in the classroom. That is how Scopes got into the fray. Then ID gets back into the courtroom, this time without any religiously motivated school board.)

  34. —ajl: “It seems Ross believes the portrayal of Behe. Sorry, but I think Behe would tear the Reasons folks to shreds in a debate on the “science” of things.”

    What do other scientists think of Ross’s “full-blown model?” I would think that anyone who has an explanatory model of that scope would want his critics to evaluate it and pass judgment on it one way or the other.

  35. Joseph – You said: “But anyway, one of the first things I would do as a school board member is to get the other members to watch “The Privileged Planet”, “Unlocking the Mystery of Life”, and “The Incorrigible Mr Berlinski”.

    LOL – I don’t think it would work! Anyone with at least half a brain would know what you were trying to accomplish if they watched Privileged Planet.

  36. Solcher, I would put the point somewhat differently. I tend to think of scientific theories in terms of correlation and postulation. The question is, what postulation is the best explanation for all observed correlations? Bearing in mind the correlations as observed in embryology, genetics, paleontology, biogeography, etc.

    Along similar lines I would also want to distinguish between argument and explanation. Taking the textbook definitions, an argument attempts to show that something is the case; an explanation attempts to show how something is the case — how it works, how it came into existence.

    Taken in those terms, a good postulation should explain — it should present us with a model of the causes of the observed correlations.

    So I think it’s disingenuous, to be frank, when one accuses evolutionists of not providing the evidence for speciation or macroevolutionary processes. Except in extremely rare cases, speciation or other events aren’t observed nor are they claimed to have been observed. They are postulations to explain what has been observed — namely, massive convergences of lines of evidence from many different fields of study.

    Having said that, it’s worth pointing out that the very question “what is a scientific explanation” remains an open one among philosophers of science; see here.

  37. Anyone with at least half a brain would know what you were trying to accomplish if they watched Privileged Planet.-Glarson

    Fortunately I am counting on people with a full brain and IQ over 80 as they will understand “The Privileged Planet” is based on evidence, data and observation.

    But it is true that people with 1/2 a brain- anti-IDists, for example- would try to twist TPP into something it isn’t.

    But anyway Glarson, did you have a point?

    Try addressing the following:

    Guillermo Gonzalez, one of the authors of “The Privileged Planet” was a (Carl) Sagonite. However the book refutes Sagan.

    It was Gonzalez’s paper “Wonderful Eclipses,” Astronomy & Geophysics 40, no. 3 (1999): 3.18- 3.20), that peaked the book’s co-author’s (Jay Richards) interest.

    Gonzalez was part of a team of scientists working for NASA on a project trying to determine whether or not there is life “out there”.

    At least one peer-reviewed paper (G. Gonzalez, D. Brownlee, and P.D. Ward, “The Galactic Habitable Zone: Galactic Chemical Evolution”, Icarus 152 (2001):185-200) came from that scientific research.

    The authors make predictions. For example if/ when we discover other complex life is found elsewhere in the universe, the many factors observed here will also be present there. And that life will be carbon based.

    “The same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provide us with the best over all conditions for making scientific discoveries.”

    “The one place that has observers is the one place that also has perfect solar eclipses.”

    “There is a final, even more bizarre twist. Because of Moon-induced tides, the Moon is gradually receding from Earth at 3.82 centimeters per year. In ten million years will seem noticeably smaller. At the same time, the Sun’s apparent girth has been swelling by six centimeters per year for ages, as is normal in stellar evolution. These two processes, working together, should end total solar eclipses in about 250 million years, a mere 5 percent of the age of the Earth. This relatively small window of opportunity also happens to coincide with the existence of intelligent life. Put another way, the most habitable place in the Solar System yields the best view of solar eclipses just when observers can best appreciate them.”

    >

    >“The combined circumstance that we live on Earth and are able to see stars- that the conditions necessary for life do not exclude those necessary for vision, and vice versa- is a remarkably improbable one.

    This is because the medium we live is, on one hand, just thick enough to enable us to breathe and prevent us from being burned up by cosmic rays, while, on the other hand, it is not so opaque as to absorb entirely the light of the stars and block the view of the universe. What a fragile balance between the indispensable and the sublime.” Hans Blumenberg- thoughts independent of the research done by Gonzalez.

    Other G. Gonzalez papers that were the basis of the book (just skimming through the references):
    “Stars, Planets, and Metals”, Reviews of Modern Physics 75 (2003)101-120
    “Rummaging Through Earth’s Attic for Remains of Ancient Life”, Icarus 160 (2002) 183-196
    “Is the Sun Anomalous?”, Astronomy and Geophysics 40, no. 5 (1999):5.25-5.29
    “Are Stars with Planets Anomalous?”, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 308 (1999): 447-458
    “Impact Reseeding During the Late Heavy Bombardment”, Icarus 162 (2003):38-46
    “Parent Stars of Extrasolar Planets III: p Cancri Revisited”, Astronomy and Astrophysics 339 (1998): L29-L32
    “Stellar Atmospheres of Nearby Young Solar Analogs”, New Astronomy 7 (2002): 211-226

    IOW his inference is based on scientific evidence, data and observations. The only other explanation for the evidence, data, and observations is sheer dumb luck. And only people with 1/2 a brain think that scenario is scientific- and again that would be all anti-ID materialists.

  38. —-Carl Sach writes, “Solcher, I would put the point somewhat differently. I tend to think of scientific theories in terms of correlation and postulation. The question is, what postulation is the best explanation for all observed correlations? Bearing in mind the correlations as observed in embryology, genetics, paleontology, biogeography, etc.

    Along similar lines I would also want to distinguish between argument and explanation. Taking the textbook definitions, an argument attempts to show that something is the case; an explanation attempts to show how something is the case — how it works, how it came into existence.”

    Aren’t you muddying the waters here a little bit? He is making the following argument:

    1) He who defines the standards for debate has an unfair advange.

    2) Darwinists have defined the standards for the scientific debate.

    3) Darwinists cannot meet their own standard .

    4) Since they established an arbitrary rule solely for the purpose of eliminating the competition, why should be give them any slack when they fail to meet their own standard?

  39. I’m more than ready to admit that there are severe problems with the postulations currently entertained among evolutionary theorists. So to that extent I’m in agreement with MacNeill, who recently opined that we simply do not yet have a good theory of macroevolutionary processes — although we have a lot of converging lines of evidence that are crying out for an explanation.

    But that aside, I also think that

    (a) simply saying, “therefore a designer must have done it” is not an explanation at all, let alone a superior one, and

    (b) problems with evolutionary theory aren’t by themselves signs of either its imminent demise or of design theory’s imminent victory.

    That said, I have no problems with anyone wanting to work on design theory. Far be it for me to block the way of inquiry!

    In general, I can respect someone who simply isn’t convinced that variation and selection are sufficient to explain observed biological diversity of the past and present. It is pretty remarkable! But my attitude towards such a person is much like my attitude towards someone who says, “what do you mean, “electrons“? you can’t see them, can you?” He and I are simply operating on the bases of radically different epistemological assumptions.

  40. Carl,

    That said, I have no problems with anyone wanting to work on design theory. Far be it for me to block the way of inquiry!

    You seem to have a charitable attitude toward design — something that is lacking among many skeptics. Your thoughtful comments are appreciated.

    That said I think you mischaracterize design.

    (a) simply saying, “therefore a designer must have done it” is not an explanation at all, let alone a superior one…

    Design provides an inference to the best explanation, given all observable data.

    If we take biological machines out of the equation for a moment: 1) there are no known stochastic and undirected phenomena that can produce complex machinery; 2) intelligence is capable of designing and manufacturing complex machinery.

    Considering 1 and 2 above, when we take into account biological machines again, they fit very well with both 1 and 2, where NDE violates both. This puts the burden of proof very highly upon NDE proponents; design has met the burden by default. It fits with everything we know, evolution does not.

    Since evolutionary theory is failing to meet the burden of proof, it would me more consistent for you to say,

    simply saying, “therefore random undirected processes must have done it” is not an explanation at all…

    The information content of DNA is another place where the design inference is warranted by default, and MET has failed to account for it. We know of one way, absolutely and unequivocally, in which information can be infused into arrangements of matter: as the product of a mind.

    Until the arrangement of specification can be accounted for by chance plus necessity, the burden of proof logically needs to shift toward NDE.

    But my attitude towards such a person is much like my attitude towards someone who says, “what do you mean, “electrons“? you can’t see them, can you?” He and I are simply operating on the bases of radically different epistemological assumptions.

    The difference is, you can stick a paper clip into a light socket and witness first-hand the effects of electrons. We have yet to witness the spontaneous generation of specified complexity ex-nihilo.

  41. I can see I am in over my head, already. I have had to retreat to the dictionary several times.

    However, I do understand the words “explanation” and “argument”. My issue is that Darwinists are claiming that only they have the right to provide explanations for the data they have assembled.

    It would take a great deal of “faith” to simply buy their explanations, as no living person has ever observed a single species evolve into another, let alone all the species on the the Earth.

  42. although we have a lot of converging lines of evidence that are crying out for an explanation.-Carl Sachs

    Maybe, but what we don’t have is any data that demonstrates the range of change required (for universal common descent) is even possible.

    (a) simply saying, “therefore a designer must have done it” is not an explanation at all, let alone a superior one,

    And simply saying “it evolved” without even knowing if such a thing is genetically possible, is not an explanation.

    on another note:

    My wanting to show the video “The Privileged Planet”, is so no one can say that I was singling out the theory of evolution and to show that ID extends beyond biology.

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