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Intelligent Design

The most visible antievolutionist in the 1990s was neither a scientist nor a theologian but a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Phillip E. Johnson. After reading a popular polemic for atheistic evolution, Richard Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker (1986), he became convinced that the case for evolution was more rhetorical than factual. In such books as Darwin on Trial (1991) and Reason in the Balance: The Case against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education (1995) Johnson evaluated the evidence and arguments for naturalistic evolution and concluded that evolutionists (like virtually all other scientists) had constructed a theory based on the unwarranted assumption that scientific explanations should bar any appeal to the supernatural. By the mid-1990s Johnson was collaborating with other critics of naturalistic evolution in forming the intelligent-design (ID) movement, which welcomed God back into the domain of science as the Master Designer of the physical world.

The ID cause received a major boost in 1996, when the Free Press, a major New York publisher, brought out Michael J. Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, which stirred up a storm of publicity, both positive and negative. Behe, a Catholic biochemist on the faculty of Lehigh University, argued that the "astonishing complexity of subcellular organic structure" testified to necessity of intelligent design. "The result is so unambiguous and so significant," he claimed, "that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science." 

Although ID theorists such as Behe and Johnson differed among themselves about the history of life on earth, they typically downplayed efforts to harmonize science and Scripture in favor of a concerted attack on naturalistic evolution. "When the Goliath [of naturalistic evolution] has been tumbled," they reasoned, "there will be time to work out more details of how creation really did work." On the spectrum of opinion regarding creation and evolution, they collectively occupied a position between theistic evolutionism (embraced by many members of the evangelical American Scientific Affiliation) and scientific creationism (promoted by the Creation Research Society).Ronald L. Numbers, Darwinism Comes to America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 15-21.

 Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Ron Numbers

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