Darwin on Trial Phillip E. Johnson


The Passing of Jon Buell

I learned with sadness this week that my good friend and colleague Jon Buell passed away on Saturday, March 14. I had been Jon’s academic editor for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), a Dallas publisher of books aimed at un-indoctrinating high school and college students. He hired me in 1997 and I stayed on in that position until my family’s move from Texas to Iowa in 2012. We didn’t produce a lot of books at FTE, but it was quality work and it articulated without apology a broadly Christian worldview against a materialist biology, a relativist ethics, and a revisionist historicism. In short, FTE served as an antidote to the PC and progressivist culture. Given how this culture has unfolded and seemingly prospered since FTE’s founding by Jon in 1980, one might

Moving Tributes to Phillip Johnson from Emily Johnson and Stephen Meyer

On a new episode of ID the Future, we present two final, highly moving talks in a series honoring the late Phillip E. Johnson, author of the hit book Darwin on Trial and affectionately known as the godfather of the intelligent design movement. Download the podcast or listen to it here. These two eulogies were given at his memorial service in November. The first speaker is Emily Johnson, Phillip Johnson’s daughter. The second is Stephen Meyer, director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. Photo: Phillip Johnson, screenshot from a video interview, “Focus on Darwinism,” Veritas Forum, via

What Precipitated the Intelligent Design Movement?

Here are some thoughts prompted by a rather curious question posed to me in an email, namely, “What were the findings that most helped ID since the turn of the millennium?” Now, I say “curious” for two reasons: First, the modern ID movement really precedes the turn of the millennium, so to me this question misses its historical target. And second, the “findings” one might think to mention — e.g., modeling of biological systems, improvements in sequencing techniques, the development of cryo-electron microscopy — also fall short of the mark.  I’d prefer to ask: What developments set the stage for the Pajaro Dunes meeting, Phil Johnson’s path-breaking Darwin on Trial, and Mike Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box? I would say all of this stood on a platform of

No Success Without Successors: John Mark Reynolds on the Legacy of Phillip E. Johnson

On a new episode of ID the Future we hear John Mark Reynolds’s concluding comments at the November 2019 symposium in honor of the late Phillip E. Johnson. Download the podcast or listen to it here. Reynolds is a Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, president of the Constantine School in Houston, and a longtime friend of Phillip Johnson. Reynolds says he saw in Johnson a mind constant and relentless in the pursuit of truth, a man who refused to distort the truth to fit it into a materialist paradigm, and who passed along that mindset to as many as he could, for he knew there is no success without successors. Photo: John Mark Reynolds and Phil Johnson, Pajaro Dunes, California, June 1998, by Suzanne

Darwinism and Intelligent Design in Poland 

On January 29, 2020, I arrived in Warsaw, Poland, in the middle of a blizzard. Fortunately, most of the snow had cleared away by January 31, when I lectured at an event celebrating the release of a new Polish translation of my book, Icons of Evolution.  The event was organized by Fundacja En Arche (the En Arche Foundation, or roughly, the Origins Foundation). Although its critics call it a “creationist” organization, Fundacja En Arche is not about biblical creationism (whether young Earth or old Earth). Instead, it focuses on the scientific and philosophical issues of Darwinism and intelligent design. I told the staff that the foundation reminded me of Discovery Institute twenty years ago.  A major part of En Arche’s work so far has been translating into Polish books

Ann Gauger Honors Intelligent Design’s “Godfather”

On a new episode of ID the Future, we hear biologist and Center for Science & Culture Senior Fellow Ann Gauger speaking at a gathering to honor the late Phillip Johnson, the Berkeley law professor known affectionately as the “godfather” of the intelligent design movement. Download the podcast or listen to it here. Dr. Gauger tells of her journey of discovery, how she returned to a science career three times in her life, how she found her way into the ID movement, and how Johnson emboldened her to give free rein to a healthy scientific skepticism, one that has long had her pushing back against scientific materialism with a simple question: “Who says?” Photo: Phillip Johnson, screenshot from a video interview, “Focus on Darwinism,” Veritas Forum, via

Neo-Darwinism and the Big Bang of Man’s Origin 

When law professor Phillip E. Johnson1 was asked whether he wouldn’t be “a bit out of element” writing about evolution, neo-Darwinism,2 and intelligent design, he gave the following intriguing answer. It is acutely relevant for all readers and researchers who are interested in the origin of man but who are not paleoanthropologists:  Well, if I am out of my element then Charles Darwin must also have been out of his element because his training was in medicine and theology3 although he was, in fact, a very good scientist, self-taught, a gentlemen amateur like others of his time. Charles Lyell, the father of modern geology, was a lawyer. But you know, the thing about Darwinian evolution today is that it is a general philosophical concept that connects many disparate fields of

Surprises in Cell Codes Reveal Information Goes Far Beyond DNA

Information is the stuff of life. Not limited to DNA, information is found in most biomolecules in living cells. Here are some recent developments. Sugar Code Certain forms of sugars (polysaccharides called chitosans) trigger the immune system of plants. Biologists at the University of Münster are “deciphering the sugar code.” They describe the variables in chitosans that constitute a signaling system.  Chitosans consist of chains of different lengths of a simple sugar called glucosamine. Some of these sugar molecules carry an acetic acid molecule, others do not. Chitosans therefore differ in three factors: the chain length and the number and distribution of acetic acid residues along the sugar chain. For about twenty years, chemists have been able to produce chitosans of

The Long View: Michael Behe Pays Tribute to Phillip Johnson

On a new episode of ID the Future we continue a series of messages from a November 2019 symposium in Berkeley, California, presented in honor of the late Phillip Johnson, who played a crucial role in the flowering of the intelligent design movement. Download the podcast or listen to it here. On today’s episode Lehigh University biology professor Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, and Darwin Devolves, tells about his earliest memories of Phillip Johnson and speaks about the long history of science: how ancient science pointed to purposeful design in life, and how current science is coming full circle. Considering this long view, the conclusion of design is as strong as or stronger than it has ever been. Photo: Phillip and Kathie Johnson at

“We Are Not of Our Own Devising” — Wells, Nelson Pay Tribute to Phil Johnson

A new episode of ID the Future comes from a Berkeley, California, symposium honoring the recently deceased Phillip Johnson. Download the podcast or listen to it here. Biologist Jonathan Wells recalls how he met Johnson and the huge influence the latter had on Wells’s own research and writing. Then philosopher of biology Paul Nelson reminisces on Johnson’s keen intellect, his eye for hidden assumptions, his awareness that “we are not of our own devising,” and on the mountain range of new knowledge opening up to us in biology, one that scientists knew little about even thirty years ago and that Nelson says points strongly away from Darwin’s idea of common descent. Photo: John Mark Reynolds, Phil Johnson, and Paul Nelson, Pajaro Dunes, California, June 1998, by Suzanne

Listen: In Berkeley, California, Stephen Meyer Honors Phillip Johnson

On a new episode of ID the Future, we hear the first of a series of podcasts in honor of the late Phillip E. Johnson, the pioneering thinker, networker, and organizer, who played such a crucial role in the development and growth of the intelligent design movement. Download the episode or listen to it here. These messages come mostly from a November 2019 symposium held in Johnson’s honor in Berkeley, California. Today, listen to Stephen C. Meyer, director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, as he opens the symposium and introduces speakers to come. There follows the first of these speakers: Phillip Johnson himself, in thoughts previously recorded by Illustra Media on intelligent design, philosophical materialism, and strategies for accomplishing

#8 of Our Top Stories of 2019: Remembering Phillip E. Johnson (1940-2019)

Editor’s note: The staff of Evolution News wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We are counting down our top ten stories of 2019. If you haven’t done so yet, please take a moment now to contribute to our work in bringing you news and analysis about evolution, intelligent design, and more every day of the year. There is no other voice, no other source of information, like ours. Thank you for your friendship and your support! The following article was originally published here on November 3, 2019. Author’s note: With great regret, we recognize the passing of Phillip Johnson, a key guiding spirit of the intelligent design movement. He died peacefully overnight this weekend, at age 79, at his home in Berkeley, California. I am publishing below an essay by Casey

Taking Stock at Year’s End

The days grow short and dark, especially in Seattle this time of year, and my thoughts naturally turn to endings, to what we have accomplished and what is yet to do. I reflect on choices made and roads taken. Perhaps my mood is intensified by the passing of Professor Phillip Johnson last month. He was and will remain one of the great foundations of the modern intelligent design movement. Choices made — the choice to turn my hand to this work and these people. I am well aware of the seemingly overwhelming bastions of academia arrayed against us, which in large part hold us in disdain. I don’t have a particularly tough hide. I am cautious when telling ordinary people I encounter what it is I do. Sometimes people are puzzled, sometimes intrigued. Only a few times have I

Darwin’s Origin of Species — Some Historical Reflections 160 Years Later

Popular science writer David Quammen speaks for many when he calls Darwin “central,” and “iconic,” with a “brilliant mind” (The Reluctant Mr. Darwin). His academic counterpart, Keith Thomson, professor emeritus of natural history at Oxford University, regards Darwin as “intense, self-absorbed, brilliant,” a well-born elite with an “acute intelligence” and a “dogged perseverance” (The Young Charles Darwin). Darwin’s leading biographer, Janet Browne, admits that Origin created a sensation its first day of publication, selling out its initial print run, ultimately making him “revered for his achievement and personal character, the very model of what a man of science should be” (Darwin’s Origin of Species). Sitting here 160 years to the day later — the

Wallace’s Frenemies: A Lesson from Phillip Johnson

In a post yesterday I replied to Harvard evolutionary biologist Andrew Berry’s bumbling review of my book Nature’s Prophet. It was written as an antidote to people precisely like Berry who selectively praise Wallace when he’s engaged in science talk, but are quick to brand him a fool when he expresses any of his metaphysical views. Wallace’s historiography is festooned with such frenemies, Berry among them (more are mentioned in the book).  This is all the more unfortunate because Wallace himself devoted the last half of his life to things these frenemies so adamantly oppose. Nature’s Prophet allows the whole Wallace to speak, and speak proudly and unapologetically. While I stated my case on most points, one more seems so surprising that it deserves special comment.

Douglas Axe: On the 160th Anniversary of Darwin’s Origin, “Fear of Man,” the Cringe Factor, and More

Professor Sean McDowell at Biola University interviewed Doug Axe, author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. The occasion for the conversation was the upcoming 160th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, this Sunday, November 24. I love how Dr. Axe, the Maxwell Professor of Molecular Biology at Biola, pulls no punches. Whose Side? On the cringe factor and the role of the “fear of man” in the defense of Darwin: I’m concerned because this shift seems to be driven by the fear of man. That impression was solidified for me in July of 2007, at a small gathering of Christians hoping to resolve the tension over Darwinism. After two hours of vigorous scientific discussion, an attendee who had been silent to that point

Phillip Johnson: A Fond Farewell

Editor’s note: Phillip E. Johnson, Berkeley law professor and author of Darwin on Trial and other books, died on November 2. Evolution News is sharing remembrances from staff, friends, and Fellows of Discovery Institute. Philosopher of biology Michael Ruse, cherished by ID proponents as a longtime friendly antagonist, is the author of The Problem of War: Darwinism, Christianity, and their Battle to Understand Human Conflict and other books. Professor Ruse directs the Program in History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University. I have just learned of the death of Phillip Johnson. We were very much on different sides of the IDT debate, but I think I can truly say that our intellectual (and faith) disagreements made no difference to our personal respect and (dare

Memorial Symposium for Phillip Johnson

Following a private memorial service on November 23, Discovery Institute is pleased to host a brief public symposium in honor of the late Phillip E. Johnson — U.C. Berkeley law professor and Center for Science & Culture program advisor, who passed away earlier this month. You are invited to join us at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley from 4:00–5:30 pm on Saturday, November 23, to hear brief (10–15 minute) tributes from intelligent design scientists and scholars who have been directly impacted by Phil’s life and have since become the ID torch-bearers for our generation. Among those speaking will be Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, Jonathan Wells, Douglas Axe, Paul Nelson, and others. The presenters will share their unique perspectives on the impact of

More on Christianity Today and Phillip Johnson’s Legacy in Science Education and Law

Evolution News recently commented on a Christianity Today obituary of Phillip Johnson, which misrepresented and greatly understated his legacy in science education and the law. The obituary has now been modified in response, but the modifications either fail to correct the errors, or make corrections that, while technically correct, seems to deliberately ignore the real-world influence that Johnson exercised. In other words, the article’s problems remain effectively unchanged. It now says this: “A few states started requiring schools to teach the intelligent design critiques of Darwinian evolution in the late 1990s and early 2000s, until a federal court ruled it was unconstitutional for schools to teach intelligent design.” Saying that teaching the controversy persisted

A Layman’s Tribute to Phillip Johnson

Editor’s note: Phillip E. Johnson, Berkeley law professor and author of Darwin on Trial and other books, died on November 2. Evolution News is sharing remembrances from staff, friends, and Fellows of Discovery Institute. Mr. McLaughlin is Senior Director of Advancement for Ratio Christi. The weekend before last saw the passing of Phillip E. Johnson, best known for his seminal book Darwin On Trial and for being the godfather of the modern intelligent design movement. Other who knew Johnson personally have offered their heartfelt tributes to the man as both a friend and mentor. I only met Johnson a few times myself. We had some short and pleasant conversations, but I cannot claim to have known him well. Still, he had a profound impact on my life. My career was greatly

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