Russell and Duenes

Philip Johnson on “Scientism’s” False Dichotomy Between Belief and Knowledge

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Without question, UC Berkeley Law Professor, Philip Johnson, has been this generation’s most penetrating critic of neo-Darwinian evolution specifically and of scientific naturalism more generally. He has shown the emperor to be without clothes time and again and is at his best when exposing the reductionism in science today, a reductionism which arrogantly asserts that anything “scientific” must be empirical and amounts to knowledge, and anything having to do with God or a Creator, is mere belief, and thus, tantamount to fantasy and no part of science. In this excerpt from a lecture he gave in 1993 at Hillsdale College, Professor Johnson explains why this false dichotomy must be maintained in the academy:

Suppose a skeptic argues that evidence for biological creation by natural selection is obviously lacking and that in the circumstances we ought to give serious consideration to the possibility that the development of life required some input from a preexisting, purposeful Creator. To scientific naturalists this suggestion is “creationist” and therefore unacceptable in principle, because it invokes an entity unknown to science. What is worse, it suggests the possibility that this Creator may have communicated in some way with humans. In that case there could be real prophets i.e. – persons with a genuine knowledge of God who are neither frauds nor dreamers. Such persons could conceivably be dangerous rivals to the scientists as cultural authorities. The strategy that naturalistic philosophy has worked out to prevent this problem from arising is to label naturalism as science and theism as religion. The former is then classified as knowledge and the latter as mere belief.

The distinction is of critical importance, because only knowledge can be objectively valid for everyone; belief is valid only for the believer and should never be passed off as knowledge. The student who thinks that 2 and 2 make 5, or that water is not made up of hydrogen and oxygen, or that the theory of evolution is not true, is not expressing a minority viewpoint. He or she is ignorant, and the job of education is to cure that ignorance and replace it with knowledge. Students in the public schools are thus to be taught at an early age that “evolution is a fact:’ and as time goes by they will gradually learn that evolution means naturalism.

In short, the proposition that God was in any way involved in our creation is effectively outlawed and implicitly negated. This is because naturalistic evolution is by definition in the category of scientific knowledge. What contradicts knowledge is implicitly false or imaginary. That is why it is possible for scientific naturalists in good faith to claim on the one hand that their science says nothing about God and to claim on the other hand that they have said everything that can be said about God! In naturalistic philosophy both propositions are at bottom the same. All that needs to be said about God is that there is nothing to be said of God, because on that subject we can have no knowledge.

This is precisely the topic that Dallas Willard deals with in great depth in his book, Knowing Christ Today, which I highly recommend.

– D


Written by Michael Duenes

September 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Duenes, Philosophy, Science

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