Reason in the Balance

The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & EducationPhillip E. Johnson

In his earlier book, Darwin on Trial, UC Berkeley law professor and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk Phillip Johnson took on the scientific establishment. In Reason in the Balance, Johnson spars with those of his own kind, and exposes how the legal establishment has adopted naturalistic assumptions in its thinking to exclude any mention of a creative intelligence.

Johnson, who is also Program Advisor to Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, begins by asking the question, “Is God Unconstitutional?” By this question, Johnson really means that our culture behaves as if beliefs about God, religion, or morality belong in the subjective realm of fairy tales and Greek myths, whereas “science,” particularly evolutionary science, is objective fact. This assumption has played out in various legal cases where lawyers have argued that while all viewpoints surely are equal, some religiously based viewpoints are less equal than others. Johnson attributes this attitude to “modernism.”

Johnson explains that modernism is undergirded by Darwinian evolution, which in turn is propped up by little more than naturalistic philosophy. Modernists must fight non-evolutionary scientific viewpoints at all costs because they strike at the very heart of both their philosophical legitimacy and cultural power. Johnson documents how the academic freedom of Darwin-dissenters has not been tolerated by the “tolerant” modernist regime. Moreover, Darwinists have defined the rules of science and intellectual engagement such that any idea which threatens their orthodoxy is ruled out a priori.

But Johnson has hope that there may be opportunities for real dialogue between modernists and the dissenters. This will require bold scholars on both sides to challenge the status quo: dissenters must speak their unthinkable thoughts, and modernists must have the courage to listen and respond, even when this dialogue challenges worldviews and threatens career security.

Phillip E. Johnson

Former Program Advisor, Center for Science and Culture
Phillip E. Johnson taught law for more than thirty years at the University of California — Berkeley where he was professor emeritus until his passing in 2019. He was recognized as a leading spokesman for the intelligent design movement, and was the author of many books, including Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.