Item description for The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism by Phillip E. Johnson & Dallas Willard...
Overview IVP Print On Demand Title Science is the supreme authority in our culture. If there is a dispute, science arbitrates it. If a law is to be passed, science must ratify it. If truth is to be taught, science must approve it. And when science is ignored, stroms of protest are heard in the media, in the university--even in local coffee shops. Yet a society ruled by science (and the naturalistic philosophy that undergirds much of it) faces major problems. Science speaks so authoritatively in our culture that many are tempted to use its clout to back claims that go beyond the available evidence. How can we spot when such ideological slight of hand has taken place? More important, while we may learn a great deal from science, it does not offer us unlimited knowledge. In fact, most scientists readily acknowledge that science cannot provide answers to questions of ultimate purpose or meaning. So to what authority will we turn for these? The deficiencies in science and the philosophy (naturalism) that undergirds it call for a cognitive revolution--a fundamental change in our thinking habits. And it all begins with a wedge of truth. This wedge of truth does not "wedge out" a necessary foundation of rational thought. But it does "wedge in" the much-needed acknowledgment that reason encompasses more than mere scientific investigation. Phillip E. Johnson argues compellingly for an understanding of reason that brings scientific certainty back into relational balance with philosophical inquiry and religious faith. Applying his wedge of truth, Johnson analyzes the latest debates between science and religion played out in our media, our universities and society-at-large. He looks to thinkers such as Newbigin, Polanyi and Pascal to lay a foundation for our seeing the universe in a totally different way. And from that base he then considers the educational programs and research agendas that should be undertaken--and have already begun in some earnest--during this new century. In the end, Johnson prophetically concludes that the walls of naturalism will fall and that the Christian gospel must play a vital role in building a new foundation fro thinking--not just about science and religion but about everyhting that gives human life hopeand meaning.
Publishers Description A 2001 ECPA Gold Medallion Award winner A 2001 Christianity Today Award of Merit winner Science is the supreme authority in our culture. If there is a dispute, science arbitrates it. If a law is to be passed, science must ratify it. If truth is to be taught, science must approve it. And when science is ignored, stroms of protest are heard in the media, in the university--even in local coffee shops. Yet a society ruled by science (and the naturalistic philosophy that undergirds much of it) faces major problems. Science speaks so authoritatively in our culture that many are tempted to use its clout to back claims that go beyond the available evidence. How can we spot when such ideological slight of hand has taken place? More important, while we may learn a great deal from science, it does not offer us unlimited knowledge. In fact, most scientists readily acknowledge that science cannot provide answers to questions of ultimate purpose or meaning. So to what authority will we turn for these? The deficiencies in science and the philosophy (naturalism) that undergirds it call for a cognitive revolution--a fundamental change in our thinking habits. And it all begins with a wedge of truth. This wedge of truth does not "wedge out" a necessary foundation of rational thought. But it does "wedge in" the much-needed acknowledgment that reason encompasses more than mere scientific investigation. Phillip E. Johnson argues compellingly for an understanding of reason that brings scientific certainty back into relational balance with philosophical inquiry and religious faith. Applying his wedge of truth, Johnson analyzes the latest debates between science and religion played out in our media, our universities and society-at-large. He looks to thinkers such as Newbigin, Polanyi and Pascal to lay a foundation for our seeing the universe in a totally different way. And from that base he then considers the educational programs and research agendas that should be undertaken--and have already begun in some earnest--during this new century. In the end, Johnson prophetically concludes that the walls of naturalism will fall and that the Christian gospel must play a vital role in building a new foundation fro thinking--not just about science and religion but about everyhting that gives human life hopeand meaning.
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Phillip E. Johnson taught law for more than thirty years at the University of California--Berkeley where he is professor emeritus. He is recognized as a leading spokesman for the intelligent design movement, and is the author of many books, including Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.
Phillip E. Johnson currently resides in the state of California. Phillip E. Johnson was born in 1940.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism?
Succint and enjoyable to read May 25, 2008
Phillip E. Johnson has contributed another fine addition to the conversation (if one can call it that) about naturalism, the definitions of science, and the "fact"/"value" distinction in academia today. In my opinion, Johnson is at his best when discussing how Darwinian theory seeks to handle the topic of complex, specified, aperiodic information. He shows clearly that chance and laws of science cannot produce that kind of information, which is utterly central to the formation and continuation of life. He is also very strong in his analysis of what I'll call the "fact"/"value" distinction. This distinction is the ruling paradigm on the university campus today. In other words, "facts" are the things of science and "values" are the things of religion (and thus, are not part of real knowledge). Since only "facts" are admitted into the realm of study and discussion, anything that doesn't fall under the heading of "science" is inadmissable for consideration. Johnson asserts, correctly, that theology is an arena of true and reliable knowledge, and thus is discarded at a great cost. The cost is the nihilism we see around us in our culture. Another cost is that of reason itself. To argue that the physical world "is all there is and all there ever will be" (to borrow from Carl Sagan) is to destroy the foundations of reason and rationality themselves. One has no basis for trusting his own thoughts as reasonable if they are merely chemical reactions in the brain. Johnson does well to point out that most naturalists are not willing to consider the logical and consistent conclusions that their ideas entail. When they do, they end up arguing that things like infanticide are not moral horrors, to name just one example. For there can be no true morality if naturalism is true.
Johnson is at his weakest when discussing how "the Word", namely Jesus Christ, is the best starting place for knowledge. I agree that Jesus IS the best starting place (and I think I have good rational reasons for believing so that are beyond the scope of this review), but Johnson does not make the case as well as he could. And perhaps his greatest weakness is that he claims that "intelligent design" theory is "falsifiable," but then he essentially turns around and argues in a manner that suggests it is NOT falsifiable. He claims that if Darwinian theorists come up with a naturalistic explanation for the development of new genetic information, he then would have to reconsider his own position. But then Johnson goes on to basically say that such a naturalistic explanation doesn't exist. Thus, he is guilty, I believe, of the fault he lays at the naturalists' doorstep. The naturalists assume their theory is true, even in the absence of evidence, because they say the evidence for Darwinian evolution will no doubt come forth eventually. Johnson says supernaturalism is true and will remain so because Jesus Christ is God. So really, the only thing that would be "falsifiable" for Johnson would be whether Jesus Christ is our creator, and it doesn't seem that he would ever question the truth of this.
Further, I would also like to see Johnson add some historical analysis in his writings, that is, he should put the current controversies within "science" into some historical perspective. He should point out that those who say that admitting a supernatural intelligence into the discussion would ruin and have a "chilling effect" upon the scientific endeavor, are simply incorrect. History shows them to be incorrect. Sir Isaac Newton was a robust believer in the Bible, and yet this did not impede his science in the least. If anything, it fueled it. Keppler, Copernicus, Galileo, George Washington Carver, and vast numbers of other scientists throughout Western history have been robust theists at the least, and biblical theists at the most. Thus, Johnson would do well to inject a little history of science into his discussions, to give some added perspective. On the whole, the book was a very enjoyable, lucid, clear read and will help anyone who is interested in truth and rationality in all areas of life.
How The Wedge Predicted the Obfuscation of its Opponents Jun 21, 2006
Many Darwinists gloat over having supposedly exposed the allegedly secretive "Wedge project." What they never acknowledge (or realize) is that Phillip Johnson openly discussed the full meaning of the "Wedge" in this book years before the widespread internet circulation of the supposedly super secret "Wedge document," which summarized many of the points in this book in order to clarify for our supporters the important cultural implications of the battle over intelligent design, and explain the importance of forging ahead by calling attention to the growing body of scientific evidence for design in nature.
In his introduction, Johnson explains that naturalism, materialism, and modernism aim to remove any support for belief in a personal God who acted with free will to create and sustain the universe. This philosophical assumption forms the bedrock for the belief that plants and animals arose through undirected and purposeless evolutionary processes, and that humans are therefore just another animal, not created in the image of God.
The curtain of naturalistic philosophy today places a stranglehold over not only the fields of science, but also of literature, psychology, and law. Academics remain committed to naturalism as an explanation for all phenomena regardless of the facts. Johnson's strategy is to expose where naturalism is deficient in its explanations in scientific fields such as paleontology, genetics, and biology. This book outlines the various areas where the "Wedge strategy" is producing viable academic thought to challenge naturalism.
But the Wedge strategy can be countered, Johnson writes, and the Darwinists know how: through obfuscation by focusing on irrelevancies. "Dogmatism thrives by obfuscation, especially by giving the impression that the really important questions should not be asked." (pg. 16) Thus, according to Johnson, "If we in the Wedge have an enemy, it is not those in open and honest opposition to our proposals but rather the obfuscators--those who resist any clear definition of terms or issues, who insist that the ruling scientific organizations be obeyed without question and who are content to paper over logical contradictions with superficial compromises." (pg. 17)
The enemies of the Wedge are thus those who focus on side issues such as the religious beliefs and alleged motivations of Darwin doubters rather than inviting honest discussion of the evidence. Ironically, the Darwinists' current obsession with contents of this book -- the "Wedge strategy"--is proof that Johnson was right.
incoherent Jan 11, 2006
Interesting how this book is by a professor of law and the book starts with chapter one laying down a guilt trip for thinking differently. Not too dissimilar to socially engineering a jury to take your side out of guilt during a courtroom opening statement perhaps.
Chapter 2 is really where all of the Darwinian Evolution objections are laid out. Which could roughly be summed up as..
1)DNA contains information, information can only come from intelligence, so there must be a god/intelligent designer.
2)Meaningful information sequences + mindless repetition can not equate into meaningful information or enhancement of information.
3) He calls for examples of information increase or enhancement. (Can't seem to say decisively)
+1) Johnson works the 'information challenge' as if life was only information. What he fails to mention is that life is about having function that serves that life form. Function can come about randomly, and information and meaning are derived from that function. Life did not start with DNA and a huge set of information, it started with one self serving function that aided in the replication of a form(now life-form) over others. Johnson makes numerous mentions of 'natural selection' and 'mutation' but makes no mention of the fact that 99% of our genome is junk and not information. Also without mention is 'cumulative selection'. Instead he manipulates an analogy Dawkins makes to hide from the power 'cumulative selection' has on turning useless bits of junk, in to a structure with function and derived meaningful information.
+2) This point is completely ignorant and shows that hes writing in a field he has little experience with. Information can be enhanced by 'mindless repetition governed by invariable laws'. For example, Delimiters. this siteBOOKS2000INTELLIGENTDESIGNJOHNSON or this site,BOOKS,2000,INTELLIGENTDESIGN,JOHNSON
(This alphanumeric string is meaningless unless it can serve a function. Once the function is understood it can serve as something truely informative ie. information)
Mindlessly repetitive delimiters ',' contain no actual information, but enhances the information set by providing a function, fault tolerance.
+3)He calls for examples of information increase or enhancement,without being clear on which, and that there is a differance between increase and enhancement. This call for evidence is shown to be increasingly pointless by his inablity to ask for what type of 'information increase' such as.. total information capacity, % of capacity used, or true(compressed) % of capacity used. or to say genetically.. genome size, # of genes, or # of active genes
The last part of the book is a feeble attempt at trying to now link this 'information design theory' directly to the Bible, which I surprising found to contain no argument for. Johnson must assume his negation of Darwinism leaves the Bible as the only logical alternative so why bother the reader with an argument he/she should feel guilty at disagreeing with (makes lots of references to Chapter 1 at this point, tap into that guilt!).
This book does however serve a good purpose, that of pointing out how scientific understanding can be manipulated and the weak points in the education of that scientific understanding.
A fine work of social engineering at the least.
Please be realistic about science. Dec 30, 2005
A friend of mine works for an petrochemical exploration company. They specialize in determining potential locations of oil deposits by drilling cores into layers of sedimentary deposits and looking at the evolutionary sequences of micro-fossils which were accumulated millions of years ago on ancient sea-floors. Oil (and coal) deposits formed when decaying plant matter became buried under sediments and underwent subsequent chemical alteration. The plant material requires millions of years to be converted into oil or coal. (They're called fossil fuel for a reason, you know.) When you analyze a drill core sample, and if you find particular micro-fossils of species that only lived during a certain geological age that corresponds to the age when oil deposits formed, then you might be in an area where oil can be found. Her company gets contacts from huge oil companies to help them make multi-billion dollar decisions on where to drill for oil based partly on the information obtained by looking at micro-fossils. Oil companies have been doing this for decades. Don't believe me. Find out for yourself. Search the internet for websites about oil exploration micropaleontology. Next time you fill your tank, consider the role evolution played in both the creation and the discovery of the gas you're pumping into your car. I own stock in the company my friend works for and have made some nice returns on it.
I also have a relative who works for a medical research institute that uses DNA analysis to find out how viruses and genetic defects cause disease. He's working on therapies for several types of cancer. They use genetic mutations and evolutionary histories of diseases to understand how cells, viruses and diseases operate. They've already had success with some drugs and I've made money off of a drug company's stock as a result. The science is way over my head. However, based on the logic of this book, you have to conclude that genetic mutations can't be studied with any certainty because it seems they can occur only if and when God wants them to. I don't know how I'll be able to break it to him but I guess someone will have to tell him that his research is simply a waste of time. I know that seems at odds with the fact I've made money off the stock market . . . but Phillip Johnson wants me to have an open mind after all, and, let's face it, he's so much smarter than these people.
I can't imagine how insulting it must be to intelligent, dedicated, highly educated, hard working, honest, professional people like these, who use the principles of evolution in their day to day work, in billion dollar industries, for them to hear people say that evolution didn't happen or that it is just an ideology. (I should sell the stock in these companies soon, before they crash when word gets out that evolution is a myth.) Folks, there is a tremendous amount of information supporting evolution. In all honesty, it is downright silly to contend at this point that living things have not evolved over the eons. It is simply a fact of life. It is not a religious belief or an opinion. I urge you to truly inform yourselves about evolution from sources other than creationists or IDers or whatever they call themselves. Look at the depth and detail of information supporting evolution. There are many websites about it. Check them out. Look at some professional research journals on subjects related to biology, geology, palenotology, etc. Ask yourself, "Can this tremendous amount of detailed information accumulated by researchers for hundreds of years really be fake or incorrect?" "Are all the thousands of highly intelligent, highly educated people around the world who are currently conducting research on evolution, as well as those using it in their daily work, all wrong?" "Would scientists at the most prestigious universities in the world really deliberately lie about this?" "Why would they risk being caught in a lie and ruin their professional careers?" Please, be realistic about science. And, by the way, you can be Christian and fully accept evolution. I do. So do the friend and relative I mentioned above. Of course, I guess we're just closed-minded.
Unconvincing Dec 23, 2005
Science is about making deductions from factual evidence. It has no means of explaining anything that is supernatural.
However, religion requires the belief in supernatural forces and at least one supernatural being.
That DOES NOT mean religion is wrong, it just means it is a different subject matter than science and therefore DOES NOT belong in a science classroom.
You wouldn't expect English literature, music, history and other such subjects to be taught in a science classroom. Neither should religious beliefs. I, for one, am perfectly happy to have my religious beliefs kept out of science classrooms. I don't need science to tell me there is a God. I don't need - or want - my religious beliefs to force science to be conducted in a certain way. Quite frankly, anyone who feel that the honest teaching of science is a threat to their religious beliefs is someone who has great doubts about their religious beliefs!