Inherit an Ill Wind

"Intelligent design" theory as an alternative to evolutionary theory

Continued from page 1

Yet the book spawned a movement within American fundamentalism, with Morris as its Moses leading the faithful into a promised land where science proves religion.

This so-called creation science spread among ultraconservative churches through the missionary work of Morris's San Diego-based Institute for Creation Research. The emergence of the religious right carried it into politics in the seventies. Within two decades after the publication of Genesis Flood, three states and dozens of local school districts had mandated "balanced treatment" for young-earth creationism along with evolution in public-school science courses.

It took nearly a decade before the Supreme Court finally unraveled those mandates as unconstitutional. Creation science was nothing but religion dressed up as science, the High Court decreed in 1987, and therefore was barred by the Constitution's establishment clause from public school classrooms along with other forms of religious instruction. By this time, however, young-earthers, who were deeply concerned about science education, were entrenched in local and state politics from California to Maine.

Then along came Johnson-a chaired professor at the University of California's Boalt Hall Law School and former clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren. He is no young-earth creationist, but he is an evangelical Christian with an uncompromising faith in God. Reading Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker in 1987 enraged him. Dawkins uses Darwinian evolution to deny God and dismiss the supernatural-but Johnson saw the argument as circular. "I could see that Dawkins achieved his word magic with the very tools that are familiar to us lawyers," Johnson explained in the journal Christianity Today. "If you take as a starting point that there's no creator, then something more or less like Darwinism has to be true."

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Johnson then launched his own crusade-not for biblical creationism but against philosophical naturalism in science. In a series of popular books beginning with Darwin on Trial in 1991, Johnson argued that science should not automatically exclude supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. It was an easy sell in a country where opinion polls find about 10 percent of the people believing that life evolved by natural processes without divine intervention along the way. Of course God could have created humans, or at least laws that guided their evolution from the primordial ooze, most Americans readily concede.

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