"REASON IN THE BALANCE: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education" by Phillip E. Johnson

"REASON IN THE BALANCE: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In a brilliantly controversial polemic, Johnson (Law/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) fires an intellectual broadside against what he sees as the marginalization of theism in public life and explores its implications for society and religion. According to Johnson, the established philosophy of the US is now what he calls ""Naturalism,"" a highly reductionist view that the world exhibits no intelligent design and that, except in the minds of believers, God does not really exist. Johnson holds that this establishment is essentially religious, in the sense that its metaphysical mindset not only permeates the world of science but also guides society in its ultimate values and decisions. He highlights the irony that this view is actually less tolerant than its predecessor since, in a new form of excommunication (intellectual marginalization), theistic dissenters are a priori considered irrational and extremist. As for the legal system, he claims, the shift away from objective natural law toward legal rights and interests has led to muddled and purely pragmatic judgments. For example, although abortion is legal, a mugger who caused a miscarriage was found guilty of murder in a 1994 California Supreme Court decision. Johnson argues that such decisions are not based on principle (such as the state's interest in protecting life) but, in this case, simply on the personal ""interest"" of the mother; since she did not choose to exercise her right of privacy by having an abortion, the fetus's killing was considered murder. Johnson's analysis is based on an in-depth study of the work of Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Rorty, among others. He describes his own position as ""theistic realism,"" concluding with a call for all parties to engage fearlessly in rational dialogue and for American Christians to abandon their tendency to separate faith from reason. Well argued and astute, this critical work makes an exciting contribution to contemporary scientific and cultural debate.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 238pp
Publisher: InterVarsity