Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education

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Voted one of Christianity Today's 1996 Books of the Year!

In his first book, Darwin on Trial, Berkeley law professor Phillip E. Johnson took on the heavyweights of science. And he got their attention, even provoking a response from neo-Darwinist Stephen Jay Gould in the pages of Scientific American. Now Johnson's back with a book that expands his critique from science to law, education and today's culture wars.

Is God unconstitutional?

Why is morality forced out of public school curriculum?

Can Christians believe in God and evolution?

Why aren't we getting anywhere in the debate over abortion?

Will the Grand Unified Theory solve the riddle of the universe?

Johnson dares to answer these and other tough, touchy questions. He reveals why naturalism (the philosophy that the material world is all there was, is and will be) has become "the established religious philosophy of America," supplanting Judeo-Christian belief. He shows how naturalism undergirds science, law, education and popular culture. And he argues that naturalism has even infiltrated the church--marginalizing opposition as irrational, and encouraging Christians to adopt a more "reasonable" stance.

In Reason in the Balance, Johnson writes energetically and persuasively--chapter by chapter zeroing in on the chinks in the argument for naturalism. He explores nearly every acre of today's cultural battlefield: God, sex education, evolution, abortion, cosmology and particle physics, what our public schools should teach, the basis of law, the meaning of reason and a few other things that matter. Armed with biblical truth, common sense and a clear understanding of his foe, he steps out like David to fell the intellectual Goliath of our day.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard J. Mouw
"Phillip Johnson is a scrappy Christian thinker who is taking on several important debates about law, education and science in contemporary culture. He strikes many sparks, and some of them illuminate the issues in helpful ways. Reason in the Balance will inflict a few burns, but it will also shed some light."
J. P. Moreland
"Christians are beginning to leave their anti-intellectualism behind and recognize that ideas really matter. But with Reason in the Balance Phillip Johnson has moved this shift a quantum leap further. . . . No one who cares to understand the contemporary culture wars and be involved in their resolution can afford to neglect this book."
Richard John Neuhaus
"With rare lucidity and bracing urgency, Reason in the Balance makes a convincing case for the liberation of nature, and of human nature, from naturalism's claim that reality is less than we know it to be. In advancing this argument, Phillip Johnson proves himself a worthy heir of Samuel Johnson."
Weekly Standard
"Reason in the Balance is a serious and original challenge to the secularist orthodoxy that still dominates the public square. Johnson's case in support of intelligent design . . . is credibly and comprehensively presented, and his ease with the scientific arguments of naturalism is particularly impressive."
"There are plenty of critics of 'Godless science,' but few are more intelligent (or better writers) than Johnson."
Carl F. H. Henry
"No scholar has more courageously and more competently challenged the reigning naturalistic presupposition and antisupernatural hostility that dominate contemporary science. Darwinian evolutionists have been unable to ignore him--and more significantly--unable to refute him."
"What distinguishes Johnson is his penetrating understanding of science and its limits. For that reason, he stands in the great tradition of Blake and Swift, companion skeptics of Enlightenment hype."
Dallas Willard
"Phillip Johnson is an author who is simply to be read, and closely studied, by all who wish to understand the forces that actually govern the intellectual world in the United States today."
Journal of Church and State
"Clear and accessible. . . . Johnson shows how naturalistic precommitments influence the search for a grand, comprehensive vision of all reality."
Bookstore Journal
"Recommend this book as one of the valuable apologetic contributions of our day."
Chuck Colson
"Having demolished the scientific case for Darwinism in his first book, Phillip Johnson now answers the question 'So what?' In a brilliant analysis, he shows how Darwinist assumptions underlie current controversies in ethics, law, education and public policy."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Johnson (Darwin on Trial) fires a major salvo in the culture wars with this sweeping critique of the reigning materialist philosophy. According to this UC Berkeley law professor, ``naturalism''-the belief that all of reality can ultimately be explained in purely physical terms and that God is merely a projection of human desires-dominates our universities, public schools, sciences and professions. Yet most Americans, he maintains, are-like him-theists, Christian or otherwise, and believe in a supernatural God who created humanity for a purpose. Not always convincingly, he links naturalist assumptions to the pro-choice position on abortion, to Marxism, to popular culture's self-indulgent hedonism, to the ethical relativism of philosopher Richard Rorty and to judicial decisions to ban from schools the teaching of religious viewpoints. Doing battle with evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and other scientists, Johnson calls for a scientifically informed theology to study the interaction of God and the supernatural with the whole of creation. $30,000 ad/promo; Conservative Book Club main selection; author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Johnson (Darwin on Trial, LJ 4/1/91) takes on naturalism, the belief that the material universe is "all there is." Since this is the basic position of all sciences, it has largely become the accepted philosophy of our whole culture. Johnson asserts that naturalism is an unproved metaphysical assumption, presupposed rather than proved by science. As such, it is essentially a religious position. He feels, therefore, that theism should be allowed a respected place in the debate about the nature of reality, since the conclusion will have far-reaching social consequences. A meaningless naturalistic universe differs profoundly from a purposeful, created universe in its implications for law, education, and almost everything else. Johnson does not preach; he reasons effectively and writes clearly. His argument is well worth taking seriously. A well-written book on a difficult subject; recommended for academic and public libraries.-C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, Ind.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830819294
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • Publication date: 6/29/1998
  • Pages: 245
  • Sales rank: 817,791
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

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.
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Table of Contents

1. Is God Unconstitutional?
2. The Established Religious Philosophy of America
3. The Grand Metaphysical Story of Science
4. Is There a Blind Watchmaker?
5. Theistic Naturalism & Theistic Realism
6. Realism & Rationality
7. Natural Law
8. Education
9. The Subtext of Contempt
10. The Beginning of Reason
Appendix: Naturalism, Methodological & Otherwise
Research Notes
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2005

    If you read one book in the next 10 years... this should be it.

    Simply put, this is the most important book written on evolution, science and culture in the last 50 years. Phillip Johnson's logic is irreducible! An inspired book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2001

    This is the heart of the debate.

    This is the heart of the debate: The devoutly religious following of modern naturalism allows the natural sciences their appeal to the evolutionary theory. If you're wondering why evolutionary theories are maintained even as they are shown to have little evidence, read this book.

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