Rhetoric from secular philosophers: a losing cause

Phillip Johnson is a Christian who toured universities, and challenged evolutionists with thought-provoking questions on philosophy, science, and religion. This came from his visit to Ohio State University in the 1990s:

This philosopher [in the crowd] correctly argued that the absence of a natural explanation did not always prevent us from holding rationally that such an explanation exists nevertheless. He pointed out that a bridge in the area had been destroyed by unknown, and unknowable, natural causes. “Should we attribute such destruction to God?” he asked with a rhetorical flourish. “Would you want to ride on a bridge built by creationists, who simply sat on their hands and believed?”

In asking this question the philosopher ignored the fact, however, that the investigators of the bridge disaster had already eliminated intelligent causation as the cause of the collapse. They were justified in looking for natural causes, because intelligent ones had been eliminated.

But it was his final rhetorical question that had been the sound bite, sending titters through the ranks of the Talk.Origins crowd. Johnson turned to the philosopher and calmly said, “I would prefer a bridge built by someone who can recognize intelligent design.” The crowd, quiet and listening intently up to this point, erupted in laughter, cheering, and applause.

This was the exchange of the evening for most—and it was the secularist who had played the rhetorical card and lost.


Reynolds, J.M. (1995). Que Res Vitas? Phil Johnson Takes His Case to the East. Available http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/pjlect.htm. Last accessed 25th Apr 2016.


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