On a September afternoon in 1988, something extraordinary began to unfold in a faculty lounge on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. A group of 20 professors gathered to respond to an 83-page critique of Darwinism by their colleague in the School of Law, Phillip E. Johnson.

Professor Johnson’s paper attacked the problem of the evolution controversy along a broad front; it included a sophisticated analysis of scientific evidence and probed philosophical and legal issues as well. Yet these lines of argument converged on a central thesis: Darwinian evolution is grounded not on scientific fact, but on a philosophical doctrine called naturalism.

Says Johnson, “My argument was that, although most people believe that an enormous amount of empirical evidence supports the general theory of evolution, this is in fact an illusion.” On the contrary, Johnson continues, many kinds of hostile scientific evidence have accumulated; but Darwinists do not question their doctrine of common ancestry since it is a “deductive certainty” derived from their philosophical system, not a conclusion they were driven to by the weight of evidence. In short, Johnson was claiming that Darwinism is as much the product of religious bias as is “creation science.”

Since one does not often hear Darwinian evolution labeled an “illusion” in polite meetings of Berkeley faculty members, it is not surprising that Johnson’s thesis seized the attention not only of his campus, but also of ever-widening circles of American academia over the past three years. In the course of Johnson’s many lectures around the country, and in meetings with distinguished scientists, theologians, and legal ...

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