73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Having read this book I now understand why Publisher's Weekly gave it such a poor review. Frankly, this book is threatening.
The book is well written, with an easy to follow structure, and plenty of the clear thinking that Johnson has a reputation for. In addition, the issues that this book deals with are of fundamental importance. Johnson deals with core questions about God, Science, Religion, Politics, Christianity, Islam, September 11th, Darwinism, Genesis, Education, and Truth, and he does so in an eminently readable and clear manner.
There are some in our society, however, who feel threatened when fundamental issues are addressed in a clear manner -- especially when the author questions the basic tenets of their worldview. Clearly the Publisher's Weekly reviewer feels threatened. Consider this: there are two reasons to give a book a poor review: 1) the book deserves a poor review; 2) You don't want people to read the book.
Let me assure you that this book does not deserve a poor review.
I predict that this book will provoke one of two reactions in its readers: they will either 1) read it straight through with excitement, or 2) fling it across the room in a fit of rage. Boredom is impossible. In either case, this book is relevant.
54 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2003
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One criticism that Johnson has been subject to by the religious community is, although he has shown Darwinism suffers from major problems (and that these need to be dealt with by the scientific community) what about the religious issue? Many scientists have shown the many major problems with Darwinism (and hundreds of books now exist effectively documenting these). Most of these books then develop the author's new theory of evolution that he or she claims is superior to neoDarwinism. An example is Lynn Margulis has eloquently shown mutation driven Darwinism to be entirely inadequate and then proposed the new theory of symbiosis which, she argues, is superior. This new theory, though, still does not explain the arrival of the genes, only the widespread spread of certain genes, at least in bacteria. Also, the question on many readers minds is, does a theory of Naturalism explain reality? This book deals with the religious concern to some degree. It also focuses on Johnson's major stroke at age 61 and the profound impact of this event on his life, especially his religious life. It is an honest book in which Johnson grapples with the religious questions most of us ask at one time or another in life. As such, this book would be of special interest to persons who have an interest in spiritual concerns (atheists would be turned off by this work; I know I once was one). It shows, in response to Johnson's critics, that he does have a spiritual side (or at least he does now after his stroke) and is not just a Darwin critic as are thousands of other intellectuals (especially biologists, my profession). Since this book is a different kind of book then Johnson's other books, it is especially easy to spot reviews by those who have not read it, but just want to slam Johnson because they do not hold to the view that a God exists that has done something active to the creation in the past. There is no topic that elicits as strong emotions as does religion, as our war on terrorism eloquently shows.
46 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2003
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The Right Questions, by Phillip Johnson, exposes the bias seen in Western society by the intellectual elite, particularly those teaching in higher education. The book examines and confronts the dogmatic, self-righteous materialists who blindly promote Darwinism, regardless of the tentative nature of the data, and refuse any alternate possibilities. They attempt to marginalize Christians, denying them influence in education and cultural life. I thought this was going to be a book primarily on intelligent design, but instead it goes beyond; starting with matters of creation and evolution, but builds this to examine the consequences of relativism, scientific materialism, and naturalistic philosophy. Johnson's style is hard-hitting and to the point, possibly a little harsh at times, but I admire his passion. His argument is clear and simple, and his conclusions cannot be faulted. This book is not and does not claim to be rigorous or scholarly (there are few footnotes and no index), so I found it very accessible and a joy to read, very thought provoking.
63 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2002
I have not read this book yet, but I have read some of Professor Johnson's other books (Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance, and The Wedge of Truth) in addition to many of his essays available online, and based on my familiarity with his writings I predict that the Publishers Weekly reviewer has not accurately represented this book. From the reviewers tone, I surmise that s/he is a Darwinian and that this book presents a major challenge to her/his worldview. I have followed the Intelligent Design/Darwinism debate closely, and it's the Darwinists that are most guilty of "pretentious-and repetitive-arrogance."
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2006
The Right Questions is the product of an accomplished scholar who is reflecting upon culture and society in light of his other books which provided an extensive scientific critique of naturalistic theories of origins. In this book, Phillip Johnson asks, "What are the right questions" in topics such as logic, the meaning of life, Genesis, and biological origins? It is only by asking the right questions that we will find the appropriate solutions to problems faced by society.
Johnson opens this book with a frank discussion of how his own personal trials and battles over health have renewed his faith. Johnson then reminds us that the key fundamental is not about the precise meaning of this or that passage of Scripture:
"The conflict is primarily not about Genesis, nor does it involve a clash between science and religion, or between science and faith. It would be much more accurate to say that it involves a clash between two religions and two definitions of science." (pg. 60)
Johnson observes, "In every university there are scores of faculty and students who are suffocated by the prevailing dogmas of scientific materialism or political correctness but who almost never get a chance to hear anything else." (pg. 51) Ruling creeds succeed when they keep their followers from exploring alternatives (pg. 73), which is why Darwinists refuse to permit discussion of the controversy over the science of Darwinism.
The right question that must be permitted for discussion in school is therefore, "Did the scientific evidence really support the philosophical conclusion (in a word, naturalism) that the Darwinists wished us to adopt, or could naturalism as a worldview survive only as long as dogmatic philosophical barriers protected it from the evidence that points to a designer?" (pg. 84) Once that question can be asked, Johnson is convinced that the chips will fall where the evidence leads.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2005
This book by Johnson takes a step back from the moshpit of the evolution vs. intelligent design and actually addresses intramural debates among believers (more specifically, Christian educators) over whether and to what extent the faith in God should enter the discussion over the meaning of life sciences. Even going back to the first event that created what we know as the universe, there is necessarily going to have to be some answers over what it means, which means that "ultimate" questions will have to be formulated.
Johnson's answer, provided in the final chapter, to his question of what the most important event in history should suprise no one: the incarnation of Jesus Christ on earth. Creator becomes creature, theology becomes human history, and two fields of study converge. Johnson does leave some wiggle room by stating that people might disagree with the accounts of Jesus of Nazareth, but they can't be left from the realm of discussion altogether.
Some might accuse Johnson of pointing every question to the same answer, but any set of assumptions that always reject any conclusion at all is an even more suspicious worldview to live by.
The fact that this addresses a secondary topic may limit its readability to a wide audience among believers, but that's not to say this might prove to have a long-term effect, if Christian educators pay heed to Johnson's advice.
27 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2003
With plenty of quotes from leading scientists, Johnson exposes the prevalent materialist philosophy espoused by many contemporary scientists and how that mindset colors their findings. Among other things, he argues that the materialist or naturalist philosophy of these scientists has hijacked various scientific disciplines to the point that practitioners do not present Darwinian evolution as theory but as indisputable fact. Johnson cites that science has evolved to the point that educational institutions don't present viable alternatives to Darwinism (such as the theory of intelligent design) because the scientific elite have a vested interest in propagating their mindset-a mindset which is strongly biased against the idea that there is an intelligent creator. The book is not so much about evolution versus fundamentalist creationism (indeed, Johnson strongly opposes fundamentalism) as it is about the need to teach theory as theory and reject those ideas which result from the philosophical biases of certain scientists.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2013
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Phillip Johnson is an attorney who has written on Darwinism and how there are glaring holes in the theory. The book is written for the "man-in-the-street" but biology classes at all levels could read it with profit. Should provoke lively debate in school rooms everywhere. Recommended.
on March 8, 2015
Phillip Johnson's “The Right Questions” is a difficult book to review, since I consider virtually all of Johnson's answers (and some of the questions) all wrong. But yes, the book is interesting. Johnson is the founder of the Intelligent Design movement in the United States. He is more outspoken about the movement's goals than its other representatives. “The Right Questions” clearly shows that Johnson is a Christian fundamentalist of the “presuppositionalist” variety with a very conservative social agenda. Abortion, feminism, transgenderism, gay rights, sex outside of marriage, and perhaps even divorce all have to go in the re-Christianized United States envisioned by Johnson. At one point, he even mocks liberals who become less liberal when a “Negro couple” moves in next door! Strom Thurmond, much?
To Johnson, the root cause of America's social ills is Darwin's theory of evolution. By teaching that we are really products of a blind, materialist process, the theory of evolution necessarily leads to moral relativism and nihilism. The goal of the ID movement is to banish “naturalism” from science, making it possible for scientists to embrace divine creation, and thereby make theology and revelation repositories of true knowledge. Indeed, Johnson believes that there already is a “scientific” case against evolution. His own alternative is a form of old earth creationism. In a surprisingly forthright foreword, Nancy Pearcey writes about how the ID movement has united all Christian opponents of evolution (including young earth creationists), and how it will split the evolutionist camp by luring those critical of unconditional naturalism over to the ID side (i.e. people like yours truly). Well, Nancy, thanks for tipping me off in advance! I'll try to resist the temptation.
Johnson, at least ostensibly, bases his conservative agenda on the Bible, but the whole thing feels more like an attempt to turn the clock back to the 1950's or even earlier. If this period in U.S. history was really “Biblical” is perhaps another matter, since the Bible can be interpreted in different ways on some of the crucial points under contention. For instance, the Bible mentions both voluntary and involuntary Christian “eunuchs”, making Johnson's wholesale rejection of transgenderism problematic. Moses had a Nubian wife, so presumably at least one “Negro” moved in next door. And what about the female apostle Junia?
A more serious problem for a conservative Christian is surely the old earth creationist perspective itself, since Johnson simultaneously wants the creation story of Genesis to be literally true, both because of his opposition to gay and transgender rights, and because of the connection between Adam and “the second Adam” (Christ). But how can Genesis be true, if the Earth is billions of years old? Note also that humanity, according to modern science, is more than 6000 years old. “Adam” would have lived about 150,000 years ago!
The most personal chapter in Johnson's book deal with his stroke and how it helped him grow in the Christian faith. Here, Johnson also explains why he believes Christianity to be the true faith. The argument is a form of presuppositionalism, whereby Johnson affirms the Johannine prologue as the starting point for all meaningful reasoning: “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”. I find this extremely unhelpful. Rather than arguing the case, Johnson's approach would (logically) simply brush aside all objections to the Christian creeds, both those based on modern Bible criticism and those based on alternative religious traditions (neither Jews nor Christian “heretics” accept the standard Christian creeds). Johnson's response is an existential one, affirming that trust and faith in Jesus Christ – a personal god incarnated as man – is stronger and more secure than trust in any “man made gods”, not to mention dead particles of matter. He bases this on his own trust in Christ during his potentially debilitating stroke.
But this argument is surely a weak one: as Johnson acknowledges in the concluding chapter, Muslims also have a strong faith in a personal god (albeit a phony one), a faith which confounds the secular liberals at every step, and hence presumably gives Muslim lives existential meaning. Besides, some people have a strong faith in a non-personal god, or some kind of combination of impersonal god and personal angelic beings – witness Eben Alexander's best-seller “Proof of Heaven”.
That being said, “The Right Questions” is nevertheless an indispensable read for those interested in the actual political and theological ideas of Phillip E Johnson and (presumably) a large portion of the ID movement, and I therefore give it three stars. Of course, it could also be read “on its own”, as an introduction to a particular form of conservative or fundamentalist Christianity.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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Johnson is passionate and erudite debater for the principle of asking the right question before answering. Famous for application of this in the area of origin of the universe, here Johnson provides brief but fascinating inquiry into not only the origin issue, but also worldview.
Clearly he provides the strategic impetus for attacking those who hide behind their answers and thwart asking the right question, whether it be in the philosophical or political or educational arena.
How frustrating is it when those in control will not allow true debate? One plays into this the book contends when allowance of the wrong questions to dominate the debate. He has admirably championed the cause of contending not with science but with philosophical naturalism. Not allowing the debate to center on Genesis but on John 1:1 is revolutionary.
His bravery in discussing his own humbling experience with stroke rehab is touching and instructive.
Challenging the question of the most important historical event to date should cause all, but especially educators and culturally elite to consider the factual data rather than philosophical bents. Worldview presuppositions certainly do shape what we allow to be discussed, taught to our young, and be allowed in our culture.
One wise person said that it is significant that one side will always be willing to discuss all options, while it is equally significant when some will allow not all options equal discussion. Johnson certainly is a proponent of all sides having their day in the discussion.