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The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate Hardcover – September, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
To get to the right answers, argues Johnson (The Wedge of Truth), retired law professor at Berkeley, one has to ask the right questions. For too long, he says, the debate about which questions are important enough to be asked has been controlled by people unable to perceive that their philosophical system has a fatal flaw: obliviousness to the faith-based character of their foundational premise. To put it most clearly, Johnson suggests that the foundational premise for the scientific naturalist can be articulated as a parallel to the opening words of John and Genesis: "In the beginning were the particles." Johnson examines a variety of topics-education, science, logic, tolerance, gender and liberty-critiquing the way the debate in each area has been improperly bounded by those whose assumptions compel them to ask the wrong questions. What he hopes for is an open, informed, civil debate where people are free to ask the right ones. Though often persuasive, Johnson's work suffers from serious flaws and is particularly marred by its insensitive and defensive tone. He inaccurately characterizes his opponents, as when he entirely misreads Alan Wolfe's Atlantic Monthly article "The Opening of the Evangelical Mind," or misrepresents conservative Fuller Theological Seminary as awash in "a post-Christian New Age spiritualism." He also takes cheap shots, even as he claims to be resisting the temptation. He admits that he is also tempted to self-centeredness, and the whole book has the whiff of a pretentious-and repetitive-arrogance.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Here are words of combat-hardened wisdom from a veteran of the intellectual wars. Phillip Johnson obviously relishes the battle and, just as obviously, understands himself to be a servant of the truth and a witness to the One who is the way, the truth and the life." ((The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things)
"Phillip Johnson tackles here some of the most pressing issues we are facing today. He writes in the interrogative mood not as an 'answer man' with pre-packaged solutions on offer but as an honest searcher seeking how best to pose the questions. A wonderful primer for Christian thinkers!" (Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University)
"As Phillip Johnson writes movingly about his stroke and recovery, it's clear that God has given him a great heart to go along with his great mind--and this book asks the questions that can help others see that their hearts are two sizes too small. It's full of discussion starters; for example, why don't researchers examine whether those long lives in chapter 5 of Genesis could have occurred? For those who have looked for intellectual satisfaction in all the wrong places, The Right Questions can be a fresh start." (Marvin Olasky, Editor-in-chief, World)
"With The Right Questions Phil Johnson hits bedrock; he establishes us on a firm foundation and equips us to analyze and respond to the prevalent confusion with clarity and decisiveness. If we can't clone him, perhaps we can imitate him and acquire his skill with logic, persuasion and truth." (Frederica Mathewes-Green)
"In The Right Questions the leader of the intelligent design movement broadens his critique of Darwinism into an attack on numerous well-known social and political attitudes. And he weaves into his polemics an account of a great personal trial and its impact on his Christian faith. The result is a uniquely provocative and interesting book. Many readers will disagree with the author on one point or another. There are very few, however, who will not find themselves thinking seriously about matters they have not thought about before." (Glenn Tinder, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, University of Massachusetts at Boston) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The Publisher's Weekly reviewer evidently did not read or did not understand the book. That review mischaracterizes both Johnson's manner and the content of "The Right Questions." It is obvious that the one-star reviewers did not bother to read the book and know very little about the subject matter.
Serious readers, even those firmly committed to evolution, ought to be left wondering why the origin debate, or at least discussion of the philosophical issues surrounding the debate, is a closed subject in our schools.
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.
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.