Phillip Johnson, age 65, now works mostly from his modest home office in a cardigan sweater. He has suffered two strokes in recent years, and that's impaired some of his movement, but there's still a vibrancy in his eyes and he has a quick, warm smile. Before his strokes, he lectured widely at college campuses and churches.
Johnson's passion evolved after he became a Christian more than 20 years ago - a change that coincided with a difficult time in his personal life.
"I had gone through a marital break-up," says Johnson, "and I had become unsure of some of the things that I had taken for granted all my life. I was interested in finding something to sink my intellectual teeth into."
Johnson started thinking about the existence of an intelligent designer while he was taking a sabbatical in England and reading the acclaimed writings of Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist. Dawkins is author of many books including, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. Dawkins argues against religion and attacks creationists. So Phillip Johnson decided to take him on with writings that later became Darwin on Trial.
While in England, Johnson met a student of the philosophy of science, Stephen Meyer, who was working at the University of Cambridge, and they teamed up to spread the word about intelligent design.
Meyer is now director of the institutional home for the intelligent design movement, based at a conservative think tank in Seattle called the Discovery Institute.
Although its supporters were interrogated by the mainstream media and were shunned by the scientific community, the intelligent design movement was gaining visibility, thanks in part to the establishment of the Center for Science and Culture, headquarters for intelligent design at the Discovery Institute. Ten years ago, Stephen Meyer secured lead funding for the center from a billionaire banking heir from California, Howard Ahmanson, who had a history of backing Christian causes. And intelligent design's challenge to evolution steadily advanced.
Meyer was recently grilled on MSNBC.
Next, it moved into the political arena and America's schools with one deftly written amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act, sponsored by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). Phillip Johnson, intelligent design's architect, helped write the language.
"I rise to talk about my amendment which is going to be voted on here in roughly 40 minutes," said Santorum on the Senate floor. "It's two sentences that hopefully this Senate will embrace."
The amendment said that good science education should prepare students to understand the controversy and be "informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject."
It overwhelmingly passed the Senate in the middle of the night, but when opponents found out about it, they rallied their forces and had it removed from the bill.
Four years later, the intelligent design movement garnered its most important political endorsement - that of President Bush when he said that that schools should teach evolution and intelligent design.
Yet Phillip Johnson maintains he has never been a proponent of teaching intelligent design in schools. "I was not particularly interested, and I am not today, in exactly how this should be handled as a matter of high school curricula," he says. "That's an interesting question."
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