Berkeley’s Radical by Phillip E. Johnson + James M. Kushiner

Berkeley’s Radical

An Interview with Phillip E. Johnson

James M. Kushiner interviewed Johnson while attending a conference on Intelligent Design at Yale University in November 2000.

Touchstone: Dr. Johnson, tell us about your upbringing. Were you raised in a Christian home?

Phillip Johnson (PJ): Well, I grew up in Aurora, Illinois. We went to Sunday school because it was good for us kids. We’d drop my dad off at the golf course on the way. My mother told me I had to stay until I got confirmed, then I could go my own way. During high school I went to a liberal Congregationalist church, but I never took Christian doctrine seriously. It was just part of the culture, like the Boy Scouts. It was about being nice.

I went to Harvard at 17 and assumed I was leaving all that behind. I had every intention of simply adopting the Harvard philosophy, which was secular, pragmatic, and rational, because that’s what you did if you wanted to be a big deal.

When did you go to Harvard?

PJ: In 1957, which was a significant year, the year of Sputnik. Sputnik created a completely new situation in American higher education because it scared the government; they thought we were going to lose our scientific preeminence. So they poured an enormous amount of money into the universities, especially for science. That’s when the biological sciences curriculum really got started.

When you were at Harvard, were you on the “left” or the “right”?

PJ: I played at being the leftist, but I came from a conservative Midwestern background, so my instincts were always in that direction. I was just trying out my wings.

But when I got to the University of Chicago Law School, I discovered that all the bright people weren’t liberals. I heard about Milton Friedman and George Stigler and other leading American economists whom I was never told about at Harvard. It was a bit of an eye-opener.

But unlike many people who go to Chicago, I didn’t quite “eat the whole enchilada,” which allowed me to be more flexible. I didn’t completely buy into the market ideology, though I respected it.


James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.

James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!


personal subscriptions

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


RENEW your print/online
subscription

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!


RENEW your online subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!


RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the online archives

32.4—July/August 2019

A Case of Win-Win

on Probability, Death & the Existence of God by Graeme Hunter

24.2—March/April 2011

Our Numbered Days

Certain Death & the Last Lectures of Socrates & Jesus by Randall B. Smith

24.3—May/June 2011

God's English

The Making & Endurance of the King James Bible, 1611-2011 by Barton Swaim

00