The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

There Can Be Only One

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In the 1986 film, Highlander, the main character is a member of a race of men that are immortal. The only way that they can die is by being decapitated. Because of this, the immortals always fight with swords. Even though they live and breathe in modern society, the weapons of the technological 20 th Century were meaningless for them. A machine gun doesn’t help much when you must remove a man’s head from his neck. Likewise, as “pilgrims” on this earth, Christians don’t have much success when they resort to the intellectual, “advanced” weapons of the modern-day skeptic. We are attacked on all sides with the “machine guns” of the skeptical worldview and we won’t be successful at killing our opponent until we swap our bullets and flak jackets for swords—the “sword of the Spirit,” that is (Ephesians 6:17).

A recent spate of articles has surfaced in various newspapers and magazines that are declaring the death of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. The consensus seems to be that Judge John Jones is the official coroner. His ruling in the Dover, PA school board case is being taken by many as the final word.

After years of unsuccessful attempts to have creationism recognized in public schools as a "scientific" alternative to the theory of evolution by natural selection, anti-Darwinists pinned their hopes on intelligent-design theory (ID), which tries to argue that living things are too complex to be products of random mutations. But this movement lost much steam in December, after a judge in Pennsylvania ruled that, contrary to the Dover, Pa., school board, ID was not science.[1]

It’s rather ironic that a judge with no scientific qualifications gets to make this assessment. For years, the Darwinists were dismissing Phillip Johnson, an avid promoter of ID, for this very reason; his advanced degree was in law, not science. However, Judge Jones comes along, saying the right things (as far as the evolutionary establishment is concerned) and suddenly he’s an expert in matters of science. This only goes to prove that “science” is not the issue; it’s the “interpretation” of science that is on trial.

In many ways, it’s a good thing that ID has been roadblocked. ID’s main problem has always been its greatest asset to its longevity—arbitrariness. “Intelligent design argues that evolution leaves major gaps in understanding the origins of life, gaps that can only be explained by the presence of a supernatural designer.”[2] While not entirely accurate and very oversimplified, this understanding is the take-home lesson that most people (journalists included) get out of the ID argument. This is commonly referred to as the “god of the gaps”[3] argument and it serves to only beg the question of the whole debate. Not to mention the fact that most IDers are Christians of some sort and the “god of the gaps” has no business even being mentioned in the same sentence. To be fair, most ID proponents aren’t saying this, but most people are hearing it nonetheless. This is because their argument is arbitrary. They want to argue design and divine intelligence, but they are careful when it comes to actually naming this divine intelligence. This fact has put IDers out of favor with ardent young-earth creationists, despite what Shapiro says:

For Christian fundamentalists, the sympathy of this group of thinkers has been a boon, lending credence to the idea that critiques of natural selection are more than just a strategy to promote creationism. Perhaps so, but how reliable are the critiques? Proponents of intelligent design, like the mathematician William Dembski, argue that we don’t understand the origins of various biological systems and never will, because they can’t be broken down into smaller parts that could be explained by natural selection. Therefore, we should give up on Darwin and accept the existence of a designer. Alas, this kind of argumentum ad ignorantium flies in the face of an ever-increasing amount of evidence from molecular biology, and hardly measures up to the neoconservatives’ rigorous intellectual standards.[4]

Not one to be worried about proving his point, Shapiro never reveals what this “ever-increasing” mountain entails, so we must take him on faith. After all, he is a researcher in neuroscience at Harvard. But he makes a good point. ID wants to keep science “naturalistic” to a point, and when it hits awe and wonder it stops and marvels at the handiwork and complexity of the hand of God. This approach has the cart pulling the horse and it reveals once again why the presuppositional model is so paramount to Christians having a testimony and a weapon to use against the naturalist. God doesn’t just show up in the gaps, He’s the whole timeline. Both Dembski and Shapiro assume an ordered, observable, testable and repeatable world. A purely naturalistic world can’t yield this. In order for an evolutionary paradigm to work, nature itself must change, either slowly in small, incremental steps, or quickly, in larger, more radical steps. Either way, the future will not be like the past, so one of the very basic tenets of naturalism butts heads with the scientific method. Shapiro must assume an ordered world in order to do his research, but his naturalism can’t grant him this. He must borrow it from the Christian.

For this reason alone, it was only a matter of time until the ID movement lost momentum. Christians must be willing to state their core beliefs up front and without apology. No covert, undercover, back-door method will work. We must take the battle to the skeptic and show him that his presuppositions do not match his actions. No naturalist truly lives his life in terms of his own worldview. All unbelievers are believers in their actions, regardless of what they say they believe (Romans 1:18-19). But Christians are not immune to this either. We get dazzled by the technological brilliance of the weapons of the unbeliever and forget about the sword at our side. We begin fighting a war of ideas (head-removal) with canons and guns, but these can only wound momentarily. We are called to decapitate (metaphorically-speaking, of course). The end game in Highlander was that there could be only one, and so it is with the war of ideas. There can be only one.

Endnotes:

[1] Kevin Shapiro, “Misplaced Sympathies,” The Wall Street Journal (April 21, 2006). Online here.
[2] “Court ruling on intelligent design not all bad for Discovery Institute,” Centre Daily Times (AP), April 26, 2006. Online here.
[3] “ Refers to a common theistic position that anything that can be explained by human knowledge is not in the domain of God, so the role of God is therefore confined to the ‘gaps’ in scientific explanations of nature.” ( Wikipedia, “God of the Gaps” definition)
[4] Shapiro, “Misplaced Sympathies.”

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