Foreword: The Wedge of Truth
The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, by Phillip E. Johnson. (InterVarsity Press, 2000.)
As you read this book, you must not lose sight of what is really at issue. What is at issue is the authority of a certain intellectual and moral style that characterizes what is “acceptable” or “good work” in Western academic institutions and professional organizations. Does that style have the right to dictate substantive conclusions about reality and the life of reason?
Reason is the human ability to determine what is real, or not real, by thinking. Just as, centuries ago, the honest thinker had to be willing to follow the inquiry even if it led to a godless universe, so, today, the honest thinker has to be willing to follow the inquiry even if it leads to a God governed universe. This latter is, today, the possibility that causes those who think they are in charge of what is only reasonable and right to become impatient and imperious. They cannot afford to be wrong about the godlessness of reality, for now our whole system of education is based upon that assumption, just as some while ago it was based on the assumption of God.
And so, as Philip Johnson so beautifully explains and illustrates, reason is replaced by rationalization. Rationalization is the use of reasoning to make sure that one comes out at the right place. Not long ago the dominant ideal within intellectual circles was to judge the conclusion by the method through which it was derived. If the method was good, you were required to accept the conclusion, at least provisionally. Now, sadly, the method is judged by whether it brings you out at the “right” conclusion, as determined by institutional consensus congealed around glittering personalities. If you don’t come to the “right” conclusion, your method is wrong, and you are probably a bad person. Derisive terminology will be used to describe you.
This is of course very old stuff in human history, but in the present it is always difficult to recognize it for what it is. Contemporary certainties never look like rationalizations, or they would not be contemporary certainties. The character of rationalization is hidden beneath the cloak of benign authority.
In our case today, it is the authority of science. Science, we are told, says this or that. We had better believe it. Unfortunately, science says nothing. It is not the kind of thing that can say anything. Only scientists say things, and scientists can be remarkably unscientific and are often remarkably wrong—as subsequent events frequently show. In addition, many who would speak for science are not even scientists, or have no qualifications in the area of their claims. But if they can assume an aura of “the scientific” in some way, they will be able to rationalize at will and gain a hearing for it.
Philip Johnson is relentlessly logical. That is, he insists that there be good, or at least some, evidence to support a claim—evidence other than that the claim is of the “right” sort. This is an irritating trait, and plenty of people are irritated by his insistence on evidence. But the insistence upon evidence is what, from antiquity, has characterized scientific work—not a set of conclusions which must be defended at all costs. It is evidence that drives the wedge of truth.
In American culture today the real issue is who shall have the right to determine policy. Knowledge confers the right to act and to lead. So the issue becomes: Who gets to say what knowledge is? If you can successfully define knowledge in such a way that your convictions are knowledge and those of others are not, you get to determine policy, direct human life.
But if you successfully define knowledge in terms of materialistic “science,” then there will be no knowledge to guide life, for “science” materialistically interpreted tells you nothing about how life should be lived. It can only help you if you already know how life should be lived. Which is exactly what naturalism inconsistently assumes, for its answers concerning how life should be lived—and it certainly has them—cannot be derived from the science which it proclaims to be the source of all knowledge. It is thus forced into rationalization rather than reasoning. It has, as an intellectual outlook, only a style and no substance.
As you read this book, look to the evidence, and breathe the fresh intellectual air that nourishes genuinely opened minds.
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