What is a Silver Bullet argument?

/Content/files/Articles/QOTM-SilverBulletArg.jpgOriginating as a folklore tale, a silver bullet was believed to be able to kill the mythical “werewolf”.

Today, the phrase "silver bullet" is used in various contexts.  Pertinent to our discussion is its reference to any argument to which there is no possible response... it's indisputable.  Theoretically, it single-handedly ends all debating because of how powerful it is.

Many Christians are interested in learning a "silver bullet" argument for creation; one they can use anytime they end up in a discussion with an evolutionist.  Sometimes their motivation is they don't want to do any real study or research on their own or think things through very deeply.  Sometimes they just want to ensure they won't lose the debate. I can understand their motivation, but as with most things in life... it's not that easy.

There are two main reasons why there are no "silver bullet" arguments for creation. Incidentally, there are also no "silver bullet" arguments for evolution for these same reasons:

  1. The role of interpretation
  2. Rescuing devices


Let's look at each of these briefly.

The role of interpretation

I've mentioned it in previous articles and in various presentations, "Facts don't speak for themselves."  All facts or evidence, have to be interpreted to give them any significant meaning.  We always use our existing worldview/bias/presuppostions to do the interpreting.  Because of this, we tend to interpret evidence in such a way as to be consistent with our existing views.  This leads us to the second point.

Rescuing devices

It is human nature to be hesitant to make any major changes to our core beliefs, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Because of this, when confronted with seemingly powerful arguments against our views, we work hard to come up with ways to "explain away" the evidence or argument.  These are called "rescuing devices" because they are used in attempt to "rescue" one's currently held views.  Again, rescuing devices aren’t inherently bad - they are to be expected.  The ultimate question becomes, "How reasonable is the person's rescuing device?"  If it's even close to being plausible, then the rescuing device could be considered to be successful, at least to the extent that it offers a somewhat reasonable way of showing the evidence or argument could be consistent with the person’s worldview or that their views could potentially account for what is being presented.

Let's take a look at an example use of a rescuing device.

One argument often used in support of a created or designed universe involves all of the various factors that have to be "just right" in order for life to be possible.  I have written and spoken on this in a fair amount of detail, so I will not repeat all of it here.

The following lists just a few of these numerous factors that are "highly tuned":

   •    Ratio of electron to proton mass
   •    Color & mass of the sun
   •    Mass of the moon distance from the Earth
   •    Earth’s gravitational field
   •    Tilt of the Earth
   •    Oxygen/nitrogen ratio

In one lecture, I share that the probability of just two factors (the gravitational constant and the cosmological constant) being right where they need to be by accident is one chance in 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion! The probability of ALL these factors (these listed and many, many more) being right by accident is much, much less than that!  The probability is so astronomically low, that most scientists realize the power of this argument in favor of special creation.

However, most skeptics/evolutionists, not wanting to give up their views, have worked hard to come up with a rescuing device for this seemingly insurmountable challenge.  And here's how it goes...

"You're right! The chances of all these factors being correct by accident are way too small to be believable... if this was the only universe.  However, there are actually infinite universes out there.  Therefore, it was bound to happen in at least one of them.  It just happens we are in the one where it did occur. Because if it didn’t happen here, we wouldn't be here to be talking about it!"

Yes, this really is the response of many evolutionists!   Surprisingly, this actually is a rescuing device... just not a very good one.  The first point to make is it doesn’t really even make much sense and ends up begging the question.  A good analogy to help illustrate the weakness of this counter-argument is as follows:

Let’s say you were on an airplane with 200 other passengers and the engines suddenly failed, causing the plane to plummet 30,000 feet, crashing to the ground, exploding into flames upon impact. Everyone perished, including the pilots and crew, except you!  A reporter is interviewing you later and asks, “How in the world were you able to survive such an incredible tragedy, when everyone else died?”  Your response is, “Well of course I survived! Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here to be talking to you!”

Of course you are here and still alive, but that response doesn’t explain HOW you are here and still alive, beating such incredible odds!

Secondly, this rescuing device is not a scientific response.  There's no way of knowing if there are other universes out there, so this is simply a philosophical response, not a scientifically testable hypothesis.  It is invoked as an ad hoc attempt to disqualify the arguments of creationists and those in the intelligent design camp.  It carries no real weight.

In general, skeptics hold on so tightly to their beliefs that they learn how to be comfortable living with very weak or non-existent rescuing devices. (Or very often, because they are spiritually blinded, they honestly don’t see the feebleness of their own arguments.)

Here’s a very significant example of someone famous who actually did change his mind, because he was not able to come up with a satisfactory rescuing device.

/Content/files/Articles/QOTM-AntonyFlew-1.jpgAnthony Flew, who was for many years known as "the world's most notorious atheist", changed his mind about the existence of God. In this case, it was because he struggled to find any reasonable  counter-argument regarding the complexity of DNA.  His "180" was...

‘…almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together. It’s the enormous complexity of the number of elements and the enormous subtlety of the ways they work together. The meeting of these two parts at the right time by chance is simply minute. It is all a matter of the enormous complexity by which the results were achieved, which looked to me like the work of intelligence’ (There is a God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, Harper Collins, New York, 2007, p. 75).

/Content/files/Articles/QOTM-FaithDVD-1.jpgSo what are we to conclude from this discussion?  We should not be looking for an “easy out” or one simple argument that puts a final end to all debates.  We need to understand first and foremost that we are dealing with a spiritual battle here, not an academic debate.  There are plenty of brilliant people on both sides of the debate.  We need to be Christ-like examples when interacting with skeptics, not only sharing the truth, but exhibiting grace as well.  We need to demonstrate that all worldviews are “faith-based”, but Christianity is actually a very reasonable faith, based on mounds of evidence from history, archaeology, science and prophecy.

If you are interested in being better positioned to defend your faith, without even having to know anything about science or have degrees in Greek and Hebrew, I would highly recommend our DVD entitled, Faith is Not a Four-Letter Word.  You can order it here or see a promo here.

As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions related to this month’s article or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Return to Question Of The Month