Posts Tagged ‘Alvin Plantinga’

It seems the last two big cover stories in Christianity Today covering evolution issues have completely ignored the many scientists and others who accept evolution as the best explanation for some things, but have serious doubts about it as the best explanation for all of biological history.  These articles ignore those Christians who doubt evolution based primarily on the scientific evidence, not theology.

The latest cover story deals with the biography of a theistic evolutionist and a young earth creationist.  No biography of Michael Behe who was taught theistic evolution growing up, but who came to doubt Darwinism as he delved deeper into the science.  Sigh.  Christianity Today is dumbing down the church and missing the most interesting questions.

Christianity Today also never reviewed Alvin Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, in which Plantinga devoted a whole section to Michael Behe’s design arguments, and had very positive things to say about them.  CT published an interview with Plantinga, but avoided all discussion of ID.

In the recent article, the author, Tim Stafford, asserts that Darrel Falk “has held to his plea for Christians to love and respect each other while advocating different points of view.”  Well, that is not quite right.  Falk has claimed elsewhere that he has a kind of “mission from God” to attack other believers:

With all respect for [Michael] Behe as a person, his science has turned out to be highly incompetent in the field in which he writes—biology.  Since he chose to take his science to non-professionals many of whom have not had more than one college course in biology (if that), you are correct: BioLogos needs to show that he, bless his heart, is professionally incompetent; one of our God-given tasks (to be frank this is the way we see it) is to demonstrate this to a public which (unlucky as they are) doesn’t have the biology background to know better.

When I asked Darrel Falk to explain how Behe was incompetent, he failed to do so.


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Here are some choice quotes from a review by James Beebe of Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism:

In conclusion I thought I would mention a couple of zingers that Plantinga aims at the New Atheists, for those who might be interested in such things. In addition to referring to Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins as “dancing on the lunatic fringe” (p. 77), Plantinga maintains that the New Atheists “propose to deal with their opponents not by way of reasoned argument and discussion, but by way of ridicule and ‘naked contempt’…. Why they choose this route is not wholly clear. One possibility, of course, is that their atheism is adolescent rebellion carried on by other means. Another (consistent with the first) is that they know of no good reasons or arguments for their views, and hence resort to schoolyard tactics. In terms of intellectual competence, the new atheists are certainly inferior to the ‘old atheists’–Bertrand Russell and John Mackie come to mind. They are also inferior to many other contemporary but less strident atheists–Thomas Nagel, Michael Tooley, and William Rowe, for example. We may perhaps hope that the new atheists are but a temporary blemish on the face of serious conversation in this crucial area” (pp. x-xi). Plantinga also offers the following comment on Dennett’s dilettantish discussion of the epistemic status of beliefs formed on the basis of faith: “I’m sorry to say this is about as bad as philosophy (well, apart from the blogosphere) gets” (p. 47). Plantinga’s harsh words stem from the fact that Dennett fails to engage the best work in philosophy of religion on this topic. Plantinga asks, “Is this because he is ignorant of that work? Or doesn’t understand it? Or can’t think of any decent arguments against it? Or has decided that the method of true philosophy is inane ridicule and burlesque rather than argument? No matter; whatever the reason, Dennett’s ventures in the epistemology of religious belief do not inspire confidence” (p. 47). Passages such as these suggest an addition we might make to Plantinga’s 1984 classic, “Advice to Christian Philosophers”: Cast your best insults as hypotheticals, if you want to be able to maintain your public commitment to Christian charity.

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You can find it here:

But isn’t all this just endorsing a wholly outmoded and discredited fundamentalism, that condition than which, according to many academics, none lesser can be conceived? I fully realize that the dreaded f-word will be trotted out to stigmatize any model of this kind. Before responding, however, we must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ‘son of a bitch’, more exactly ‘sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ‘sumbitch’. When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obliged first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use): it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ‘stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ‘sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation is that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’.

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Jay Richards continues his review.  I plan to write more later:

There’s nothing wrong with an argument that comes to a modest conclusion; but Dawkins claims to have shown that the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design. As a result, he’s guilty of severe overreach. This is especially obvious when Plantinga reduces Dawkins’s larger argument to its logical core. It ain’t pretty. In The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins seems to be arguing

p is not astronomically improbable



That argument form is, Plantinga observes, “a bit unprepossessing” (p. 25). Normally, we don’t think that if we can show that some event is not astronomically improbable, then we’ve established it.

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