Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Religion Conflicted Science
Alvin Plantinga, a John O'Brien professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, traveled to UNLV Thursday to present his lecture "Science and Religion: Where the Conflict Really Lies."
The event, which was co-sponsored by the UNLV philosophy department, the Thomas Aquinas Catholic Newman Center and the UNLV geosciences department, outlined naturalism, evolutionary theory and the relationship of those ideas with the idea of theism.
"There are various alleged conflicts between science and religion," Plantinga said. "[I] argue that contemporary evolutionary theory is not incompatible with theism."
Plantinga discussed where humans and other living organisms come from, prospects of life after death and how living things relate to one another.
"In the Bible, it says that God has created human beings in his image," Plantinga said. "That's what I am thinking of when I think of theistic beliefs."
Plantinga said that when people think about the compatibility of theism and evolution, they have to think of the four evolutionary theories.
"The four evolutionary theories include descent with modification, Darwinism and natural selection, Christian evolutionary beliefs and scientific evolutionary beliefs," Plantinga said. "When we ask if they are compatible with theism, we have to think of each one individually."
Plantinga said he believes the conflict between religion and evolution is non-existent, but, he added, the idea of naturalism is not so well-suited to religious belief.
Plantinga suggested that there is a conflict between naturalism and the Christian belief of evolutionary theory.
"A naturalist is an atheist," Plantinga said. "You have to be an atheist to be a naturalist, but you don't have to be a naturalist to be an atheist."
-Danielle Decuir, "Speaker contrasts views in age-old debate," The Rebel Yell, (the student newspaper of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas), November 9, 2009
Why do people give any credence to the clown?
So Christian evolutionary beliefs is an evolutionary theory?
Whats the difference between scientific evolutionary beliefs and descent with modification or Darwinism and natural selection.
Is this new from him, or does he explain it elsewhere?
Fleshed out a bit more, I think he'd allow for the thought that naturalism is the metaphysical view that everything that exists, exists in space and in time, and that causal relationships between spatio-temporal entities are the most basic kind of relationship. (I like to think of naturalism as the view that there are no persons which are not also animals.)
Plantinga is famous for, among other things, the evolutionary argument against naturalism. It's an interesting argument -- quite wrong, but very interesting.
I'd like to point out that Plantinga does not think that the existence of God can be proven. He's far good of a philosopher for that. He first became famous for his book God and Other Minds. He argues there that (i) none of the traditional proofs of the existence of God are valid; (ii) there are some beliefs that are "properly basic" -- not justified on the basis of anything further, but that it would be unreasonable to deny; (iii) the belief that other people have minds is one such properly basic belief; (iv) if the existence of other human minds is properly basic, then so too is the existence of God.
I haven't a clue what is meant by the "four evolutionary theories" and what is supposed to separate them (except, perhaps, that "Christian evolutionary beliefs" have goddidit somewhere in them while "scientific evolutionary beliefs" have no need for that hypothesis. This may just have been a mangling by the reporter, Ms. Decuir. I have to agree with Carlos that Plantinga isn't stupid but that's no guarantee that any particular argument he makes isn't.
Quite true. But then why is "naturalism" in conflict with theism? A "philosophical naturalist" -- say a Dawkins -- might say that he does not absolutely know that there is nothing that could be called "supernatural" (including something that could be called "God") but since he is certain that the "natural" exists (as Plantinga is when he risks his life inside several tons of airplane that will not reliably fly if natural laws don't hold), he prefers to rely on the natural he knows exists rather than the supernatural that is, if Plantinga is right, unknowable and must be taken as "basic." They would appear to be orthogonal, not incompatible.