Friday, March 02, 2007

Plantinga On Dawkins' Latest

I love this guy.

Alvin Plantinga, one of the leading thinkers in Christian philosophy and apologetics, deconstructs Richard Dawkins' latest book The God Delusion:
So why think God must be improbable? According to classical theism, God is a necessary being; it is not so much as possible that there should be no such person as God; he exists in all possible worlds. But if God is a necessary being, if he exists in all possible worlds, then the probability that he exists, of course, is 1, and the probability that he does not exist is 0. Far from its being improbable that he exists, his existence is maximally probable. So if Dawkins proposes that God's existence is improbable, he owes us an argument for the conclusion that there is no necessary being with the attributes of God—an argument that doesn't just start from the premise that materialism is true. Neither he nor anyone else has provided even a decent argument along these lines; Dawkins doesn't even seem to be aware that he needs an argument of that sort.1
[1] Christianity Today.

3 comments:

lokki said...

um... I hope that rebuttal is chopped up or at least taken out of context. Just as Plantinga begins from the premise put forth by classical theism, Dawkins begins from the premis of atheism. You just can't get there from here.

Atheism does not recognize 'God as a necessary being'. Launching from 'God is necessary' then claiming victory because the other guy started from a different point is about as straw-man as you can get.

You want an argument that there is no necessary being with the attributes of God? How about we phrase the question more objectively; does God need to exist for us to explain the world around us?

Two implications of this question are: if God doesn't need to exist as an explanation, then we accept that we haven't figured out the physics yet, and thus must keep marching on; if God needs to exist, then we accept that God also gave non-believers something to believe in, and so we should just call it good and get on with out latt├ęs and biscotti. For this last one, one might naturally ask the follow-up; when do we know when to stop asking questions about the world around us? At what point do we simply give up scientific persuit and understanding?

I submit we passed that point when the first human learned how to make fire and use tools. Everything else just kinda falls from that.

Presuming God exists based on Plantinga's "lack of contrary evidence" argument really undermines any position, on either side. Back to square one for apologetics, huh?

Oscar Wilde once wrote "Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions." How now the truth of God?

Michael A. Vickers said...

A few comments:

1) This was more a review of Dawkins' book than a rebuttal, although Plantinga strays off the path a bit to make a couple points.

2) Classic Christian apologetics (and I don't think Plantinga was presenting an apologetic case in any sense of the word in this article) does not start from "God is necessary." It generally starts with "There are good reasons to believe that God exists."

I also don't think Plantinga was claiming any sort of victory. Did you have a chance to read the whole article?

3) "Does God need to exist for us to explain the world around us?" I guess that all depends if you believe that the universe started ex nihilo or if you believe in some of the other universe models out there -- the multi-verses model, Hawkins' "imaginary time" model for the origin of the universe, etc.

4) "At what point do we simply give up scientific pursuit and understanding?" Never? I don't think there is anything honest science will ever turn up which renders God null. In fact, I think honest science ultimately uncovers the glory of God rather than building up a case against him.

5) Again, I don't think Plantinga was making a case for God based on the lack of contrary evidence. He was actually pulling apart Dawkins' argument for the non-existence of God based on that very argumentative mechanism:

"'1. We know of no irrefutable objections to its being biologically possible that all of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes;'

and Dawkins supports that premise by trying to refute objections to its being biologically possible that life has come to be that way. His conclusion, however, is

'2. All of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes.'"

Dawkins has been receiving the rock star treatment as of late for this book, and nobody has really taken a sober look at what he is selling.

serloren said...

lokki said:
"Oscar Wilde once wrote "Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions." How now the truth of God?"

Yes he did say that. Wilde is also known to have called on God for forgiveness and salvation before he died (a deathbed confession as it were).