Logic and evolution: Plantinga tries theistic evolution (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Monday, January 09, 2017, 01:37 (466 days ago) @ dhw

And as this critical essay shows he fails, because he comes from a supernatural standpoint as a leading Christian theologian:


"I am not overly familiar with Plantinga’s work (and I should be, given that he is one of the most highly esteemed Christian philosophers alive today). I have some passing familiarity with his defense of rational Christian belief as “properly basic,” and I’ve read his work on the issue of science and faith (dealing with naturalism broadly, and more specifically, biological evolution). While Dennett seems to do his best to destroy any chance of serious discussion in these essays, my impression is that Plantinga comes off looking much the loser of this “debate.” As I will attempt to briefly demonstrate here, Plantinga makes, what are in my estimation, several blatant false steps in logic…something surprising for a seasoned philosopher from Notre Dame.


“'Theistic religion endorses special divine action in the world—miracles, for example—but such action would contravene the laws promulgated by science. There is such a thing as the scientific worldview, and it is incompatible with theistic religion.” If it were true that “science” as a practice rightly conforms to this “scientific worldview” (read: naturalism), then I suppose we could stop here (on page two of the essay) and say that Plantinga has just given the game to Dennett. The two are incompatible. Thus, it is Plantinga’s main intent to create a space between naturalism and science, where religion can get along.


"Plantinga then focuses his gaze upon contemporary evolutionary theory. He seeks to diffuse the idea that evolution, “implies that neither God nor anyone else has designed, planned or intended human beings come to be.” If science held this, then it would be incompatible with Christian theism.

"Plantinga then hones in even tighter on what he perceives to be the apparent point of conflict. He sees four major claims in evolutionary theory: 1) the planet is very ancient 2) there is descent with modification 3) universal common ancestry unites all life 4) the Darwinian mechanism is random mutation winnowed by natural selection. Of these, only the fourth registers as a concern for Plantinga theologically.


"Instead, he argues that “God could have caused the right mutations to arise at the right time, he could have preserved populations from perils of various sorts, and so on.” [It’s worth noting that this essentially confines Plantinga’s argument for the compatibility of science and theism to a discussion of genetic mutation].


“'You might be wondering whether genetic mutations could be both random and intended and caused by God: If these mutations are random, aren’t they just a matter of chance, blind chance? But it is no part of current evolutionary theory to say that these mutations are random in the a sense implying that they are uncaused. . . still less that they occur just by chance.”

"Plantinga goes on to cite the late Ernst Mayr in pointing out that “random mutation” must be taken as meaning that mutations occur without regard to their effect on the recipient organism. That is, neither the organism or the environment can force a particular mutation that would be advantageous (or otherwise). The machine of mutation runs, and the organism gets what it gets.


"Essentially, all Plantinga is demonstrating is that there are no uncaused effects. An introductory philosophy course teaches us this. But does it help the situation? Does the fact that all effects (in this case, mutations) have causes and are potentially determinate really make Darwinian evolution compatible with Christian theology? The answer is no.


"At the end of the day, Plantinga has decided that the debate over the compatibility of science and faith rests on the topic of biological evolution. But, Plantinga ascribes to a risen Jesus, the Son of God, born of a virgin, working miracles, dying and rising from the dead. How on earth could he say that this is compatible with scientific descriptions of reality? Surely, at some point, for as long as science describes things naturalistically, some aspect of Christianity must be at odds with it. No?

"In summary, I have provided several good reasons for doubting the efficacy of Plantinga’s argument. He attempts to make God the author of random events by arguing that science can’t really equate “random” with “unintended.” But, on many levels, this argument fails to be persuasive. As many have been arguing for a long time, if the creation of biological diversity (and our species in particular) came about by eons of mutations acted on by natural selection, then there’s no reason to think God was steering creation towards any particular end."

Comment: Plantinga's approach to use Darwin theory (chance mutation and natural selection) and apply religious concepts cannot succeed. This very long review of his argument makes that clear. This is why my approach is very different: no religious precepts and I don't think most of Darwin's theory is correct as I have shown previously. We have no valid scientific description of how speciation occurs. I suggest reading the entire essay which makes excellent points reflecting dhw's point of view.

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