Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Plantinga on Plantinga

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I haven't read Plantinga's book or Jay Richards' review, but William Lane Craig took the same approach here:

    What is interesting is that in the debate Craig refers to, Ayala couldn't have been understanding "random" in the sense Craig (and Plantinga) appeals to. Ayala's objections to Craig's ID evidence that he takes "random" to be unguided.

    Plantinga lists Coyne as someone supporting the theistically compatible sense of "random." Here is what Coyne thinks: "Science simply doesn't deal with hypotheses about a guiding intelligence" ( “faith and science can be ‘compatible’ in the sense that both can be simultaneously embraced by one human mind. The argument is, and always has been, about whether science and faith are philosophically compatible. Do they clash because they deal with ‘data’ in disparate ways? Do they have completely different standards for judging ‘truth’? I say ‘yes,’ and assert that religious scientists exist in a state of cognitive dissonance.” (

    Of course, Plantinga or Craig could just say that Ayala's own understanding of "random" goes beyond what Ayala thinks is scientifically warranted about the theory and that Coyne’s remarks, quoted above, only prove the point: the conflict lies at a deeper *philosophical* level. But it seems to me that Coyne would be unhappy with Plantinga’s characterization. It’s not that Coyne believes he has a pre-scientific philosophical commitment, but that Coyne believes he has a commitment to the scientific philosophy (to put it roughly).

    So how is it that we have a scientist which appears to support Plantinga’s ideas on Darwinism yet clearly believes that “Attempts to reconcile God and evolution keep rolling off the intellectual assembly line. It never stops, because the reconciliation never works.” (

    Plantinga says “the philosophers and biologists whose definitions I cited weren't, I think, being cautious or strategically clever. They aren't theists and don't have any stake in the thought that theism and evolution are compatible. They're just saying how the term "random" in the theory is to be understood.”

    Again, Coyne may disagree with Plantinga’s portrayal. As he says: “This disharmony [between religion and science] is a dirty little secret in scientific circles. It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious… This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict.” (ibid)
    Though Plantinga would no doubt want to claim there is no evidence that *Sober*, *Sarkar*, et al are being tactical. But the fact that Plantinga (or Ruse?) seems to understand Coyne’s words in a way that Coyne doesn’t appear to understand his words makes me a bit skeptical. I could add others to Coyne’s camp (PZ Myers comes to mind) of believing Darwinism (or simply evolution) is in conflict with theism. But who cares since Plantinga admits this anyway.

    In the end, Plantinga’s point seems to boil down to this: some respected biologists have defined “random” in a way that is compatible with theism. Great… I’m not sure why Plantinga thinks that’s worth pointing out (I’ll have to read the book), now back to dealing with the Darwinists. The more significant question seems to be whether Craig is right in that “science is just not in a position to say with any justification that there is no divinely intended direction or goal of the evolutionary process” and, if he is correct, whether this is also detrimental to the IDers. If we can reasonably infer guidedness, why can’t we reasonably infer unguidedness?