Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Mass extinction

In response to Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism, it's common for Darwinians to counter that the very fact that species survive and thrive is evidence that natural selection selects for true beliefs or reliable instincts. If, say, gazelles were inattentive to movements in the high grass (caused by stalking lions), or inattentive to warning calls by birds (who can spot stalking lions in the high grass), &c., that species would become extinct. 

Now, whatever we make of that response on its own grounds, Darwinians (e.g. David Raup, William Provine, Stephen Jay Gould) commonly deploy another argument as evidence for naturalistic evolution: mass extinction. The claim is that given the randomness of survival, and the terrifying attrition rate, this just isn't what we'd expect if there's a wise, benevolent, and provident God. 

Once again, whatever we make of that contention on its own grounds, it seems to be in strident tension with the response to Plantinga. And course, that's in part because it was kicking around before Plantinga's argument. So it didn't anticipate his argument.

The point, though, is that it's hard to see how Darwinians can simultaneously appeal to survival to deflect Plantinga's argument while also, in a different context, pointing to mass extinction. Indeed, they commonly say that something like 99.9% of all species became extinct. 

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