This Just In: God Exists! Or, The Latest Claims of Religion on Science
12/15/2011 - 19:07
Anonymous

In the latest round of the Religion Vs. Science Wars, religion comes out punching. 

Last month, the philosopher Alvin Plantinga, of Notre Dame, published a pugilistic assault on atheist nay-sayers like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins.  As The New York Times pointed out this week, Plantinga’s case for religious belief is significant because, as a believing Christian as well as tenured philosopher, he’s not simply playing defense.  Instead he’s making the audacious claim, at least among intellectuals, that religion is actually compatible with science, and even more rational than atheism.

The argument goes like this: since theists posit that God created rational-minded being in his image, then religious belief is more rational than Darwin-loving atheists.  In their view, Plantinga contends, much of what happens in the world, especially evolution, is driven by utterly random events—and there’s nothing more irrational than that.  “Indeed,” he writes, “it is theism, not naturalism, that deserves to be called ‘the scientific worldview.’”  To be sure, Plantinga accepts the theory of revolution, but he’s essentially an intelligent-design guy—that is, God set it all in motion, and nudges things in a certain direction.

Now I haven’t read the book, but as the argument is represented, it seems significantly flawed.  And the bedrock of that flaw is the same one that strict material rationalists cannot accept: that is, it requires you to take as a fact something that has no way of being proven. In other words, it rests on belief, not proof. 

Plantinga fully concedes that a higher power cannot be proven to exist. He dismisses the concern with a wave-of-the-hand, however, saying that belief in God is a type of philosophical premise dubbed “basic belief.” Like the fact that one plus one equals two, there is simply no need to prove it true.  It’s just self evidently so. 

To which, I’d respond: Hmm.

It seems, however, Hmms aren’t enough. Dennett, the best-selling atheist and philosopher, who gets a drubbing in Plantinga’s book, tells the Times in response to Plantinga: “It’s just become more and more transparent that he’s an apologist more than a serious, straight-ahead philosopher.”

Personally, I’m with Stephen Jay Gould on this one. Science and religion set out to address entirely different sets of questions.  Both are concerned with answering profound and eternal truths about the world.  But they are truths of different kinds.  Science investigates truths about the physical world, while religion concerns philosophical truths. 

Occasionally, like literary truths, religion makes claims about human nature, which depending on what they are, are equally unscientific, but nonetheless concern a certain kind of truth about the physical world—the human, emotional, moral world. And those are claims that, because they can never be proven, will constantly demand our attention, and we will be arguing over—and rightly so—for a long time to come.

Comments

Religious truths are like literary truths... that's one I've not heard before, and quite good. I also appreciate the argument of the previous commenter that religion and science invariably conflict, although I think that it's radicals on either side who most appreciate keeping silent and letting others have their say, because they recognize that... they might learn something.

Interesting topic. I agree with you Eric when you say that religion is 'the scientific worldview' is preposterous. Unlike you however, I disagree with Gould's non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) argument. Science and religion are concerned with answering profound and eternal truths about the world. The difference is -- religions especially Abrahamic religions -- says it already knows the truth.

One can argue for the existence of a deistic god and may still feel scientific about it because even though there is no evidence for the statement, it can be argued to be a hypothesis. But to offer theistic arguments for the existence and nature of the Abrahamic god is very unscientific. It is faith-based. Science is not faith-based, it is evidence-based. Therefore, science and religion are not mutually exclusive and they encroach in each other's territories because they both attempt to answer the same questions. And almost always, their answers to the same questions, conflict. Noma denies this. Yet, the conflict between science and religion has concrete effects. It plays out in our politics and in the way we are all governed, live our lives and treat other people. This eventually leads to people from both sides of the discourse feeling, rightly or wrongly, that they are denied their right to live according to their beliefs.

The Abrahamic religions assume they already know the truths found in metaphysics. God is a metaphysic, not a science question. Of course, as explained to the person above you, science rests upon a Judeo-Christian worldview.

No, science and religion dont conflict, if we meet any of the following conditions:
1- Religion avoids discussion of the empiracle.
2- The religion is correct, which I can support.
3- The religion provides the foundation of science, which only the Judeo-Christian model can satisfy so far.

Like many nice people, Gould had no interest in hurting people's feelings, so he gave some credit to religious belief, even though his explanation does not hold water. Religion CONSTANTLY puts its nose in explaining the physical world. Why do women have pain in childbirth, u ask? Well, read the Bible--it is because Eve was beguiled by the snake, of course. Why is sex forbidden during menstruation? Bible's answer: because women r unclean. Morality, u say? what about all the genocide that God commands?
Religion had its day before science evolved. That day is over.

Actually, he was right when he stated that science cannot test God. How exactly do you intend to test that which is outside of the observable, hm? How does one devise hypotheses about a Being that might be arbitrary (as Allah of Islam can be argued as)?

"Why do women have pain in childbirth, u ask? Well, read the Bible--it is because Eve was beguiled by the snake, of course." Actually, this is a strawman of theology. [Increased] Pain during child birth was the result of deciding to go against God. It doesn't matter whether a talking snake was involved (though the identity using the form of the snake is the true deciever), if Eve ate the fruit without being told it would make her like God, she still would have eaten it, and it would still be her fault.

"Why is sex forbidden during menstruation? Bible's answer: because women [a]r[e] unclean."
Yet another strawman, I'm afraid. Actually, women are unclean durring menstruation because their vagina is bleeding. Sharing blood between individuals, that is a serious health-hazard, and any modern idiot should be able to see that, even if God didn't tell them that in real life.

"Morality, u say? what about all the genocide that God commands?"
Each and every genocide committed by the Hebrews was commanded by God, and always for a good reason. The Canaanites (my personal favourite) burned their children as sacrifices to their gods! If that is not something that should be eliminated, then you can't complain about our morality anymore than you say we can't about yours. Besides, if God is nill, then what does determine the difference between right and wrong? They can't be brute facts (principle of sufficient reason), necessary facts (is there really such thing as a necessary abstract entity?), or relative (or else we are forced to ask why e have such a sense, which makes no sense in metaphysical naturalism), so now what?

"Religion had its day before science evolved. That day is over."
Actually, science is only possible in a Judeo-Christian worldview. Notice, the God of the Bible is consistent, intelligible, orderly. His nature will be reflected in His creation. This is exactly what science must assume, and exactly what it finds. Looks like atheism has failed.

If horses believed in G*d, G*d would look like a horse.!

Actually, God has no form, it would seem. We have descriptions of God having feathers, as a formless energy _thing_ of some sort, and as a man (this one is not considered, because this is the WORD in flesh). We just take the idea of what God looks like to be a man because we are taking the statement about man being in God's Image too literally (it means we are composite beings [body, soul, ans spirit], it means we can think and reason, other interpretations). What God looks like has no bearing on which species believe He exists, if we are assuming the Bible has any say in this.

Plantinga is famous for his "Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism" in which he claims that given the truth of evolution, naturalism is unlikely. Unfortunately for his argument, Plantinga clearly knows nothing about evolution.

To claim that a highly educated character like Dr. Platinga lacks education on what is so simple, a sixth grader can understand it, shows that you are desperate to discard this argument. All one needs is reproduction, variation, and selection (in our case, it is natural). The argument is that truth-telling of the brain does not have to correlate with truth value. Because of this, belief that one's own mind can be trusted at all is absurd: there are many more possible ways that the mind can lie than there are truths, so a lying mind is more likely, given all possible scenarios where lying to one's self is beneficial for natural selection.

Now let's see why all arguments against Platinga fail:
They presuppose that his argument cannot possibly be correct. If he is right, then all observations, assuming naturalism, are untrustworthy, and science falls down the toilet. In order to say that telling the truth has selective advantages, they must presuppose that their minds can tell them the truth, and then say that truth-telling being favoured by selection has been observed. Circular reasoning is unacceptable.

"Plantinga fully concedes that a higher power cannot be proven to exist. He dismisses the concern with a wave-of-the-hand, however, saying that belief in God is a type of philosophical premise dubbed “basic belief.” Like the fact that one plus one equals two, there is simply no need to prove it true. It’s just self evidently so.

To which, I’d respond: Hmm."

Hmm...

One plus one equals two, right? So what about the number "2"? Does it exist? I'm not talking the two objects represented by the number 2 or about the 'symbol' for the number 2, I mean the actual number 2; does it exist? Are there really such things as numbers? Do they really exist? If
If you say 'yes', well then where did these numbers come from? Are they necessary beings?

Hmm... Doesn't science only study the Natural World? So how could it prove there is nothing beyond the natural world? It can't. So the only way the naturalist scientist could hold that view is through... wait for it.... FAITH. But of course, then that would mean that the scientific naturalist contradicts his own view that we should only believe what can be scientifically proven. Oh well...

Put another way, saying that 'we should only believe what can be scientifically proven' FAILS as a concept. See, There are more things in heaven and earth, Eric, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. TRUTHS that we all accept but can't be proven. Like: Mathematical truths (science presupposes logic and math), metaphysical truths (like the external world is real), aesthetic truths (like the beauty of your mother), Scientific truths (like the constancy of the speed of light in the Theory of Relativity).

Put a third way, the idea that 'we should only believe what can be scientifically proven' is self-refuting; ie, the statement itself can't be proven by science.

Things to think about.

Hmm...

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