Alvin Plantinga on “The God Delusion”

I stumbled upon this article – a review of sorts – of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins on Christianity today.  If you don’t know Alvin Plantinga, his considered by many to be one of the smartest philosophers alive today.  And it happens that he is a Christian.

So, it is very interesting to read his thinking on the God delusion.

Plantinga begins by saying:

The God Delusion, however, contains little science; it is mainly philosophy and theology (perhaps “atheology” would be a better term) and evolutionary psychology, along with a substantial dash of social commentary decrying religion and its allegedly baneful effects…. however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune.

He then goes on to explore Dawkins proposition that God is improbable because he would have to be complex.  He also explores the logic used by Dawkins to demonstrate that it is possible that everything was biologically formed.  He summarizes this as:

We know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that p;
p is true.

If you are an atheist, read the article before commenting here.  The only thing I wanted to point out here is that this is the way science works in many cases today.  As I wrote a few weeks ago, science is increasingly understood through a philosophical world view – not based on the information conveyed by the evidence alone.  Dawkins appears to have this same flaw according to Plantinga.

The last thing I wanted to draw out of Plantingas review is from when he explores naturalism – specifically the Dawkins version (which is fairly mainstream amongst naturalists).

Like most naturalists, Dawkins is a materialist about human beings: human persons are material objects; they are not immaterial selves or souls or substances joined to a body, and they don’t contain any immaterial substance as a part. From this point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind.

In other words – Dawkins is saying that there is no spiritual or supernatural realm – all that we think is supernatural is really just our brain making electrical noise.  I ran into this argument a few weeks ago, so I was particularly interested in Plantinga’s argument on this.  It turns out very simple.

…from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naïve hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive, but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology.

In other words – you can’t trust what is going on in your brain – there is not spiritual realm, so its all just hogwash.  But Plantinga continues:

In fact he’d have to hold that it is unlikely, given unguided evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable.

If you can’t trust the part of our brain that tells us about the spiritual realm, what part of our brain can you trust?

Plantinga sums up his article with this:

The God Delusion is full of bluster and bombast, but it really doesn’t give even the slightest reason for thinking belief in God mistaken, let alone a “delusion.”

The naturalism that Dawkins embraces, furthermore, in addition to its intrinsic unloveliness and its dispiriting conclusions about human beings and their place in the universe, is in deep self-referential trouble. There is no reason to believe it; and there is excellent reason to reject it.

The review also covers the fine tuning argument, multiple universes and a few other things that Dawkins tries on, so I encourage you to give it a read.

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