An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism – Alvin Plantinga at USC

PlantingaSome points/notes from the Plantinga lecture, in which he argues that naturalism and evolution do not fit together:

–Plantinga defines naturalism (3:45) as the belief that there is no such person as God, or anything like God, Naturalism is stronger than atheism.  Naturalism entails atheism, but atheism doesn’t entail naturalism. You can be an atheist without rising to the heights of, or sinking to the depths of naturalism. For example, someone like Hegel, who thought there was this giant absolute that includes all the realities, but didn’t think there was an omnipotent, omniscient, holy, good person. Such a person would be an atheist, but would not be a naturalist. Naturalism, as I say is stronger than atheism.  Naturalism and evolution are usually thought of as bosom buddies, supporting each other. Evolution is always thought of as kind of a pillar in the temple of naturalism. I would argue that one can’t be a naturalist and also accept evolution, as evolution is ordinarily thought of. They conflict with each other. They go against each other. The conjunction of the two is self referentially incoherent. Christians should not only argue against naturalism, and only assert that naturalism is false, but Christians ought to provide arguments here. We’re enjoined in the New Testament to always be ready with a ‘reason for the hope that is within us’. So, I think the Christian community- Christian students and the like, should be willing to give arguments of this sort.

According to theism, we human beings have been created by a holy, good, all powerful, all knowing being, namely God, who has made us in His own image (made us like Him), and has aims and intentions- He intends certain things, aims that certain should happen, and aims that certain things should happen, and can act in such a way to accomplish those aims. That’s part of what it means to be a person. So there is God, on the one hand, in the theistic story, who has created the world, and on the other hand is creation, that which is created. You might think of naturalism as the theistic world picture minus God. Among famous, well known naturalists there would be the late Carl Sagan, with his portentous incantation ‘the cosmos is all there is or ever has been, or ever will be’, also the late Steven Jay Gould, David Armstrong, the philosopher, the later Darwin, John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, John Lucas, a former philosopher at Oxford, who says that ‘naturalism is the contemporary orthodoxy  of the academy’. Naturalism is certainly strong in the academy, certainly among philosophers

My argument will have to do with cognitive faculties, memory, perception, the faculty by which one forms beliefs, the faculty whereby one knows things, memory, perception, insight, where you learn mathematical truths and logical truths, maybe reads sympathies- whereby you know what other people are thinking and feeling, induction- where you can learn by experience. So these would be cognitive faculties.

The structure of the argument

In brief, here’s how my argument will go. I’ll argue: If naturalism and evolution, if that pair of propositions, if they were both true, than it would be improbable that our cognitive faculties (memory and so on) are in fact reliable. That they give us, for the most part, true beliefs. Once you see that, then if you accept naturalism and evolution you have a defeater for this proposition  that ‘your cognitive faculties are reliable’, a reason to give that belief up, a reason to to believe it. Once you have a defeater for that proposition for that ‘that your cognitive faculties are reliable’, then you have a defeater for any proposition that you take to be produced by your cognitive faculties. Naturally, that’s all of them. I mean, where else would they come from. So, then you have a defeater for also for naturalism and evolution itself. So, you might say it’s self defeating. It’s self referentially inconsistent. (11:00)

YOU CAND READ more of these notes from here- http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialsciences

Video Published on Feb 23, 2013 http://www.veritas.org/talks – Alvin Plantinga is known for his work in philosophy of religion, epistemology, metaphysics, and Christian apologetics. Notably, he has argued that some can know that God exists as a basic belief in the same way that people usually claim to know that other minds exist. VeritasForum·

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