Plantinga Critiques The God Delusion

Perhaps you have already seen this, but I hadn't until last night. Alvin Planinga may be the smartest living philosopher on the face of the planet. He is a guy who thinks about thinking, and when he makes an argument (as opposed to a throw away thought) it is usually something to sit up and note. When he discusses philosophy, he normally doesn't take the time to condescend to the level of the New Atheists.

Which is why I was surprised to see Alvin Plantinga wrote a brief review/rebuttal of the awful book by Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. His review, entitled The Dawkins Confusion, does a wonderful job of reviewing Dawkins' arguments against the existence of God. For example, in discussing Dawkins' argument that God is extremely improbable, Plantinga makes a great observation about the actual nature of that argument. 

His detailed arguments are all for the conclusion that it is biologically possible that these various organs and systems should have come to be by unguided Darwinian mechanisms (and some of what he says here is of considerable interest). What is truly remarkable, however, is the form of what seems to be the main argument. The premise he argues for is something like this:
1. We know of no irrefutable objections to its being biologically possible that all of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes;
and Dawkins supports that premise by trying to refute objections to its being biologically possible that life has come to be that way. His conclusion, however, is
2. All of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes.

It's worth meditating, if only for a moment, on the striking distance, here, between premise and conclusion. The premise tells us, substantially, that there are no irrefutable objections to its being possible that unguided evolution has produced all of the wonders of the living world; the conclusion is that it is true that unguided evolution has indeed produced all of those wonders. The argument form seems to be something like
We know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that p; Therefore
p is true.
Philosophers sometimes propound invalid arguments (I've propounded a few myself); few of those arguments display the truly colossal distance between premise and conclusion sported by this one. I come into the departmental office and announce to the chairman that the dean has just authorized a $50,000 raise for me; naturally he wants to know why I think so. I tell him that we know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that the dean has done that. My guess is he'd gently suggest that it is high time for me to retire.
Plantinga does not stop there. He discusses complexity, necessary being and design in a short article. He concludes:
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.
If you haven't read it already, I highly encourage reading this excellent rebuttal to Richard Dawkins.


Metacrock said…
I guess Plantinga felt it needed to be answered becasue of it's popularity and also because he had made the arguemnt about Darwinism. after reading the God delusion it's so simplistic and just a joke I don't really see the point in wasting time with it.
Metacrock said…
After reading Plantinga's article I'm disappointed. Even though I think the Dawkins book is a joke, a whip cream sword, I still wish Plantinga had given some criticisms of some of the ideas.

Dawkins assumes God has to be a big man and that the rules of biology would apply in analyzing god. that in itself in my view is a disqualification of the book as serious but I wish Plantinga had just pointed that out.
BK said…
I thought he did speak about that very issue. He spoke about the fact that God is spirit when he was speaking about complexity. But if I misread that, your point is still well taken.

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