Nagel on Plantinga’s New Book
September 15, 2012 — 13:20

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest Existence of God Religious Belief  Tags: , , , ,   Comments: 4

Thomas Nagel writes a review of Alvin Plantinga’s recent book, Where the Conflict Really Lies, which James Beebe has also nicely reviewed here at Prosblogion.
Nagel’s review is well-written and charitable. He covers much territory by summarizing large swathes of Plantinga-philosophy in succinct paragraphs, all without sacrificing accuracy. (He even appears to have carefully read footnotes from Plantinga’s other works.) His only objection seemed to be that Plantinga does not consider naturalist theories of mental content. Plantinga doesn’t cover them in this book, but he deals with a number of them in a recent PPR paper.
So, as one very familiar with Plantinga’s work, I was impressed with Nagel’s review.

  • Anon

    I enjoyed his review.
    On the other hand, Maarten Boudry’s review in the International History, Philosophy and Science, Teaching Group Newsletter is far more critical. He questions the idea of divine intervention, citing that there is no scientific evidence for miraculous events. He also brings up the problem of evil in relation to evolution. Why would God use such a process to create rational beings? And he questions the notion of “guided” mutations.

    September 20, 2012 — 19:05
  • “Scientific evidence” can mean at least one of two things:
    1. Evidence that includes a scientific component.
    2. Evidence that is scientific through and through.
    In the first sense, there is “scientific evidence” for miracles. For instance, one might use science to date some manuscript attesting to a miracle, as part of a case for the authenticity of the miracle report.
    In the second sense, there isn’t any “scientific evidence” that we should ever pay any attention to scientists. ūüôā

    September 21, 2012 — 12:11
  • Anon

    Hi Alex,
    Well, I guess that’s something to think about. His argument against theistic evolution seemed to be along the lines of “there have been no successful experiment which demonstrated that mutations occurred because the organism needed them.” I was scratching my head, thinking “So what?” Assuming, from a theist’s standpoint, that the ultimate goal was to put humans on the planet, why would there be any further reason to fiddle with evolution? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of theistic evolution to establish that there is no conflict between biological evolution and divine creation? TE proponents, as far as I know, don’t want to shove this down scientist’s throats or force it into school curriculums. As for the problem of evil, well I think your blog post on the argument from evil against naturalism is a fairly good starting point.

    September 22, 2012 — 18:46
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    √ʬĬĚ[Maarten Boudry] questions the idea of divine intervention, citing that there is no scientific evidence for miraculous events√ʬĬĚ

    People keep making the claim that there is no scientific evidence for the supernatural, but is it warranted? After all there is plenty of scientific evidence of human actions which result from exercising our free will, and since free will cannot exist in a naturalistic reality it follows that human actions are of supernatural origin. Our consciousness itself appears to have a supernatural nature, since consciousness remains as unnecessary a scientific hypothesis as it was 200 years ago. Actually, 200 years ago we might have thought that some particular kinds of human behavior (perhaps moral behavior) would require the consciousness hypothesis, but thanks to the advancement of science we today know that this is not true. Further, we perceive properties of physical things or states of affairs, such their moral value or beauty, which according to naturalism cannot exist either and are thus of a supernatural nature too.
    Modern science itself has uncovered physical facts which appear to be of a supernatural nature, such as the fine-tuning of the fundamental constants and initial conditions, the deeply mathematical nature of physical reality, and what one might call the computational prowess of the electron. Here I refer to the fact that the behavior of the electron is computationally very complex. Now the electron is a physical primitive without any internal moving parts it might use to compute its future behavior, and certainly without any access to some external computing machinery. The computationally complex behavior of the electron can thus only be of a supernatural nature.
    How does the naturalist respond to the above plethora of supernaturalistic going-ons? In the case of free will and moral or esthetic values the naturalist will probably claim that these are illusions, and even sketch a naturalistic explanation of why our brain produces our experiences of exercising free will and of perceiving values. But, of course, from the fact that our brain produces these experiences it does not follow that they are illusions. In the case of the fine-tuning the naturalist will probably suggest some multiverse theory, without explaining why one should expect the multiverse theory to be any less fine-tuned than the traditional universe theory. The cases of the mathematical nature of physical reality and the computational prowess of physical primitives are not much discussed, but I suppose the naturalist may claim that since naturalism is possible true, it is also possibly true that there is nothing supernatural in these facts either. But of course there is as huge a distance between the claims √ʬĬúThere is no scientific evidence of supernaturalism√Ę¬Ä¬Ě and √ʬĬúPossibly, there is no scientific evidence of supernaturalism√ʬĬĚ, as between the claims √ʬĬúPresident Obama is a robot√Ę¬Ä¬Ě and √ʬĬúPossibly, president Obama is a robot√ʬĬĚ.
    Now Bouldry perhaps means not just any supernatural properties but proper miraculous events, such as the growing back of human limbs, or the resurrection of a decomposing corpse. But it is very unclear why one should expect God to produce miracles, especially in a way that is amenable to scientific study. After all God is the author of nature, and the need to regularly perform miracles violating nature√ʬĬôs order would evidence some imperfection in God√ʬĬôs design. Some people may suggest that God sometimes violates the natural order in order to prove to specific people that God exists. But if God wanted to prove to some people God√ʬĬôs existence, God could produce in them a miraculous direct perception of God √ʬĬď without violating the natural order. Since there isn’t any good reason why to expect that God would want to violate the natural order, the fact that science does not observe any such violations is clearly no evidence against theism.
    Finally, perhaps Bouldry means that without violating the natural order God is not capable of intervening in the history of the world, or of guiding that history (say in order to produce the human species according to God’s purposes), or of interacting with human persons. This idea would hold water 100 years ago when we had good reason to believe that physical reality is deterministic. But for the last 100 years non-classical physics has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that physical reality is indeterministic, indeed indeterministic in a specific way which allows God to massively intervene, guide, and interact with the world in the ways traditional theism holds *without* violating the natural order.

    September 24, 2012 — 1:22
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