Reading Group Week 8: Tooley’s Closing Statement and Response to Plantinga’s Comments
August 18, 2008 — 9:00

Author: Tim Pawl  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest Existence of God Problem of Evil Religious Belief  Comments: 34

This is the last installment of the Prosblogion Reading Group. I’ve found reading these posts and comments edifying, and I hope the rest of the readers have as well. I’d like to thank Matthew for setting this up, and for the other participants–both posters and commenters–for their great thoughts.
Below I discuss Tooley’s response to Plantinga’s response to Tooley. Or, put another way, Tooley’s “Yes way!” to Plantinga’s “No way!” To keep my comments at a manageable length I’ve referred back to Trent and Andrew’s posts, rather than presenting the whole dialectic here. But I’ve tried to summarize the dialectic briefly in most places. For more detail on the original argument or Plantinga’s response, be sure to see the discussions of the last two weeks.


Tooley’s Main Entry – The Problem of Evil
August 4, 2008 — 14:47

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Afterlife Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest Existence of God  Comments: 20

Sorry for the delay in posting this, but I wanted to go over my post with my summer Philosophy of Religion class here at Rochester.
First a preview for those who have carefully read the chapter, then I’ll lay out the core argument for those who have or have not, finally I’ll detail the objections in the preview.
1. Premises (12) and (15) are more controversial than he lets on. It is hard to evaluate apart from the probability for one of God’s existence.
2. re: Premise (16). There are oddities and worries about it–including the fact that the probability judgements seem utterly inscrutable. But the assumptions about properties are not unreasonable. I do think, however, that the a posteriori probability after taking into account the frequency of the tokens is different and relevant (he considers this objection but doesn’t address it (at least not in my section).
3. (Most seriously) I don’t think the extension from one evil to many (many) evils does much. For either they don’t compound because they are not independent–due to being consequences of a common cause–or they do but not much comes from it due to the fact that if there is a defense/theodicy for one there is one for all.


Reading Group Week 2: Plantinga claims van Inwagen has No Beliefs
July 7, 2008 — 2:57

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: Books of Interest Existence of God  Comments: 17

Plantinga gives three main arguments against naturalism in the opening chapter of Knowledge of God. These are:

  1. naturalism cannot accommodate the idea of proper function (and since warrant essentially involves proper function, if naturalism were true then no one would have knowledge),
  2. naturalism leads directly to Humean skepticism, the condition in which you have a defeater for whatever you believe and cannot sensibly trust your cognitive faculties, and
  3. naturalism cannot accommodate belief; if naturalism were true, no one would believe anything (19).

The first of these was the focus of Andrew’s earlier post in this series. Below the fold, I want to summarize and raise some points about (ii) and (iii).


NDPR Review of “Knowledge of God”
July 2, 2008 — 8:25

Author: Matthew Mullins  Category: Books of Interest Problem of Evil Religious Belief  Comments: Off

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews today published William Rowe’s review of Plantinga & Tooley’s Knowledge of God. A remarkably nice bit of timing on the part of NDPR!

Philosophy of Religion: East Meets West
May 1, 2008 — 20:48

Author: Matthew Mullins  Category: Books of Interest  Comments: 9

Warning! Shameless plug to follow…
In the last few years I’ve looked at numerous syllabi used in philosophy of religion courses. Besides the usual caveats, grading scales, and policies, these syllabi often make nods towards the objective of thinking philosophically about religion. However, ‘religion’ is, in almost all cases, largely restricted to western theism. One of the challenges of breaking out of this mold is that most introductory textbooks and readers are geared towards philosophy of religion in the western context. Up until now it has been difficult to know where to start if you wanted to include more non-Western sources. Enter Andrew Eshleman’s edit volume Readings in the Philosophy of Religion: East Meets West from Blackwell. The volume has a nice selection of readings from names that we’ve all come to know like Swinburne, Plantinga, Mackie, Alston, Rowe, Hick, Craig, Paley, and more. Interspersed throughout each section though are selections from Hindu, Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist, thinkers. Frankly this is a book that has probably been long overdue.
Full disclosure: Eshleman was one of my professors as an undergrad and I read drafts of the introductory material for the book. However, I’d have plugged the book in any case because such a volume deserves to be brought to broader attention.

Can Robots Think?
April 19, 2008 — 10:58

Author: James Beebe  Category: Books of Interest  Comments: 32

I just received a notice from Blackwell about the new book in the Great Debates series featuring a debate between Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley on Knowledge of God. I noticed that one chapter by Plantinga is called “Can Robots Think? A Reply to Tooley’s Second Statement.”
I have two questions: (1) Can someone tell me what Plantinga’s position on artificial thinking is? (2) Can someone give me any good reason why robots will not be able to think in the future?
Theists in general are quite hostile to the possibility of genuine artificial intelligence, but I have yet to hear a good reason why. Suppose that substance dualism is true. This means that you and I do our thinking with a non-physical mind/soul. The fact that we do our thinking with a non-physical mind/soul doesn’t show that thinking can only be done with a mind/soul. Compare: The fact that birds do their flying with feathered wings does not mean that feathered wings are required for flying. Helicopters, plants, rockets, etc. fly without feathered wings. So, I can’t see why the truth of dualism would preclude AI. And I’m not sure what other good reasons there are.

Good Science and Religion Texts
April 15, 2008 — 11:53

Author: James Beebe  Category: Books of Interest Teaching  Comments: 16

I’m going to teach a course on Science and Religion in the fall for the first time. The course presupposes no (or very little) prior background in philosophy. I was amazed at the number of interesting books that resulted from a search on Amazon using the keywords ‘science’ and ‘religion.’ It’s hard to know where to begin to sort them out. If some of you could recommend texts on science and religion that you think are excellent, I would appreciate it.
James Beebe

New Ruse
March 14, 2008 — 19:43

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Books of Interest  Tags: ,   Comments: 2

Michael Ruse (of the SEP "Creationism" ruse (no, I never get tired of saying that)) has a new book forthcoming next month on Charles Darwin.
I like to read about Darwin, I find him a very interesting character, but what will really put this book on the map for the lovers of Dawkins, Dennet, and Co. is the penultimate chapter “The Origins of Religion”. A publishers squib states “Strongly supports Darwinism and fully explores modern naturalistic explanations of religion” and he somehow still has space in 352 pages to “Offer a comprehensive discussion of Darwinism and Christianity – including Creationism.” Wow, it’s a good thing he’s “one of the leading authorities in the field.” I didn’t realize that Darwinism and Christianity constitute a field. Apparently being a leading authority does not distribute over conjunction. :-)~


I Don’t Believe in Atheists
March 13, 2008 — 7:41

Author: David Slakter  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest  Comments: 18

There is an interview with Chris Hedges at Salon regarding his new book, I Don’t Believe in Atheists, an attack on the political designs of the “New Atheists” such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. Just in case anyone feels that we’ve been remiss on our Dawkins-harping lately.
I look forward to picking up a copy of Hedges’s book, although the impression I get from the interview is that it’s more polemical than theoretical. Historically however, the case for toleration has always had an integral polemical component as well.


Merricks’s “Truth and Ontology”
February 20, 2008 — 10:41

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Books of Interest  Comments: 4

Trenton Merricks‘s recent book is reviewed today at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. It will be of interest to Prosblogion readers not just because Trenton is a sometime philosopher of religion and that the review by Ben Caplan thanks our own Tim Pawl, but also because it discusses issues in ontology such as presentism, eternalism, endurantism, truthmakers for subjunctive conditionals, etc. that are relevant to issues in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology such as the nature of God, freedom and foreknowledge, molinism in particular, and others.
Trenton is one of my very most favorite authors and I hope to get to teach this book soon.