Alvin Plantinga is undisputedly one of the finest Christian philosophers alive today, and Daniel Dennett is one of the well-known New Atheists. As such, it will probably come as a surprise to many that in this debate it is Plantinga who makes the convincing case that religion and science are incompatible. Plantinga first narrows “religion” to “theistic religion, in particular Christian belief,” and goes on to focus “science” on modern evolutionary theory. Between Christian theism and modern evolutionary theory, says Plantinga, there is no incompatibility. The only real incompatibility would be between Christian belief and “the claim that evolution and Darwinism are unguided.” But Plantinga asserts that evolution being unguided is a presupposition, to make evolution exclude the possibility of design is to “confuse a naturalistic gloss on the scientific theory with the theory itself.” Here is where science and religion become incompatible. Evolution is science, says Plantinga, and naturalism is the religion with which evolution is incompatible.
Simply defined, naturalism is the belief that there is no God, or anything like Him. But if evolution is joined with naturalism, Plantinga argues the odds of our cognitive faculties being reliable is low. If evolution and naturalism are accepted, and what has just been stated is true, we don’t have reliable cognitive faculties. This defeater of reliable cognitive faculties can’t be defeated. If reliable cognitive faculties are defeated, beliefs attained through those faculties are also defeated, evolution and naturalism included. Thus, naturalism joined with evolution “is self-defeating and can’t rationally be accepted.” Since evolution is a pillar of science, and Plantinga asserts naturalism is an unjustified philosophical position, the obvious solution is to give up on naturalism.
Dennett first responds to Plantinga’s assertion about the compatibility of theistic belief and evolution by agreeing with him. “Contemporary evolutionary theory,” says Dennett, “can’t demonstrate the absence of intelligent design.” But Dennett goes on to liken design to belief that aliens are the designers, and says this is “an entirely gratuitous fantasy.” In short, says Dennett, theism is compatible with contemporary evolutionary theory, but so is “Supermanism” and countless other fictions. … More.
The one thing we can be sure of, on Dennett’ view, is that evidence doesn’t matter because our brains were, quite accidentally, shaped for fitness, not for truth (naturalism). Has anyone noted the close relationship between naturalism and totalitarianism? Or is that one of the many things that polite persons are not supposed to notice?
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