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Tag Archives: Philosophy

Something I’ve been wanting to tackle for a long time is Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism which he presented to a Christian lay audience in an article published online in Christianity Today. Here’s a spoiler: it’s awful. According to Plantinga,

As I see it, this is a whopping error: evolution and naturalism are not merely uneasy bedfellows; they are more like belligerent combatants. One can’t rationally accept both evolution and naturalism; one can’t rationally be an evolutionary naturalist. The problem, as several thinkers (C. S. Lewis, for example) have seen, is that naturalism, or evolutionary naturalism, seems to lead to a deep and pervasive skepticism. It leads to the conclusion that our cognitive or belief-producing faculties—memory, perception, logical insight, etc.—are unreliable and cannot be trusted to produce a preponderance of true beliefs over false.

I have no problem with skepticism. I think everybody should be a skeptic. For those who don’t, I’m offering up the Brooklyn Bridge… Cheap!

Nor do I have a problem with anything in that last long sentence. Our memory is quite fallible. So is our ‘logical insight’, since it is based on heuristic and not rigorous logic. It just happens to work most of the time and is fast, and for the times it doesn’t it typically doesn’t matter. For instance, our natural instinct when out in the dark we hear a rustling in the bushes our impulse is to take flight. But whether the rustling in the bushes is a real danger (the tiger that Plantinga likes to use) or a prankster is not considered by our subconscious. With the former, our chance of survival increases because we don’t go over to the bush to check the source of the disturbance. With the latter, we just feel foolish. In both cases, our lives continue.

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In our species, this offshoot desire to answer the Burning Questions has resulted in what Daniel Dennett calls ‘premature curiosity satisfaction’. Like other premature events, it is actually undesirable. The more philosophically minded believers realized the need to create arguments to buttress their presupposition that God exists. This is not an admirable methodology. Certainly, in my vocation, such a procedure where the conclusion is the starting point rather than the end point is more than just frowned upon. It leads to rationalization, which becomes quite apparent in the many philosophical arguments.

I am a metaphysical naturalist. I used to consider myself a methodological naturalist, but I came to realize that admitting the possibility of something outside of a naturalist universe in the utter absence of any indication that such is the case is intellectually dishonest. So I have taken the plunge and gone all the way. This does not mean that if extraordinary evidence that there is some phenomena which can only be explained outside of naturalism that I would not change my position. But in the complete paucity of extraordinary evidence to the contrary, to consider anything outside of naturalism in order to explain phenomena is a complete waste of time.

As such, I am no fan of philosophical arguments unsupported by empirical evidence. Science has a habit of squashing them like grapes in a winery. Nicholas Everitt, when writing a book on arguments for the existence of God, gave up and just titled the book The Non-existence of God. As he describes, there are simply no good philosophical arguments for the existence of deities.

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