Saturday, January 13, 2007

Plantinga on Dawkins

I just came across a review by Alvin Plantinga, a distinguished Christian philosopher, of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. It's a fun read, and Plantinga does a good job of skewering Dawkins' woefully overrated "Who designed the Designer?" objection against theism. Here's Plantinga's summary prior to his examination of the particulars of Dawkins' main argument:
[O]ne needn’t look to this book for evenhanded and thoughtful commentary. In fact the proportion of insult, ridicule, mockery, spleen and vitriol is astounding (could it be that his mother, while carrying him, was frightened by an Anglican clergyman on the rampage?). If Dawkins ever gets tired of his day job, a promising future awaits him as a writer of political attack ads.

Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he’s a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores.
On the whole, I think Plantinga does a good job of showing that Dawkins' main argument against theism is completely without force. More specifically, he shows that the only way to make the argument logically strong is to either (a) straw man the theistic position by assuming that God is a complex material object, or (b) beg the question by presupposing the materialist thesis that mind cannot be explanatorily basic.

Plantinga closes with a brief presentation of his famous "evolutionary argument against naturalism" to suggest that Dawkins' materialism may actually be incompatible with scientific rationality.


At 3/13/2007 4:05 PM, Blogger Alan Grey said...

Link to the review is broken...try this one....

Of course, critically reviewing Dawkins is like jigging for squid

At 4/23/2008 7:49 PM, Blogger Rob R said...

I hope you're still checking these older blogs.

It seems to me that the simplicity approach to this argument isn't the best one. I just find divine simplicity to be an odd and useless and highly unlikely doctrine.

I think a better approach is to point out that divine complexity wouldn't need an explanation like creaturely complexity because we know that our complexity is temporally finite and needed to come from somewhere. It had to have an origin. God whether simple or complex never had an origin, he never came from anywhere. The question of where divine complexity came from simply asks an question that doesn't even apply to the concept. That's not to say that divine complexity or simplicity, that is divine existence doesn't need an explanation at all, (which of course is unavailable to us in this life and will remain a mystery), but it doesn't need an explanation like creaturely temporally finite complexity.

At 4/25/2008 11:19 PM, Blogger Alan Rhoda said...

Hi Rob,

I think it's important to recognize that there are several different ways of cashing out the notion of "divine simplicity". I think we would probably both agree that Aquinas' rather extreme position on divine simplicity is untenable. But there are other ways to go. Hoffman and Rosenkrantz in their book "The Divine Attributes" make a strong case (IMHO) for a version of divine simplicity according to which God is said to have no proper "parts". If correct, that type of simplicity is enough to rebut Dawkins without incurring the conceptual problems that Aquinas' doctrine of divine simplicity does. For example, since properties are not "parts", Hoffman and Rosenkrantz are not forced to say that all of God's properties are identical with each other or with God himself.

At 10/18/2008 3:25 PM, Blogger Rob R said...

I suppose that sounds reasonable but it seems speculative. But of course, to say it is speculative is not to say that it doesn't diffuse Dawkins' since the least we need is to show that the outcome of his argument just isn't necessarily true.

I think another approach, one that I like better is to suggest that God may be infinitely complex. I believe that this eliminates the infinite regress that complexity arguments for complexity could be construed as entailing.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home