Alvin Plantinga’s latest book, Where the Conflict Really Lies, contains a brief discussion of evolutionary psychology. Not surprisingly, he’s suspicious of it. But there’s one especially strange comment that I missed when I wrote my review:
Steven Pinker… goes on, resurrecting the old canard about how religion is the result of crafty priests and credulous parishioners: “I have alluded to one possibility: the demand for miracles creates a market that would-be priests compete in, and they can succeed by exploiting people’s dependence on experts. I trust such experts as dentists and doctors; that same trust would have made me submit to medical quackery a century ago and to a witch doctor’s charms millennia ago.”
This is perhaps more a declaration of personal dislike for religion than a scientific or semi-scientific pronouncement… (p. 137)
This seems to me neither a canard, nor a declaration of personal dislike, nor a scientific pronouncement, but a boring and obvious truth. Of course our trust in other people means we sometimes get taken in by frauds, and some of those frauds are people who falsely claim to be able to get supernatural agents to work miracles on our behalf.
That’s not incompatible with the truth of Christianity. And that’s what’s really weird about this bit from Plantinga. He’s trying to attack a trusim, not because it provides the basis for much of an argument against Christianity, but (I guess) because it might indirectly lead people to doubts about Christianity. I think this is also part of what’s going on with Plantinga’s need to defend Behe and disparage “Darwinism.”