Plantinga’s latest book: the condensed version

After writing this post, I realized the book will really need something on Plantinga’s most recent work. So I decided to write a condensed version of this post.

In 2011, twenty years after the article discussed above, Plantinga published a book titled Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and NaturalismThere, Plantinga backs off from his past anti-evolutionism. In fact, in the year before the book’s publication, he gave an indignant reply to fellow philosopher Michael Ruse’s suggestion that he had, “long harbored a distrust, even an ardent dislike, of evolutionary theorizing in general and of Darwinian thinking in particular.”

On the contrary, Plantinga replied, it was not his view that the theory of evolution is false. He’d merely called it a “modern idol of the tribe” and a “shibboleth.” This is a rather weak and nonsensical reply: it’s possible to dislike an idea without being confident enough to say it’s false.

In Where the Conflict Really Lies, furthermore, Plantinga never quite recognizes his past mistakes, and adds on a few more. Notably, he devotes a chapter to defending the work of Intelligent Design proponent Michael Behe. He knows Behe’s work was not well received by the scientific community, but dismisses scientific criticisms of Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box as “screeds” unworthy of reply.

The only criticism of Behe’s book that Plantinga thinks worth his time is from philosopher Paul Draper. But this can’t possibly be right, because Draper’s criticisms of Behe have also been made by scientists. Furthermore, Plantinga is willing to concede to Draper that Behe’s arguments are not “airtight,” but nevertheless insists that “he has certainly provided Darwinians with a highly significant challenge.” Unfortunately, the problems with Behe’s claims (as documented by the scientists who Plantinga thinks not worth his time) are much worse than that, including glaring blunders like claiming there is essentially no scientific literature on molecular evolution.

  • James Thompson

    And he gets paid for it too….

    • Chris Hallquist

      :(

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Notably, he devotes a chapter to defending the work of Intelligent Design proponent Michael Behe. He knows Behe’s work was not well received by the scientific community, but dismisses scientific criticisms of Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box as “screeds” unworthy of reply.

    Irony alert. Plantinga obviously knows very little about science. So when he makes comments like this, it reminds me that in his review of The God Delusion, he accused Dawkins of being philosophically naive.

    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; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.

    • Steven Carr

      In other words, Dawkins produced the main classical arguments theists have used, and showed why they were wrong.

      But Plantinga would have given him a grade A if Dawkins had said theistic arguments were right.

      But as Dawkins said theistic arguments were wrong, Plantinga gave him a fail.

      I mean , Dawkins can’t even arrange the following words into a correct sentence ‘it God did.’

      Any believer can do that, and yet Dawkins couldn’t get that simple sentence right. Talk about epic fail!

  • eric

    Indeed. Mote, meet beam.
    I always find that the best way to be taken seriously in someone else’s field is to start by telling all the best minds it that field that they’ve been blatantly wrong for 150 years, and that their criticisms of your preferred idea are unworthy of reply.

    • eric

      Oops. In case the mote/beam reference is confusion, it was intended as a reply to Reginald’s comment.

  • Rain

    He’s so very silly and juvenile that, yet again, we are left with the nagging feeling that maybe the whole thing is a big scam. Nobody cares about his stupid “four horsemen of atheism” he keeps bringing up either. Atheism is atheism. That’s all the guy on the street cares about. Who the hell cares about the profiteers. It’s like they’re all one big club helping each other profit from each other’s books.

  • Pingback: Yes, creationism is religiously motivated

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Unfortunately, the problems with Behe’s claims (as documented by the scientists who Plantinga thinks not worth his time)

    Not to mention those problems admitted by Behe, esp. during his testimony in the Dover case. Such as: admitting that his weak definition of “scientific theory” which he feels suitable for ID would also make astrology a “theory;” that the numbers he uses in his arguments are simply ridiculous (“ton of dirt”), that Behe admits to a flaw in his concept of ‘irreducible complexity’ which he has never addressed – no point in my running on, this is all in the record.

  • Rain

    “(as documented by the scientists who Plantinga thinks not worth his time)”

    One suspects this is more likely a “head in sand” moment. It’s not that they aren’t worth his time–it is that he is pretending they are not worth his time. Or, as aficionados of the Jerry Springer show would recognize, a “talk to the hand” moment. One thing that kooks and con artists have in common is a “talk to the hand” mentality, and a severe mental google handicap when it comes to googling things. It’s as if they are willfully ignorant of the most obvious of things.

  • MNb

    “dismisses scientific criticisms … unworthy of reply.”
    Whenever I see a believer stating something like this I get curious about these criticisms – chances are high that they almost impossible for the believer to answer.


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