Alvin Plantinga, 84, described by Christian Today as ‘a giant of philosophy and apologetics’ has been awarded £1.1m by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF) , the US-based organisation that honours those who have ‘made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works’.
Biologist Jerry A Coyne, PhD, author of Faith vs. Facts: why science and religion are incompatible, greeted the news with contempt, saying:
JTF has bestowed its annual Templeton Prize on someone who’s not only a deeply misguided religious philosopher, but also has promoted intelligent design and criticised naturalism …
His main schtick is to claim that it’s not irrational to believe in God; that therefore it’s rational to believe in God; that the existence of God is a ‘basic belief’ that doesn’t require empirical justification; that such belief comes from a divinely installed sensus divinitatis that allows us to detect truth; that because the truth-detector has to come from God, what it finds, like scientific ‘truths’, is incompatible with pure naturalism; that evolution was guided by GOD AND SATAN; that the God who installed our sensus is none other than Plantinga’s Christian God (surprise!); and that the presence of atheists, Hindus, Jews, and the majority of people with ‘false beliefs’ simply had broken sensuses, which were due to, yes, the actions of SATAN!
Coyne says the award, a sum exceeding that given to Nobel prizewinners:
Casts doubts on Templeton’s claim to be increasingly down with science, for, after all, Plantinga is pretty much an intelligent design creationist. Although he’s waffled on this a bit in the past, he seems to have settled on ID creationism.
In awarding the prize, JTF claimed that Plantinga’s work for more than half-a-century – mostly “piffle”, says Coyne, had led to a dramatic increase in the number of religious philosophers:
Indeed, more than 50 years after this remarkable journey began, university philosophy departments around the world now include thousands of professors who bring their religious commitments to bear on their work, including Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim philosophers.
Note the claim (mostly false) that Plantinga’s work has inspired serious philosophers to ‘bring their religious commitments to bear on their work’. That is, he’s given them a license to engage in confirmation bias: justifying post facto what they already believe and want to be true. That’s hardly a good way to do philosophy, but of course it’s the way philosophers of religion proceed.
Now if Plantinga were that influential, why are 62% of philosophers atheists – a frequency at least ten times higher than the general public as a whole? (Plantinga claims that the reason is that atheistic philosophers don’t want to believe in God rather than having good rational reasons for their non-belief.)
Coyne ends by providing a partial a partial list of scholars – natural scientists, social scientists, and philosophers and historians of science – whose endeavors have been supported by the JTF.
These are good scientists and scholars, by and large, but they take money from an organization that promotes religion, natural theology, and anti-evolution. I ask them this with all due respect: do you really want to take money from a Foundation that’s devoted to watering down science with superstition?
Hat tip: Barriejohn, who provided the first four words of the headline.