Thursday, September 12, 2019

Alvin Plantinga Weighs In on Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion

This morning I'm living in the past, when the so-called "New Atheists" with their "Four Horsemen" rode into town.

This is a post I made when Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion was popular, among some people. 

I thought it would be worth revisiting, since some people continue to be influenced by Dawkins's vast irrationality. But note: 95% of my philosophy students had never heard of Dawkins.

The brilliant Alvin Plantinga reviews Dawkins's God Delusion here.

Here are a few of Plantinga's points.

He writes: 

"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. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou tone of the book, can be annoying."

Dawkins's philosophizing is simply horrible, as I pointed out in 40+ posts.

Plantinga shows that Dawkins's argument that "there is almost certainly no God" (GD ch. 3) makes no logical sense. Plantinga writes: 

"What he [Dawkins] does in The Blind Watchmaker, fundamentally, is three things. 

First, he recounts in vivid and arresting detail some of the fascinating anatomical details of certain living creatures and their incredibly complex and ingenious ways of making a living; this is the sort of thing Dawkins does best. 

Second, he tries to refute arguments for the conclusion that blind, unguided evolution could not have produced certain of these wonders of the living world—the mammalian eye, for example, or the wing. 

Third, he makes suggestions as to how these and other organic systems could have developed by unguided evolution." 

Plantinga shows that it does not logically follow, supposing these three things true, that the universe could not have been designed. Which is what Dawkins concludes, falsely.

Dawkins argument boils down to one premise and a conclusion.

The premise is: 1. We know of no irrefutable objections to its being biologically possible that all of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes.

Therefore (acc. to Dawkins): 2. All of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes.

Huh? Plantinga writes: "It's worth meditating, if only for a moment, on the striking distance, here, between premise and conclusion. The premise tells us, substantially, that there are no irrefutable objections to its being possible that unguided evolution has produced all of the wonders of the living world; the conclusion is that it is true that unguided evolution has indeed produced all of those wonders. The argument form seems to be something like:

1.We know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that p;
2. Therefore, p is true.

Philosophers sometimes propound invalid arguments (I've done a few myself). Few of those arguments display the colossal distance between premise and conclusion sported by this one. I come into the departmental office and announce to the chairman that the dean has just authorized a $50,000 raise for me; naturally he wants to know why I think so. I tell him that we know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that the dean has done that. My guess is he'd gently suggest that it is high time for me to retire."

Plantinga concludes: 

"The God Delusion is full of bluster and bombast, but it really doesn't give even the slightest reason for thinking belief in God mistaken, let alone a "delusion."

The naturalism that Dawkins embraces, in addition to its intrinsic unloveliness and its dispiriting conclusions about human beings and their place in the universe, is in deep self-referential trouble. There is no reason to believe it; and there is excellent reason to reject it."