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Erasmus, FCD



Posts: 6349
Joined: June 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 24 2008,09:16   

As detailed here, the good folks of the University of Tennessee Philosophy Dept will be hosting a 'conversation' between presuppositionalist anti-realist Alvin Plantinga and their own Richard Gale.

details at the link.  I'm thinking of going over there for this.  topic
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The Existence of Evil and The Problem of God


Having never seen the master of ontological silly buggers himself, I am looking forward to this.  Does anyone have any questions for Plantinga?  I have read some of his stuff and I am well aware of the influence that his views have had on the development of contemporary anti-evolution and denialism itself.  I understand his ontological approach as a 'justification based apologetic', i.e. a defense of a priori beliefs.  is this correct?  

If i make it I'll report.

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You're obviously illiterate as hell. Peach, bro.-FtK

Finding something hard to believe based on the evidence, is science.-JoeG

the odds of getting some loathsome taint are low-- Gordon E Mullings Manjack Heights Montserrat

I work on molecular systems with pathway charts and such.-Giggles

  
keiths



Posts: 2041
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 25 2008,00:37   

Hi 'Ras,

I have a question that I'd like to hear the good professor answer.

In his review of The God Delusion, Plantinga claims (echoing C.S. Lewis and in turn echoed by Victor Reppert, Steve Fuller and our own Denyse O'Leary) that naturalism is self-refuting:
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Toward the end of the book, Dawkins endorses a certain limited skepticism. Since we have been cobbled together by (unguided) evolution, it is unlikely, he thinks, that our view of the world is overall accurate; natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. But Dawkins fails to plumb the real depths of the skeptical implications of the view that we have come to be by way of unguided evolution. We can see this as follows. Like most naturalists, Dawkins is a materialist about human beings: human persons are material objects; they are not immaterial selves or souls or substances joined to a body, and they don't contain any immaterial substance as a part. From this point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind. Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?

From a theistic point of view, we'd expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge. But from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naïve hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive, but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology. In fact he'd have to hold that it is unlikely, given unguided evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable. It's as likely, given unguided evolution, that we live in a sort of dream world as that we actually know something about ourselves and our world.

If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable—a reason for rejecting that belief, for no longer holding it. (Example of a defeater: suppose someone once told me that you were born in Michigan and I believed her; but now I ask you, and you tell me you were born in Brazil. That gives me a defeater for my belief that you were born in Michigan.) And if he has a defeater for that belief, he also has a defeater for any belief that is a product of his cognitive faculties. But of course that would be all of his beliefs—including naturalism itself. So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; naturalism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.

I find this argument unpersuasive for a number of reasons.  Perhaps the most serious flaw is Plantinga's assumption that theism underwrites the reliability of human reason:
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From a theistic point of view, we'd expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge.

Unlike Plantinga, I see nothing in theism that entitles us to conclude that our reason is reliable.  First of all, nothing about theism per se implies that we must be created in God's image.  This is an extraneous Christian assumption that Plantinga is trying to sneak into the argument without justification. Second, even if we were to grant this assumption, it undercuts itself:  our reason, after all, is quite imperfect, not godlike at all.  

Taking these criticisms into account, Plantinga is actually on shakier ground than the naturalist.  After all, Plantinga has no reason, other than his unsupported assumptions about God's will, to think that our beliefs are adaptive, much less true (or approximately so).

How, I wonder, would he respond to these criticisms?

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And the set of natural numbers is also the set that starts at 0 and goes to the largest number.  -- Joe G

Please stop putting words into my mouth that don't belong there and thoughts into my mind that don't belong there. -- KF

  
Erasmus, FCD



Posts: 6349
Joined: June 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 25 2008,09:44   

thanks keiths

the old 'naturalism is self-refuting line' has been widely copied and dispersed.  just like his so-called ontological argument, it doesn't actually have any useful conclusion except for that nothing can be known, ergo solipcism or anti-realism.  I've always understood this as an appeal to trust blind faith.  

interesting point you have made, the combination of the observation that reason is imperfect and the suggestion that 'made in god's image' is a judeo-christian claim that is not entailed by 'theism' s.s.  

or is it?  i'd bet this would be the segment of that argument he would attack, namely that theism does entail 'made in god's image' and anything that does not assume that is not 'theism' but 'deism' or some degenerate belief system.  not sure.  i'd like to beef up a bit if I am going to engage this feller.  I'm sure there are plenty of daily atheists and evil academic professorial types over there at Flagship U that might take up these issues first but just in case...

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You're obviously illiterate as hell. Peach, bro.-FtK

Finding something hard to believe based on the evidence, is science.-JoeG

the odds of getting some loathsome taint are low-- Gordon E Mullings Manjack Heights Montserrat

I work on molecular systems with pathway charts and such.-Giggles

  
midwifetoad



Posts: 3992
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 25 2008,10:23   

Once you abandon realism you're screwed. There is no a priori reason to believe that being created by or in the image of a deity guarantees that thoughts or perceptions are reliable. The deity could be insane.

Perusal of the Old Testament lends no comfort here.

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Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
dvunkannon



Posts: 1377
Joined: June 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 26 2008,18:29   

Plantinga
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But from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naïve hope.


No, reliable cognitive faculties have a large survival value. After 3.x billion years of evolution, there are still places where we have discovered that our cognitive faculties can be wrong (optical illusions, aspartame, Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction), but in general we are far beyond "naive hope".

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I’m referring to evolution, not changes in allele frequencies. - Cornelius Hunter
I’m not an evolutionist, I’m a change in allele frequentist! - Nakashima

  
GCT



Posts: 1001
Joined: Aug. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 26 2008,19:32   

Ask him to respond to Epicurus's Dilemma.  I believe that he uses the free will defense, but this leads to the problems of a god that is still unwilling to do anything about evil all in the name of free will.  god allows us to harm others, allows natural evil, etc.  In short, you could press him on it, because free will is really no defense.

You could also ask him why he uses the free will defense when an omni-max god is inherently contradictory to the notion of free will (i.e. one can't exist with the other).

  
Erasmus, FCD



Posts: 6349
Joined: June 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Oct. 16 2008,21:37   

So i went and was more or less disappointed.  full house however.  my thoughts below:

moderator Julian Reece from some campus intervarsity fellowship guy introduces Plantingna and Gale.  spent several moments giving props to AP, then says "also wish to thank Dr Gale" more or less as an afterthought.  Says "we welcome and honor skeptics and their questions" and I wonder why this is even necessary to say.  says this 'conversation' is laid out for AP to give his argument why evil is not a defeater for the omni-max version of god, then Gale to play his self-professed role as "provocateur and antagonist".  

AP opens by saying philosophy has bad press, largely because philosophers as philosophers must think of 'disgusting things'.  for example, brains in vats.  then digresses into discussing "solipcism" which he defines as "I exist, everything else is a figment of my imagination" and then proceeds with several even more ludicrous overstatements to poison the epistemological well.  by the sound of the crowd they have all been drinking muddy water anyway so I settle in for a long slog.  summarizes by saying "I am not going to talk about solipcism" although this is the distillation of his anti-realist view, supervened over the metaphysical 'mercy of god that permits knowledge'.

AP  defines pain and suffering as distinct from evil, "encompassing pain and discomfort from disease, physical disfigurement, unrequited love, emotional longings unfulfilled, depression, physical ailment, and the like".  Evil he defines as "free creatures doing their own thing".  This glib definition is literally all that he ever considers for 'evil'.  Claims 20th century "most evil yet", lists holocaust, '70 year marxist experiment in eastern europe', Pol Pot, etc etc as examples.  

AP then opens with Hume version of Epicurean dilemma:  Willing and not able?  Able but not willing?  Willing and able?  claims that until 20 or 25 years ago this argument was introduced as a defeater for the theist argument, since it implied a contradiction (as in omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, loving:  pick two).  Then follows this claim with the claim that 'nowadays' this argument is used as an evidentiary or probabilistic argument against the existence of god (here he has begun sneaking in the christian conception of god and is not talking about theism per se).  

AP asks "is the 3 pronged epicurean evidentiary argument sufficient?"
claims since it's possible that "what i may believe to be improbable might be true, it is possible for irrational beliefs to be true" and gives a convoluted example of an american speaking chinese, which is improbable, but might be true.  this seemed to me to be a categorical error but he didn't belabor the point. Next he says, well, what about the claim that the existence of god is improbable when considering the total evidence then cavorts to the high ground that we must tally all evil and all good before we have sufficient grounds for evaluating such a claim (later on he claims that there is no metric or quantitative scale for 'good' or 'evil' but that it remains qualitatively possible to make this judgment.)

next example:  I am dealt an Ace while playing poker.  this, according to AP, is an improbable event (1 in 13).  but the belief that one holds an ace is not dependent upon the probability belief for warrant, that warrant is derived from another source (the perception that one holds an Ace.  I see it!)  He then claims that experience or perception of god may not be rational and uses this false equivalency of holding an ace in ones hand as analogy.

AP  why are we unable to see the reason for evil, and does this mean that god has no reason?  He answers by saying "I look in my tent and there is a St Bernard there.  I see it.  Later I look in my tent and there is no St Bernard, but there are no-see-ums (ceratopogonidae, but he didn't say that).  I can't see them, but they are there.  perhaps there is a similar thing going on with god's reason.  no one answered this claim in questions, but shit you can see ceratopognids just fine with a microscope.  

longwinded discussion of job and the reasoning of god.  boring.

now discussion of what constitutes a 'good' world.  AP says that any world with Incarnation and Atonement is better than any world without Incarnation and Atonement, including a world equal in every respect sans I&A.  Also horrible worlds with I&A are better than any world maximally good without I&A.  HE claims this is true no matter how many perfect-choosing free creatures there are, and how much sin and suffering is present in this possible world, by virtue of the magnitude of I&A.  If no evil or sin, no atonement is necessary, so a good world must contain sin and evil.  References some catholic recitation "O felix culpa" O beautiful sin.  Boiled to:  God wanted a really good world, all really good worlds contain incarnation and atonement.

Now Richard Gale takes over and says he will point out problems with AP argument and take questions from audience.  bad idea, because there are some thick headed bots out there that drag the time out so that we never get through all the problems.  design inference?

RG  raises the issue of "what about a world with all evil and no good?  does this argument [from what RG calls 'theistic skepticism' wrt AP theodicy] remain valid?  AP claims that god would not create such a world because it is contrary to his nature.  I am not seeing the threads of the emperor's robe here, but the peanut gallery is mostly silent here.  

audience member says "what about a world with mostly evil and only a limited atonement?  that would seem to be less good than the world that exists as you claim, therefore it seems that the argument from theistic skepticism is defeated since god could have made the world in such a manner".  AP answers that hell may not be eternal (cites Timothy and Romans, I was flabbergasted as that seems to be in direct opposition to the rest of the body of calvinist views).  Also, AP claims it may be that god only creates people that will turn to him in the long run, given many sequential opportunities.  

RG  steps in and says he does not accept AP characterization of totally evil world as impossible since modal ontological proof implies that god is present in every world.  AP answers, "did not say it is impossible, but perhaps God is a necessary being in all worlds and thus would not permit it" and I am wondering what the hell all this bullfuzz is about at this point.  says "maybe the world couldn't be any more good than it already is" (again implying a quantity he before and aft says is not quantifiable).  

Audience:  what about the failure of individual choice, ie free individuals choosing evil when they could have chosen good.  God could have created an individual that would have made the good choice.  AP responds that doesn't imply it is necessary that a person could exist who would have made that choice, it may be that such a choice is inevitable in the situational context.  

and from there it got even more boring.  if anyone is interested i have the rest of the notes, they cut RG short after 2 hours was up and he was not finished.  lot of youth pastor dweebs running around in polo shirts, khaki shorts and cheap tennis shoes.  made me wanna spit tobacco juice in the floor but I behaved.

--------------
You're obviously illiterate as hell. Peach, bro.-FtK

Finding something hard to believe based on the evidence, is science.-JoeG

the odds of getting some loathsome taint are low-- Gordon E Mullings Manjack Heights Montserrat

I work on molecular systems with pathway charts and such.-Giggles

  
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