Dawkins takes one on the chin


#1

christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/002/1.21.html


#2

I’m afraid most of the article was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over my head. But, what I got from what I could understand is that Dawkins doesn’t believe in God because Dawkins doesn’t want to. Well, he’s not alone. And from what I saw in the article, he isn’t any better at explaining why there is no God than most atheists we have right here on this forum.

Perhaps Dawkins ought to stick to biology and leave philsophy and theology to those who have knowledge of them. Any time a person tries to write about something they really know little to nothing about, they come off sounding ignorant and silly. As a writer myself, I know that it’s the first cardinal law that you write about what you know about. Dawkins, like anyone else who tries it, isn’t a good writer when he strays outside his field of expertise, which ought to surprise no one.


#3

plantinga possesses an absolutely formidable philosophical mind, and has the wit and writing ability to go with it; dawkins stands as much chance as going toe-to-toe with him as i do with muhammad ali in his prime.

that’s a good article, and is incisive and devastating. still, i like the one he wrote about dennett’s book better:

veritas-ucsb.org/library/plantinga/Dennett.html

his stuff always makes me laugh. poor atheists.


#4

Many thanks for that link.


#5

This is what happens when the study of philosophy comes upon hard times.

Apparently Dawkins argues against the probability of God’s existence, on the basis that God would have to be nearly infinitely complex, and thus extremely improbable.

In fact, basic philosophy and theology would argue that God cannot be complex in any way at all. Rather, he must be ultimately simple.

Complexity requires parts, arranged in particular order. Complex beings are made up of parts. Consequently, they can come apart; they can go from order to disorder. If God has parts, he can come apart, and thus could not be God. A complex God is a contradiction.

God is pure spirit, containing no parts. And no complexity.

Does Dawkins realize he is arguing against a strawman, or rather a straw-god?


#6

In spite of the propagandist support for Plantinga from John Doran, I am afraid that Plantinga’s article criticising Dawkins’ position is a complete logical shambles. This is all of a piece with Plantinga’s track record. I have treated this before on this board and I am going to repeat it here. For example Plantinga here and here indulges in a notorious exercise in question begging. His is no more than an overblown apology for introducing supernatural explanations for observed phenomena (including, astonishingly, earthquakes, the weather and radioactive decay, because, according to Plantinga’s deeply flawed understanding of the science, these are not subject to natural ‘laws’. It is hard to think of a phenomenon more simply bound by natural law than radioactive decay!)

The fact is that for all his obfuscation and appeal to ‘Duhemian’ and ‘Augustinian’ science, his pseudo-intellectualism is merely an apology for introducing supernatural explanations (specifically Christian supernatural explanations, which would exclude all non-Christian scientists and thus overturn a basic property of science, that its explanations transcend all religious and philosophical beliefs) into science and for rationalising an obvious prejudice against the biological Theory of Evolution. Plantinga is one of that rare breed, a sophisticated fundamentalist.

Plantinga’s religious sensitivities are affronted, almost as much as those of a YECer, by the idea that humans are the natural result of the evolutionary process. His philosophy has become in recent years, no more than a sophisticated apology for the notion that humans have not evolved through the action of natural processes. That is the motivation behind his attacks on evolution and on methodological materialism, and his open support for ID. It is the foundation of his campaign to redefine science to include supernatural phenomena.

In the article Vocimike posted, Plantinga makes an absolute pig’s ear of the Fine-tuning and Anthropic arguments (he simply fails to understand them), he accuses methodological materialism of question begging on premises that are far less prone to question begging than his theistic arguments (for example using the assertions of Aquinas and the Belgic Confession to ‘prove’ that God is simple), he completely misunderstands (or actually fails to understand) how naturalistic evolutionary theory can explain the development of organised complexity (which theism singularly fails to explain), and he trots out his particular mantra that, without God, and assuming only naturalistic evolution, we cannot rely on our cognitive abilities (failing to recognise that the reverse of his argument is the case - that naturalistic evolution leads necessarily to a reliable cognitive sense whereas theistic intervention, being arbitrary, does not). He fails to understand, never mind engage with, the argument for God’s improbability from His necesssary complexity.

So, in spite of Vocimike, John Doran and Della’s support for Plantinga’s article, and their rather triumphant claims that Dawkins has ‘taken one on the chin’, the reality is starkly different.

Alec
evolutionpages.com


#7

Well, this is one crux. You will really have to define a measure by which we can unambiguously define the complexity of an agent. You assert that God is very simple. Is God more simple than a photon? More simple than a mole of hydrogen in a cubic meter? More simple than Pan troglodytes? More simple than than the Local Group? More simple than the observable universe? What exactly is the measure for complexity and simplicity?

You say: ’ basic philosophy and theology would argue that God cannot be complex in any way at all’. What does that actually mean? Is it a meaningful statement at all? If you say so, how?

You say this: ’ God is pure spirit, containing no parts. And no complexity.’ How can you know this? What does it mean - what is ‘pure spirit’? How would we recognise an agent which has ‘no complexity’?

Alec
evolutionpages.com


#8

wow. i have to say, alec, i’m used to a lot better from you than this stuff.

please point out the exact illogic in plantinga’s article.

[quote=hecd2]This is all of a piece with Plantinga’s track record. I have treated this before on this board and I am going to repeat it here. For example Plantinga here and here indulges in a notorious exercise in question begging. His is no more than an overblown apology for introducing supernatural explanations for observed phenomena (including, astonishingly, earthquakes, the weather and radioactive decay, because, according to Plantinga’s deeply flawed understanding of the science, these are not subject to natural ‘laws’. It is hard to think of a phenomenon more simply bound by natural law than radioactive decay!)
[/quote]

again, please demonstarte exactly which of plantinga’s arguments are subject to your criticism.

[quote=hecd2]The fact is that for all his obfuscation and appeal to ‘Duhemian’ and ‘Augustinian’ science, his pseudo-intellectualism is merely an apology for introducing supernatural explanations (specifically Christian supernatural explanations, which would exclude all non-Christian scientists and thus overturn a basic property of science, that its explanations transcend all religious and philosophical beliefs) into science and for rationalising an obvious prejudice against the biological Theory of Evolution. Plantinga is one of that rare breed, a sophisticated fundamentalist.
[/quote]

i’m not sure if you’re using “pseudo-intellectualism” as a pejorative, but if what you think you’re doing in this post is veritable intellectualism, then i’m sure plantinga would take it as a resounding compliment. as would i.

[quote=hecd2]Plantinga’s religious sensitivities are affronted, almost as much as those of a YECer, by the idea that humans are the natural result of the evolutionary process. His philosophy has become in recent years, no more than a sophisticated apology for the notion that humans have not evolved through the action of natural processes.
[/quote]

you say this (a) as if you follow plantinga’s general philosophical career as it pertains to anything other than evolution, and (b) like it’s bad thing. and if it really is a bad thing to have a sophisticated apology for the position that humans evolved solely from natural processes, then maybe you can once again point out precisely how it is a bad thing.

[quote=hecd2] That is the motivation behind his attacks on evolution and on methodological materialism, and his open support for ID. It is the foundation of his campaign to redefine science to include supernatural phenomena.
[/quote]

read his papers on methodological naturalism a few more times - you have obviously not understood them, since he makes no such claim about science.

[quote=hecd2]In the article Vocimike posted, Plantinga makes an absolute pig’s ear of the Fine-tuning and Anthropic arguments (he simply fails to understand them), he accuses methodological materialism of question begging on premises that are far less prone to question begging than his theistic arguments (for example using the assertions of Aquinas and the Belgic Confession to ‘prove’ that God is simple), he completely misunderstands (or actually fails to understand) how naturalistic evolutionary theory can explain the development of organised complexity (which theism singularly fails to explain), and he trots out his particular mantra that, without God, and assuming only naturalistic evolution, we cannot rely on our cognitive abilities (failing to recognise that the reverse of his argument is the case - that naturalistic evolution leads necessarily to a reliable cognitive sense whereas theistic intervention, being arbitrary, does not). He fails to understand, never mind engage with, the argument for God’s improbability from His necesssary complexity.
[/quote]

ok, i’ll bite - what are the details of your claims here? you cannot hope to convince simply by fiat…at least plantinga offers some reasoning in his review (remember, it’s a review and not an essay), which is considerably more than you do here.

perhaps you’d like to start a thread pointing out the flaws in his evolutionary argument against naturalism.

look - i’m not sure if you simply intended to remind us all here of your own commitments to evolution and naturalism (how could we forget?), but if you meant to do more, then you’ve missed the mark by a staggering margin.

i’d love to engage you on this subject, alec, but if this is all you have, then maybe you should stick to evolutionary biology…


#9

Well, yes, more simple than those things, because those are material and God is not. I was speaking of ontological simplicity, of beings which have the attributes (at least) of intellect and will, but have no extension in space or time. God, though infinite, is not divisible, because all of his attributes are identical with his essence. But that cannot be said of any material object (including energy in that category.)

I have no quarrel with evolutionary biology. I think it is a mistake for natural science to try to insert God or any supernatural process into its deliberations. Science by definition is limited to the material, the spatial, the temporal, the observable, and to natural, material, causes and explanations.

Just as it is a mistake for science to assert supernatural rather than natural causes for natural processes, as creationism tries to do in its various forms, it is equally a mistake for science to attempt to reduce God to matter. For if God is material, then by definition, there can be no God. In speaking of God as complex, it seems to me that Dawkins must have in mind a material God. To the extent that theology posits an immaterial God, the parties are arguing past each other.


#10

I shall be delighted to oblige both you and Jim but it’ll have to wait a few days.


#11

I promised John Doran that I’d discuss Alvin Plantinga’s review of Richard Dawkins’s ‘The God Delusion’ in more detail. John is right to point out that it is a review and not an essay, yet it encompasses many of Plantinga’s strong positions on Design, his opposition to methodological naturalism, and his evolutionary argument against philosophical naturalism. I think that Plantinga makes errors of logic, that he indulges in theatrical gestures without substance and that, leaving matters of presentation aside, he emerges from the review with little credit. He is sophisticated and he is persuasive, and he takes Dawkins to task, rightly I think, for Dawkins’s tone. But in matters of substance he is unconvincing and I hope to show you why I think so.

Throughout the review Plantinga, deliberately or accidentally, attempts to shift the burden of proof inappropriately. He criticises Dawkins for failing to prove that life can be explained naturalistically, for failing to provide arguments against the traditional theological view that there is a necessary being with the attributes of the Christian God (Plantinga does not include within this necessary being, the triune nature of God – oh no, that is inexplicable and difficult to access by natural intellect unfettered by previous teaching; but “it is clear, however, that it is false that in addition to the three persons of the Trinity, there is another being of which each of those persons is a part.” Well, it might be clear to Plantinga, but it is not clear to non-Christian theologians, and it is certainly not clear to unbelievers), and so on. But the burden of proof falls on the remarkable proposition that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, necessary being who created and guides the universe and it is disingenuous to criticise Dawkins for failing to prove the negative - that God is impossible.

First of all, he indulges in grand-standing: let’s look at his criticism of Dawkins’s logic in Dawkins’s argument that the evidence demonstrates the natural processes underlying evolution, that the existence and diversity of life on earth can be explained by purely natural processes, and that therefore the explanation that life must have been miraculously guided by an intelligent agent is superfluous. Plantinga turns this on its head: he represents the argument as follows: we know of no irrefutable objections to the possibility that all life has come about by unguided Darwinian processes, and therefore all life has come into existence this way - we know of no irrefutable objections to it being possible that p: therefore p is true, and he goes on to present the absurd parable of the salary increment. (Let us set aside, for the moment, that many arguments for the existence of God closely follow this flawed logic). Well, of course, Dawkins does not make the argument ascribed to him by Plantinga who is beating the hell out of a strawman. In fact, Dawkins, as far as this argument goes, is claiming no more than any other scientist describing a natural process – that the explanation lies wholly within that which can be explained by invoking natural causes – there is no need for the supernatural intervention of an intelligent agent. Furthermore, the evidence that evolution proceeds by natural selection acting on unguided mutations is immensely stronger than Plantinga’s toy premise.

Those who support the ID position make the claim that such an external agent is necessary to explain the world as we observe it - this is the modern version of the teleological argument. The burden of proof is on them for such a claim. Dawkins’s argument seeks to do no more than refute this – in other words, natural processes can adequately explain life on earth and the diversity of species, thus refuting the need for the miraculous intervention of an intelligent agent. It does not provide absolute disproof of intelligent intervention (and Dawkins would not claim that it did) – it does however refute the claim that an intelligent agent is necessary to explain the diversity of life on earth and the development of complexity; and parsimony suggests that we should prefer the naturalistic explanation, just as we prefer it when we ascribe planetary motion to the action of gravity rather than that of angels.

  • to be continued*

#12

Continuation

Let’s look now at Plantinga’s astonishing objection to the multiverse riposte to the fine-tuning argument – astonishing, because the only explanation I have for the shambles that he makes of this is that he utterly fails to understand high school probability theory. The crux of his argument is not that the multiverse hypothesis is wrong or indefensible (he might well take that line on another occasion, but it is not his tactic here), but that it fails to explain the improbability of our universe. He asserts that, even if we allow the multiverse hypothesis, the conditions in our particular universe, call it alpha, are still monumentally improbable given chance and it is less improbable that they should be ordained by God. But this is to completely misrepresent or misunderstand the anthropic argument within the context of the multiverse hypothesis. As he admits, if the multiverse hypothesis is correct then it is highly probable, even certain, that some universes have the fine-tuned conditions to support life. Let us say that the universe beta is one. Well, then, life can arise in beta, whereas it cannot in the vast majority of other universes. We live in a universe that has fine-tuned conditions by definition (universes that are not so fine tuned cannot support life); the probability that, should intelligent life arise anywhere, that it will arise in such a fine-tuned universe is unity. The probability that it arises in beta is high. The fact that we find ourselves in beta is not at all improbable – given the multiverse hypothesis, the conditions in beta are to be expected somewhere and that is just where we find life.

Plantinga’s argument is, to use a word that he is fond of, sophomoric. If we follow his logic then we would have to say that winning a national lottery is so improbable (odds of millions to one against) that collecting the winning cheque must have been ordained by God. But someone wins the lottery every week – to that person it seems that his lottery ticket is fine-tuned. In the same way that winners only arise who have fine-tuned lottery tickets, life only arises in fine-tuned universes (so the multiverse argument goes), and it is only in universes that support life that life can arise to contemplate the improbability of its existence. (This is not the only instance of Plantinga’s severe limitations when it comes to mathematics or natural science. I have already commented on this board about his naïve and erroneous claim that natural phenomena such as weather and radioactive decay do not obey natural laws. Whatever other competence he might have, he is not competent to comment on science, nor to challenge the basic scientific approach of methodological naturalism).

Let us now look at Plantinga’s objections to Dawkins’s argument that explaining the origin of organised complexity in nature by calling on a being that has highly organised complexity is sterile and unproductive. One line that Plantinga takes is purely assertive – that explaining the organised complexity of life on earth by appealing to the miraculous intervention of a being of immense complexity is sensible. But ‘God did it’ arguments are indeed ultimately sterile – they give us no insight into our world. I cannot see how any serious thinker in the academy can be satisfied with such explanations. The ‘God did it’ argument is, of course, logically admissible, but we should not have made such immense progress in understanding our world if we were all ready to accept it. Explaining organised complexity by the miraculous intervention of a complex being is no more insightful than explaining the diversity of species by tens of millions of acts of special creation.

To be continued


#13

Continuation

Plantinga then proceeds to claim that theism’s inability to explain mind is no weakness. “…the theist neither wants nor needs an ultimate explanation of personhood, or thinking, or mind”. According to Plantinga, all explanations for mind come to an end in the helpless confession that it is just so: “on any view explanations come to an end… the materialist doesn’t have an explanation for elementary particles: they just are”. Perhaps so, but scientists are loath to accept that any observable thing is inexplicable. Naturalistic attempts to explain mind (cognition, consciousness and the sense of self) based on the idea that mind is an epiphenomenon of brain at least have the merit of possessing more explicatory power than the theistic non-explanation. Plantinga’s objection that brain consists of fundamental particles and that fundamental particles are inexplicable does not undermine the explicatory value of an understanding of how the underlying material brain governs our minds. It is not clear that fundamental particles are inexplicable – but even if they are, making a detailed correlation between brain and mind phenomena explains more than does the limp claim that mind proceeds from the Ultimate Mind and we need seek no more. (Plantinga fails to acknowledge the sophisticated and growing body of scientific work that seeks to explain human cognition in terms of physical brain activity – his scientific perspective here and elsewhere is hopelessly naïve and outmoded.)

Plantinga then moves on to his hobbyhorse, his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). I haven’t got the space or time to discuss this thoroughly, but it is my view that Plantinga has got it precisely backwards. If our cognitive sense arises from adaptation, we should expect that what we routinely observe (the rain falling, the sun shining, the lion charging, the car approaching the zebra crossing at 50mph) corresponds to a truthful representation of the universe. If no such correspondence between actuality and cognition exists we should long be extinct – the plant that hides from the sun, dies in the shadows. Of course humans believe patently false propositions, but that is an impediment for both naturalistic and theistic explanations of cognition. At least, evolutionary theories provide a framework for explaining the origin of specific false beliefs (see for example Pascal Boyer’s work on religion) – the theistic approach offers no such explanation. So the broad correspondence between actuality and human perception of that actuality is explicable in survival terms. The theistic explanation is arbitrary - if indeed God supernaturally gave humans the ability to sense and reason, why do we think that there must be a correspondence between human cognition and actuality? (Plantinga’s argument leads him into patent nonsense, such as his claim that there is a conflict between science and naturalism – whereas, in fact, science is methodologically naturalistic. EAAN hasn’t got much traction amongst theistic philosophers of science, and there is a reason – it is logically flawed.)

I’ll finish with Plantinga’s attack on Dawkins’s rather novel argument that God is complex and that therefore invoking God as an explanation for complexity is futile. Plantinga (and JimG) ridicules Dawkins’s argument that a being with the attributes of the Christian God must be complex (an argument by the way that is perfectly logical and steeped in what we observe about the universe). And what are his grounds for doing so? – Well, not much more than an appeal to ‘classical theology’ with particular reference to the early mediaeval theologian Aquinas – not much more, in truth than the fallacy of an argument from authority to set against Dawkins’s reasoned argument. The claim that God is simple rather than complex is not consistent with the attributes that are assigned to him, and meaningless insofar as the statement that God is simple in the classical sense, quoted by Jim, of having cognition and will but no extension in space or time. It is really not clear that such a statement is meaningful, never mind that the being to which it refers can only be called simple if one, a priori, defines complexity to exclude it.

There is more that could be said, but I haven’t the time just now.

Alec
evolutionpages.com


#14

Well, it’s meaningful to me, just as it was to Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and others.

I guess I shouldn’t be arguing on this thread, since the only thing I really know of Dawkins is what I have read on this thread, and a lecture I saw by him on C-Span. I haven’t read his book. But his argument against the existence of God based on his supposed complexity struck a chord with me, because I agree with it.

Complex systems and complex beings are difficult to maintain. Because of the complexity, there is more that can go wrong. A complex God couldn’t last. He wouldn’t be eternal, he wouldn’t be unchanging, because all those parts, all that complexity, would be subject to the laws of entropy and breakdown.

And if I accepted a complex God, then by definition he would have to have been made by an even more complex being. So we would have an infinite regression of complex beings, another impossibility.

So if Dawkins argues against God’s existence on the basis of his complexity, I entirely agree. And so does every other Catholic theologian I know of. If God must be complex, then there is no God. If God must be composed of matter-energy and exist in space-time, then there can be no God.

If there is only matter, then there can be no God. But if there is only matter, then it really doesn’t matter in the end, because all we say and do and write here is nothing more than the foreordained result of a particular concatenation of particles, waves, strings, or membranes at a particular point in the evolution of a particular multiverse, with no purpose whatsoever. (In such a multiverse, teleological thinking would be a sin.)

Finally, even if Dawkins conceives of God as a complex being, why would he use that as a basis of argument against theists, if theists do not conceive him in that way. It would be like a theist arguing against some position of Dawkins that he does not in fact hold.

For the record, I am not a creationist, or a proponent of ID theory.


#15

Exactly. If Dawkins arguments are against a complex God, he is merely knocking down a straw man.


#16

you make the claim that plantinga makes errors of logic, but then you say that you hope to show that his argument is unconvincing. i am not sure what you’re going to say next, but i’d like to point out here that logic and convincingness are utterly independent of one another: there are illogical arguments that convince and logical arguments that fail to do so.

[quote=hecd2]Throughout the review Plantinga, deliberately or accidentally, attempts to shift the burden of proof inappropriately. He criticises Dawkins for failing to prove that life can be explained naturalistically, for failing to provide arguments against the traditional theological view that there is a necessary being with the attributes of the Christian God
[/quote]

inappropriate how?

look, this is what dawkins argues in his book:

  1. possibly life evolved by undirected, darwinian processes;

  2. therefore it is unlikely that there is exists anything like a christian god.

but this is obviously a bad argument, since the possibility of ~X in no way entails the improbability of ~X.

and not only is it a bad argument in and of itself, but if you want to establish “most likely ~X”, then you need to demonstrate the unsoundness of arguments that claim to establish the truth of “necessarily, X”.

dawkins doesn’t do this, and plantinga notes that he doesn’t.

good form so far.

[quote=hecd2](Plantinga does not include within this necessary being, the triune nature of God – oh no, that is inexplicable and difficult to access by natural intellect unfettered by previous teaching;
[/quote]

again, not true: what plantinag says about the trinity epistemologically is that it is ***impossible ***to know the triune nature of god by the unaided light of reason; but he would alo say that, ontologically, a triune god is triune necessarily.

the trinity is not inexplicable at all - incomprehensible, maybe, but there are gestures that can be made in the direction of an explanation. aquinas, for example, does exactly that in the summa.


#17

absurd. if you disagree, please back up this claim: which theistic arguments closely follow this pattern, and in precisely what does the mimicry consist?

or is this just grand-standing? a little quid pro quo, perhaps?

[quote=hecd2]Well, of course, Dawkins does not make the argument ascribed to him by Plantinga who is beating the hell out of a strawman. In fact, Dawkins, as far as this argument goes, is claiming no more than any other scientist describing a natural process – that the explanation lies wholly within that which can be explained by invoking natural causes – there is no need for the supernatural intervention of an intelligent agent.
[/quote]

once more you’re way off base with this. dawkins is not making an empirical argument, but a modal argument, thusly:

  1. possibly evolution is unguided;

  2. therefore it is likely that there is no guide.

and that’s simply and straightforwardly poor reasoning.

if you disagree, please introduce a modal rebuttal to plantinga’s claim.

[quote=hecd2]Those who support the ID position make the claim that such an external agent is necessary to explain the world as we observe it - this is the modern version of the teleological argument. The burden of proof is on them for such a claim. Dawkins’s argument seeks to do no more than refute this – in other words, natural processes can adequately explain life on earth and the diversity of species, thus refuting the need for the miraculous intervention of an intelligent agent. It does not provide absolute disproof of intelligent intervention (and Dawkins would not claim that it did) – it does however refute the claim that an intelligent agent is necessary to explain the diversity of life on earth and the development of complexity; and parsimony suggests that we should prefer the naturalistic explanation, just as we prefer it when we ascribe planetary motion to the action of gravity rather than that of angels.
[/quote]

plantinga makes no ID arguments, so i will leave this alone except to note that the ID arguments with which i’m familiar do not attempt to establish the necessity of design, but only its likelihood.

i’ll write more tomorrow…


#18

I think the gist of what Plantinga argues when it comes to the book is that, as far as Dawkins is concerned, if there exists any possible explanation other than God for just about anything, the concept of God is entirely defeated and should be discarded - philosophical sloppiness to say the least.

I don’t think most of what’s been talked about here is worth rehashing (It’s not just theists who regard Dawkins’ book as an embarassment - rank and file cheerleaders aside, the one positive review I saw was from Dennett, in what really came off as an act of mercy on his part.) But Plantinga’s argument about naturalism and truth is pretty straightforward and, to me, rather effective. Evolution as normally proposed has no concern for truth; if delusion promotes survival and effectiveness, delusion wins. Trying to argue your way out of the conclusion doesn’t work well, because the arguments take place within the system; even if the arguments are compelling, they’re compelling to other deluded people. It’s a seed of doubt - we theists have them, I’m sure atheists won’t mind having one of their own. :wink:

Otherwise, I think Plantinga did a great job of illustrating how Dawkins himself was extremely sloppy and, frankly, juvenile when it came to dealing with the arguments of theism. What seems to be going on in this thread is that Plantinga’s theistic arguments are being countered - but, the point of the review wasn’t to show the superiority of theistic philosophical answers over atheistic ones. It was that Dawkins did a poor job of recognizing what those theistic arguments truly are. You can still disagree with Plantinga’s philosophical beliefs while recognizing how poorly they were presented and responded to in the book.


#19

Dawkins has written his book, he says, partly to encourage timorous atheists to come out of the closet. He and Dennett both appear to think it requires considerable courage to attack religion these days; says Dennett, “I risk a fist to the face or worse. Yet I persist.”

If Mr. Dawkins wants to demonstrate real courage, let him write a book attacking the Koran or the Prophet Mohammed. :eek:


#20

[quote=hecd2]But this is to completely misrepresent or misunderstand the anthropic argument within the context of the multiverse hypothesis. As he admits, if the multiverse hypothesis is correct then it is highly probable, even certain, that some universes have the fine-tuned conditions to support life.
[/quote]

plantinga “admits” no such thing: he simply concedes the claim for the sake of argument.

[quote=hecd2]Let us say that the universe beta is one. Well, then, life can arise in beta, whereas it cannot in the vast majority of other universes. We live in a universe that has fine-tuned conditions by definition (universes that are not so fine tuned cannot support life); the probability that, should intelligent life arise anywhere, that it will arise in such a fine-tuned universe is unity. The probability that it arises in beta is high. The fact that we find ourselves in beta is not at all improbable – given the multiverse hypothesis, the conditions in beta are to be expected somewhere and that is just where we find life.
[/quote]

i’m not sure what this is supposed to be, but it’s certainly neither an exposition nor rebuttal of plantinga’s argument…methinks you are allowing your loathing of ID to cloud your judgment.

here’s the problem (as plantinga rightly observes): even if there are a multitude of universes, and even if some (even many) of them have been finely tuned so as to permit the development of intelligent life, that each of the finely-tuned universes is finely tuned is still astronomically unlikely. that is to say, the multiverse hypothesis doesn’t account for the improbability of fine tuning in any individual universe.

and the anthropic principle in no way alleviates this difficulty - just because the probability of there being life in a universe where there’s life is (tautologically) 1 does not account for the astronomically low probability of fine tuning in that universe.

[quote=hecd2]If we follow his logic then we would have to say that winning a national lottery is so improbable (odds of millions to one against) that collecting the winning cheque must have been ordained by God. But someone wins the lottery every week – to that person it seems that his lottery ticket is fine-tuned. In the same way that winners only arise who have fine-tuned lottery tickets, life only arises in fine-tuned universes (so the multiverse argument goes), and it is only in universes that support life that life can arise to contemplate the improbability of its existence.
[/quote]

you can’t be serious with this. this is the coup de grace you think demonstrates plantinga’s reasoning to be facile and sophomoric? c’mon, alec.

for one thing, it entirely misses the main thrust of plantinga’s observation (which i repeated above): namely that the probabilistic unity of bob’s winning the lottery once he’s won it in no way accounts for (or mitigates) the astronomical ***im***probability of bob’s winning before he wins it.

of course life only arises in universes capable of producing life. but how is that even a gesture in the direction of a solution to the problem of the source of the vastly unlikely confluence of nomological constants in our universe?

and this is what’s wrong with your lottery example: the question is not how to account for bob’s winning the lottery given its unlikelihood: the problem is how to account for the existence of the lottery. but of course, that’s not really a problem, since no one believes that lotteries “just are” as the result of a random conjunction of exactly the right circumstances - lotteries are designed and implemented by people.

what you’re trying to suggest, is that “bob won the lottery this week” is an answer to the question “why are there lotteries?”. which it clearly isn’t. in the same way, “if things weren’t this way, then we couldn’t wonder about it” isn’t an answer to the question “why are things this way, when it’s enormously more probable that they not be this way?”.

besides, bob’s winning the lottery as the actualization of a state of affairs isn’t unlikely: it’s the inevitable result of the covering laws that govern the objects and events in the material world. it’s only unlikely as a function of our epistemic myopia - saying “bob’s winning was unlikely” means something closer to “bob’s winning the lottery was unpredictable” because we simply don’t know enough of the initial conditions and laws which, in fact, inexorably entail that bob would win.

the real question is, of course, why these constants and laws in the first place, when the likelihood that there be other laws is so enormously, staggeringly huge.


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