Theological mental gymnastics over evolution

Darwin Day is this weekend so I thought I should do a couple of relevant posts.

Here I want to comment on a popular reaction to evolutionary science by mainstream Christians.  I am referring to the regular church-goer or adherent who will claim they accept scientific knowledge – not to creationists or similar people like the adherents of intelligent design who actively campaign against, or deny, this knowledge.

Theistic evolution?

Often these Christians accommodate the science and their religious dogma by describing their beliefs as “theistic evolution.” I have never understood that term. Evolutionary science is evolutionary science – one doesn’t go tacking on your ideological adherence. Are we going to have Marxist thermodynamics, conservative chemistry, libertarian zoology, etc? No, of course not. Science is science – it is informed directly by reality, not religious belief.

So I have always assumed that people who claimed belief in “theistic evolution” were simply saying that they believed in a god and also accepted evolutionary science.

But now I am not so sure. I recently heard a Christian speaker declare his acceptance of evolutionary science and claim it did not conflict with his religion – because he believed the evolutionary process was guided by his god! This description brought home to me that he did not accept evolutionary science – because that science explains evolution of life on earth as an unguided  process. The only “guiding” is in the process of natural selection – involving the environment and interaction with it.

The unguided nature of evolution was the great discovery, the revolutionary nature, of the ideas proposed by Darwin and validated against reality. It seems to me that to re-insert a guiding hand, as some of these “theistic evolutionists” appear to desire, is definitely throwing out the baby. Its like claiming to accept Newtonian mechanics, the laws of planetary motion, etc., and then claim they result from angels guiding the planets!

That is complete reversal of science –  a negation of the modern scientific revolution.

OK, I recognise that some people who all themselves theistic evolutionist are not saying this. They may simply mean that the accept evolution is a natural unguided process but occurrence within the nature created by their god. Well, good luck to them – my beef is with those who want to impose a divine guidance on evolution. To rewrite the science.

Religious apologists rewrite science

Alvin Plantinga, a philosopher of religion and religious apologist is one such person. He asserts, in a recent book based on his debate with philosopher Daniel Dennett, that Christian claims are consistent with “Darwinism.” (See Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?). As he describes it:

“God could have caused the right mutations to arise at the right time. He could have preserved populations from perils of various sorts, and so on. And in this way, by orchestrating the course of evolution, he could have ensured that there come to be creatures of the kind he intends. Now what is not consistent with Christian belief, however, is the claim that evolution and Darwinism are unguided or I’ll take that to include being unplanned and unintended. What is not consistent with Christian belief is the claim that no personal agent (not even God) has guided, planned, intended, directed, orchestrated, or shaped this whole process. Yet precisely this claim is made by a large number of contemporary scientists and philosophers who write on this topic. There is a veritable choir of distinguished experts insisting that this process is unguided; indeed, sometimes insisting that it is part of the contemporary scientific theory of evolution itself to assert that it is unguided so that evolutionary theory as such is incompatible with Christian belief.”

So he is telling those Christian who do accept genuine evolutionary science that their acceptance is “not consistent with Christian belief,” ” incompatible with Christian belief.”

Now – this is Plantinga’s claim, not mine. I am happy to see Christians like Ken Miller who accept and teach evolutionary science truthfully. That accept the evolutionary process is unguided – despite the myths in the holy books. But Plantinga is asserting that one cannot accept evolutionary science, which is unguided, and be a Christian!

Plantinga is being extremely disingenuous to assert:

“There is a veritable choir of distinguished experts insisting that this process is unguided; indeed, sometimes insisting that it is part of the contemporary scientific theory of evolution itself to assert that it is unguided.”

As if these experts are somehow misrepresenting the science. Of course they aren’t. However, Plantinga is. He is trying to reintroduce a pre-scientific concept, divine guidance, into a modern science. He is attempting to portray scientific experts as somehow the rebels in this situation. He  in fact is attempting to rewrite the whole nature of evolutionary science – as I said to throw out the baby.

The ultimate in cherry picking

And what does he do to put a pseudo-scientific gloss on his distortion of science? He refers to biochemist, and promoter of intelligent design, Michael Behe. To his use of the argument from ignorance – that he cannot see how anything as complicated as a living cell could possibly have resulted from an unguided process! Bloody hell – he relies on Behe and ignores Darwin and all the other scientists, biologists, biochemists, evolutionary scientists etc. Is that extreme cherry picking or what?

Of course – there is method in Plantinga’s apparent madness. Having redefined evolutionary science to require a divinely guiding hand (turning it into its opposite) he declares that conservative and fundamental Christians can happily accept evolution – because they are not the rebels. It’s those horrible atheists and naturalists who have got it wrong. Because they don’t accept divine guidance they cannot accept evolutionary science. He finishes his presentation with the words:

“Evolution, however, is one of the pillars of contemporary science. Hence, there is a science/religion or perhaps science/quasi‐religion conflict in the neighborhood of evolution alright. But not between evolution and theistic religion. The real conflict is between evolution (that pillar of contemporary science) and naturalism.”

It’s amazing what a bit of motivated ideology and some mental gymnastics can do to the honourable subject of philosophy.

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36 responses to “Theological mental gymnastics over evolution

  1. Pingback: Theological mental gymnastics over evolution | Open Parachute | Secularity

  2. I sometimes wonder if all these apologists actually delve into evolution and it’s supposedly “perfect” end-product, i.e. us before they make such wild claims. Of course, on the face of it, for a believer looking for some explanation to assuage his doubts, this is a fantastically plausible and glib but glosses over so much! Would a divinely-guided evolutionary process lead to such an imperfect body as the human one?

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  3. Richard Christie

    OK, I recognise that some people who all themselves theistic evolutionist are not saying this. They may simply mean that the accept evolution is a natural unguided process but occurrence within the nature created by their god.

    If the process is unguided, then the outcome is uncertain. How do those who accept evolution as you describe here reconcile an uncertain evolutionary outcome with the “man made in god’s image” dogma.
    At least Plantinga is consistent, even if he is misguided as to what evolution theory is.

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  4. I personally think it is by mental compartmentalisation. But perhaps someone who has Christian beliefs yet accepts evolutionary science could help us.

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  5. I recently heard a Christian speaker declare his acceptance of evolutionary science and claim it did not conflict with his religion – because he believed the evolutionary process was guided by his god!

    Beliefs are wonderful things.

    I recently heard a Christian speaker declare his acceptance of sexual reproduction and claim it did not conflict with his religion – because he believed the sex and birthing process was guided by his god!

    I recently heard a Christian speaker declare his acceptance of the Theory of Gravity and claim it did not conflict with his religion – because he believed that the Earth orbiting the sun was guided by his god!

    Intelligent Design is a science stopper.
    It’s an answer that is not.

    You can’t do anything with it. It goes precisely nowhere. It might emotionally feel good somehow to the wishy-washy believer but it’s vapourware.

    Take gold for example.
    You find gold and now you are wealthy. Congratulations.
    So how did the gold get there in the first place?
    “Um, the Intelligent Designer put it there for me to find because he wanted me to be rich and now I am. Yay!”

    It’s exactly the same as magic and just as useful.

    “Um, magic put it there for me to find because magic wanted me to be rich and now I am. Yay!”

    However, if a person turns to science and starts investigating reality then that person dramatically increases their chances of…finding a lot more gold. That takes time and money and research and thinking and work but you might end figuring out where gold really comes from and how to discover more of it.

    Take a sick child for example.
    Your child is sick from some terrible wasting disease and will not live to see their sixth birthday and you are tortured with grief. My deepest sympathies.
    So how did your child get horribly sick in the first place?

    “Um, the Intelligent Designer made my child sick because he wanted me to punish me or has a special plan or wants me to value my other surviving children even more strongly or something. Yay!”

    It’s exactly the same as magic.

    “Um, bad magic made my child sick because a witch wanted me to punish me or has a special plan or wants me to value my other surviving children even more strongly or something. Yay!?!?”

    However, if a person turns to science and starts investigating reality then that person now has a chance of…finding out why their child is sick. That takes time and money and research and thinking and work but you might end figuring out why your child is sick and how to cure them or relieve their suffering or prevent more such suffering.

    Science. Not magical Intelligent Design Creationism.

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  6. Ken, have you actually read the paper by Plantinga, because in fact he addresses the “evolution” is “unguided” point earlier on, and cites the relevant experts to show what they mean by “unguided” and “chance” to address it. His conclusions here follow on, from a discussion where he cites the relevant experts and shows what they mean by change and unguided and how that’s compatible with theism.

    Your cherry picking the article and quote mining.

    What were you saying a day ago about not quoting Darwin without reading the relevant chapter?

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  7. Yes I did read it Matt – its the presentation he gave in his debate with Dan Dennett – which I also listened too.

    The quote I provided is taken from Plantinga’s text.

    As for relevant experts I was shocked at Plantingas’s dishonesty in relying on Behe above practically any other expert in the world!. And his conclusion is of course classic mental gymnastics.

    But don’t tell me he convinced you. Do you actual agree with his conclusions?

    Modern science does see evolution as unguided. That is its whole point and power.

    Or do you disagree? If so please make your case.

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  8. Matt (or anyone else interested) – if you wish to check out my quote here is the pdf of Plantinga’s presentation for you to download. I understand it’s basically what is published in the book.

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  9. Ken, I am well aware of where the quote comes from I heard the original address, have have read the book. and own a copy.

    My point is not that this quote is not in the text, its that your commentary on misrepresents the arguments he puts very badly. In fact one could say they involve “cherry picking”

    Your respond for example by asserting that evolution is unguided, the problem is Plantinga has in this book a section where he offers an argument addressing this very point. He has a section in that text where he points out that to say evolution is random or occurs by chance does not entail its unguided in the sense of “uncaused by God” and he cites several credible sources ( not Behe) to this effect. So your objection was addressed in the text.

    Quoting another part of the text and repeating the objection he addressed in another part, and then calling him dishonest for not appreciating it when he in fact addressed is really not a response at all.

    A sound response is one that address his argument not one that ignores it and attacks his character.

    As to your comments about Behe, he does not in the book rely on “Behe above practically any other expert in the world!.” He does mention an argument Behe makes , says it he ultimately unsuccessful ( he gives more reasons why he thinks Behe’s argument fails in his latest book) But he does not cite him over every expert in the world and the reference is not even part of his main points, so the comment is actually irrelevant to the argument.

    Nor does Behe function in the argument the way you suggest. He does not cite Behe for example to show that evolution is guided. He does not even argue that evolution is unguided in that article. His argument is rebutting arguments against theism not offering arguments for it. He cites Behe to show only that there are versions of the argument from design other than those of Paley he could have used numerous other examples to make the same point. and the conclusion he draws that evolution does not address all versions of the argument from design is clearly correct and if it did that would not refute theism is clearly correct.

    The point is Ken here as elsewhere you seem unable to even present the view of philosophers accurately. Instead you simply quote things out of context and then attack people character.

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  10. Matt – I think the quotes I have given stand on their own. I notice you refuse to justify any specific part of those quotes.

    As for Behe, Plantinga uses Behe’s argument from ignorance – living organisms are just too complicated to have arisen naturally (and that’s all it is) in this:

    “I don’t have the space here to outline this argument, but to me as a layman the argument seems reasonably powerful though very far from conclusive. If Behe is right, or anywhere nearly right, the probability of the existence of the cell as we find it is much greater on theism than on naturalism. And if this is so, the argument from design is reinstated at a deeper level.”

    Sure he acknowledges the argument is “very far from conclusive” (he would have to be mad to think otherwise) but then he relies on it to “reinstate design.” Who, beside Behe is doing this? Give me the name of the biochemists, biologists, geneticists, etc., who agree with Behe on this. And if you listened to the debate you will remember his reaction to Dennett when he pointed out how pathetic Behe’s arguments were (he would have none of that – Plantinga puts Behe before any critic).

    Plantinga argues consistently for a guided evolution – even at the mutation level. Divine guidance at that.

    This is completely inconsistent with modern evolutionary science (since Darwin) and he is being dishonest.

    No credible scientist I know would agree (have a look at the discussion on the SciBlog syndication of this to see one such scientist who is also a Christian comment.

    You and Plantinga a very much in the minority on this one Matt. I am assuming you do agree with Plantinga – as usual you are trying to divert int6o a he said you said blind end and don’t have the courage to state your own position.

    Come on Matt -tell us yes or no: Do you agree with this statement from Plantinga:

    “Evolution, however, is one of the pillars of contemporary science. Hence, there is a science/religion or perhaps science/quasi‐religion conflict in the neighborhood of evolution alright. But not between evolution and theistic religion. The real conflict is between evolution (that pillar of contemporary science) and naturalism.”

    Do you think evolution is guided by your god? If so, do you think she, or her angels, also guides the planets in the motion around the sun?

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  11. Ken
    First, the quotes don’t stand alone they occur as part of an argument.

    Second, Plantinga does not “use Behe’s” argument for ignorance. He says its inconclusive, and as I noted he has criticised it as a failure in his latest book. Nor is it an argument from ignorance its an argument that a given claim is improbable on a given body of evidence.
    Second, he does not use Behe to “reinstate” design. Plantinga does not accept arguments from Design, he rejected them in God and Other Minds and rejects them in his latest book. His claim is rather that even if evolution had refuted the argument from design that existed in the 18th century there are other versions around which it does not refute. That’s perfectly correct.
    Third, Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided evolution, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think evolution is unguided. Plantinga is well known for not offering arguments for the truth of theism his project is to rebut arguments against theism.
    Moreover you comments about being guided by God show again that you simply have caricatures of what the word “divine guidance” means. It does not mean angels push the planets around the universe. On any standard theistic understanding the laws of planetary orbit are themselves ordained by God and so would be guided by God, the same is true of natural selection, it relies on certain laws of nature to operate and God ordains those laws. You need to get an accurate picture of what theism holds. Your working with a caricature that no one holds.

    Newton by the way would have accepted that God ordained the laws of planetery motion and would have seen the fact the planets were guided by natural laws compatible with and in fact an implication of the claim that God guided the universe, theists typically believe God guided the universe by the laws of nature he laid down.

    Finally your last comment

    Come on Matt -tell us yes or no: Do yopu agree with this statment from Plantinga:

    “Evolution, however, is one of the pillars of contemporary science. Hence, there is a science/religion or perhaps science/quasi‐religion conflict in the neighborhood of evolution alright. But not between evolution and theistic religion. The real conflict is between evolution (that pillar of contemporary science) and naturalism.”

    Actually the real question is wether I agree with the argument which occurs before this conclusion and the answer is I am undecided. I have read the argument and its development in the literature, and read the criticisms and have a few queries about it. But note the point here, in Philosophy you don’t pull out quotes out of context and express horror. You look at the arguments people give and try and asses them.

    You have simply misunderstood Plantinga’s arguments, have no understanding of what people mean by divine guidance other than silly caricatures, and quote mined. Its ironic that you keep doing this. Perhaps a mirror is needed.

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  12. No, Matt, I have not misunderstood Plantinga or his motives which I think are very clear in his conclusion statement – one you avoid. Any other reader can check for themselves – I have provided the link to the article.

    I find your position of being “undecided” on clear issues very common for you but pathetic. No respect is warranted there. Be clear I am not criticizing you as a person just a common action of yours.

    I also find the common theological trick of avoidance by diverting with nitpicking (usually involving misrepresentation) thoroughly dishonest. Do you not blush as you write:

    “Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided evolution, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think evolution is unguided”

    Of course there are a multitude of compelling facts on this which he will ignore because he wants to advance a position of guided evolution. Why do you think evolutionary science is so compelling and accepted? It is dishonest to hide the evidence this way. Then again I have a scientific ethos – Plantiga doesn’t.

    Bloody hell, your appreciation of lovely discussion is so naive thst you will forever be quoting the angels as my concept of “divine guidance”! Truth be told I cannot give s convincing picture of “divine guidance” – nor can you. (You csn day ehat it idnt – not ehat it is). It’s an invention, bafflegab, like a lot of religious concepts

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  13. Whoops, that last comment escaped before completion.

    Newton of course had theist beliefs (mind you they weren’t acceptable to the authorities and he had to hide them to get the university job. Just imagine if his beliefs had been atheist).

    He actually did invoke his god as an explanation in some areas where he couldn’t solve the problems. He was wrong of course – as is anyone who simply says “god did it”. Just as Behe us wrong.

    As for your attribution of belief in god as a lawmaker (or retired engineer). This was of course the beginning of the rot – but I think quite a few Christian scientists think that way today. However this is quite different to Plantinga’s story and any credible Christian scientist will reject Plantinga.

    The laws of nature are “the laws of nature.” A theist may desire to think they were ordained by her god. I personally see them arising out of the objective existence of matter and it’s consequent property of interaction. (And I suggest my philosophical position on this confirms more with modern scientific philosophical thinking that a divine lawgiver does).

    But my difference on this with my Christian colleagues does not change the way we do science or the sort of scientific knowledge we produce. That’s why the Catholic Ken Miller and I can agree on the unguided nature of evolutionary processes. And agree this is an essential part of this process. And we, together with practically anyone else understanding evolutionary science can agree that Behe is wrong. He is simply using his ignorance to find a place for his god – a dangerous tactic if there ever was one.

    I don’t agree with Miller’s ultimate justification – but so what? When he tries to justify “fine tuning” we will debate our positions but we don’t disagree on the unguided nature of evolution. We both disagree eith Plantinga.

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  14. Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided evolution, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think evolution is unguided.

    Wow. That’s so…theological.
    Only when people babble about their magical beliefs do we hear such wonders of twisted thinking.
    Shall we have some fun with it? Yes, we shall.

    “Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided planetary orbit, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think planetary orbit is unguided.”
    “Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided nuclear fission, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think nuclear fission is unguided.”
    “Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided waterfalls, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think waterfalls are unguided.”
    “Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided snowflake creation, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think snowflake creation is unguided.”
    “Plantinga does not argue for the truth of saltdamp eroding the value of your property, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think saltdamp eroding the value of your property is unguided.”

    (giggle)

    Is there more from the big bag of stupid? Why yes.

    It does not mean angels push the planets around the universe.

    Aw, no angels? But how do the planets move then, Mr Smartypants?

    On any standard theistic understanding the laws of planetary orbit are themselves ordained by God and so would be guided by God…

    So your magic, invisible sky daddy moves the planets…by herself?
    Not with angels (because that would be a “silly” caricature) but by magic ordination and then…it just happens.
    Okaaay.

    “It does not mean giant pixies push the planets around the universe.
    On any standard theistic understanding the laws of planetary orbit are themselves ordained by Megapixie and so would be guided by Megapixie”

    Religions demean us all as a species.

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  15. Cedric, actually a string of insults is not a rebuttal a first year logic class will tell you that. Let me know when you can offer a reasoned argument rather than insults a ten year old could blurt out.

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  16. Matt, you characterize Cedric’s contribution as “insults” because that enables you to avoid them. In fact they are humorous ways of demonstrating the silliness of your guidance case. A little but of ridicule sometimes makes a point more easily than a reasoned case. And provides some useful humour.

    If I were you i would respond to the point underlying all the ridiculous cases Cedric mentioned.

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  17. Richard Christie

    Let me know when you [Cedric] can offer a reasoned argument rather than insults a ten year old could blurt out

    I doubt that many ten-year-olds could cut to the nub and expose the ridiculous as succinctly as Cedric often demonstrates.

    There is no proof that evolution isn’t guided by the giant world-turtle, therefore it’s reasonable to believe it is.

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  18. Cedric, actually a string of insults…

    No, pearl clutching will get you nowhere.
    Huffing and puffing will not magically rescue your hastily abandoned logic.
    You indulged in theological babble and I called you out on it.
    Your reasoning is stupid.
    Mind numbingly stupid.
    It’s a wonder how you tie your own shoe laces with “thinking” like yours.

    Plantinga isn’t arguing for his pet hobby horse, he’s just arguing that there’s no compelling reason against his pet hobby horse?

    Angels don’t move the planets but your magic, invisible friend does?

    (…facepalm…)

    That line of reasoning is a demented joke. When you tell it, people are laughing at you, not with you. It’s worthy only of contempt.
    It’s dumb.
    Deep dumb.
    The kind of dumb that only religious piety can provide to shore up it’s untenable belief system. You never try that crap on with any other subject. Only religion gets a free pass for any inane argument under the sun.

    No 99: ARGUMENT FROM OFFENSE
    (1) God exists.
    (2) [Atheist makes counterarguments.]
    (3) You know what? I am offended.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    If you want to interact with adults then you are going to have to do much better.
    The only people you will attract to your cult with utterances like that are people deserving of pity.

    P.S.
    Kudos for not falsely claiming to be the victim on an ad hominem.
    I really hate it when Christian dolts on the Internet wave that flag around willy-nilly just because their knickers are in a twist.
    It never occurs to them to actually find out what it means an apply it correctly. At least you did not make that one almost inevitable mistake.

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  19. There is no proof that evolution isn’t guided by the giant world-turtle, therefore it’s reasonable to believe it is.

    Thanks for illustrating my point about caricatures. Because, no one neither myself nor Plantinga offers the argument that it is reasonable to believe in God because there is no proof evolution isn’t guided by God.

    You need to meditate on the difference between claiming a particular argument against a position is sound and offering an argument for a position.

    Serious philosophical analysis requires paying attention to the arguments people actually make and responding to them by showing the premises are false or the inference invalid.

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  20. (1) God exists.
    (2) [Atheist makes counterarguments.]
    (3) You know what? I am offended.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    No, in this argument premise two involves the atheist offering counter arguments. You didn’t. Here is what you did.

    First, you made a serious of statements which are actually true, various phenomena in the world, planetary orbits, snow flakes etc are compatible with Gods existence and provide us with no reason for thinking God exists.

    Then you said “giggle” and called something a “bag of stupid”

    Making true statements and calling something stupid is not an argument,

    Then you decided to re describe a theistic understanding of laws of nature using pejorative language.

    Thats not an argument either.

    I suggest you do a first year logic course sometime and look at what an argument is.

    The fact Ken and others think this counts as anything serious only shows there own philosophical mediocrity.

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  21. Now that is pure bafflegab Matt.

    Or have you not woken up yet.

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  22. Ken, sorry but you have not understood Plantinga at all. Yes you have attached his article, but you badly misunderstand the arguments in it. As to his conclusion, if you read the article the conclusion he is making is not that evolution is unguided, he is not even arguing that theism is true. He is simply addressing the question of whether theism is compatible with evolutionary theory. Note the opening statement

    “Science and Religion, Where the Conflict Really Lies.” That’s the title. Our question is this: are science and religion compatible?

    The claim that two things are compatible is not the claim that one is true. Its possible for something to be compatible with science and yet really silly, Plantinga would grant that, while he does not think theism is silly that’s not the topic of this paper. The topic is merely whether one reason for thinking theism is false is sound.
    Moreover you mention his motives and conclusion statement. First the conclusion statement is as follows:

    There conjunction cannot rationally be accepted. Evolution, however, is one of the pillars of contemporary science. Hence, there is a science/religion or perhaps science/quasi‐religion conflict in the neighborhood of evolution alright. But not between evolution and theistic religion. The real conflict is between evolution (that pillar of contemporary science) and naturalism.

    There is nothing in here about him concluding that he has established the truth of evolution being guided. This is him stating the conclusion of his evolutionary argument against naturalism. Which has the conclusion that naturalism and evolution can’t be both rationally accepted.
    Moreover, your talking about his “motives” that’s however simply the ad hominem fallacy. The issue is wether the arguments a person makes are sound not wether their motives for making it are noble. Soundness of an argument is a function of the truth of their premises and the logical form of the argument not the character of the arguer.

    also find the common theological trick of avoidance by diverting with nitpicking (usually involving misrepresentation) thoroughly dishonest. Do you not blush as you write:
    “Plantinga does not argue for the truth of guided evolution, what he argues is that there is no compelling reason to think evolution is unguided”

    I don’t blush because (a) its true and (b) the distinction between showing that one argument against a thesis is unsound and showing the thesis itself is true is not a trival one nor is it nit picking. Failure to make this distinction is fallacious. You might think that wether your argument is fallacious or sound doesn’t matter as long as you agree with the conclusion. But then again I share a philosophical ethos which values rigorous argument, I am not a new atheist science who wants to make unfounded religious prounoncmenmts and back it up with misrepresentation assertion and ad hominen, that apparently is the rage is scientific circles today.

    Of course there are a multitude of compelling facts on this which he will ignore because he wants to advance a position of guided evolution. Why do you think evolutionary science is so compelling and accepted? It is dishonest to hide the evidence this way.

    First this assumes Plantinga is in that paper arguing for guided evolution, he is not he is simply saying evolution and theism are not incompatible. I have already pointed this out. I have told you this before but when someone argues against your position repeating it does not make it correct.
    Second, your again misunderstanding what Plantinga means by “guided” and “unguided”. Perhaps you should read the article he states

    Now what is not consistent with Christian belief, however, is the claim that evolution and Darwinism are unguided or I’ll take that to include being unplanned and unintended. What is not consistent with Christian belief is the claim that no personal agent (not even God) has guided, planned, intended, directed, orchestrated, or shaped this whole process.

    Note what he says here, he is not talking about “miracles” or supernatural events, by unguided he means it was not planned or intended by God. This is not incompatible with the claim the only “guiding” is in the process of natural selection – involving the environment and interaction with it. Because if theism is true God created the natural order and ordained the laws that govern natural selection and so on and hence is something God planned, intended and hence orchestrated.
    Now contrary to your argunment science has not produced “compelling facts” to show that evolution was not planned by God or intended by him in this sense. That’s a philosophical question. Moreover, in your context your question, “Why do you think evolutionary science is so compelling and accepted” is irrelevant because its not part of evolutionary science to claim God does not exist, and the large number of people who accept evolutionary science do not all consider that it provides compelling evidence that God does exist. Nor does Kenneth Miller who you keep citing believe evolution is unguided in the sense Plantinga uses the term. A Catholic does not believe that God did not plan or intend evolution to occur. As though an omnsicent being somehow was taken by surprise and evolution happened with his control. No theist accepts that. So your comments are simply false.
    Moreover, it was this sort of sophistry which Plantinga offers arguments against in the article. Scientists who add to the empirical evidence substantive philosophical claims and draw theological conclusions from it which are not warranted by the empirical evidence alone. This is perhaps why you keep ignoring the argument and instead attacking motives and engaging is misrepresentation.

    Bloody hell, your appreciation of lovely discussion is so naive thst you will forever be quoting the angels as my concept of “divine guidance”! Truth be told I cannot give s convincing picture of “divine guidance” – nor can you. (You csn day ehat it idnt – not ehat it is). It’s an invention, bafflegab, like a lot of religious concepts

    Well first the issue is not wether you find pictures of divine guidance convincing, its wether when you offer arguments ( or in this case assertions) against it, the arguments attack an accurate picture of this and not a sterotype. In this case you stated quite clearly

    It seems to me that to re-insert a guiding hand, as some of these “theistic evolutionists” appear to desire, is definitely throwing out the baby. Its like claiming to accept Newtonian mechanics, the laws of planetary motion, etc., and then claim they result from angels guiding the planets!

    This is quite clearly a caricature of divine guidance as the term is being used in this discussion. Because Newtons laws themselves are used by many ( including Newton himself) as an example of divine guidance. Theists believe God created an ordered universe and governs it by laws. The correct analogy then that theistic evolution is like someone claiming to “to accept Newtonian mechanics, the laws of planetary motion, etc., and then claim these laws were laid down by God” Ironically that’s Newton’s picture and the picture many sensible scientists take. Unless you use your inaccurate caricature your argument collapses.
    The fact you think a picture is unconvincing does not mean you can misrepresent it in your arguments.
    He actually did invoke his god as an explanation in some areas where he couldn’t solve the problems. He was wrong of course – as is anyone who simply says “god did it”. Just as Behe us wrong.
    Actually this again seems to misunderstand God’s guidance, Newton did appeal to Gods direct action in nature in certain places and was wrong about that. However he also accepted a broader picture whereby the universe as a whole was created by God and the laws of nature God laid down were laid down by God. So again all your doing is relying on stero-types of “God did it” for notions of Gods action. Criticising ideas even those you disagree with involves understanding accurately what they are.

    As for your attribution of belief in god as a lawmaker (or retired engineer). This was of course the beginning of the rot – but I think quite a few Christian scientists think that way today. However this is quite different to Plantinga’s story and any credible Christian scientist will reject Plantinga

    Well as I pointed out, this idea is not “quite different to Plantinga’s story” Plantinga’s understanding of unguided is simply “unintended or unplanned” by God. Moreover your claim that quite a few Christian scientists accept this today, undercuts your claim that evolution is “unguided” ( in Plantinga’s sense) is one that is the accepted by all scientists today. You claim “we all accept Behe is wrong” but the issue is not wether Behe’s particular claims are mistaken ( Plantinga accepts he has not made his case and has a whole chapter arguing this in his latest book) its wether evolution is unguided: in the sense of something that is not intended or planned by God, or whether God did ultimately plan and intend it. And on this latter issue Kenneth Miller does not agree with you. It is not part of evolutionary science to claim that God did not intend or plan the process, and it’s not part of the scientific consensus. Nor is there compelling evidence that this is the case. The claim that there is or is not compelling evidence for Gods existence is what people study in Philosophy of Religion a field in which Plantinga not Miller or you is the expert.
    All your showing Ken is that you once again do not understand the position’s you are talking about.

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  23. Richard Christie

    ” There is no proof that evolution isn’t guided by the giant world-turtle, therefore it’s reasonable to believe it is.”

    Thanks for illustrating my point about caricatures. Because, no one neither myself nor Plantinga offers the argument that it is reasonable to believe in God because there is no proof evolution isn’t guided by God.

    Neither did I. Read what I wrote. But I agree with your strawman’s premise: that if it is reasonable to assume something is guided by the world-turtle then it follows that it is reasonable to assume the world=turtle exists.

    That is what Plantinga’s argument is really all about.

    And yours.

    It’s interesting that you wriggle around rather than embrace the position.

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  24. Richard Christie

    But I agree with your strawman’s premise: that if it is reasonable to assume something is guided by the world-turtle then it follows that it is reasonable to assume the world=turtle exists

    Whoah, did I write that?? Silly me.

    Not what I meant, I don’t agree with the premise, rather, I identify that the straw-man premise is implicit in the argument.

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  25. Richard

    I did read what you wrote here it is:

    There is no proof that evolution isn’t guided by the giant world-turtle, therefore it’s reasonable to believe it is.”

    That argument is a parody of the argument that: There is no proof that evolution isn’t guided by X, therefore its reasonable to think it is guided by X
    Now seeing neither I nor Plantinga argued in this fashion, your parody is simply a straw man. Its no better than the creationist who argues that evolution is false because his mother is not a monkey. That’s mildly amuzing, but seeing evolution does not claim your mother is a monkey it only shows the arguer doesn’t understand what he is talking about

    But I agree with your strawman’s premise: that if it is reasonable to assume something is guided by the world-turtle then it follows that it is reasonable to assume the world=turtle exists.
    That is what Plantinga’s argument is really all about.

    Actually like I said, neither I or Plantinga offer an argument with that premise.

    Your welcome to show me where in my writings or Plantinga an argument of that structure is offered.

    It’s interesting that you wriggle around rather than embrace the position.

    Interesting that when I point out you have misconstrued a position you simply repeat the claim the misconstrual is correct and claim your interloctulor is “wiggling” . As though assertion and ad hominen arguments counted for anything. Why is it that the “rational” freethinkers who pride themselves in reason and science appear unable to grasp first year logic?

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  26. Matt – this is why I suspect you have not woken up yet. You say of Plantinga: “if you read the article the conclusion he is making is not that evolution is unguided,” That is very true. He actually argues that evolution is divinely guided – the complete opposite (and the complete opposite of evolutionary science).

    And in his conclusion he argues that their is a conflict between religion and science (he is classifying atheism or naturalism as a religion to achieve this mental flip).

    He says

    “there is a science/religion or perhaps science/quasi‐religion conflict in the neighborhood of evolution alright. But not between evolution and theistic religion. The real conflict is between evolution (that pillar of contemporary science) and naturalism.”

    It’s as plain as the wart on your nose – he claims there is an inevitable conflict between science and naturalism (read atheism).

    He is claiming that science and naturalism/atheism are incompatible and science and theistic religion are compatible.

    On the question of compatibility between religion and science – let me quote Jerry, a scientist who is also a Christian:

    “I am a Christian. I am a scientist. I have absolutely NO problem with accepting Evolution. I believe that the evolutionary process is random in that there is NO guiding hand. I believe Christians have to adapt their beliefs to encompass that fact. (Just as they had to adjust their beliefs when it was discovered that the earth was not the center of the solar system, that the heart wasn’t the center of thinking or whatever. )”

    I think that accords with the position of other Christian scientists I know and have worked with. As I said these people disagree strongly with Plantiga who attempts to claim that evolution and “Darwinism’ (his term) are actually guided.

    I quote again (you really hate reading Plantinga’s words don’t you):

    “God could have caused the right mutations to arise at the right time. He could have preserved populations from perils of various sorts, and so on. And in this way, by orchestrating the course of evolution, he could have ensured that there come to be creatures of the kind he intends. Now what is not consistent with Christian belief, however, is the claim that evolution and Darwinism are unguided or I’ll take that to include being unplanned and unintended. What is not consistent with Christian belief is the claim that no personal agent (not even God) has guided, planned, intended, directed, orchestrated, or shaped this whole process.”

    Now Plantinga would say that Jerry is being inconsistent. That practically every scientist who is a Christian actually are not consistent with Christian beliefs!

    Now many of those Christian scientists might agree with your concept of a god as a lawmaker. But that is quite different – that does not interfere with their science. They and I do science in the same way, whatever our ideological/philosophical grounds. But being forced to deny the well understood unplanned, unintended, unguided nature of evolutionary processes is creating a conflict between religion and science. And Plantinga is promoting that conflict.

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  27. Richard Christie

    “It’s interesting that you wriggle around rather than embrace the position.”

    Interesting that when I point out you have misconstrued a position you simply repeat the claim the misconstrual is correct and claim your interloctulor is “wiggling” . As though assertion and ad hominen arguments counted for anything. Why is it that the “rational” freethinkers who pride themselves in reason and science appear unable to grasp first year logic?

    See?

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  28. Ken,
    Sorry, but your comments only show again your inability to understand philosophy.

    First, Plantinga does not argue that evolution is in fact guided by God. He argues that evolutionary theory is compatible with theism that’s not the same thing. The claim that P and Q are compatible is not the claim that P is true.

    You ask me to “wake up” I suggest a better strategy is to actually read the book you are referring to. Here is Plantinga’s summary of his argument on p 40 of the Dennett- Plantinga. The one you claim to have read. He refers to the section you quote in your post

    (1)God guided and orchestrated the course of evolution to produce the kind of creatures he wanted.
    I was arguing that God and evolution are possible, by pointing to another proposition that is clearly possible, and entails the existence of God and the truth of evolution. That proposition is (1): and I said (1) was possible. I wasn’t arguing that (1) was true, but only using it show that the existence of God was compatible with the theory of evolution.

    Do you need to read that again? Its in his response to the kind of arguments several people on this blog have made. Simply asserting things and telling people to wake up is not really a substitute for actually reading the author in question.

    You write.

    And in his conclusion he argues that their is a conflict between religion and science (he is classifying atheism or naturalism as a religion to achieve this mental flip).

    Yes he argues that naturalism and evolutionary theory can’t be both rationally accepted. But that’s not the same as arguing that God guided evolution.

    Moreover. he does not as you say classify atheism or naturalism as a religion. Here is what he says on p 16, its also in the PDF you attached under section III

    Naturalism comes in more than one variety. Here, as I said, I take it to be the view that there is no such person as the God of the theistic religions or anything at all like God. So taken, naturalism is not a religion. Nevertheless, it is a crucial part of the naturalistic worldview which in turn plays at least one of the most important roles of a religion. This worldview functions as a sort of myth in the technical sense of that term. It offers a way of interpreting ourselves to ourselves; a way of understanding our origin and significance at the deep level of religion. It tells us where we come from, what our prospects are, what our place in the universe is, whether there is life after death, and the like. We could therefore say that it is a quasi‐religion. What I propose to argue next is that naturalism and current science are incompatible, so that there is a religion (or quasi‐religion) science conflict sure enough, but it is between science and natural not science and theistic religion.

    (emphasis mine)

    Note the intalics, he states explicitly that naturalism is not a religion. So claiming in here that he did the opposite is not correct. You really need to read a bit more carefully Ken and pay attention to what people actually argue if in fact you have the article at all.

    He is claiming that science and naturalism/atheism are incompatible and science and theistic religion are compatible.

    That’s correct, his claim is that theism and evolution are compatible, that is not the claim that God guided evolution. To say two propositions are compatible is not the same as saying one is true.

    Note again what he actually says as opposed to the spin you put on it.

    (1)God guided and orchestrated the course of evolution to produce the kind of creatures he wanted.
    I was arguing that God and evolution are possible, by pointing to another proposition that is clearly possible, and entails the existence of God and the truth of evolution. That proposition is (1): and I said (1) was possible. I wasn’t arguing that (1) was true, but only using it show that the existence of God was compatible with the theory of evolution.

    Ironically you then say

    I quote again (you really hate reading Plantinga’s words don’t you):

    No I like reading things in context rather than reading your out if context quotes and inaccurate spin. Here is the quote:
    This claim is purely consistent with evolution (those first three theses), as conservative Christian theologians have pointed out as far back as 1871 with Charles Hodge at Princeton. But is it also consistent with Darwinism? It looks as if it is. God could have caused the right mutations to arise at the right time. He could have preserved populations from perils of various sorts, and so on. And in this way, by orchestrating the course of evolution, he could have ensured that there come to be creatures of the kind he intends. Now what is not consistent with Christian belief, however, is the claim that evolution and Darwinism are unguided or I’ll take that to include being unplanned and unintended.

    Here he says Darwinism is consistent with Thiesm because its possible ( note the word could) have guided evolution. He also explains what he means by unguided, he means being unplanned and unintended by God. This interpretation is confirmed latter in the book where he explains.

    (1)God guided and orchestrated the course of evolution to produce the kind of creatures he wanted.
    I was arguing that God and evolution are possible, by pointing to another proposition that is clearly possible, and entails the existence of God and the truth of evolution. That proposition is (1): and I said (1) was possible. I wasn’t arguing that (1) was true, but only using it show that the existence of God was compatible with the theory of evolution.

    So the person who hates actually reading Plantinga Ken, is you. You like quoting people out of context and ignoring what they actually say.

    Now many of those Christian scientists might agree with your concept of a god as a lawmaker. But that is quite different – that does not interfere with their science. They and I do science in the same way, whatever our ideological/philosophical grounds. But being forced to deny the well understood unplanned, unintended, unguided nature of evolutionary processes is creating a conflict between religion and science.

    First, this is clearly contradictory, if someone believes that God is a law giver and that the laws of nature are Gods laws then they do not by definition hold that evolution is unguided or uintended or unplanned by God do they? Its only if you interpret this word “unguided” to mean what theologians call “special acts” of God, ones that go beyond creating, sustaining and governing by laws of nature that you can claim that Christian scientists don’t accept “guided evolution” but that was not how Plantinga defined the term in the passage you quoted he defined unguided as being unplanned and unintended. The person who said this was commenting on your distorted presentation of Plantinga not what he actually said

    Second, this you say Plantinga said that it was true that God guided evolution, but as I have pointed out he is clear that in this book he is not saying its true. I gave the quotes above.

    Ken once again you have misrepresented or misunderstand the philosophical work you are reviewing and appear to have either not carefully read it or read with poor understanding. The sensible thing is to accept that this is not your field, you misunderstood the logic of the argument and advance your knowledge. But simply asserting the distortion over and over is not really honest.

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  29. No, in this argument premise two involves the atheist offering counter arguments. You didn’t.

    Actually, I did.
    I showed your position to be laughable.
    It’s genuinely childish what you believe.

    First, you made a serious of statements which are actually true, various phenomena in the world, planetary orbits, snow flakes etc are compatible with Gods existence…

    Who?
    Assertions will get you nowhere.
    It doesn’t work.

    “First, you made a serious of statements which are actually true, various phenomena in the world, planetary orbits, snow flakes etc are compatible with Megapixies existence…”

    “First, you made a serious of statements which are actually true, various phenomena in the world, planetary orbits, snow flakes etc are compatible with Sweaty Magic Football socks existence…”

    “First, you made a serious of statements which are actually true, various phenomena in the world, planetary orbits, snow flakes etc are compatible with Pink Invisible Unicorn’s existence…”

    It was dumb the first time you tried. It’s still dumb now.

    Then you said “giggle” and called something a “bag of stupid”

    Matthew?
    Focus.
    This is the internet.
    It’s not possible for me to laugh at you in the face physically.
    So I didn’t “say” giggle. I just giggled. That was me poking fun at your stupid logic. Do you understand now?

    I don’t blush because (a) its true and (b) the distinction between showing that one argument against a thesis is unsound and showing the thesis itself is true is not a trival one nor is it nit picking.

    It stupid is what it is. You should be ashamed of supporting this nonsense. Only an idiot is going to find it convincing.

    Plantinga does not argue that evolution is in fact guided by God. He argues that evolutionary theory is compatible with theism

    It’s compatible with magic too. Idle mumbo jumbo.

    Lets’ open the big bag of stupid again.

    …something that is not intended or planned by God, or whether God did ultimately plan and intend it. And on this latter issue Kenneth Miller does not agree with you. It is not part of evolutionary science to claim that God did not intend or plan the process, and it’s not part of the scientific consensus. Nor is there compelling evidence that this is the case. The claim that there is or is not compelling evidence for Gods existence is what people study in Philosophy of Religion a field in which Plantinga not Miller or you is the expert.
    All your showing Ken is that you once again do not understand the position’s you are talking about.

    Oh joy. Oh sweet, sweet joy.

    “…something that is not intended or planned by Santa, or whether Santa did ultimately plan and intend it.(…) And on this latter issue Kenneth Miller does not agree with you. It is not part of evolutionary science to claim that Santa did not intend or plan the process, and it’s not part of the scientific consensus. Nor is there compelling evidence that this is the case. The claim that there is or is not compelling evidence for Santa’s existence is what people study in Philosophy of Religion a field in which Plantinga not Miller or you is the expert.
    All your showing Ken is that you once again do not understand the position’s you are talking about.”
    :)

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  30. Matt – you admit that Plantinga concludes “naturalism and evolutionary theory can’t be both rationally accepted.” Well good. lets hope you don’t retreat from that. The question is why does Plantinga conclude that? Why do you think he does? After all you claim “But that’s not the same as arguing that God guided evolution. “

    My point is that in the body of his presentation Plantinga does exactly that – and you know that because you quoted him.

    He makes clear what he means by guided and unguided by saying, for example,
    “God could have caused the right mutations to arise at the right time. He could have preserved populations from perils of various sorts, and so on. And in this way, by orchestrating the course of
    evolution
    , he could have ensured that there come to be creatures of the kind he intends.

    And “the claim that evolution and Darwinism are unguided or I’ll take that to include being unplanned and unintended. Now he is referring to the scientific concept of evolution there – although he attempts to marginalise it to “a large number of contemporary scientists and philosophers who write on this topic.”

    Matt I read all this as his argument for why he claims that there is a conflict between science (especially in the area of evolutionary science) and naturalism/atheism. You disagree.

    What then do you see as the justification for his conclusion? Surely not the belief in a god as a lawmaker? Surely not? There is no logic in that. There lies madness of the Lord Monckton variety (he thinks scientists should require a certificate of belief in a god before they can practice).

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  31. Bugger , I have got to try to read to the end of your lengthy comments Matt. I went and missed this one first time around:
    “The claim that there is or is not compelling evidence for Santa’s existence is what people study in Philosophy of Religion “

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  32. Great minds, or is it an indication of senility on my part?

    The ID proponents just loved Plantinga’s book and decided to celbrate Darwin Day by also posting on it (as I did). They have 2 posts – both by Jay Richards:

    “A Bit Unprepossessing”: Plantinga on the Logic of Dawkins’s Blind Watchmaker

    and
    Plantinga on Where the Conflict Really Lies

    Oh, did I say – he really loved the book. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I wonder why?

    Enjoy

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  33. Matt: I have long ago stopped reading Cedric’s drivel. I usually put a cut and paste stock response to him (ie. Cedric when you address these issues rationally I will make a response”,) and then he posts another long post which I also don’t bother to read. I would suggest you adopt the same attitude. I read a few of his drivel-posts a few months ago and have ignored them since.

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  34. Unfortunately, Max, Matt seems to have fled the discussion so he won’t get your message.

    I notice a pattern in his behaviour – I had just asked a question which I don;t think he wants to answer. I asked why Plantinga concluded that science (particularly evolutionary science) is not compatible with naturalism/atheism?

    Matt is denying that it is because Plantinga claims that, in contrast to what scientists understand, evolution is “guided.” But Matt won’t give an alternative reason for this conclusion.

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  35. Pingback: Was Darwin Wrong? — Sebuah Refleksi Bagi Manusia Beragama « kopipakegula

  36. Evolution through natural selection has its flaws. I mean if an organ develops slowly, then it must have been useless at some point and would have been eliminated. So the organ must have developed very quickly.

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