Friday, March 16, 2012

On "Where the Conflict Really Lies" (Pt. 10)

[Series explanation and index here.]

Chapter 7

"I’ve argued that science doesn’t conflict with Christian belief: can we go further, and say science offers positive support for it?"1
This chapter goes over fine-tuning arguments for theism. In contemporary physics, there are some numbers which need to be close to what they are, otherwise our universe would not support stars, heavier elements, and life. It's a mystery why these numbers are the way they are, and for every mystery there's an argument for theism waiting to be made.
"The basic idea is that such fine-tuning is not at all surprising or improbable on theism: God presumably would want there to be life, and indeed intelligent life with which (whom) to communicate and share love."2
And a basic objection is that God wouldn't need to create a universe which requires fine-tuning (and is fine-tuned) to have a universe which supports life. I suppose one could argue that God chose to make a universe that requires fine-tuning so that 20th and early 21st century humans would be puzzled by it and some would consider it evidence of theism. That's a lot of trouble to set up a weak argument available to relatively few people. Physicists might even solve the fine-tuning puzzle this century.

Chapter 8

Intelligent Design

Speaking of solved puzzles, the amazing diversity and complexity of life once posed a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to naturalism. Since Darwin, Mendel, and lots of 20th century work on biochemistry, that obstacle is pretty much history.

Yet Plantinga again drags out Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box as if it's a legitimate challenge to contemporary biology. The sort of derision Behe gets (like the kind I'm giving here) is taken as evidence that scientists don't have serious answers for Behe and they're just culturally opposed to intelligent design.

Design as a Basic Belief

For the sake of argument, Plantinga considers the possibility that design arguments like Behe's all fail to make their point. Is there still a place for talking about biological design? Yes, he says, because we still have a tendency to simply look at things and form a belief that they are designed without needing an argument to that effect.

Even if evolutionary theory provides a way for, say, the human eye to evolve naturally, it could still be the case that God had a hand in its evolution and God designed our cognitive faculties to perceive design in the human eye. Design discourse, as Plantinga calls it, could be warranted even if design arguments aren't sound.

Chapter 8 is supposed to be about the positive support science offers theism, but it relies on fringe criticism and then a shift back to the defensive stance of earlier chapters. On the other hand, this chapter looks fantastic next to a talk I previously covered.

1. Plantinga, A. (2011). Where the conflict really lies: Science, religion, and naturalism [Kindle Edition]. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 193.
2. Ibid. p. 199.

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