Yes, the media does deliberately misrepresent and demonise creationists

media religion science

If by “creationism” we all mean the belief that evolution is false (and probably a lie from Satan) and that the Universe is almost certainly less than ten thousand years old, then I’m not a creationist. I do not have the dire issues with evolution that creationism has, and I think that creationists tend to have a wildly false understanding of the history of the universe.

But the enemy of my enemy is not my friend. The way the secular media here in New Zealand has treated creationists recently is unspeakably dishonest and wrong. In my home town of Kawerau, the following letter was recently distributed to mailboxes:

Are you a racist?

Evolution teaches “change over time.” The more something has changed, the more it has evolved.

Kids are taught in school that man evolved (changed) from a chimp. So I ask you who changed the most from a black chimp with black hair and brown eyes? A black man with black hair and brown eyes? Or a white man with blond hair and blue eyes?

Are you a racist? You are if you believe in evolution!

drdino.com, creationresearch.net bibleblievers.com, cuttingedge.org.

OK, you can see what the author is trying to say. According to evolution, humans evolved from chimps. Yes I know, he just failed evolution 101, but just follow the argument, see where it goes. Since evolution is change, the author says, the more different you are from a chimp (i.e. the more you have changed), the more evolved you are. Since – simply in terms of eye, skin and hair colour – black people are more like chimps than white people, if you believe in evolution you must say that black people are less evolved than white people, and that’s racist. So if you believe in evolution, you’re racist. The argument is supposed to be a noble one: Racism is bad, so you should give up evolution, because it implies racism. So racism is bad and evolution is bad. The argument goes like this:

1) If evolution is true, then black people are less evolved than white people
2) If black people are less evolved than white people then yay racism.
3) But actually, boo racism, and you should all know it.
4) So evolution is not true.

Just setting the argument out as clearly as this drastically improves it, and yet it’s still arguably the worst argument against evolution I’ve ever seen. In fact it doesn’t even argue against the truth of evolution, it just claims that anyone who believes in evolution is racist. The fact is, having the same hair, eye or skin colour as any other species of animal simply isn’t relevant in terms of a person’s value. Racism only occurs when people are de-valued based on their ethnicity. So there is no reason for someone who believes in evolution to be racist – that is, to regard black people as having less value than white people – on the grounds that they are similar in some respects to another species. The bizarre argument used here would imply that a baby born with four arms is more evolved (since it is less like a chimp than I am), and hence an evolutionist should value that child more highly than anyone else. But this just isn’t the basis on which we attribute value (unless we’re already racist apart from belief in evolution), and as such, the argument is a hopeless flop.

To make matters worse, the letter is just begging to be misconstrued. Clearly the whole point of the argument is that evolution is a bad thing to believe because racism is bad, and evolution is somehow racist. But if a reader is unscrupulous enough, they may well say “Hmmmm, what have we here? The author says that black people have the same eye colour (or hair or skin colour) as chimps. True or not, it’s racist! Creationism is racist!” You’d hope that any intelligent and honest reader would steer clear of that sort of tactic, but you should always assume the worst. It’s bound to happen. I don’t see how anyone distributing this letter could possibly think that anyone would be persuaded by it to reject belief in evolution. That should be the end of it: It’s a lame scare tactic that misunderstands evolution and doesn’t interact with evidence at any level.

But that’s not the end of it. According to a story by John Weeks at the New Zealand Herald, “Racist pamphlets horrified a top fashion model when she checked her mailbox last week.” Really? “Racist” pamphlets? Interesting. And which pamphlets would those be? You guessed it. Remember how I said that, regrettably, you have to assume the worst of some people? Here’s why. Although nothing in the story explains precisely why, the claim made throughout the story is that these pamphlets themselves are advocating racism. We are told, “It appeared the material had been downloaded from fanatical creationist websites.” “Fanatical” here means (I think) that they accept creationism and use strange arguments to defend their view.

Presumably to garner more by way of a reaction to the letters – and of course to generate more to say in the Herald in such a way as to link the letters to the alleged racism of the author, the letter was taken to the Race Relations Commissioner:

People who received the pamphlet should “rip it up and bin it,” said Vicki Hall, a spokeswoman for Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres. “The commission’s position is that the pamphlet is clearly offensive. However, there is no law that prevents someone from publishing it.”

To make matters even worse, the article quotes an employee of the Literature Board of Review saying that they do not deal with “hate speech.” No context was supplied, so we don’t actually know that this woman called this letter “hate speech,” but the connection has been made, and that’s enough.

And for good measure, the story closes by comparing this pamphlet to literature distributed by groups with neo-nazi sympathies such as “Right Wing Resistance”:

Racist pamphlets were distributed sporadically across New Zealand. Last August, the Right Wing Resistance group distributed pamphlets labelled “Stop The Asian Invasion” in Marlborough. Similar leaflets were found in Christchurch and Hawke’s Bay. Reports of creationist pamphlet drops were more unusual.

Reading this left me nearly speechless. A creationist group claims that if you believe in evolution then you must end up saying that black people are less evolved than white people, which seems racist. And racism is bad – and this is supposed to scare you away from believing in evolution. It’s a terrible argument in my view, but to compare this to a group that is anti-immigration and actually is racist is to willfully distort what a dislike religious minority is saying for no other apparent purpose than demonising them.

John Weeks at the New Zealand Herald should be deeply ashamed of himself for this. He’s not, rest assured of that. But he should be. Creationism isn’t true. But this response to it is worse than simply untrue. It’s dishonest in the utmost. I wanted to draw attention to this not because I sympathise with the beliefs of people who write pamphlets like this, but because I want us all to have a consciousness of the fact that creationists, right or wrong, are deliberately misrepresented.

Glenn Peoples

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{ 253 comments… add one }
  • Ken October 3, 2012, 8:46 pm

    Cornell, just mopping up a few of the scraps – really the only points i could see worth discussing.

    You are “asserting . . . that the mind has no assurance of the validity of corporeality”. Oh yeah, on what basis – logical possibility again?. And you don’t act as if you believe that at all.

    “You are being asked to demonstrate the existence of the physical world and you are trying to use the physical world (cf: look at the planes and the boats) to demonstrate it.” Not true – I pointed out you use planes and boats and computers. I didn’t say “look”. Think about Marx’s Feurbach theses – something along the lines that up till now philosophers have only attempted to describe the world, but the point is to change it. (Don’t rely on my quote – look it up, maybe google it. It’s a very powerful statement and if you don’t understand it’s meaning you can’t understand a scientific philosophy). To know reality you must interact with reality – not just look at it or abstractly think about it. Therein lies the significance of Marx’s thesis. This is what science does and you admit it is extremely successful. The proof of the pudding is in the eating – another important philosophical principle.

    You could not live if you refused to make the reasonable inference that reality exists and attempted to deny that because you didn’t have a water-tight deduction. The very fact that you participate in a discussion, use computers, and whatever else you do attests to the fact you do make that inference and are quite happy with it. As I said, the “prove reality exists” debate is a naive trick performed by first year philosophy students (well they did 50 years ago – it looks like nothing changes). Most grow out of it. And anyone who uses it demonstrates they don’t understand the nature of scientific inference or scientific knowledge.

    “I don’t know any philosopher in academia that is a naturalist and a Theist at the same time. It really makes no sense.” Yes, another reason to keep well clear of undefined words with confusing and multiple connotations. Do you know any scientists? Are you aware that many scientists are religious believers, mostly Hindu, but quite a lot of Christians? Yet they have no problem with evolutionary science as described by Dawkins in your quote (which I think you would say is “naturalist” – I don’t). The science doesn’t include any gods, goblins, or whatever – because there just isn’t the evidence or necessity. It’s got nothing to do with religious orientation. They don’t feel the need to include their gods or demons in the way that Plantinga insists. And they don’t see that as a threat to their beliefs, as far as I am aware, because they are still protected by logical possibility despite no evidence. Certainly I have never insisted that all my beliefs, however irrelevant, be included in any scientific hypothesis I have formulated. Unless, of course, there was good evidence to do so. It would be childishly unscientific to do that.

    I think it’s fair to say that this is…

  • Ken October 3, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Bugger, chopped if at the knees again:

    I think it’s fair to say that this is yet another indication of what Einstein thought. He said he thought scientists made lousy philosophers and it appears we have before us today a whole host of scientists just lining up [especially Non-Theist ones] to prove Einstein correct. Ah, the naive science-philosophy conflict. Often precipitated when a scientists makes a philosophical claim – but in this case it’s asserted when a philosopher of religion (Plantinga) makes a scientific claim – that variability and selection in evolution is somehow guided by his god or something just like it. No evidence in support (plenty against) but his concept of his philosophy is that it gives him the right to dictate to science – bugger the requirement for evidence. Poor old Einstein, he’s always being quoted out of context.

    I have had a long interest in the philosophy of science and was aware from my undergraduate days that philosophy was by no means uniform. This was clear when our professor gave his potted version of the philosophy of science which contrasted with my reading. There is clearly philosophy and “philosophy” and in my view and experience the religious variety belongs to the latter. That is where most of the challenge to science and scientific epistemology comes from. They are the people (but not the only ones) most in love with the concept of “naturalism” – purely as a way to discredit their ideological enemies. Scientists just get on with investigating reality and helping humanity. And the good philosophers keep well away from such confusing and misleading concepts or, like Boudry, at least challenge the naive way they get used – by theist and non-theist philosophers alike.

  • Glenn October 3, 2012, 9:07 pm

    “Not true – I pointed out you use planes and boats and computers.”

    Ken, this doesn’t even begin to address Cornell’s question. Not even in the least. What if Cornell is wrong about the physical world existing? What if you’re the only person that even exists. You really – really – are missing it.

  • Glenn October 3, 2012, 9:19 pm

    “No, Glenn, you misrepresent me (the old problem with our inaccurate cognitive facilities).”

    That’s not true. Several times now I have represented you this way. Until now you have accepted my representation of you, and you gave your reason for not having quoted him already: “Sorry, Glenn, I can’t quote Plantinga for you tonight – I won’t have access to my library for a day or so. Family and other commitments – you know.”

    Now, you deny that you ever said this. And yet you – in the same comment – quote the very thing you now say I am falsely attributing to you: “But if the bar for rational belief is lowered to mere logical possibility, and the demand for positive evidence dropped, then no holds are barred. Evolution (or gravity, plate tectonics, lightning, for that matter) could as well be directed by space aliens, Zeus or the flying spaghetti monster.”

    Note what the reviewer attributed to Plantinga: That he is lowering the bar for rational belief to mere logical possibility. But this is a misrepresentation. Plantinga never says that if a belief is merely logically possible then it’s rational. None of his arguments even work that way – not a single one of them.

    I hope you’re not trying to wriggle out of your endorsement, Ken.

    And then this! “Marteen was pointing out the consequences of relying on logical possibility alone – which I think Plantinga does (until you provide a contrary example which do far you have refused).”

    OK, so you do indeed say that Plantinga relies on logical possibility alone in order for a belief to be rational. And don’t play games – it’s not up to me to reproduce all of Plantinga’s work to prove that he never says or does this. You need to show that he does. You have never done this.

    And now you back away – saying well OK he never says that… But I think he presupposes it (or that appears to be the new version of your claim). OK then Ken, the burden is still yours. Show how his claims logical imply that logical possibility is all that’s required for a belief to be rational. Show that you really do understand Plantinga’s argument, and that this is the way it works (or that this is what he must ultimately rely on).

    I’ll wait.

  • Ken October 3, 2012, 10:37 pm

    Glenn – you are joking to make the claim that my quoted comment “doesn’t even begin to address” when it is in fact the beginning of several paragraphs addressing Cornell’s use of first year student tricks. And why do you feel the need to intervene on his behalf? He will learn more by doing his own dirty work.

    Now Glenn, I said I wasn’t surprised at how you manipulated and misrepresented my comments and quote from Marteen’s review. You are so blatant as to start your bolding from the quote after the “if” rather than before as it suites your misrepresentation better. Again the old problem of failures in the cognitive faculties, eh? Or is it something more conscious.

    I believe that Plantinga does rely purely on logical possibility. Sure he makes this reliance deniable – the common theology trick – but given the strength of his conclusions and his complete lack of evidence for his attempt to claim “divine” guidance in variation and selection, that is the only conclusion I can draw. Now, if you believe otherwise provide the justification. Tell me where Plantinga provides evidence for a claim which he makes about the science (but actually conflicts with what the practitioners of that science know).

    It’s a simple request you can easily satisfy if you are honest in your claims. If you aren’t honest you’ll continue to attempt diversion and confusion by misrepresenting me. By claiming that I was making the naive assertion that Plantinga believes that simple logical possibility is sufficient to establish an important scientific theory or body of knowledge. I have said clearly I don’t think Plantinga believes or asserts that at all – his use of the deniability clauses shows that. Just that this is, despite his denial, what he is actually doing by coming to such strong conclusions in the absence of evidence. Again, perhaps he could blame his faulty cognitive faculties. But it’s a simple matter – just point me to the evidence you claim he uses.

    I repeat, Glenn, that if you are honest you will describe the evidence you claim Plantinga relies on, and perhaps that will clear up a misunderstanding on my part. If you are dishonest you will continue to confuse the matter, continue to distort and misrepresent and avoid searching for any evidence Plantinga has hidden in his text.

    I have fulfilled the childish demand you put on me for quotes. Your behaviour now will identify where you stand and that will either lead me to revise my beliefs about Plantinga’s claims or confirm me in my current beliefs. I don’t mind either way. But I will draw my conclusions – no more mucking around.

    However, obviously I won’t hold my breath – nor will I waste any sleep on the matter. I am off to bed and will check tomorrow to see if you have found the missing evidence.

  • Glenn October 3, 2012, 11:40 pm

    “Now Glenn, I said I wasn’t surprised at how you manipulated and misrepresented my comments and quote from Marteen’s review.”

    Again – nope. So let’s just instead see your evidence, which you, in your last post, have now tried to explain. Great! This is what I was hoping you would do. This, presumably, is your attempt to show that you do understand Plantinga’s argument. Let’s see if it justifies the claim that poor old Plantinga (even unbeknownst to him!) really does treat mere logical possibility as enough in order for a belief to be rational. So what have we got here:

    “given the strength of his conclusions and his complete lack of evidence for his attempt to claim “divine” guidance in variation and selection, that is the only conclusion I can draw.”

    Nope, not good enough. That’s not evidence at all, and it doesn’t even show that you know what Plantinga’s argument is. You will need to be specific. Show where he draws on logical possibility – and most importantly, show the role that it plays in his argument. You don’t get to just sneer, I’m afraid. Out with it, let’s see the evidence. If I recall, you haven’t actually read the book in question (or have you?). If you haven’t, then clearly you can’t yet talk about anyone’s lack of evidence.

    If I am “honest”? If you are honest you will simply provide the clear basis for your claim about Plantinga relying on logical possibility alone. It’s a simple claim – you make it, so just support it. That’s all. If you’re dishonest (to borrow your line) you’ll kee pretending that you have no moral responsibility to do so or that really it’s up to me to unpack Plantinga’s work for you in order to prove he negative claim that he doesn’t commit to the silly view you have attributed to him, in spite of the fact that it is your claim we are discussing, and I am just sitting here waiting for some evidence for it. Just a smidgeon. It’s not up to me to do any of that work when it’s not my claim. Show that you understand Plantinga’s argument, and that it relies on the mistakes you say it does.

    Until some evidence is forthcoming, I do note the irony: You (incorrectly) say that Plantinga’s view requires that mere logical possibility is enough for a belief to be rational, and yet this belief of yours is not supported by any evidence (or none that you want to reveal anyway), and is merely logically possible!

  • Zia October 4, 2012, 2:33 am

    Ken, my advice would be to drop the whole reductio/FSM business. It is childish, and it is poor philosphy. As Cornell and I have shown, they don’t get you any traction. You yourself stated that a position must be supported by good philosophy and reason. To counter Plantinga’s EAAN you should probably first read his recent formulation first. (Is it okay if I link the paper Glenn?)

    http://philosophy.nd.edu/people/all/profiles/plantinga-alvin/documents/CONTENTANDNATURALSELECTION.pdf

  • Zia October 4, 2012, 2:38 am

    Ken, I urge you to look at Plantinga’s actual formulation of the EAAN, that way you, Glenn and Cornell won’t be talking past one another:

    http://philosophy.nd.edu/people/all/profiles/plantinga-alvin/documents/CONTENTANDNATURALSELECTION.pdf

  • Philip October 4, 2012, 7:16 am

    “But if the bar for rational belief is lowered to mere logical possibility,”

    This is one of the worst misrrepresentations of Plantinga that I have seen. I’m just commenting in order to subscribe to this thread, as I want to see the attempt to back this up. It’s going to be painful, I suspect. But we’ll see. Make it good, Ken!

  • Ken October 4, 2012, 7:49 am

    OK Glenn – you have confirmed my own conclusions that Plantinga actually doesn’t have any evidence (that either you or I can find) for his strong conclusions. And so consequentially his claims that evolution must be guided are unwarranted. They rely only on his arguments from logically possibilities. The “clear basis” for my conclusion – the quote you want – is the whole book itself. It is evidence that Plantinga provides no empirical evidence – and because he doesn’t the basis must be the whole book. (If he did provide evidence it would be easy to isolate the quote and prove my conclusion wrong). I assume you have the book, you haven’t been able to find any credible basis, empirical evidence for Plantiga’s claim that variation and selection is guided (at least one that he doesn’t provide deniability for).

    Pity, the scientist in me hoped that you could find evidence – I am always willing to learn and adjust my thinking and there is always a feeling of progress when I identify a mistake on my part. But I do admit to some satisfaction that my own reading of the book and understanding of Plantinga’s arguments prove to be correct – at least when subjected to critique from a declared disciple if Plantinga.

    Philip, you have entered late and are obviously not aware of the preceding discussion but I welcome any evidence that you can produce from the book to support Plantinga’s conclusions – apart from deniable logical possibility.

  • Zia October 4, 2012, 10:03 am

    Plantinga actually has a forthcoming paper titled “Content and Natural Selection,” where he presents a recent formulation of his EAAN and defends it. It is 34 pages long and provides a very good basis for the debate (concerning the compatibility of Naturalism and Evolution). It can be viewed through the University of Notre Dame’s philosophy page (People -> Alvin Plantinga).

    I encourage the interlocutors in this comment thread to check it out.

  • Ken October 4, 2012, 10:32 am

    Zia, I can’t understand the usefulness of hunting out a new paper. Does this paper have the missing evidence which would provide legitimate premises for Plantinga’s logic and strong conclusions?

    I would think given the public nature of the original debate with Dennett and everyone’s reliance on the current book if he hasn’t produced the evidence here it is unlikely to be in this next paper.

    Tell me if I am wrong but, given my interests and priorities, I don’t see the point of frantically searching through his publications to find evidence he doesn’t appear to have. After all there are a huge number of research papers that do provide the evidence for our current understanding of evolutionary mechanisms and I don’t think any of them support Plantinga’s apparent assumptions. (I say “apparent” because he will do things like quote Behe, then deny Behe, but in effect still rely on Behe.And his emotional commitment to Behe, above all other researchers, was obvious in his response to Dennett’s criticism of Behe and his comment on Behe’s standing among biological researchers – and indeed in his own department).

    The politicians call that deniability.

  • Zia October 4, 2012, 10:41 am

    The paper is about his EAAN, not about theistic evolution or Behe. He presents and defends his claim that naturalism and evolution are logically incompatible, kind of like a square circle or a married bachelor. If he is successful in showing that the two are logically contradictory, then he does not need experimental data. No amount of empirical evidence is required to say that a square circle cannot exist.

  • Ken October 4, 2012, 11:52 am

    OK, Zia, so nothing in this new paper to support his premises. I won’t bother reading it then – there is no point.

    Your squares and circles are logical tricks, dishonest ones. Given the empirical evidence no amount of logical trickery can buttress Plantinga’s claim that evolution is guided – the evidence is that it is not guided (in the way Plantinga argues – although there is evidence that some evolutionary mechanisms are not completely random). That is your basic problem and you confront that with empirical evidence, not circular logic.

    A lot of this trickery also centres around what is meant by “naturalism” – a very unuseful word which in many cases is applied incorrectly to science and understood incorrectly by commenters on science. Even by some official science organisations and otherwise good philosophers of science. There has been an unfortunate political opportunism arising in US science and philosophy as a result of creationist political attacks on science. Personally my advice is keep well away from the word – it is usually evidence of deception or political opportunism.

    Plantinga is not attacking “naturalism,” he is attacking evolutionary science and he does so by inventing a guided evolution for which he cannot produce any evidence. Of course he will fool some lay theists and philosophers of religion (even some sympathetic but non-theist philosophers like Nagel) but he is not going to fool any evolutionary scientists

  • Zia October 4, 2012, 12:18 pm

    “OK, Zia, so nothing in this new paper to support his premises. I won’t bother reading it then – there is no point.”

    “Your squares and circles are logical tricks, dishonest ones.”

    “Plantinga is not attacking “naturalism,” he is attacking evolutionary science…”

    Therein lies your problem. You are arguing against Plantinga’s EAAN based on one line from a review. That’s equivalent to a creationist attacking evolution without even reading a biology textbook. And explain to me how “squares and circles” are logical trickery. All I am saying is that a contradication cannot ever be true, like a married bachelor. That is Logic 101, the Law of Non-Contradiction. How is that a dishonest? And Plantinga’s EAAN is not attacking evolutionary science. Just read the paper. He is using evolutionary theory to argue not against methodological naturalism, which is an assumption of science, but rather he is attacking metaphysical naturalism. Emphasis on metaphysical. As in the philosophical worldview. Though I am now convinced that simply asking you to read and understand your opponent’s argument before debating is too much.

  • Glenn October 4, 2012, 12:20 pm

    So basically Ken, you will not show that you understand Plantinga’s arguments and that they depend on logical possibility alone. You brought nothing but a vague accusation, and when challenged you refuse to back it up. Doesn’t sound like there IS a scientist in you. Thanks for playing.

  • Ken October 4, 2012, 1:01 pm

    Zia, you know very well my arguments against Plantinga are not based on “one line in a review.” That assertion is clearly dishonest and an attempt to avoid the real issues. I expect more.

    Are you equating Plantinga to the “creationist attacking evolution without even reading a biology book.?” Sounds like you could be as his arguments do not have biological or any other empirical premises (especially as he traps himself with deniability when he tries to use questionable sources).

    Is Plantinga arguing for guided mutation and selection? Is he not critiquing random unguided mutation? Did he not quote Dawkins as a source in what he condemns? Is not Dawkins’ description of the evolutionary process what we mean by evolutionary science? Is Dawkins’ description in any basic way different to how evolution is described in recent books by Jerry Coyne (an atheist) or Ken Miller (a Catholic) – both evolutionary scientists?

    Methodological materialism is definitely not an assumption of science – despite what some politicians and philosophers (probably a minority) claim. In my whole career I never, ever, introduced such an assumption into my research – and neither did any of my colleagues. You have been badly misinformed. (If you disagree – let’s discuss it. Might give me a chance to get some definitions straight and explain to you how scientific research actually operates).

    Plantinga is welcome to attack anyone’s philosophy or ideology (as we have a right to attack his ideology and philosophy – but not the science done by those people. Only when such ideologically motivated people attempt to introduce their ideological beliefs or claims into their scientific theory should they be criticised. (Have you any evidence to indicate this occurs). Scientists are sensitive about that because there are too many examples where ideological intrusion has occurred (in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s’ China) and there are similar current attempts from the ID Wedge people, big business interests attacking scientific knowledge in areas like climate change, tobacco industry, etc.

    Zia, it’s simple enough to state the reasons you support Plantinga. And especially to identify anything for me other than logical possibility or motivated logic from a bad premise. Perhaps you should identify the premises he uses and what you think of them.

    There is absolutely no need to make childish assertions that your discussion partner has not read the document when they clearly have. After all I am the only one referring to specific claims in the book – no-one else does. No-one here attempts to justify his claim of guided evolution. One person referred to his claim that unguided evolution could not produce intelligence – and then backed away. He clearly had not understood the science.

    I see such unwarranted assertions as a sign of weakness or laziness on your part.

    Come on Zia. I have asked pacific questions here – perhaps you could answer them honestly. I have also asked you to look at Plantinga’s premises (not his logic) – tell me which ones you think are empirically supported and which not. I have given you specific…

  • Ken October 4, 2012, 1:05 pm

    Chopped off again:

    I see such unwarranted assertions as a sign of weakness or laziness on your part.

    Come on Zia. I have asked specific questions here – perhaps you could answer them honestly. I have also asked you to look at Plantinga’s premises (not his logic) – tell me which ones you think are empirically supported and which not. I have given you specific examples – you could consider them, tell me where you think I am wrong if you do. I welcome a spirited debate between people with different understandings as long as it is honest.

    None if these silly assertions about reading only one line of a review.

  • Glenn October 4, 2012, 5:53 pm

    Ken – of course it was “chopped off.” There’s a character limit, and a countdown to let you know when you’ve gone over it. When the counter reaches zero and your post stops getting longer as you type – that’s a message that it’s reached the limit and you need to be more succinct. I did that by design.

    Ken, since I strongly suspect that you’ve never even seen a copy of Plantinga’s book (while feeling free to criticise it and its contents as “childish,” Here’s a snippet I came across today while reading my copy. I didn’t even hunt this one out, just a random example. Notice how he uses logical possibility. Observe:

    Darwinian science could perhaps show that it is possible that the structures and traits in question have come to be by way of unguided evolution. It wouldn’t be necessary to show that they actually did come to be by way of unguided evolution; it would suffice to show that it could have happened that way. So the idea would be to show that the eye, for example, could have come to be by Darwinian evolution, unguided by the hand of deity (or other intelligent agents). Of course bare logical possibility is not enough: it is logically possible that the horse, say, sprang into being from the unicellular level (bacteria, perhaps) in one magnificent leap. What the Darwinian has to show, to provide a defeater, is an unguided evolutionary path which is not prohibitively improbable.

    This isn’t part of his argument for theism, as I said it’s just a random selection. But it might be educational for you to look at the role he sees for logical possibility. He points out that the very least that the proponent of any position must do is to show that a belief is possible – but not just logically possible, because that’s far too weak (are you listening?). Arguments for a position must also show that the position in question is probably (stated negatively – not prohibitively improbable). In other words, when it comes to showing that a theory is possible, Plantinga goes out of his way to explain why logical possibility isn’t enough.

    Worth remembering when engaging in future discussions about Plantinga’s views, perhaps. Better yet – read the book. 🙂

  • Ken October 4, 2012, 6:50 pm

    Glenn, our discussion was completed. I gave you plenty of opportunity and you could not produce any evidence supporting Pantinga’s premises. As promised, I have drawn my conclusions.

    And I repeat the advice I gave to Zia, it’s childish and dishonest to claim I have not read the book. I interpret you resorting to such smearing as a sign of weakness on your part (which is also supported by your inability to find any reliable empirical evidence in the book to warrant Plantinga’s strong conclusions).

    I am not prepared to waste any more time with you – specifically. I am just not prepared to tolerate such childishness any longer.

    But I still hold some hope that the other commenters may actually be a bit more mature in their approach so welcome their comments.

  • Glenn October 4, 2012, 7:22 pm

    Ken, you must be well aware of how dishonest that is. You made a claim about what Plantinga’s beliefs commit him to. I brought up a request for evidence, to see if you actually understood his argument at all. The stage was set. You then held out, didn’t respond, and then finally responded by reversing the burden of proof and requiring me to show that Plantinga’s argument does not imply what you say (perversely meaning that I would have to reproduce all of his arguments, showing that in no place does he do what you allege!) – all without offering up even one shred of evidence. Not one quote, not one summary of an argument of his – not even the slightest bit of evidence that you know what his arguments are. Literally nothing. This was your job to make your case in response to a modest request. You didn’t do it.

    And now in retrospect you try to insinuate that this shows that I came up short somehow! Indeed, you have drawn your conclusions. You drew them before reading Plantinga for yourself, and even when pressed for just a little bit of evidence, you have refused to offer any – and of course, your opinion remains unchanged. It now appears that you wee trolling me this whole time with no intention of offering anything informative other than vague accusations about some guy you’ve (apparently) never read.

    And to think that you brush it all off with the ad hominem attack that others are not “mature.” This is a good indicator of just how seriously readers should take your criticisms of the likes of Plantinga. You don’t take the time to read them, you certainly never show that you have understood them, and when someone asks you for evidence for your assessment of them. you demand that they do all the work and then insult them.

    (The truth is, elsewhere I have said much about Plantinga’s argument, describing and assessing them. I did a podcast series on it and have talked about it in a few blogs. But that’s not relevant, since this exchange has been about me asking you for some evidence for your claims about Plantinga, and you not providing any.)

  • Sandra October 4, 2012, 7:51 pm

    For what it’s worth – I noted the claim about Plantinga that Ken made (Glenn drew attention to this)

    I noted that Glenn specifically asked for Ken to back this up.

    I noted that Ken then made his whole case by saying: Well… I don’t understand how it couldn’t be true. Glenn – explain it for me.

    I noted that Glenn pointed out that it’s not his job to do this, because Ken had made a claim about Plantinga, and he needed to show that he knew what he was talking about.

    I then noted that Ken left the discussion, said that Glenn wasn’t mature and that was the end of it.

    And that’s how it played out. I’m amazed you were as patient as this Glenn. You were indeed being trolled.

  • Glenn October 4, 2012, 8:00 pm

    Sandra, I don’t think there’s any real doubt that pretty much anyone who reads this thread will see it unfolding that way. Even Ken.

  • Ken October 4, 2012, 8:24 pm

    Sandra, perhaps you should reveal your interests? It would be the honest thing to do.

    Simply, Glenn was asked the same question I have asked the rest. What is the empirical basis for Plantinga’s premises? Forget the logic he uses – if his starting point is wrong his conclusions will be too. He makes very strong conclusions – but why?

    Glenn was unable to provide his empirical bases. For example – on what basis does Plantinga rest his claim that evolution, the variation, mutations, and selection is guided? A fundamental basis to his argument which is not supported by evidence and disagrees with the science.

    I finally told Glenn if he refused I would draw my own conclusions. I have and there is no further discussion to be had with him.

    Sandra, perhaps you can answer my question? Or perhaps you will refuse to as well?

    Consider it a test.

  • Glenn October 4, 2012, 11:31 pm

    “Glenn was asked the same question I have asked the rest”

    The beginning of my deliberate interaction with you on this was when I brought up the way you characterised Plantinga’s approach and then asked you for evidence. I asked you to show that you understood Plantinga’s argument, and that he makes the mistake that you allege. It did not begin with you asking me about Plantinga. You asked me a question after I had already done this (remember, I told you to wait until you answered me, and you called me “childish” for saying this). Remember? So you were the one asked to provide the goods in support of your specific claim, and you never did.

    You made the very strong claim that Plantinga really makes mere logical possibility adequate to make a belief justified. I asked you a couple of times to back this up. In the meantime you tried to fend the question off by asking me your question. I asked you to wait until you had answered me before asking questions of me, and you never did. This is because I wanted to first see that you understood the argument before I bothered to engage your questions about how good it is. Then you declared the conversation over. What Sandra has observed and described is precisely what took place.

    Never mind peering into people’s motives (as you did with Sandra), this was a clear display of you running away when asked to defend your claim about Plantinga. Anyone can see what was said.

  • Cornell October 5, 2012, 11:19 am

    Ken says “I pointed out you use planes and boats and computers. I didn’t say “look”. Think about Marx’s Feurbach theses – something along the lines that up till now philosophers have only attempted to describe the world, but the point is to change it. (Don’t rely on my quote – look it up, maybe google it. It’s a very powerful statement and if you don’t understand it’s meaning you can’t understand a scientific philosophy). To know reality you must interact with reality – not just look at it or abstractly think about it. Therein lies the significance of Marx’s thesis. This is what science does and you admit it is extremely successful. The proof of the pudding is in the eating – another important philosophical principle.”

    I find it very ironic that a freshman philosophical question is giving you such a tough time, but then again you’ve been wrong about virtually everything, so let me deal with this utter sophistry.

    First off you beg the question that reality is not just an illusion and that the Marx’s thesis truly exists independently of your perception. Again you PRESUPPOSE the external world to be real with nothing but an assertion based on FAITH. You also PRESUPPOSE the reliability of the senses, and the fact that OTHER MINDS exist besides your own. So you are arguing in a circle, you are using the physical world whilst trying to prove the physical world exists. In undergraduate courses they go over this factor by citing “Plato’s Cave’ I guess you must have missed out on that.

    “Glenn was unable to provide his empirical bases. For example – on what basis does Plantinga rest his claim that evolution, the variation, mutations, and selection is guided? A fundamental basis to his argument which is not supported by evidence and disagrees with the science.”

    Where is the empirical or scientific evidence that states ‘evidence’ can only be empirical or scientific?

    Are you a logical positivist/verificationist? If so LOL for thinking you could actually make a serious objection to anything Plantinga says, in fact he is waaaay out of your league regarding epistemology as well as anything that deals with philosophy. I’m afraid that in the end you ultimately look like a naive first year philosophy student trying to take on the professor who has written over a hundred peer-reviewed articles in academia. It’s too bad Plantinga > you in just about everything.

    Sophistry doesn’t work very well in academia, and thank God for that.

  • Cornell October 5, 2012, 11:26 am

    ’emotional tangent’

    Disagreement does not entail ’emotional tangent’, It’s ok though as you are forgiven since you are not a logician.

    In fact now I’m starting to think if this is a case of the ‘pot calling the kettle black’ here as I now wonder if Ken has a bit of a guilty conscience.

    hmmm

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 11:35 am

    Cornell, I take it you either won’t, or can’t, answer my question? It’s surely very clear and simple. It was put to Glenn, who reneged – so he’s out. It was put to you Sandra and Zia – several times. I am waiting for a sensible reply. Final opportunity.

    I repeat it:
    “What is the empirical basis for Plantinga’s premises? Forget the logic he uses – if his starting point is wrong his conclusions will be too. He makes very strong conclusions – but why?”

    This is the final chance for you three.

    I will interpret refusal to answer, or attempt to answer, as confirmation of my own conclusions) which seems reasonable enough). Plantinga does not start with credible empirical science, and whatever attempts he makes to find a basis (as in mentioning Behe’s claims) are ruled out by his own deniability clauses. His conclusion are clearly wrong.

    I won’t bother with that question again (but may come up with a new one).

    And I won’t be diverted by silly first year philosophy student trick questions or emotional personal attack. Long past that one. Such behaviour is a sign of inability.

  • Cornell October 5, 2012, 11:42 am

    Ok so I take it that you concede to everything I said, that’s usually the case when I see responses like this

    “I will interpret refusal to answer, or attempt to answer, as confirmation of my own conclusions) which seems reasonable enough). Plantinga does not start with credible empirical science, and whatever attempts he makes to find a basis (as in mentioning Behe’s claims) are ruled out by his own deniability clauses. His conclusion are clearly wrong.

    I won’t bother with that question again (but may come up with a new one).

    And I won’t be diverted by silly first year philosophy student trick questions or emotional personal attack. Long past that one. Such behaviour is a sign of inability.”

    Now anyways, was your statement up above validated by credible empirical science? It seems like just a bunch of words put together, so I was just wondering if you have used the verification principle on that reply up above? If not, can I dismiss it as meaningless?

  • Cornell October 5, 2012, 11:44 am

    Keep in mind Ken, anything that you type to me from this point on HAS to be validated by empirical science in order for me to take it as relevant, if not then then BY YOUR LOGIC, I will not take it seriously.

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 12:00 pm

    OK Cornell, looks like you are also out. You can’t find any credible basis for the premises Plantinga uses. In effect you are accepting my conclusions, or at least not opposing them.

    Two down, two to go.

  • Cornell October 5, 2012, 12:02 pm

    “What is the empirical basis for Plantinga’s premises?”

    Begs the question that premises can only be true if they are empirical. So are you against anything a priori?

    “Forget the logic he uses”

    Begs the question that your logic is correct, I also heard that Plantinga holds to the law of non-contradiction, so if you want me to dismiss the law of non-contradiction then I will have to read this statement as ‘forget the logic he uses, and Don’t forget the logic that he uses’. This is clearly absurd.

    “his starting point is wrong his conclusions will be too.”

    Are you saying that all premises have to be true in order for an argument to be valid?

  • Cornell October 5, 2012, 12:22 pm

    “OK Cornell, looks like you are also out.”

    I don’t see any scientific empirical testing being used on this statement, so I will take it as irrelevant.

    “You can’t find any credible basis for the premises Plantinga uses. In effect you are accepting my conclusions, or at least not opposing them.”

    well if I throw out Plantinga’s logic,

    cf: You said ““Forget the logic he uses”

    I must also throw away the law of non-contradiction (LNC), so once I do that it appears that you are telling me that I am not accepting your conclusions, but I am accepting your conclusions at the same time; and that I couldn’t find a credible basis for the premises Plantinga uses, but yet at the same time I did find a credible basis for the premises Plantinga uses.

    So this seems absurd, I think I’ll stick with Plantinga’s logic over yours.
    ty

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 12:44 pm

    Cornell, I am not expecting you to give up your philosophical and ideological associations. Far from it. Just noting that you can’t or won’t provide any evidence or bsais for Plantinga’s premises. I draw my on conclusions and your inability gives me more confidence in those.

    So move on – my next question is do you accept Plantinga’s strong conclusion that there is a conflict between naturalism and science (because, he claims evolutionary science asserts evolution is guided) and, for the same reason, no conflict between theism and science?

    Simple enough – not asking for justifications. Won’t respond to diversions.

  • Cornell October 5, 2012, 1:16 pm

    “Cornell, I am not expecting you to give up your philosophical and ideological associations. Far from it. Just noting that you can’t or won’t provide any evidence or bsais for Plantinga’s premises. I draw my on conclusions and your inability gives me more confidence in those.”

    Well I don’t know about you, but I consider logic and reason to be a very important tool regarding knowledge. So I don’t have to accept your method on epistemology whilst we are on the topic of epistemology.

    Now what do you consider as ‘evidence’? If you are a positivist and/or verificationist, why the heck should I take any of your objections to Plantinga’s EAAN seriously?

    So I think it’s time you started answering some critical questions, do you think ‘evidence’ of X can only be obtained through scientific empirical methods, yes or no?

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 1:35 pm

    In avoidance again Cornell? Come on – I have excused you of all previous questions you had difficulty with. Just one simple clear one. A Yes or No suffices.

    Actually, open this up to Glenn, Sandra and Zia as well:

    Do you think Plantinga’s strong conclusions are correct? Do you think naturalism (or atheism, or lack of inclusion of your god in scientific theories) is incompatible with evolutionary science? In conflict with sience itself?

    I don’t expect a justification – just do you accept Plantinga’s conclusions or not?

    Yes or No is OK.

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 5:05 pm

    “This is the final chance for you three.”

    Ken – chances? Come on, if we were counting, you ran out long ago with your refusal to answer a simple question about the basis of your claim about Plantinga and logical possibility. I asked you this question before you asked me this question. I told you then, as I remind you again now, that before I am interested in looking at your question, you can do the courtesy of answering the prior question that was put to you. You already know that your doing so and showing good faith in this way is the prerequisite for me entertaining your further questions.

    If we’re talking about chances, I’ll give you one last chance (to borrow your turn of phrase). Then I will be interested in the later question you asked me. So here it is:

    You endorsed the claim that Plantinga’s approach “lowers the bar” for rational belief to mere logical possibility. You haven’t yet outlined his argument and shown where or how he does this. SInce you made this claim, I am again asking you to substantiate your claim by doing this.

    Show that you understand the argument you want to criticise. I am aware that since asking you this you have asked me a question and you are insisting that I pursue that. As I said before, I won’t do that until you answer this question – which I asked earlier. This matters because your claim (which you have not defended) makes it sound to me like you are misrepresenting someone who you have likely never read and don’t understand. If this proves to be the case then I won’t answer your later question. But if you do back your claim up as I have asked you to many times now, then I will consider that maybe you might be able to discuss Plantinga’s work in good faith.

    Most people would have given up waiting by now – but there it is.

    “this is the last chance for you”

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 5:31 pm

    So you refuse to answer Glenn?

    Strange.

    Problem is I suspect the other three are too timid to break ranks and also will refuse to answer.

    Doesn’t look good. Four local apologists won’t say if they agree with Plantinga’s conclusion or not! Perhaps they don’t support it? Perhaps they don’t understand it?

    By the way, the old question is now off the table as far as I am concerned. Everyone appears to be incapable of discovering a good basis for Plantiga’s premises. Which just really confirms my conclusion. I guess I can now have more confidence in that. Certainly not worth me wasting any more time on it.

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 5:43 pm

    Well, I tried. Ken, you’re refusing to answer and then saying that it’s the other guy refusing to answer.

    That does look like a concession – your accusation about Plantinga had no basis, and not the least bit honest. You’ve refused to offer any reasons for believing it.

    Now that you’ve shown that you won’t answer questions put to you, I guess you’re also saying that you don’t want me to listen to your questions. So I won’t. Entirely your choice, Ken. But as you say, “strange.”

  • Geoff October 5, 2012, 5:46 pm

    Some how I dont think this will stop Ken ..

  • Sandra October 5, 2012, 5:47 pm

    “So you refuse to answer Glenn?”

    Ken, you’re a disgrace. How old are you? This is not the way an honest, intelligent adult carries on. You know full well that you have been asked a question, and you know full well that you chose not to answer, instead returning with your own question. You were told that you needed to answer the question before you get to ask yours.

    And like a spoiled child, you stomp your feet, refuse to answer, and demand that everyone else play your game. And when they don’t, you play the game of accusing them of what you yourself have done – refusing to answer!

    What an anti-intellectual sham your rhetoric is.

  • Nathan October 5, 2012, 5:53 pm

    I want to engage but why bother? Ken’s trolling, and you all keep feeding him. He’s not genuinely interested in discussion, otherwise he would have backed up his claims long ago, the same ones asked for countless times.

    Instead he continues to insist on others providing the positive arguments for EAAN, so that he can attempt to refute those. That saves him the effort of actually reading Plantinga, which clearly he hasn’t.

    Ken is trolling and is acting disingenuously. But note: I don’t actually have to say why he is trolling. It’s actually up to Ken to say why he isn’t. 😉

  • Kenneth (not Ken) October 5, 2012, 6:06 pm

    “Which just really confirms my conclusion”

    Ken, this appears to be because you started with your conclusion. Nothing could ever disconfirm your conclusion. You’ve shown yourself to be deaf to challenges. You simply ignore them, and as a result, everything confirms your conclusion. No matter what. You have no interest in revising or updating your opinion. You’re already comfortable.

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 6:11 pm

    As I suspected. You guys are too timid – waiting for a lead from Glenn.

    What a pack of wimps.

    OK Sandra – how about you putting in your own words the question(s) Glenn keeps referring to. If you can I might’ve em be able to answer you. But I think you will have problems as Glenn’s questions keep changing. It’s a tactic he often seems to deploy when he is not confident or realises he can’t answer a question already on the table.

    So, there you go Sandra. A little job, test, for you. No cheating. Formulate the question yourself seeing you have obviously been conscientiously following my contribution to the discussion as your emotion shows.

    Come on now – should be simple. Don’t hold back. Show some initiative.

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 6:19 pm

    “OK Sandra – how about you putting in your own words the question(s) Glenn keeps referring to.”

    Ken, you’ve refused to answer that question when I ask it, but for some reason you want others to believe that you’ll suddenly change your mind and answer it when a different person asks it?

    As you said earlier, “Strange.” But hey, maybe it’s personal and you just don’t want to and questions when I ask them. 🙂 Maybe you’ll answer for someone else! Let’s find out (assuming Sandra is interested in playing this game with you).

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 6:24 pm

    Nathan, you want to engage. Good – as you can see the others have refused to.

    How about starting with either of the two questions I have asked:

    What is the basis for Plantinga’s premises in his argument. These are important as rubbish in rubbish out. You must know all about it because you use abbreviations.

    Or my last question – do you accept Plantinga’s strong conclusions:
    Do you think Plantinga’s strong conclusions are correct? Do you think naturalism (or atheism, or lack of inclusion of your god in scientific theories) is incompatible with evolutionary science? In conflict with science itself?

    Nathan, I have read Plantinga and listened to the original debate. I think the criticisms from Dennett and Boudry are valid. And I haven’t seen anything here yet to change my mind despite posing those important questions.

    Finally, you have referred to something happening “countless times.” You don’t say what this is and I suspect you don’t understand Glenn either. But if you do perhaps you can formulate a specific question and I will answer it.

    But formulate it yourself, no consultations. Otherwise, like Glenn, you won’t be credible.

  • Sandra October 5, 2012, 6:34 pm

    “OK Sandra – how about you putting in your own words the question(s) Glenn keeps referring to.”

    I don’t get it. You won’t answer the very same question when Glenn asks – you dodge, accuse, delay and avoid. But now you want me to ask? What strange game is this?

    OK Ken, here are my rules:

    1) I will ask this question only once.
    2) I will not accept any reversing of the burden of proof. If I ask for evidence for why you believe something, you must be the person to provide all the evidence for it.
    3) I will not accept the fact that you don’t understand something as evidence. It’s not.
    4) If, in your initial reply to the question, you don’t make a clear attempt to offer clear evidence for the specific claim that I am asking about, I will stop asking, and I will conclude that you can’t answer or don’t want to answer.

    Here is a statement: Ken, earlier in this thread it came to light that you endorse the view that Alvin Plantinga lowers the bar for rational belief to mere logical possibility. In other words, in order for a belief to be rationally held, it only needs to be logically possible. This is the claim you made. Even if you don’t say that Plantinga states this directly, you do say that his view really boils down to this (whether he knows it or not).

    Now, here is my question: Ken, can you please provide positive evidence that Plantinga’s arguments really do invoilve the above way of thinking? Very specifically, please show what Plantinga’s argument is (namely, state the premises and the conclusion), and show which part(s) involve the above assumptions about logical possibility and rationally held beliefs.

    I am only offering one chance. If you don’t answer, I won’t keep trying. Thanks Ken. Your offer to me suggests that you’re willing to answer. Let’s see.

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 6:37 pm

    Kenneth, yes I did start here with a provisional conclusion based on my reading of Plantinga and listening to the debate with Dennett. Part of my assessment was that Plantinga had no basis for his premises. For example he quoted Behe – an unreliable source on the subject. And then he acknowledged that perhaps he wasn’t reliable (his deniability). So I don’t think he had any basis for his assumption that evolutionary processes, variation and selection, are guided by his god. And I firmly believe he is absolutely wrong to claim guided evolution is consistent with the current understanding of evolutionary science.

    Now I posed the question here because when I pointed out Plantinga was relying on bad logic, poor premises, and logical possibility I was opposed. So naturally I asked what his arguments were based on then. I am happy to discuss the issue and perhaps learn something. Glenn doesn’t seem to know so has consistently avoided the issue for several days now. And everyone else seems too timid, or too ignorant, to give their view.

    I assure you that if Plantinga was correct and that evolutionary science does accept guided evolution, variation and selection, I am happy to go with the science. But my reading doesn’t support that, and no one here seems to believe that either. Otherwise, why the silence, timidity and diversion.?

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 6:40 pm

    “Now I posed the question here”

    Ken, you forgot to mention that your asked me that question only after I had asked you a question. Again, you chose to ask me this question instead of answering, continually avoiding my earlier question. You know this Ken. You’re just repeating your version of reality, that you are the one who didn’t get an answer and you’re the up-front honest one…. That’s gotten old, and I think everyone sees it.

    So it seems Sandra is willing to try to get an answer out of you. Let’s see if she has any better luck.

  • Kenneth (not Ken) October 5, 2012, 6:47 pm

    “and I think everyone sees it.”

    And that’s the thing, Glenn. Everyone does see it. Ken is the only one trying to paint his version of history, but what is going on here is transparently obvious to any reader. Ken can’t bac himself up, so he deflected your question by asking you a question in reply, and by repeating himself over and over he is trying to make this about why YOU didn’t answer HIM. But the reason is simple. It’s because you’re still waiting on his answer!

    Ken, you have no shame.

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Sandra, you have listened to Glenn’s misrepresentation, not my arguments. Let me put you straight. The paragraph I endorsed were from Maarten Boudry (because it resonated with my original feelings while reading Plantinga’s argumens) which is:

    “But if the bar for rational belief is lowered to mere logical possibility, and the demand for positive evidence dropped, then no holds are barred. Evolution (or gravity, plate tectonics, lightning, for that matter) could as well be directed by space aliens, Zeus or the flying spaghetti monster.”

    Dennett also pointed this out during the original debate with his “Superman” story. So I am in good company.

    Now notice Boudry’s use of the word “if” – you know, the one Glenn neglected in his bolding. Omit that and you change the meaning. What is being said is that without evidence, a good premise, nothing more than an argument that something is possible, then mere logical possibility opens up that can of worms. It is not saying Plantinga argued for basing strong conclusions on logical possibility alone – not at all.

    In something I wrote previously (I don’t think here) I said:

    “As for the logic – I think we all agree that using logical possibility as a premise does not produce a reliable conclusion. Plantinga says so himself in the book and as a qualified philosopher he surely would not argue against that. The question is, though, would he actually commit that fallacy? Would he come to a strong conclusion relying only on logical possibility?”

    Therein lies Glenn’s little game. He has accused me of saying that Plantinga argued that logical possibility was sufficient for him to come to strong conclusions. One never knows with Glenn, he keeps changing the story when in the avoidance mode, but clearly I wasn’t saying that. I was not saying Plantinga was justifying reliance on logical possibility – just that without any other evidence, good premises, etc., he was in fact making that mistake. Hence the importance of justifying the premises.

    I went on:

    “… that is what he has done. Hence the criticism from other philosophers. It’s also what Sober did. Sure Sober was clear about the logical possibility and also clear that one couldn’t make firm conclusions. He maintained deniability to the end with his conclusion that evolutionary science was not incompatible with theism. Plenty of deniability there.

    I thought it was a waste of time, just philosophical masturbation which should have been kept out of the public eye. Because no scientist was seriously saying the two were incompatible. (An evolutionary scientist arguing against theism or for atheism, or finding evolutionary science compatible with her atheism is of course not an example of the theoretical assertion Sober argued against).

    But Plantiga has gone a lot further than Sober to conclude, strongly, that evolutionary science is incompatible with “naturalism” – which in this case could mean just atheist belief or lack of inclusion of his god in the science of evolution. It appears to be the latter because he claims that evolution is guided and…

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 7:15 pm

    Continuing . . .

    I went on:

    “… that is what he has done. Hence the criticism from other philosophers. It’s also what Sober did. Sure Sober was clear about the logical possibility and also clear that one couldn’t make firm conclusions. He maintained deniability to the end with his conclusion that evolutionary science was not incompatible with theism. Plenty of deniability there.

    I thought it was a waste of time, just philosophical masturbation which should have been kept out of the public eye. Because no scientist was seriously saying the two were incompatible. (An evolutionary scientist arguing against theism or for atheism, or finding evolutionary science compatible with her atheism is of course not an example of the theoretical assertion Sober argued against).

    But Plantiga has gone a lot further than Sober to conclude, strongly, that evolutionary science is incompatible with “naturalism” – which in this case could mean just atheist belief or lack of inclusion of his god in the science of evolution. It appears to be the latter because he claims that evolution is guided and (wrongly) that is the scientific consensus”

    Now clearly, if Plantinga did use good premises, especially ones he didn’t provide with deniability like his reference to Behe, then he would not be relying on logical possibility and his conclusions could have been credible. I have made it clear that the key question is what is the premise based on. No one seems to have been able to answer that question, or they refuse to. Perhaps you guys don’t understand or don’t worry about such poor premises. But if you had been able to show he had reliable premises my view of his book would have changed. You couldn’t.

    Instead, the avoidance and attempted confusion just confirms me in my original assessment.

    OK Sandra, I think I have explained clearly where you are mistaken. You should have no excuse to continue with the distortions Glenn has promoted and I will not participate in a childish “you said – he said stoush”. That is why I refuse to discuss it any further with Glenn.

    However I am happy to further explain any scientific point you do not understand or accept. And I am prepared to consider your evidence if you support Plantinga’s claim that evolutionary processes are guided (but as that is so out of touch with the scientific understanding that will be hard).

    Sorry for the length – I am sure you understand the necessity considering Glenn’s promotion of confusion.

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 9:11 pm

    Still tweaking for the optimum limit. I’ve decided to settle on 4000 characters, which should make things a bit easier.

  • Sandra October 5, 2012, 9:31 pm

    OK Ken, this will be my last comment to you on the matter. Summary of facts: You said you agree with the review of Plantinga, which uses the reducto ad absurdum. This says that an argument must be wrong, because if it’s right, then absurd consequences follow. Maarten uses this approach, saying “if the bar for rational belief is lowered to mere logical possibility, and the demand for positive evidence dropped, then no holds are barred. Evolution (or gravity, plate tectonics, lightning, for that matter) could as well be directed by space aliens, Zeus or the flying spaghetti monster.” This is meant to show that Plantinga’s argument is flawed. This is a criticism only because Plantinga’s argument is deemed to to employ the assumption described, lowering the bar for rational belief to mere logical possibility.

    Glenn asked you for a quote from Plantinga where he says that the bar is this low. You replied that you don’t attribute this overt claim to Plantinga. Instead, you said: “Marteen was pointing out the consequences of relying on logical possibility alone – which I think Plantinga does.” So you do claim that Plantinga is guilty of the problematic method in question: Relying on logical possibility alone. Sure, the quote says “if” Plantinga does this, but you then confirmed it clearly: According to you, he does. Sure, he might not be aware of it and he may deny it, you say, but really this is what is going on in his arguments, according to you.

    Glenn understood you and represented you fairly, saying: “You do indeed say that Plantinga relies on logical possibility alone in order for a belief to be rational. And don’t play games – it’s not up to me to reproduce all of Plantinga’s work to prove that he never says or does this. You need to show that he does.”

    All clear. You stated that you attribute this method to Plantinga. Glenn said that you haven’t shown that he does this, and has been asking you to do so. Now, let’s turn to my question: “Ken, earlier in this thread it came to light that you endorse the view that Alvin Plantinga lowers the bar for rational belief to mere logical possibility. In other words, in order for a belief to be rationally held, it only needs to be logically possible. This is the claim you made. Even if you don’t say that Plantinga states this directly, you do say that his view really boils down to this (whether he knows it or not). Now, here is my question: Ken, can you please provide positive evidence that Plantinga’s arguments really do invoilve the above way of thinking? Very specifically, please show what Plantinga’s argument is (namely, state the premises and the conclusion), and show which part(s) involve the above assumptions about logical possibility and rationally held beliefs.”

    All clear so far. Then your latest reply: “Therein lies Glenn’s little game. He has accused me of saying that Plantinga argued that logical possibility was sufficient for him to come to strong conclusions.”

    Liar. Glenn represented you fairly.

    Glenn accepted that you were allowing that Plantinga may not overtly state this: “And now you back away – saying well OK he never says that… But I think he presupposes it (or that appears to be the new version of your claim). OK then Ken, the burden is still yours. Show how his claims logical imply that logical possibility is all that’s required for a belief to be rational.” Again, Glenn is right. You said that Plantinga’s method presupposes that logical possibility is enough. You defended saying this when challenged about it.

  • Sandra October 5, 2012, 9:31 pm

    One more thing: “It is not saying Plantinga argued for basing strong conclusions on logical possibility alone – not at all.” So what? As you know, I never attributed that claim to you. I never said that you have accused Plantinga of arguing that logical possibility alone is enough. What I attributed to you in my comment when i asked the question is: “In other words, in order for a belief to be rationally held, it only needs to be logically possible. This is the claim you made. Even if you don’t say that Plantinga states this directly, you do say that his view really boils down to this (whether he knows it or not).” There was no excuse for you to misrepresent my description of what you’ve said, and you certainly haven’t offered the evidence I requested.

    There’s no you said / he said stoush. You said it, you didn’t back it up. You have now lied about what you said, you’ve also lied about what Glenn said and what I said, and you’ve chosen again not to back up your claim when asked by a second person.

    This conversation is now concluded.

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 9:47 pm

    OK, now that that’s cleared up and the well is indeed empty when it comes to this particular claim about Plantinga….

    As I noted earlier, when it comes to an actual discussion of Plantinga’s EAAN and my assessment of it, I have done that elsewhere, here: http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/2008/episode-013-plantinga-and-presuppositional-apologetics-part-2/

    Interested parties are welcome to check it out.

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 10:08 pm

    Sandra, why do I feel the whole tone and style of your comments has changed and now strongly resembles Glenn? Even the slips with the pronouns. And the timing -strange. Don’t say I have wasted time on a sock puppet!

    Anyway, for whatever reason you also demonstrate that discussion with you is pointless.

    The facts remain that Plantingi has no credible basis, premises for his strong conclusions. At least no one here has found any. And the ones that I criticise (his use of Behe and incorrect claim that science accepts a guided evolution) none of you are prepared to discuss, let alone defend. Hardly surprising as defence is really impossible in these cases.

    So – given the lack of credible premises for Plantinga’s strong conclusions I believe and conclude he relies simply on logical possibility – something he acknowledges is not justifiable yet he still appears to resort to. With a good dose of deniability carefully recorded. The inability of this little group of disciples to find credible premises understandably confirms my suspicions. And shows the dangers of the theological deniability tactic.

    So I agree with the respectable and intelligent philosophers Dennett and Boudry on this.

    It is incredible to me that a group of self-professed intellectuals should be so timid, so unwilling to answer simple questions, to take a stand even in declaring acceptance of your heroe’s conclusions. What a pack of whimps!

    I must confess satisfaction that no-one could find a credible challenge to the conclusions I have made, or those of Dennett and Boudry. And the childish personal attacks really just reinforce that satisfaction because they demonstrate inability to mount a challenge. It has also been an interesting exercise psychologically, a strange one but it has confirmed some of what I have been reading about human nature.

    And what about Cornell and Zia – you guys seem to have whimped out big time. Why are you so timid?

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 10:20 pm

    Glenn, if you think things are clear now (and I do as my position is recorded) what about your side of the bargain. There are two outstanding questions.

    1: What are the credible premises, the evidence, Plantinga relies on for his strong conclusions (that evolutionary science and probably science in general is incompatible with, in conflict w ith naturalism? And what support is there for his claim (which becomes a premise) that evolutionary science understands the evolutionary processes to be guided?

    2: Do you accept his strong conclusions?

    The other disciples have Leo bern asked but somehow I don’t expect an answer from them, at least until you have pronounced. Whimps!

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 10:50 pm

    “Glenn, if you think things are clear now (and I do as my position is recorded) what about your side of the bargain. ”

    Ken, bargain? The deal was: You act in good faith and respond to my request for evidence in regard to your claim about Plantinga’s approach, and then I will see that it’s worth engaging your later question. I wanted to first see that you understood Plantinga’s argument, then I would be willing to discuss your stance on how good it is.

    But you never answered my straightforward question. So according to the “bargain,” exactly what do I owe you? Nothing, it seems. You decided not to engage and answer me. In a bargain, it’s supposed to be an exchange. But there wasn’t one.

    But as I said to everyone – I have already expounded Plantinga’s argument and offer my assessment of it elsewhere, and I have given you a link if you’d like to know more about it.

    The over-arching problem here, Ken – and the reason you weren’t able/willing to provide the evidence that I asked for, is that it appears that you don’t really understand the way Plantinga’s argument works. Logical possibility simply doesn’t play the role that you claim, and your questions about what Plantinga’s premises are is a bit strange if you already know what his argument looks like. The premises of the evolutionary argument against naturalism are not secret. You reject that argument, so presumably you know what the premises are, right? So here’s the situation we’re in now: I said that you should answer me before I answered your later question to me. You didn’t so it doesn’t seem like I should now be chasing your questions to answer them. However, I also realise that explaining the argument for you might – if you approach this in good faith, willing to listen – actually help your understanding of Plantinga and prevent or reduce future misrepresentation of his position. So even though you broke our “bargain” as you call it, here’s what I’m prepared to do:

    You want answers to your questions. The first one is about Plantinga’s premises. I’ll tell you what. Let’s cut the bravado, and I’d like you to be open to learning about Plantinga’s argument. You seem to think that Plantinga’s premises don’t support his conclusion. Alright Ken – If you’re prepared to outline in broad terms the premises of his evolutionary argument against naturalism – his main argument that you reject – please lay them out for me.

    If you do not know the premises of the argument – the one you reject – I’d like you to say so in your next comment. You might feel that these are “strong arm” tactics on my part, but I actually think this matters. I genuinely do want people to understand this better, and I think in your case this is probably the best way. I want to put you in the position of having to admit that you aren’t able to reproduce the premises of his argument. That way we can start out from a really honest position: You don’t know what his argument is, and any claim on your part that his premises are no good has been unjustified. Once this is confirmed (or if you do actually manage to lay the premises out), I promise to spell out the premises of the argument myself and state how strong I think they are and why. Given that you previously haven’t responded well to my request for evidence, I think this is more than fair on my part. Are you willing?

    As for the whole “Sandra has transformed into Glenn” thing… Do you think I’ve faked all of Sandra’s comments at this blog over the years? Many people in this thread have made more or less the same observations about your tactic. Or maybe everyone who commented this evening is really Glenn! I mean, just look at the timing, all within a couple of hours (they couldn’t possibly have replied then because they are subscribed to the thread and saw that further comments had been added)! Although temptation lurks, I resist calling you a liar (as Sandra did). I struggle at times to understand how you reach your conclusions about what is happening in these discussions, but often such things are the product of mindset. You see theology types in a certain light, and act accordingly, whether intentionally or not.

  • Ken October 5, 2012, 11:07 pm

    Bloody predictable, Glenn. Just the reaction I expected from you. This childish behaviour s just so typical.

    Your inability to answer simple questions shows your lack of confidence in Plantinga’s position. Even to the cowardice of being unable to endorse his conclusions.

    So, this does confirm me in my belief. You guys can’t produce any credible premise that Plantinga uses. Because there aren’t any. You refuse to even get into the ones I mention. Again part of the kickback from the theological deniability clauses. May work with the faithful but doesn’t fool the person familiar with the issues.

    Your inability to critique Dennett’s part of the debate or Boudry’s review is just another element confirming my conclusions.

    So, as I see it Plantinga dies not have any credible premises, he actually makes a completely dishonest claim when he asserts evolutionary science currently accepts guided processes, he does in fact have nothing except logical possibility to fall back on and the understandable deniability clause creates problems for his followers when his conclusions and arguments are challenged.

    Satisfies me.

    [edited for profanity – Glenn]

  • Glenn October 5, 2012, 11:17 pm

    Ken, in my last comment, I said that even though you were previously unwilling to answer me, and hence I said that I wasn’t going to chase your questions because I thought you were acting in bad faith – I would be prepared to take this further with you because I actually think your understanding of Plantinga would benefit. I genuinely tried to reach a position where this could be fruitful, in spite of what has happened so far in this thread (and as you know, I do believe that the problems between us in this thread have been because you were unwilling to show that you understand Plantinga’s argument, whether you accept that or not).

    You are asking about how I assess Plantinga’s argument, but I don’t think you understand the argument, so I simply asked you to either spell out the premises, or else admit that you don’t know what they are. That way everything would be out in the open – I would know how much you already knew, and then I could go through the premises with you and explain what they are and how strong I think they are, which is what you seem to want. But I need to know your starting point. I need to know whether you even know what Plantinga’s argument is first. This seemed like a reasonable request.

    I am sorry that you have responded in such a hostile manner, as I was genuinely saying look – I am prepared to do this but you’ve really got to be as up-front as possible because I don’t want to waste my words in answering you. I need to know in advance that this isn’t going to be just me sinking time into something that cannot end well. You have turned around and snarled at me for it. You don’t even appreciate that I was genuinely offering to help – even after all this! If you change your mind, you know where to find me. But I won’t simply answer those questions with no idea whether or not you even know what Plantinga’s argument is.

  • Sandra October 5, 2012, 11:54 pm

    Regarding the “liar” label – I just call it like I see it, Glenn.

    Sandra (whoops, I mean Glenn!)

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 8:52 am

    Glenn, there is no hostility on my part – just satisfaction. I gave you the only premises I could see and they were pathetic – to the extent he even deployed the old theological deniability trick – chopping himself off at the knees.

    But I know from experience the futility of attempting discussion with you and some other, not all, commenters here. The value is there – but only in the sense of confirming my suspicions. So at least I have that to thank you for. My understanding of Plantinga has increased. Not that this is important. He has no significance in the areas of science or philosophy of science which interest me.

    This discussion is completed – at least here.

    I am actually posting an article in the next few days related to Zia’s claim – important because he is so badly informed and because of the opportunist uses io the deception. I won’t mention Plantinga much but will actually argue for the truth of his superficial claim that science and naturalism are not consistent.

    You are of course welcome to make comments – you might even learn something from interaction in a more open environment.

    As they say – silver linings.

    By the way Zia, Sandra and Cornell – the “profanity” Glenn removed was a reference to my disappointment in the fear you guys have of actually expressing an opinion or answering a question without prior approval from Glenn. He is not as scary as you think – after all he can’t and won’t do the same – and censoring commenters seems to be the height of insecurity. People like this are usually shown eventually to have feet of clay.

    And, if you can find your spines you too are of course welcome to discuss this issue of “naturalism” and science at Open Parachute.

    Have a good life – remember to question everything you hear.

  • Cornell October 6, 2012, 9:14 am

    Ken, I hate to break this to you, but you are just a clown who promotes abject sophistry

    You can’t even put together a formal syllogism on what Plantinga is arguing for, because you haven’t read his book, don’t know his argument, you don’t know logic, you don’t know philosophy, you don’t know epistemology and you are a positivist/verificationist.

    You also use Dennett’s pathetic ‘superman’ analogy as if it does ANYTHING to the EAAN.

    Lastly you say I’m afraid ROFL, well my 9 year old cousin told me I was a afraid to debate him on which Marvel Avenger was the strongest. He said the Hulk and then told me I was afraid to argue for anyone better. I guess this discussion of yours is on the same page. The point is I don’t take an abject closed-minded layman’s claims seriously whilst discussing EPISTEMOLOGY, and that’s what this discussion is all about EPISTEMOLOGY.

    Anyways I look forward to refuting your nonsense and weak objections that will appear on your open parachute blog where village atheists think their opinions count.

    For me, this will be like shooting fish in a barrel, I’ll see you around (when I have time).

  • Cornell October 6, 2012, 9:15 am

    P.S

    I love showing up ignoramuses such as yourself, so I will enjoy my time spent on your blog.

    ty

  • Glenn October 6, 2012, 10:25 am

    ” I gave you the only premises I could see”

    Ken, that’s what I wanted to know. For the first time, you’ve actually stated how much of the argument you are familiar with. You actually did not produce a single premise of the evolutionary argument against naturalism, and they are not really that hard to see if you’ve read the argument. According to you, it seems, you just haven’t seen any of the premises of that argument. This is why the conversation has been so difficult here. You’ve been asking other people to give you your total understanding of an argument that you have never seen before, and yet you’ve been somewhat angrily going on about how bad that argument is and how it lacks support. See the problem?

    OK, so it looks like we’re starting at the ground floor. Here are the basic premises of the EAAN:

    1) Naturalism is the view that the physical universe is all there is; So it entails that there’s no God, and hence nobody had any intentions about why we’re here or what we’re here for.
    2) Evolution works when natural selection picks out mutations for survival (a very short crude summary, but one everyone should accept). Natural selection is the fundamental mechanism of evolution.
    3) On evolution, all parts of us, including our belief forming faculties, are a product of the above mechanism.
    4) Natural selection is not “concerned” (so to speak) about our beliefs, desires, preferences etc in any sense other than whether or not those things confer an adaptive (i.e. survival-based) advantage. So natural selection does not (for example) favour a particular belief forming mechanism or tendency in principle because it forms true beliefs, but rather because it forms (or tends to form) beliefs that confer an adaptive advantage (i.e. those beliefs tend to have survival value). We are assuming here that beliefs give rise to behaviour.
    5) But in fact there are more false beliefs than true beliefs that, in any given scenario, would confer an adaptive advantage.
    6) Prima facie, if there are many beliefs (actually a huge number) in a given scenario that would be good for survival, only one of which is true, then the chances that a survival-prone belief will be true is very low.
    7) On naturalism, recall, there is no God who created the world intending that we should engage in reason in the pursuit of truth.
    8) Hence on the combination of naturalism and evolution (as those two things are describe above, let’s call this combination NE), there is no reason to think that the probability of human belief forming structures being reliable in terms of having a tendency to form true beliefs is anything other than very low.
    9) But if 8) is the case, then belief in NE would give us a defeater for all of our beliefs.
    10) Obviously, belief in NE is a belief.
    11) Hence, if NE is true, then we have a defeater for our belief in NE.

    So you see, this is certainly not an argument against evolutionary science. It is an argument that if you’re a naturalist and an evolutionist, then that would give you a defeater for your belief in naturalism and evolution. Plantinga himself is an evolutionist, but not an evolutionist.

    So there you are, Ken. For the first time, you have seen the premises of Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism (or at least, my off the cuff rendition of them). Are there any premises here that you do not understand, before I go on to explain how I assess them? Please be up front about it – if you don’t understand some of these premises, now is the time to say so before I explain how strong I think they are.

    PS, your previous comment certainly was hostile, with its accusation of being “bloody predictable” as well as the cussing that fell outside of the blog policy and had to be edited. I want things to remain at the tone of the comment you are now reading.

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 10:42 am

    Look forward to your challenge Cornell. Enjoy an open discussion and I don’t censor comments on my blog.

    I will post a link here when it is up – probably tomorrow as traffic doesn’t really pick up untill Sunday PM.

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 10:44 am

    Glenn, too late – you are welcome to raise any issues on my blog but obviously open discussion here is impossible.

  • Glenn October 6, 2012, 10:53 am

    Ken, that’s your call. However I would just point out that you held out for a very long time with me. You made me wait a long time for a simple answer – and never gave it. That is how all the time between us was consumed, with me waiting. That is the sole reason open discussion here was so difficult. Now when – after all that – I decide to let that go, give up on getting an answer from you, and you admit that you don’t know all the premises of the argument so I spell them out for you, you say “too late”?

    OK, again it’s your call, but it’s only so “late” because you made me wait so long. That’s the only reason for delays. For what it is worth, however, I encourage you to read through the premises that I provided you with, so that in future you will actually know what Plantinga’s argument is before you attempt future criticisms of it. That way when someone else asks you whether you know how the argument works, you will be able to answer them (unlike here, where you couldn’t answer me, because as you finally admitted after much ado, you only knew one premise – and it wasn’t even a premise of his argument).

    PS “I will post a link here when it is up.” No, don’t do that. I have a clear policy on using my blog to generate traffic for yourself. This will be removed, as was your profanity. And if removing profanity counts as censorship, then yes, I censored your comment.

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 11:00 am

    OK – will deal with some of those “premises” you raise in separate blog posts (some are definitions rather that premises so are irrelevant). Only because they have more general interest in misinterpretation of the nature of science and of evolutionary science specifically. I dealt with #4 when Cornell raised it – it is very naive. But maybe worth a specific post on my blog. You are welcome to contribute to any resulting discussion.

  • Glenn October 6, 2012, 11:12 am

    OK Ken, so now that you actually found out what the argument is – after already presuming to know that it was weak, and after making me wait for you to show that you understand it, you’re heading off. Suit yourself. This could have been much shorter if you had simply replied to my very first question about this, days ago, by saying “Sorry Glenn, I can’t answer that. Truth is, I don’t even know what Plantinga’s argument is.” How much frustration that would have avoided. This is how discussions get ruined.

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 11:53 am

    Come on Glenn – buck up. Look on this as simply transferring the discussion to a new place. A chance for new people to participate (a chance to get through to new people?). A place where everyone can particpate.

    It’s not “heading off” – it’s opening up. The glass is half full, not half empty.

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Having looked at your list Glenn I have come to the conclusion you missed half of Plantinga’s argument – that science and religion have no conflict – that they are consistent. His attempt to make evolutionary selection guided was part of that. He also had an intricate argument which says – “random things are basically guided.” (I think Boudry described his argument here as being like doing brain surgery with an axe).

    My post tomorrow (“Naturalism and science are incompatible”) will deal with “naturalism” and why Zia’s claim that methodolical materialism is assumed by science is wrong. I think this is an important issue because there is a lot of misrepresentation on that issue by both theists and non-theists which needs countering.

    I think I will also do a post in the near future on the fallacy of your point #4. I did discuss this with Cornell a little. Its a very naive misinterpretation of evolutionary selection but worth countering because no doubt theology schools are teaching it like mad at the moment.

    I may also deal with the so-called “belief forming mechanism” – a hell of a lot is understood about cognitive psychology nowdays which Plantinga just seems completely anaware of.

    But I don’t see anything more in your list. Really the assumption of evolution by natural selection and #4 are the only premises. The rest in your list may be part of his arguments but, as I pointed out, his mistaken presumptions and introduction of logical possibility (even though deniable) leads to faulty conclusions. They are really not worth dealing with.

    So expect 2 or 3 posts in the near future.

  • Glenn October 6, 2012, 2:42 pm

    “Having looked at your list Glenn I have come to the conclusion you missed half of Plantinga’s argument – that science and religion have no conflict – that they are consistent.”

    Plantinga has multiple arguments. The argument that I spelled out is the evolutionary argument against naturalism that Cornell was talking about earlier. This argument concludes that belief in evolution combined with naturalism provides a defeater for all beliefs, including belief in naturalism and evolution. I didn’t leave out half the argument at all. What you are now referring to (the claim that “science and religion have no conflict,” as you put it) is the wider claim of his book, Where does the conflict lie? It’s not part of the EAAN (except insofar as the EAAN does offer support for the claim that naturalism and science are not really compatible).

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 3:05 pm

    Yes, sure, Glenn . My question have always been clear as referring to the whole book and specifically to guided evolution claims. And I have always clearly asked for premises, not definitions or examples of other steps in the arguments. The need for clear premises arose because if the assertion he was not relying just on logical possibilities.

    Anyway, it’s far too late to complain now.

  • Glenn October 6, 2012, 3:22 pm

    Ken, as I’ve already explained – you have been continually implying that Plantinga’s premises don’t support his conclusions. I kept asking you to show that you know what his premises were. You never did that, because as you now reveal, you were only aware of one claim that you took to be a premise.

    I’ve never offered an assessment of the book as a whole, because like you, I haven’t read the whole thing. But he does use the EAAN in this book, as he does elsewhere. I have only ever asked you to show that you understood the argument you were criticising, and you couldn’t. The argument that I have outlined for you is the argument that Cornell raised, the evolutionary argument against naturalism. And I did not leave half of that out.

    Now, if you think there’s another argument in that book in which the premises don’t support the conclusions… here we go again: Please set out the argument in question and identify its premises, and explain how they are supposed to support the conclusion, but fail to do so. It’s no good offering vague claims that an argument somewhere doesn’t work. What is the argument? Spell it out and show what’s wrong with it. If all you are saying is that you’ve heard what Plantinga’s conclusion in the book is, and you don’t agree with it, then fine. But that is not a criticism.

    See, this is always what I will do. If you say that an argument has a problem, I will ask you to show that you understand the argument in question, and then to show specifically what that problem is. Letting me know that you don’t know how Plantinga’s conclusions are supported fails to do this. The remedy to this is simple: Read the book and find out (others have no requirement to do this for you). Then if you have problems with the way he defends his conclusions, say why. But continuing to make vague comments about the failures of an argument that you can’t identify really doesn’t take us far.

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 4:35 pm

    Glenn, I thought this whole stoush started because of my reference to Boudry’s review of the book. You think it was over something else – EAAN – which it never was for me. Cornell used that term, abbreviations, in answer to my request for premises (which I thought was weird at the time – how could a collection of meaningless letters be regarded as a premise?) I realise that was only part of the book but I was unaware you had not read the whole book or followed the whole debate.

    And I did continually make clear that his claim of guided evolution (and acceptance of that by science) was central. It is a premise he has no evidence for. You wouldn’t be saying “here we go again” if you had paid attention.

    Anyway, I am not sure it’s at all worth dealing with his claims for guided evolution, except to mention that his claim that it is accepted by science is away with the birds. And I am not sure that anyone is really interested in the mental gymnastics behind his conversion of “random” to “guided.” So I wasn’t planning to discuss that in my articles at this stage. We will see how it develops.

    Yes, you have outlined an “argument” instead of the stating the premises I asked for (necessary to show he doesn’t rely completely on logical possibility). But the whole argument was irrelevant as we all agreed that his use of logical possibility could not make his conclusions as strong as he did. The key thing was the evidence he started with. That can be identified and validated or found faulty.

  • Glenn October 6, 2012, 5:11 pm

    “I am not sure it’s at all worth dealing with his claims for guided evolution” Right, right, never actually read that argument. Just assume that it’s bad because you don’t know how it works. I’ve understood the method, I think. I’ve set out one of the arguments in this book. You say that there’s another argument that has a problem. But you haven’t read it. But it’s got a problem.

    “Yes, you have outlined an “argument” instead of the stating the premises I asked for (necessary to show he doesn’t rely completely on logical possibility).”

    Actually, the argument that I set out clearly does not rely on logical possibility alone. Are you sure you understood it? For example, part of the argument depends on the fact that natural selection works the way evolutionary biology says it does. Are you really willing to say that the premises of the argument I outlined rely on nothing more than logical possibility? Come now…. Surely acceptance of the mechanism of natural selection relies on more than that. Another part of the argument explains why there are more false beliefs that would be adaptive in given situations than true beliefs. Again, this doesn’t rely on logical possibility alone. And as for the other premises – it’s up to you to make the case that they depend on logical possibility alone. If you’re going to claim that, nobody else has the job of disproving it until you make your argument clear.

    You know, I think maybe it’s best we leave it there – write your blog entry and discuss it with those who are interested over there.

  • Ken October 6, 2012, 7:27 pm

    Re guided evolution, Glenn, I am just saying the argument doesn’t resonate with most people. Maybe some theistic evolutionists, but not others. So I am not sure it’s worth spending my time on it. Unless there is some mechanism for guidance being proposed which I understand he isn’t beyond logical possibility. And, as I say, his arguments converting “random” to “guided” probably resonate with very few people. So possibly not important. We will see.

    Please, enough of your converting things like my estimation of likely importance to mean I haven’t read it. My evaluation is based on what I have read. And I certainly don’t think anyone here can duplicate Plantinga’s specific arguments on this so will probably ignore it. I just don’t think (at this stage) Plantinga’s arguments will be picked up.

    I know you don’t like my claim Plantinga relies on logical possibility. But if he relies on empirical facts or evidence it should be simple to identify it. Yes he has started with a reasonable depiction of natural selection but I can’t see anything to support his claim that science accepts guided mutation, variation and selection. I am sure it doesn’t. He has done some logical manipulation to arrive at that idea. And no one here has been able to identify any credible premise for this assertion of his. So I conclude my original perception is correct.

    The question of selection and reliable belief I discussed with Cornell – you obviously weren’t paying attention. Plantinga’s description of adaption for survival and what that means for intelligence or belief is just incredibly naive. But I think it fools some people and its worth outlining his mistakes. I will do do in a blog article. It doesn’t matter how much he avoids logical possibility or how good his logic is after that he arrives at the wrong conclusion because his premise is radically wrong. It really has all the appearances of deliberately inventing the premise so he would get the conclusion he desired.

    When you talk about belief being adaptive you illustrate you just don’t understand cognitive psychology. Perhaps I will have to deal with that.

    Nowhere am I saying that any of the premises rely on logical possibility. That would mean they weren’t premises. Logical possibility is what is being used when he doesn’t have evidence, reliable premises. Without this you always open up the argument to include the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Joe Blogs down the road.

    Can I repeat – you presented a list of steps in his argument – only two of these were premises. Premises don’t depend on logical possibility.

    You sound like you won’t join the discussion. Cornell has already said he will and it is open. It would be childish to ignore it.

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 2:01 am

    “Nowhere am I saying that any of the premises rely on logical possibility. That would mean they weren’t premises. Logical possibility is what is being used when he doesn’t have evidence, reliable premises. Without this you always open up the argument to include the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Joe Blogs down the road.”

    One can easily argue that the Flying Speghetti Monster (FSM) is logically incoherent

    Please list the properties of the FSM

    ty

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 2:03 am

    Remember analogies to God need to be analogous, I notice alot of village atheists have a tough time grasping this, so I’ll be awaiting the properties or attributes of the FSM.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 8:22 am

    Cornell, one can always argue anything with logic and postulating logical incoherence of a Flying Spaghetti Monster is one reason for all the schisms, dogmatic debate and birth of so many sects or denominations in that religion – as in all religions.

    You just point to an extra weakness with reliance on logical possibility. Not only are there an infinite number of possibilities which, to be honest, have to be included and considered. But part of the consideration is having to deal with the infinite possibilities within each logical possibility – whether we call it a god, goblin, demon, alien, human or Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    You have just compounded an already infinite to em with reliance on logical possibility.

    Much better to base one arguments on reliable validated premises.

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 8:26 am

    You can’t argue anything for logic, if it has a logical incoherences (ie: square circles) then the claim should be rejected.

    David Hume warned everyone about making arguments from analogies, as they MUST be analogous in order to be considered potent.

    Now, what are the properties of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 8:35 am

    One person’s logical incoherence is another persons article of faith. You identify a huge problem in these “other ways of knowing.” Ignoring reality, not starting with good premises, is like constructing a building with no foundations. And philosophers of religion tend to be pretty blind to mistakes in thire construction methods thereafter.

    If you want to know anything about the Flying Spaghetti Monster ask your questions of one of her adherents – not me I don’t accept any gods or religions or their analogies.

    Given up on Plantinga, have we?

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 8:55 am

    Faith has nothing to do with whether or not square circles are logically incoherent. It is a metaphysical absurdity to hold to this position.

    “Ignoring reality, not starting with good premises, is like constructing a building with no foundations. And philosophers of religion tend to be pretty blind to mistakes in thire construction methods thereafter.”

    Seems to sound verificationist/positivist epistemology, as they rely on axioms that do not validate themselves.

    Philosophers of religion, (or at least the one’s I read) whether atheist or theist do indeed follow logic. Whether it be deductive or inductive, if their argument is invalid they will change it. If the argument isn’t sound they will either attempt to bolster the premises, or ditch the argument all together.

    I would really, really love to see you put Plantinga’s argument in THE FORMAL syllogism that it is meant to be in. It’s real easy to do this, even IF you have been bluffing this whole time you could easily find it online.

    So please list the premises of the argument and show me which premise you disagree with.

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 8:58 am

    Here, I’ll make it easy, my friend Wade has done some great work on this:

    Let:
    N stands for Naturalism,
    E for Evolution
    R stands for “our cognitive faculties are Reliable,”

    Pr(R|N&E) refers to the “Probability of R given N and E,” i.e. the “Probability that (our cognitive faculties are Reliable given Naturalism and Evolution),” part of the argument is this.

    1.If Pr(R|N&E) is low or inscrutable, then N&E serves as a defeater for R.
    2.Pr(R|N&E) is low or inscrutable.
    3.Therefore, N&E serves as a defeater for R.

    If N&E serves as a defeater for “our cognitive faculties are reliable,” it also produces a defeater for any belief produced by our cognitive faculties, including the conjunction of naturalism and evolution, and since all of one’s beliefs is subject to defeat here, one can’t use any of one’s beliefs to defeat the defeater. We would therefore have an undefeated defeater for R.

    Which Premise do you deny?

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 9:19 am

    Now we have a debate!!

    And this statement by Ken ‘Given up on Plantinga, have we?’

    is false, as I would never give up on Plantinga considering he is one of the top epistemologists of our time. I also find his argument to be compelling, and I think it’s funny how it all started with this:

    “Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance. But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? ” – Charles Darwin

    Darwin to William Graham July 3rd 1881

    ——–

    Anyways I’m glad we can get the ball rolling now, this is what I’ve been asking for awhile now. (Hence the ‘list which premise you disagree with’ that I’ve been constantly stating).

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 10:58 am

    For those looking for some justification for the premises of the evolutionary argument against naturalism (EAAN), see here.

  • Glenn October 7, 2012, 1:16 pm

    “Re guided evolution, Glenn, I am just saying the argument doesn’t resonate with most people.”

    Ken, if what you have said so far is correct, you have not read the book, and you do not actually know what the argument you refer to here is. There’s a remedy for this: Read the book and read that argument. It’s not unfair of me to assume that you have not read it when from memory you admit to never having read the book.

    Happy to let you have the last say between us on Plantinga’s arguments. As I said, have fun blogging on it and generating discussion.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 1:28 pm

    Cornell, what a waste of space. It’s not hard to see that our cognitive facilities are often unreliable. One doesn’t have to get into probability arguments (with all the necesity to assume true randomness) there is not shortage of evidence. For example optical illusions. Or look at relgions – how many thousands are there? No more than one can be right and logically we would expect none to be.

    On the other hand look at our scientific knowledge. The knowledge acquisition process there uses our cognitive processes but because of the interaction with reality, use of evidence, testing and validation against reality we don’t have thousands of theories about atoms, for example. We generally have strong consenus in most fields – and the changes in knowledge represent improvements as we discover more.

    So in some situations our cognitive processess are abysmally bad (religions) and others extremely good (science). So good you have no problem climbing on a plane, using a computer, communicating on the internet, etc.

    Oh, I forgot – you aren’t even sure you, or reality, exists- are you?

    Perhaps you should try modifying yourt “probability” equations to be more realistic.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 1:39 pm

    My article on science and naturalism (Naturalism and science are incompatible – Naturalism and science are incompatible) is now on line. While I am not dealing with Plantinga’s arguments here I am take issue with use of the term “naturalism” – which is central to his argument. A term I don’t like and wish people would avoid.
    Naturalism and science are incompatible

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 1:43 pm

    Looks like Glenn doesn’t want any commenters looking at this article so is preventing the link from working.

    Never mind Just click my name – it will take you to my blog (Open Parachute) – the article is the top post.

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 1:46 pm

    “It’s not hard to see that our cognitive facilities are often unreliable. One doesn’t have to get into probability arguments (with all the necesity to assume true randomness) there is not shortage of evidence. For example optical illusions. Or look at relgions – how many thousands are there? No more than one can be right and logically we would expect none to be.”

    Well conceding to the premise will not help your case here LOL.

    So what your saying is religions entail false beliefs, and since religion has been around for a very long time. Evolution given naturalism ISN’T concerned about TRUTH, as when we look in the past we see that humanity has lived through many, many false beliefs. So you just gave support to one premise.

    Let’s go into Semantic Epiphenomenalism

    Take Wade’s summary here:

    “Why think Pr(R|N&E) is low or inscrutable? Ordinarily one might think that true beliefs help us survive. That certainly is the case if beliefs are causally relevant to behavior (e.g. I believe this plant is poisonous so I won’t eat it). But if the truth of our beliefs has no such causal relevance, then such a factor will be invisible to natural selection. The content of our beliefs could be anything, true or not, and it wouldn’t affect our behavior. Whether the belief’s content is 2 + 2 = 4, 2 + 2 = 67, or 2 + 2 = 4096 would make no difference to how we behave. If that is true, then Pr(R|N&E) is low.”

    Ken you just admitted to the fact that true beliefs aren’t necessary for survival. You just admitted to all the religions that would entail having false beliefs. You bring up scientific advancements, ( I’m guessing ‘intution’ is your source here?) but this just begs the question that YOU KNOW what an advancement looks like. We can apply this to technology, which is not really geared towards truth, but rather towards that which provides an advantage in some way. Perhaps our cognition only leads us to believe it is so? Tool usage would provide an advantage to be passed on, true, but this does not entail that we would have proper perception in other areas.

    Now let’s take Wade’s Probability Thesis and put it into deductive format:

    We can summarize the argument for the Probability Thesis as follows:

    1.Naturalism entails that either SE or SPE is true, i.e. Pr(SE or SPE|N) = 1.
    2.Pr(RA|N&E&SE) is low or at best inscrutable
    3.Pr(RA|N&E&SPE) is low or at best inscrutable
    4.If (1), (2), and (3), then Pr(RA|N&E) is low/inscrutable.
    5.If Pr(RA|N&E) is low/inscrutable, then Pr(R|N&E) is low/inscrutable.
    6.Therefore, Pr(RA|N&E) is low/inscrutable (follows from 1-4).

    7.Therefore, Pr(R|N&E) is low/inscrutable (follows from 5 and 6).
    The argument is deductively valid; the conclusion follows logically and necessarily from the premises. The premises are plausibly true, and so we have reason to accept the Probability Thesis.

    So right now you are in a worse place than before and I haven’t even gotten into N&E and Semantic Pseudo-Epiphenomenalism or the defeater thesis. So it’s not looking good for you so far Ken.

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 1:46 pm

    It’s not hard to see that our cognitive facilities are often unreliable.

    You’re underestimating the kind of “unreliability” of cognitive faculties the evolutionary argument against naturalism (EAAN) talks about. This is the kind of unreliability where one really can’t rely on it, e.g. pretty much any belief that came from an unreliable mind it should not be believed without independent reason to believe it, akin to a random belief generator. That is, if you knew your cognitive faculties had this kind of unreliability, you’d have to abandon knowledge on the shape of the earth, your own age, what your college textbook said, what happened yesterday, etc. because you couldn’t rely on your cognitive faculties to deliver true beliefs on such topics.

  • Glenn October 7, 2012, 1:48 pm

    Ken, no need for the paranoia. Links work perfectly normally here. I didn’t do anything to it.

    Here is an example of a link when correctly entered, and it works the same for everyone.

    But as you already know, I have previously said this:

    PS “I will post a link here when it is up.” No, don’t do that. I have a clear policy on using my blog to generate traffic for yourself. This will be removed, as was your profanity. And if removing profanity counts as censorship, then yes, I censored your comment.

    Whatever went wrong with the first link was some error on your part. But as I have already asked you, don’t do it again. You have agreed to abide by this, and you have agreed (see the blog policy that you accepted) that your link may be removed.

    I do note this: “While I am not dealing with Plantinga’s arguments here”

    This is to be expected, because you don’t know what his argument is. That notwithstanding, I hope your discussion is profitable and that you are willing over there to hear what your interlocutors have to say.

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 1:55 pm

    I agree Wade, I think Ken just conceded to the EAAN argument as being successful as he doesn’t the power of the defeater thesis. I also agree with Glenn on the fact that Ken doesn’t understand Plantinga’s argument and I just hope Ken would take some time and read the book.

    This is possibly one of the worst statements for Ken to say in this situation:

    “It’s not hard to see that our cognitive facilities are often unreliable.”

    This is no different than throwing up the white flag.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 2:19 pm

    Wade and Cornell – you show a real naivity about cognitive processes and a clear misunderstanding of the way our knowledge systems really work – particularly in science. I will deal with this particular cock-up in Plantinga’s book in a future article on my blog.

    But the fact that both of you are communicating through the internet and on computers (even if you are communicating rubbish) shows pretty convincingly that humans have been able to use a cogntive system (so unreliable as to produce thousands of relgions) in a way to produce very reliable knowledge – through interaction with reality, use of evidence, testing and validation against reality.

    We don’t live in a vacuum – although Cornell is not sure that we live – or if a vacuum exists, anyway.

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 2:39 pm

    I agree Wade, I think Ken just conceded to the EAAN argument as being successful as he doesn’t the power of the defeater thesis.

    I think Ken just does not quite understand the argument, hence my saying, “That is, if you knew your cognitive faculties had this kind of unreliability, you’d have to abandon knowledge on the shape of the earth, your own age, what your college textbook said, what happened yesterday, etc. because you couldn’t rely on your cognitive faculties to deliver true beliefs on such topics.” Ken seems to think science can help us triumph over our cognitive imperfections, but if you can’t even rely on your cognitive faculties to know the outcome of a scientific experiment, the existence of science can’t save you. This is about cognitive faculties that you really can’t rely on.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 2:46 pm

    You don’t believe that Wade – the very fact you are communicating with me shows that you have confidence in the science that has produced your computer and the internet. Clearly human cognitive faculties are capable of producing a very good concept of reality when used the right way.
    Mid you it doesnt stop the interent being used to distribute rubbish.

    And, what about coming to the conclusion that you cognitive faculties have failed you when you read Plantinga’s book? Do you have any confidence that you really know what is in the book if your cognitive processes are so hopeless.

    The very fact that you participate in this discussion shows that you do actually believe that, at least in this siutation, you cognitive processes are giving you reliable information (even if not completely accurately).

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 2:53 pm

    Commenting more directly on the article:

    John Weeks at the New Zealand Herald should be deeply ashamed of himself for this. He’s not, rest assured of that. But he should be. Creationism isn’t true. But this response to it is worse than simply untrue. It’s dishonest in the utmost.

    I’m actually not sure it was dishonest. Don’t get me wrong; I believe the man presented highly inaccurate information (the letter clearly wasn’t racist) but it’s been my experience that human irrationality can be so great as to just not clearly see what is going on; I’ve seen this happening over and over again interacting with people on the Internet. I’m convinced that most straw men I’ve encountered are unintentional and are the result of irrationality, not malevolence.

    We live in a world where there are moral nihilists (moral nihilism says nothing is morally wrong) and atheists who would sooner believe there is nothing morally wrong with torturing infants just for fun than accept theism. I’m not kidding; even famed atheist Sam Harris recognizes this. On page 198 of “The Moral Landscape” Harris says, “I must say that it has been quite disconcerting to see the caricature of the overeducated, atheistic moral nihilist regularly appearing in my inbox and on the blogs.” On highly emotional issues like atheism versus theism and creationism versus evolution, human irrationality can be great indeed.

  • Glenn October 7, 2012, 2:56 pm

    If that truly was the case, Wade (and it’s never easy to tell), then Mr Weeks should be deeply embarrassed by his unspeakably poor skills at interpreting the world, his crippling partisanship, his hugely bungled misrepresentation of others and the shameful appearance of dishonesty that he has created. Especially in his profession.

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 3:03 pm

    Quoting Ken:

    You don’t believe that Wade – the very fact you are communicating with me shows that you have confidence in the science that has produced your computer and the internet.

    I don’t believe what? That our cognitive faculties are not reliable? Of course I don’t believe that! However, I do believe that on N&E (naturalism + evolution), the probability of R (our cognitive faculties being reliable) is low. If you want to know why one might believe that, see here, but here’s one reason mentioned in the link: Plantinga convincingly argues that naturalism implies semantic epiphenomenalism, where the semantic content of our belief (the belief that p for some proposition p, e.g. the belief that snow is white) is not causally relevant to our behavior; that semantic content is instead a useless byproduct, like smoke is to fire. If that’s true, our beliefs could be unrelated to the external world, as in dreams, and it wouldn’t matter as far as our behavior is concerned. If that’s true, then Pr(R|N&E) is low indeed.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Wade, so now you don’t believe Plantinga? You now think your cognitive processes are always reliable? That’s pretty arrogant isn’t it? Sure you don’t check now and then? I would if I were you. Helps lengthen you life.

    Looks like Plantinga creates problems for you guys with his concept of “naturalism.” Why not just accept the scientific understanding of evolution and leave his ideologues out of it. The rest of us do. “Naturalsm” is a red herring.

    As for Plantinga being “convincing” – I suspect that belief arises from well known problems with your cognitive processes.

    There is none so easy to convince as those who wish to be convinced.

    (Careful with including links – haven’t you made yourself familiar with the censorship policy around here? Or is that just for me?)

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 3:18 pm

    If that truly was the case, Wade (and it’s never easy to tell), then Mr Weeks should be deeply embarrassed by his unspeakably poor skills at interpreting the world, his crippling partisanship, his hugely bungled misrepresentation of others and the shameful appearance of dishonesty that he has created. Especially in his profession.

    Agreed, with the caveat that one can be highly rational in some areas (e.g. basic arithmetic) but be highly irrational in others (e.g. the highly emotionally charged topic of creation versus evolution). I’ve seen atheist philosopher Barbara Forrest present some pretty bad inaccuracies when she talks about the creation/evolution controversy, but I’m convinced that these too are the product of irrationality rather than malevolence.

    Sometimes the situation is almost comical. I remember reading Del Ratzsch’s book The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate where the author (not a creationist) noted “A very typical misconstrual comes from John W. Patterson, who overlooks Morris’s key distinction, consequently mistakes Morris’s position, then uses that mistaken position as grounds for making some rather nasty accusations about the character of creationists.” I actually laughed when I read that, because it was so true, and finally a non-creationist was realizing the insanity of it all. Such irrationality is ridiculously common among people who are supposed to represent the sober scientific mainstream. If you want another example of anti-creationist irrationality, Del Ratzsch wrote an excellent book review titled, How Not to Critique Intelligent DesignTheory. The fact that the book Ratzsch reviewed was published by Oxford University Press further illustrates how dreadful the situation is.

  • Cornell October 7, 2012, 3:18 pm

    “Wade, so now you don’t believe Plantinga? You now think your cognitive processes are always reliable? That’s pretty arrogant isn’t it? Sure you don’t check now and then? I would if I were you. Helps lengthen you life.”

    Plantinga’s argument is a Reductio ad absurdum…………….

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 3:24 pm

    Wade, so now you don’t believe Plantinga? You now think your cognitive processes are always reliable? That’s pretty arrogant isn’t it?

    It would be, if I adhered to that position (I don’t). Remember how I described “not reliable” in the context of the evolutionary argument against naturalism?

    Looks like Plantinga creates problems for you guys with his concept of “naturalism.” Why not just accept the scientific understanding of evolution and leave his ideologues out of it.

    I believe in evolution, as I think Plantinga does to. But both Plantinga and I see evolution as a serious threat to the rationality of naturalism. If you disagree, feel free to address the actual argument somewhere.

    (Careful with including links – haven’t you made yourself familiar with the censorship policy around here? Or is that just for me?)

    I wasn’t promoting my own blog here; maybe that helped.

  • Glenn October 7, 2012, 3:46 pm

    “I wasn’t promoting my own blog here; maybe that helped.” Quite right. I generally don’t discuss the rules, because I know that everyone who comments here has indicated that they have read and accept the blog policy. Concerns about how comments have been moderated can be sent privately.

    But the above distinction is the right one to make. A link that adds information or necessary background reading to a discussion that’s going on here is fine, even if it’s a link to the writer’s own website/blog. No problem with that, as long as it’s not excessive (a judgement I will make at my discretion). A link that is added only to get people to visit your own blog and participate there, and not to contribute anything to the discussion here is against the rules, as Ken knows already (I’ve explained this to him before). By stating that his comment conforms to the blog policy and then doing this, Ken is knowingly making a false statement. The rule doesn’t exist just for Ken, and I have certainly enforced it when others have broken it.

    If anyone has any follow-up questions on this, send them to me privately.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 3:55 pm

    Sorry, Wade, you think continuation of a discussion amounts to “promotion” of a blog. Bit screwed up I would say.

    Anyway, if you click on my name you can read my article on naturalism and why it is not consistent with science. The claims that science assumes “naturalism” are just not true in practice. Read my article if you don’t understand as I am not going to repeat it here.

    You “believe” in evolution? OK – that’s up to you. As a scientist I don’t “believe” in evolution any more than I “believe” in the 2nd law of thermodynamics. I accept evolutionary science in the same way as I accept climate science. In other words, “belief” is a strange word to use about such a well established set of facts and theories. It’s like saying I “believe” in my foot rather than knowing I have a foot.

    Why not be up front and just say that evolutionary science currently doesn’t include your god (nor does any other science at the moment). That’s not an imposed requirement – it is an honest assessment of factual information -no evidence is seen for gods or goblins, and theories just don’t require them to be successful. Of course that situation could change in future if evidence for a god or goblin was found – but science would not be science if it included such agents without evidence.

    That being the case – if you “believe” in or accept evolutionary science as currently understood you “believe” or accept a well supported area of knowledge which does not include gods. I think Glenn defined that as “naturalism.” Do you “believe” in “naturalism” – if not how do you accommodate that “disbelief” with a scientific knowledge which does not include gods? I can see this happening only be compartmentalisation – acceptance of what is currently a godless scientific understanding while at the same tin believing in the existence if a god. Simple enough – lots of people do it without any problems.

    Or do you think, as Plantinga seems to, that evolutionary science actually includes gods? If so, why? That’s just so far out of touch with the actual science.

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 4:39 pm

    That being the case – if you “believe” in or accept evolutionary science as currently understood you “believe” or accept a well supported area of knowledge which does not include gods.

    You bet; I also believe in calculus, which also does not include gods. Of course, neither evolution nor calculus has any say over whether deities exist.

    Or do you think, as Plantinga seems to, that evolutionary science actually includes gods?

    Where on earth are you getting the idea that Plantinga thinks evolutionary science includes gods? The claim hear is that evolutionary science makes belief in naturalism irrational (if you’re unclear as to how that’s supposed to work, see here), not that evolutionary science includes gods.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 4:50 pm

    But Wade, evolutionary science, all other science and calculus must be “naturalist” according to Glenn’s definition. While science doesn’t include gods or goblins or similar it is “naturalist.”

    That being the case how can you say acceptance of evolutionary science and calculus makes “belief” in naturalism (ie “belief” there are no gods) irrational? Where is the specific conflict? Surely until science does find evidence and include gods everything is hunky dory.

    (I have an equal opportunity approach to this blog – I won’t follow links while Glenn censors my links. You will have to explain yourself just as I do).

    Simple question. Surely a simple answer is possible rather than diversions through probability issues (especially on non-era com issues).

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 4:51 pm

    Correction – that was, of course, “non-random issues.”

  • Glenn October 7, 2012, 5:07 pm

    “all other science and calculus must be “naturalist” according to Glenn’s definition”

    Correction: Naturalism, as that term is being used here (and in philosophy generally), affirms that there is no God and that the physical universe is all that exists. Calculus does not include those claims. Nor does any other science that I am aware of.

    For a brief (wiki) background on what naturalism is, here’s the Wikipedia article on it. Of course Wikipedia is never going to be comprehensive, but the article looks OK. It describes what people here have been referring to when we refer to naturalism.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 5:35 pm

    Good, Glenn. No science includes such a postulate, although that postulate is perfectly consistent with current science, last time I checked.

    Similarly no science includes a postulate that there is a god (last time I checked). So it seems to me that both “naturalism” (why not go the whole hog and call it atheism?) and theism are in exactly the same boat. Both “naturalism” and “theism” are inconsistent with science because they both make assertions that science does not presume. (As discussed in my article which must remain unmentionable).

    Yet Plantinga maintains that only “naturalism” is inconsistent (or in conflict) with science but “theism” is consistent (not in conflict) with science. Why the different conclusions?

    I think you can only resolve that by acknowledging that Plantinga maintains that evolutionary science includes his god (whose job is guidance). He has sneaked her in.

    How else can he claim consistency for theism but not “naturalism?” Surely they are on exactly the same footing – making claims that are not included in science, but on the other not excluded (at this stage)?

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 5:40 pm

    Sorry Glenn, my equal opportunity policy prevents me from following your links. You will have to explain here.

  • Wade October 7, 2012, 5:48 pm

    That being the case how can you say acceptance of evolutionary science and calculus makes “belief” in naturalism (ie “belief” there are no gods) irrational?

    The evolutionary argument against naturalism (EAAN). You can see here for the details, but here it is in a nutshell, where R is “our cognitive faculties are reliable,” N is naturalism, and E is evolution, and Pr(R|N&E) becomes a mathematical shorthand for “The probability of R given N&E.”

    1) If Pr(R|N&E) is low or inscrutable, then N&E serves as a defeater for R.
    2) Pr(R|N&E) is low or inscrutable.
    3) Therefore, N&E serves as a defeater for R.

    If N&E serves as a defeater for “our cognitive faculties are reliable,” it also produces a defeater for any belief produced by our cognitive faculties, including the conjunction of naturalism and evolution, and since all of one’s beliefs is subject to defeat here, one can’t use any of one’s beliefs to defeat the defeater. Thus, the naturalist becomes epistemically screwed thanks to the theory of evolution.

  • Ken October 7, 2012, 6:46 pm

    Wade – substitute T for N and you get exactly the same result but it applies to theism instead of “naturalism”. There is no clear reason there why that should be prevented. In other words you have to give empirical reasons not naive probability relationships applied to non random situations. Reasons why T should be treated different,y to N. There are all sorts of buried assumptions there which should be honestly expressed. And that is why I am pushing you.

    Surely if you are claiming “our cognitive faculties are unreliable” (several assumptions are included here which I assert are false) they are that way whatever ones belief. After all if evolution does not require goblins or gods, then it doesn’t matter what individuals call themselves. That’s like saying that believers and non-believers have different cognitive process quite independent of the facts of evolution.

    And why use the term “naturalism” instead of atheism? I assume the important thing is non-belief or belief in gods. If it is something else please state that.

    Pointless including links – I have stated my equal opportunity policy. What I want is clear explanation and justification.

  • Glenn October 7, 2012, 8:06 pm

    “Pointless including links – I have stated my equal opportunity policy.”

    Ken, you know that is childish. The moment someone posts a link to their new blog post, not because it provides background reading to the discussion, but just because they are inviting people to carry on the discussion at their own blog – and I do nothing about it, you are welcome to think that things are unfair. But acting persecuted and complaining about it here is not going to help. You have a history at this blog of getting annoyed at being challenged, so starting your own thread over at your blog, posting a link to it here, then storming off in a huff, asking people to abandon the discussion here and follow you back to your blog. I have a policy that states that I will remove such comments. When you commented here, you ticked a box stating that you accept this policy.

    Please control yourself. No more such comments will appear in this thread (or if they do, they will be gone before long). You have been a serial offender in this regard in the past, and I am not so dim as to not recognise when you are up to your old tricks. Although it sucks to be told what to do and I can tell it rubs you the wrong way, you’ll just have to get over it. There are rules in the real world. You don’t have to be here. Any concerns about the blog policy or its application can be sent to me privately. It’s not cute to deliberately ignore what I have told you so that I will respond to it as I have said I would, just so that you can then cry about me persecuting you. Nobody else is having trouble understanding this.

    I don’t particularly feel like having this place stunk out by your perpetual whining about what a martyr I am making you, so you’ll be temporarily banned if you keep it up.

    Final warning.

  • Glenn October 7, 2012, 8:29 pm

    Cornell, Wade, and anyone else who might have wanted to continue with Ken discussing the issue of the connect (or disconnect) between science, theism and naturalism, unfortunately Ken chose to reject my comments above and complain about me complaining (employing the rather worn out tactic of calling it an emotional diversion). I will add that at no point did Ken contact me to raise any genuine concern about the blog policy or its application. I do require a decent standard of conduct, and as I made clear to him, I felt that he was intentionally slipping below the mark even after the blog policy was brought to his attention, and I told him that he would no longer be able to participate here (temporarily) if he continued.

    As a result of Ken’s choice to react as he did in his last comment (now removed), he is currently unable to comment here. If you do want to pursue it with him, by clicking on his name you can visit his blog.

    I am genuinely sorry it turned out that way. I hope readers can see from the conversation that I did genuinely try to discuss this with Ken and even to help him understand that arguments that were being challenged. This unfortunate conclusion was his choice.

  • Glenn October 8, 2012, 7:22 am

    I saw something today that reminded me of certain aspects of this discussion:

  • Matthew Flannagan October 9, 2012, 12:52 pm

    Ken, any reader of Plantinga’s book knows that argument you quote about logical possibility above occurs in part I of his book where he rebuts various arguments that Theism is incompatible with science, one objection he rebuts is that theism and evolution are logically incompatible. Like I said to show that two things are not incompatible one only needs to show they are compatible. If two things are logically compatible they are not logically incompatible.

    A reader of his book will also know the “strong assertions” you cite occur at the end of the book it summarises the conclusion. Between section I and the end are sections II, III, IV. His claim there is deep concord between science and theism is argued in part III chapter 9. Here he gives 7 separate positive reasons for this. He does not anywhere argue there is deep concord because theism and evolution are logically compatible, the only reason you can get this is because you snip an argument from the first section which was being used merely demonstrate compatibility and then snipped the conclusion which occurred at the end, and told Glenn’s readers that this conclusion was based on the argument in part I. It wasn’t anyone who reads the book can see this is false.

    Like I said above when you complained about people misrepresenting scientists work I asked you if you were being ironic perhaps you can see now why this was a relevant question.

    Perhaps you can show me where Plantinga claims that God guided evolution because its logically possible he did. In fact in the Plantinga Dennett book you do cite and claim to have read he actually said the following on pa 40.

    “1 God guided and orchestrated the course of evolution to produce the kind of creatures he wanted.

    I was arguing God and evolution are possible, by pointing to another proposition that clearly possible and entails both the truth of evolution and the existence of God. That other proposition was 1. I wasn’t arguing that 1. was true, but only using it to show the existence of God is compatible with the current scientific theory of evolution”

  • Glenn October 9, 2012, 4:37 pm

    Ken’s away for now.

  • Geoff October 9, 2012, 5:39 pm

    YAY

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