Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plantinga and myself on Radio

I will be discussing Pantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism with Plantinga on Premier Christian Radio recording November 10th and broadcasting shortly after. Also available as a podcast.

23 comments:

Lonestarslp said...

"if you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused – as most of the world's people believe – you won't be able to reach that truth scientifically." (quote from Platinga) Good luck debating a guy who did not pass elementary school science!

The Atheist Missionary said...

You can download a copy of Alvin Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief for free here: http://www.ccel.org/

I will resist making any sarcastic comments about why they give it away for free.

Steven Carr said...

I would be interested to know if Plantinga thinks Homo sapiens are descended from creatures that were not Homo sapiens.

And why his god designed black people to have that colour skin.

Were black people designed by God to live in Africa?

Were white people designed by God to live in temperate zones?

If not, then why did God design black skin and white skin?

Simon said...

Sarcastic comments like: 'Good luck debating a guy who did not pass elementary school science!' do not help informed debate on these issues. Rather they show an unthinking arrogance - the very thing some atheists accuse religious thinkers of demonstrating.

Plantinga successfully dealt with the logical problem of evil and has contributed much to the realm of philosophy and the philosophy of religion in peer reviewed articles, essays and books.

Steven Carr said...

SIMON
Plantinga successfully dealt with the logical problem of evil ...

CARR
No he didn't.

He just unleashed the Doomsday device of Christian apologetics.

You can use Plantinga's methods to show that it is perfectly reasonable to believe that we have one leg.

The mere fact that we can see two legs is not a proof that we have two legs, as we just Alvinise it and claim there is a possible world where we are mistaken about the number of legs Homo sapiens have (just like there is a possible world where people are mistaken about how many legs a millipede has)

As Plantinga has now shown that there is no logical proof that you have two legs, he has cut away the legs of everybody trying to debate rationally.

This is Christian apologetics - go nuclear when you are trapped in a corner,ignoring the fact that you kill your own beliefs while doing so.

Martin said...

I am evil, but you are good. I am not evil, except from your perspective - proves that life's experiences can have as much relevance as hot-headed ranting. The fires of hell burn in peoples imagination, no one is proposing a journey to the centre of the Sun, it would be too hot (or cold) to survive there.

BTW: Stephen had you heard that Kingston University debating society were looking for a speaker to discuss issues of morality. I was going to propose my nemesis, Captain Cutlass, but on reflection I think a female from history like Florence Nightingale might do.

Simon said...

Steven, as usual lots of bluster but little foundation!

Does Plantinga’s Free Will Defense succeed in describing a possible state of affairs in which God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil? It certainly seems so. In fact, it appears that even the most hardened atheist must admit that (MSR1) and (MSR2) are possible reasons God might have for allowing moral and natural evil

And Mackie: Since this defense is formally [that is, logically] possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil, we can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another. But whether this offers a real solution of the problem is another question. (Mackie 1982, p. 154)

So overall 'Does Plantinga’s Free Will Defense succeed in describing a possible state of affairs in which God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil? It certainly seems so. In fact, it appears that even the most hardened atheist must admit that (MSR1) and (MSR2) are possible reasons God might have for allowing moral and natural evil.'

Quotations from IEP.

Steven Carr said...

I see you have skipped the bit where Mackie says Plantinga's defense misses the point and show us up the basic weakness of theodicies.

And you have also ignored the fact that you can Alvinise a belief that we only have one leg, and claim there is no logical proof we have two legs.

Is it even *rational* to claim there is no logical proof we have two legs, even though Plantinga's methods show there is no logical proof we have two legs?

Plantinga seems to think that if he can find a logical defense, he can find a rational defense.

This is not the same.

It is not rational to believe we only have one leg, even if Plantinga's methods show there is no logical proof we have two legs.

Incidentally, Plantinga's defense does not work.


Plantinga boasts that his imaginary god can and has created beings with free will that have never chosen evil (in a private email to me)

Steven Carr said...

MACKIE
But whether this offers a real solution of the problem is another question.

CARR
Mackie was right about Plantinga's contortions and wriggling.

Steven Carr said...

Plantinga's Free Will Defense is a bit like a fig-leaf.

Walk around wearing a fig-leaf and you can scoff at people who claim you are naked.

'The logical problem of nakedness' has ben solved by anybody who is wearing a fig-leaf....

The Emperor is wearing his New Clothes, they are a fig leaf.

Bill Snedden said...

Simon: delightful use of quotations taken out of context to make an argument appear stronger than it might be...

See here for the full IEP article and note especially the final section: "Problems with the Free Will Defense" and the first two sentences of the concluding paragraph (of the section AND the entire article):

"There may be ways for Plantinga to resolve the difficulties sketched above, so that the Free Will Defense can be shown to be compatible with theistic doctrines about heaven and divine freedom. As it stands, however, some important challenges to the Free Will Defense remain unanswered."

Steven Carr said...

'There is nothing contradictory about supposing that there is a possible world where free creatures always make the right choices and never go wrong.'


According to Plantinga himself, in an email to me, his god did in fact choose to create free beings who always make the right choices and never go wrong.

Plantinga can even tell you what the names of these creatures are.

Of course, it is all made up, like all of Christian theology.

There is no evidence for a god existing, much less a perfectly good god who punishes people horrifically for doubting that he is perfectly good.

Steven Carr said...

PLANTINGA
if you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused – as most of the world's people believe – you won't be able to reach that truth scientifically."

CARR
I'll take that risk.

Of course, religious people get at the truth by killing and persecuting people who do not believe the same things as they do, or by burning their books where they have dared to find different truths.

Religion is no more a vehicle for finding truth than Tarot readings.

Plantinga also pulls the numbers game. 'As most of the world believes'.

Atheists are a small minority.

But don't worry that atheists are outnumbered.

As soon as religious people feel their truths are being questioned, they will go back to being a small,persecuted minority.

Their numbers fluctuate drastically, depending upon which of the religious's two faces are speaking at any one time.

Simon said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your engagement.

The quotations I used were from the end of the article and reflect the final evaluation after all the arguments had been considered (unlike yours!!). I wasn't intentionally quote mining but tried to get the essence of the essay as a whole. I admit an unachievable task.

The main point being: The logical problem of evil - meaning the inconsistency of both God and Evil existing has, according to most philosophers - including Mackie, been resolved with Plantinga's free will defence. This is all I was arguing in my brief comment.

What the article goes onto conclude is philosophers in general hold evil is far broader than the inconsistency of both evil and God. This issue is not resolved by Plantinga's freewill defence.

I hope this makes sense.

STEVEN CARR

*Lots of bluster and incoherent comments*

SIMON

*Yawns* You need to get out more! ;-)

Steven Carr said...

' The logical problem of evil - meaning the inconsistency of both God and Evil existing has, according to most philosophers - including Mackie, been resolved with Plantinga's free will defence.'

Well it hasn't, unless you think Plantinga has also shown that it is logical to believe we have one leg, because there is a possible world in which we are mistaken about the number of legs we have.

And if Plantinga has found a fig-leaf to avoid claims of being totally naked, then he is still in a very embarrassing position, no matter how much he claims he is not naked.

Certainly no theist has been able to make Plantinga's free will defense work when faced with atheists on discussion boards.

Edward T. Babinski said...

FIRST:

Plantinga limits himself to discussing "true beliefs," but humans are also able to entertain a seemingly infinite number of idiotic ones as well as false ones, and still survive, so long as some basic beliefs common to surviving in human society are recognized as true.

Hence, if theism consists of only entertaining true beliefs rather than illusions, fantasies, idiotic ones, false ones, then the cosmos disproves theism, does it not? Or at least it highly confuses the matter for theism just as much as for any other belief system being true.

SECOND:

Next time ask Plantinga what a "belief" is and why nature cannot gear animals (via evolution) toward having "true enough" beliefs by which to continue to reproduce.

Animals with larger brains know when it's raining and when it's not. That's like knowing A is not non-A. Is that what Plantinga would label as a "belief?" That's also a recognition that forms the basis of logic.

Once a brain-mind has been established can't organisms arise with larger brains utilizing able to group sensations/experiences/memories and compare them in ever widening, and also ever more diverse categories?

Logically speaking one can see how that would lead to naturalism being able to explain the human species' ability to entertain all sorts of ideas.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Also Plantina's argument is similar to C. S. Lewis'argument concerning the "cardinal difficulty of naturalism" which is this:

"A strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given by Professor Haldane: 'If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.'" (from chapter three of MIRACLES)

Such an argument appears coherent, but is faulty. It concentrates only on atoms and human thought and leaves out every category in between about which we know so little!

For instance, what if mental processes are _not_ determined "wholly" by the motion of individual "atoms" in our brains? Would that leave supernaturalism as the only alternative? What if the brain's overall dynamics naturally "took control" of the motions of individual "atoms" within a larger dynamic flow? Or consider the way all the atoms in our bodies are configured very differently than those same atoms in rocks or air and water, and hence, the body's overall dynamic functioning is very different from that of inanimate matter. But that doesn't mean our livers, kidneys and hearts function "supernaturally."

According to Roger Sperry, psychobiologist and well known philosopher of brain science, "Recall that a molecule in many respects is the master of its inner atoms and electrons. The latter are hauled and forced about in chemical interactions by the over-all configurational properties of the whole molecule. At the same time, if our given molecule is itself part of a single-celled organism such as a paramecium, it in turn is obliged, with all its parts and its partners, to follow along a trail of events in time and space determined largely by the extrinsic over-all dynamics of that paramecium. When it comes to brains, remember that the simpler electric,atomic, molecular, and cellular forces and laws, though still present and operating, have been superseded by the configurational forces of higher-level mechanisms. At the top, in the human brain, these include the powers of perception, cognition, reason, judgment, and the like, the operational, causal effects and forces of which are equally or more potent in brain dynamics than are the outclassed inner chemical forces...

"We deal instead with a sequence of conscious or subconscious processes that have their own higher laws and dynamics...that move their neuronal details in much the way different program images on a TV receiver determine the pattern of electron flow on the screen...

"And the molecules of higher living things are... flown... galloped... swung... propelled... mostly by specific holistic, and also mental properties--aims, wants, needs--possessed by the organisms in question. Once evolved, the higher laws and forces exert a downward control over the lower.

"This does not mean these (higher forces) are supernatural. Those who conceived of vital forces in supernatural terms were just as wrong as those who denied the existence of such forces. In any living of nonliving thing, the spacing and timing of the material elements of which it is composed make all the difference in determining what a thing is.

"As an example, take a population of copper molecules. You can shape them into a sphere, a pyramid, a long wire, a statue, whatever. All these very different things still reduce to the same material elements, the same identical population of copper molecules. Science has specific laws for the molecules by no such laws for all the differential spacing and timing factors, the nonmaterial pattern or form factors that are crucial in determining what things are and what laws they obey. These nonmaterial space-time components tend to be thrown out and lost in the reduction process as science aims toward ever more elementary levels of explanation."

Edward T. Babinski said...

Lewis' argument concerning the "cardinal difficulty of naturalism" is this:

"A strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given by Professor Haldane: 'If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.'" (from chapter three of MIRACLES)

Such an argument appears coherent, but is faulty. It concentrates only on atoms and human thought and leaves out every category in between about which we know so little!

For instance, what if mental processes are _not_ determined "wholly" by the motion of individual "atoms" in our brains? Would that leave supernaturalism as the only alternative? What if the brain's overall dynamics naturally "took control" of the motions of individual "atoms" within a larger dynamic flow? Or consider the way all the atoms in our bodies are configured very differently than those same atoms in rocks or air and water, and hence, the body's overall dynamic functioning is very different from that of inanimate matter. But that doesn't mean our livers, kidneys and hearts function "supernaturally."

According to Roger Sperry, psychobiologist and well known philosopher of brain science, "Recall that a molecule in many respects is the master of its inner atoms and electrons. The latter are hauled and forced about in chemical interactions by the over-all configurational properties of the whole molecule. At the same time, if our given molecule is itself part of a single-celled organism such as a paramecium, it in turn is obliged, with all its parts and its partners, to follow along a trail of events in time and space determined largely by the extrinsic over-all dynamics of that paramecium. When it comes to brains, remember that the simpler electric,atomic, molecular, and cellular forces and laws, though still present and operating, have been superseded by the configurational forces of higher-level mechanisms. At the top, in the human brain, these include the powers of perception, cognition, reason, judgment, and the like, the operational, causal effects and forces of which are equally or more potent in brain dynamics than are the outclassed inner chemical forces...

CONTINUED

Edward T. Babinski said...

Sperry continued: "We deal instead with a sequence of conscious or subconscious processes that have their own higher laws and dynamics...that move their neuronal details in much the way different program images on a TV receiver determine the pattern of electron flow on the screen...

"And the molecules of higher living things are... flown... galloped... swung... propelled... mostly by specific holistic, and also mental properties--aims, wants, needs--possessed by the organisms in question. Once evolved, the higher laws and forces exert a downward control over the lower.

"This does not mean these (higher forces) are supernatural. Those who conceived of vital forces in supernatural terms were just as wrong as those who denied the existence of such forces. In any living of nonliving thing, the spacing and timing of the material elements of which it is composed make all the difference in determining what a thing is.

"As an example, take a population of copper molecules. You can shape them into a sphere, a pyramid, a long wire, a statue, whatever. All these very different things still reduce to the same material elements, the same identical population of copper molecules. Science has specific laws for the molecules by no such laws for all the differential spacing and timing factors, the nonmaterial pattern or form factors that are crucial in determining what things are and what laws they obey. These nonmaterial space-time components tend to be thrown out and lost in the reduction process as science aims toward ever more elementary levels of explanation."

Edward T. Babinski said...

CONTINUE FROM ABOVE

One might add that taking simple elements found in rocks and arranging them into just the right configurations can lead to the production of not just another rock, but a computer (perhaps even a "quantum computer" one day).

Hence, Sperry's naturalism does not appear to pose any "cardinal difficulties" for itself.

Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneers of computer science, notes in a similar vein, "Even if we understood how each of our billions of brain cells work separately, this would not tell us how the brain works as an agency. The 'laws of thought' depend not only upon the properties of those brain cells, but also on how they are connected. And these connections are established not by the basic, 'general' laws of physics, but by the particular arrangements of the millions of bits of information in our inherited genes. To be sure, 'general' laws apply to everything. But, for that very reason, they can rarely explain anything in particular...

"It is not a matter of _different_ laws, but of _additional_ kinds of theories and principles that operate at higher levels of organization... Each higher level of description must _add_ to our knowledge about lower levels, rather than replace it."

Edward T. Babinski said...

And contrary to Lewis' claim that "[Naturalism] leaves no room for the acts of knowing or insight on which the whole value of our thinking depends," cognitive scientists have clearly demonstrated the validity of positing a level of mental representation. They study "perceptual apparatus, mechanisms of learning, problem solving, classification, memory, and rationality... The conjecture about the various vehicles of knowledge: what is a form, an image, a concept, a word; and how do these 'modes of representation' relate to one another... They reflect on language, noting the power and traps entailed in the use of words... Proceeding well beyond armchair speculation, cognitive scientists are fully wedded to the use of empirical methods for testing their theories and hypotheses... Their guiding questions are not just a rehash of the Greek philosophical agenda: new disciplines have arisen; and new questions, like the potential of man-made devices to think, stimulate research.

"Given the most optimistic scenario for the future of cognitive science, we still cannot reasonably expect an explanation of mind which lays to rest all extant scientific and epistemological problems. Still, I believe that distinct progress has been made on the age-old issues that exercised... Plato, Descartes, Kant, and Darwin." After all, "If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't."

For more see

C. S. Lewis and the Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism

C. S. LEWIS’S “Argument From Reason,” vs. Christians Who Reject Mind-Body Dualism and Accept the Possibility of Artificial Intelligence, Even “Born Again” Machines!

Edward T. Babinski said...

Think of it this way, there are all sorts of amazing behaviors in nature, even slime molds seem to learn and exhibit patterns of behavior based on past experience (I am thinking of one experiment in particular, mentioned over on a blog titled, The Loom, by an editor of Discover Mag.) And amoeba can detect swimming prey, and even corner it via pseudopodia spread out to trap it. How does it "know" what it "knows?" It has no brain nor specific sense organs. But multi-cellular animals have both a brain, and sense organs, and longer memories, and can apparently juggle thoughts of different sorts, from fish to amphibians, reptiles, mammals, primates, and finally humans. We store tons of information in our brains and constantly compare that information with previous information. This information is in the form of sensory input. So we are not speaking about atoms but complex patterns of sensations stored in the brain-mind system. None of this seems supernatural. In fact, if you cut off the feedback loop of any such system via putting it in a state of sensory deprivation, the brain will start hallucinating, forming its own reality, and eventually even madness will set in. So it's a natural feedback system.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Lastly, consider that the amoeba can do all that sensing and trapping without a brain nor complex sensory organs, and it's just a single cell. While the human brain contains 100 billion cells (neurons) with 1000 trillion synaptic connections between them all, not to mention non-neuronal cells that they are discovering also play a role. If a single-celled amoeba can do some of the amazing things it does, it doesn't surprise me that the human brain can do as much as it does.