Where the Conflict Really Lies

Science, Religion, and Naturalism

Alvin Plantinga


p ix "My overall claim in this book: there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism."

p ix Characterized naturalism as a "quasi-religion" because of some of the positions it takes beyond what methodological naturalism can demonstrate.

p x In response to the standard Dawkins, et al. ranting against the ills of religion he comments "the suffering, death and havoc attributable to religious belief and practice pales into utter insignificance beside that due to the atheistic and secular ideologies of the twentieth century alone."

[My favorite version of this idea is Wiker's in "The 10 Books That Screwed Up the World"]

p xi Under his category of more articulate "old atheists" he lists Bertrand Russell and John Mackie. Then as "contemporary but less strident" he lists Thomas Nagel, Michael Tooley and William Rowe.

p xi Comments on the splendor of science but unfortunate side effects.

p xii For areas of focus: evolution and miracles. In comment on miracles he raises the category of "causaly closed" systems

p xiii Comments on what he means by "superficial" conflict between science and faith.

p xiv What he means by deep concord of science and faith, then superficial concord but deep conflict between science and naturalism.

Part I, Alleged Conflict

1. Evolution and Christian Belief(1)

Addresses Dawkins

p4 Quote of Aquinas about imago dei "..imitating .. in this .. that he understands.."


p6 In setting the stage for the discussion of the alleged war between science and faith. "There is the famous Galileo affair, often portrayed as a contest pitting the Catholic hierarchy (representing the forces of repression and tradition, the voice of the Old World, the dead hand of the past, etc.) against the forces of progress and the dulcet voice of sweet reason and science. This way of looking at the matter dates back to Andrew Dixon White and his rancorous History of the Warfare of Science and Theology. White, in his characteristically restrained and judicious way, describes Galileo's ecclesiastical opponents as 'a seething, squabbling, screaming mass of priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals.'

p7 Good overview of standard evolution vs faith ideas and persons. Stephen Jay Gould an interesting part of this.

p Overview of creeds and definition of evolution. Overview of the process of life development. States six theses of the evolutionary view.

  1. Claim that the Earth is very old (4.5 billion years)
  2. Claim that life has progressed from relatively simple to relatively complex
  3. Thesis of descent with modification
  4. Thesis of common ancestry
  5. Claim that there is a naturalistic mechanism driving the process of descent with modification (this claim is called Darwinism)
  6. Life itself developed from non-living matter without any special creative activity of God. (Claims that this is really not a part of evolution.)

p11 In 1871, "Charles Hodge, the distinguished Princeton theologian, speaking of the design of plants and animals: 'If God made them, it makes no difference how He made them, as far as the question of design is concerned, whether at once or by a process of evolution.'"

p 12 Gould and Simpson assertions of purposeless and naturalistic origin of life.

p 13 Catalog of some of the spokespersons for the view that evolution is incompatible with Christian faith. Dawkins, Dennett will be treated in more detail.

p 14 Quote of Dawkins from "The Blind Watchmaker". Reiterates Dawkins' judgment of the adequacy of this blind watchmaker and asks the question "How does the evidence of evolution reveal such a thing?"

p 16 Starts a 5 step Darwinian pattern.

p 17 Dawkins just argues that it is "possible" for life to develop by natural selection. Plantinga puts it that the argument is just that it is not "astronomically improbable".

p 17 John Locke quote as example of something that Dawkins ignores. "it is as impossible to conceive that ever pure incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter."

p 18 Mammalian eye discussion with outline and "big question"

p 22 Dawkins' weaknesses - no guarantee of possible path which meets the necessary conditions. It might be irreducibly complex. Cites Behe and evaluates Dawkins' treatment of steps 4 & 5 as "pretty much guesswork".

p 23 Good quote of biologist Brian Goodwin, basically microevolution, yes, but macroevolution?

p 24 Point that a theist has a bit more freedom, the non-theist is essentially forced into Darwinism.

p 25 Essentially transitions Dawkins' argument from "as we now know" to "for all we know, it's not impossible". Plantinga's response comment "that's a little short of what he claims to show."

p 26 Dawkins quote on complexity from "The Blind Watchman".

2. Evolution and Christian Belief(2)

This chapter deals with the ideas of Daniel Dennett. He primarily cites "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", but also mentions "Breaking the Spell".

p 31 A couple of Dennett quotes from Dangerous Idea.

p 32 Plantinga again cites John Locke up against Dennett's assertions.

p 34 From Dennett "An impersonal, unreflective, robotic, mindless little scrap of molecular machinery is the ultimate basis of all the agency, and hence meaning, and hence consciousness, in the universe." Plantinga's response on p35 "Now many - theists and others - have found these claims at least extremely doubtful; some have found them preposterous." p34-36 are very strong responses to Dennett's attribution of the basic agency to just molecular machines.

p 37 Starts a description of how he sees Dennett's argument. First is like Dawkins' "It is possible that .."

p 41 Dennett's argument that belief in a personal God is childish, etc.

p 42 Calls Richard Swinburne the preeminent contemporary exponent of the design argument.

p 42 Reference 19 is a list of arguments for God.

p 48 Alston's argument: in addition to reason brings in perception, memory, rational intuition.

p 49 Paul Draper - argues that evolution constitutes evidence against theism.

p 52 Why do people doubt evolution? Quotes Kenneth Miller from "Only a Theory"

p 55 Philip Kitcher - "enlightenment case" in "Living With Darwin", argues that evolution stands against "providentialist" religion.

p 56 Significant quotes of Kitcher

p 57 Another Kitcher quote

p 58 Suggestion of reasons for God allowing suffering.

p 59 Brings the word "theodicy" into play

p 60 Not a defeater becaust theists believe in God. "senses divinitatus" from Calvin

p 61 Kitcher's argument against theism from evil, pluralism, historical Biblical criticism.

3. Divine Action in the World: The Old Picture

p69 Heidelberg Catechism. Comment and quote from Langdon Gilkey.

p70 Quotes Bultmann, Rudolph

p71 Quotes John Macquarrie

p72 Excellent summary of Gilkey's and Bultmann's relegation of God to a "hands off" theology, perhaps creating and sustaining the universe, but otherwise not intervening.

p73 Discusses the previous in the light of cause and effect. They evoke science to assert that the world is causally closed, so God can't or won't intervene.








4. The New Picture

Part II Superficial Conflict

5. Evolutionary Psychology and Scripture Scholarship

6. Defeaters?

Part III. Concord

7. Fine Tuning

I Fine Tuning

p193 Isaac Newton quote starting "This most beautiful system" from the Principia.

p194 Quote from Brandon Carr and Martin Reese

p197 Is impressed with Robin Collins' two books. Lists Polkinghorne, Roger White, W L Craig, and Swinburne as having done fine-tuning works. Lists the works.

p198 More detail from Robin Collins



II Objections

8. Design Discourse

I Michael Behe and Biological Arguments

IIPerceiving Design?

p 237 Discusses William Paley and the watchmaker in this context. I really liked this discussion and think that the idea that we perceive design rather than formally argue for it is significant in the dialog.

III Design Argument vs Design Discourse

IV The Difference it Makes

9. Deep Concord: Christian Theism and the Deep Roots of Science

10. The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

Reading Reference
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