Where the Conflict Really Lies: Plantinga and Evolution

Alvin Plantinga has been a very influential person in my life and one of the most important Christian thinkers in the 20th and 21st centuries.

He is a Templeton award winner and he is credited by many as making Christian Theism an academically justifiable position in secular universities. CT article

For you budding YEC-theologians and students, I want to encourage you to read his book: Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.

You do not need to agree with his eventual conclusions (he finds Christian theism to be compatible with evolution) to benefit from this book. In fact, in a CMI response to a reader Plantinga article CMI the YEC ministry argues that Plantinga successfully argues against “naturalism, defends miracles, and points out how science is rooted in the Christian worldview.”

You might be thinking- where does the conflict really lie?

As an analytical philosopher Plantinga is very succinct but thorough. So no matter how delicate I summarize it will fail to capture all of the nuances. Nevertheless, here is my attempt:

  1. There is alleged to be a conflict between theistic belief and evolutionary theory including the origin of life.
  2. According to theism, God made the world and people in his image.
  3. But it is perfectly reasonable to believe he did so by employing and directing genetic variation, natural selection, etc. Of course it does not mean that DID does that, just that he COULD do that.
  4. The conflict is that natural selection and evolution is unguided. But Plantinga argues that the claim that evolution is unguided is widely held- but is NOT part of current science. Instead, it is a metaphysical or theological “add-on.”
  5. Then he argues that Historical biblical criticism and evolutionary psychology appear superficially to be in conflict with Christian belief, but not defeaters. He also argues that the claim that God acts especially in the world does not conflict with science.
  6. He includes a big section on how science and religion actually work together. (Mathematics, predictability, data sets, etc.)
  7. He finishes with his primary thesis that, in fact, naturalism and science are where the conflict really lies. Plantinga’s argument concerns the reliability of cognitive faculties (perception, memory, introspection, etc.) and how there is a deep conflict between naturalism and evolutionary theory.

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