So… there’s an interview with Alvin Plantinga on the New York Times’ “Opinionator Blog”. It’s… horrific. Embarrassing. Such a national platform for arguments from ignorance, false dichotomies, and special pleading. Really, it’s astonishing.
The questions, by Gary Gutting, are reasonable, and are followed up nicely; if anything, Gutting is not brutal enough, perhaps feeling a bit sorry for Plantinga.
There are so many times when Plantinga’s claims have reasonable answers in readily available science. One (or at least this one) gets the feeling he actively avoids the scientific literature. Ok, really, that’s unfair–science is so broad and specialized that if he were not both exposed to an extraordinarily broad swath, and sufficiently knowledgeable in depth about that broad swath (which, given time constraints, might reasonably mean that he would have no time to develop any expertise in his own philosophical areas), it is perfectly reasonable that he might miss the answers to his questions.
Fortunately, cuttlefish are very deep generalists and experts in everything, so I opened a word-processor and read the interview. (I would say “so you don’t have to”, but I actually really recommend you read it, so you can try out your own critical analysis. The weird thing is, Plantinga is not exactly a bench-warmer; when you–not “if you”–when you tear his arguments into tiny bleeding slivers, you are up against one of the best the theistic side have to offer.) Yeah, so it just so happens I take notes in rhyming verse…
In any debate between two points of view
Fifty-fifty, the odds must apply—
If we can’t prove it’s Christmas, beyond every doubt,
Then it’s likely the Fourth of July
Now, maybe the scientists figured it out
And it’s all there to read… which I won’t
Perhaps they have answers for all of my doubts
But I’m gonna assume, here, they don’t
It’s possible someone has studied this stuff
If they have, clearly, I’m not aware
So there may be a paper that proves me quite wrong
I’d go looking, but really don’t care.
My assumption is simply that nobody knows—
If they did, that would really be nifty—
In the absence of knowledge (well, knowledge of mine)
Let’s assume that it’s all fifty-fifty.
So my views on psychology? Pretty much crap
And biology, mostly, as well—
But let’s call it philosophy (really, why not?)
If it’s bullshit, most readers can’t tell.
So… go ahead, read the interview. Try commenting here–in verse, or not in verse, I don’t care. What do you think is Plantinga’s worst? Best? Anyone think he has a point?
Just for fun, two earlier bits worth mentioning: