I should pay more attention to the Digital Cuttlefish — apparently, the recent rash of “Plantinga!” in my in-box might be because Plantinga has an interview on the NY Times Opinionator, and it’s making the same stupid argument my correspondent gabbled at me.
DC has taken care of the gist. Let me point out one thing that jumped out at me, bizarrely. It’s his rejection of Russell’s Teapot.
Russell’s idea, I take it, is we don’t really have any evidence against teapotism, but we don’t need any; the absence of evidence is evidence of absence, and is enough to support a-teapotism. We don’t need any positive evidence against it to be justified in a-teapotism; and perhaps the same is true of theism.
I disagree: Clearly we have a great deal of evidence against teapotism. For example, as far as we know, the only way a teapot could have gotten into orbit around the sun would be if some country with sufficiently developed space-shot capabilities had shot this pot into orbit. No country with such capabilities is sufficiently frivolous to waste its resources by trying to send a teapot into orbit. Furthermore, if some country had done so, it would have been all over the news; we would certainly have heard about it. But we haven’t. And so on. There is plenty of evidence against teapotism. So if, à la Russell, theism is like teapotism, the atheist, to be justified, would (like the a-teapotist) have to have powerful evidence against theism.
<blink, blink> Seriously? He rejects the Russell’s Teapot idea because he can only imagine a methodologically natural process for launching it into orbit, and because we lack concrete physical evidence of the technological apparatus for putting it in space, we have evidence that it doesn’t exist?
Alvin Plantinga, go look in a mirror.
If that is sufficient cause to dismiss the space teapot theory (which I’d agree with, actually, and I suspect Russell would, too), then the complete absence of evidence for the origin of a god; the conflicting stories about the nature of these gods; the frivolity of the supernatural manifestations of these gods; the lack of a natural framework in which to explain the machinations of these hypothetical gods; all that is evidence against theism, and justifies the rational rejection of god-belief.
Also, here’s Russell’s own account of the teapot.
Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
Notice that he does not postulate launch facilities in Siberia to put it into space — it just is, as if “affirmed in ancient books”. His whole point is that in the absence of corresponding evidence, with only the testimony of religious texts, you are justified in rejecting the teapot hypothesis.
So Plantinga willingly flips into pure materialist mode to dismiss a claim of an orbiting teapot, and then happily flips back into supernaturalist mode when he wants to believe in a god, and he doesn’t even notice. Some philosopher.
I’m not even going to try to puzzle out the rest of the interview. Too much exposure to Plantinga causes brain damage, as the state of his fans testifies.