Plantinga wins Templeton prize


I have often made fun of the ontological argument for god and its most prominent recent promoter, philosophy professor Alvin Plantinga. My latest post was just as recently as two weeks ago. Today it was announced that he is this year’s winner of the Templeton Prize.

This is no surprise since this prize was set up by the late industrialist John Templeton to effectively promote the idea that belief in god is reasonable. Previous winners have included many, including some prominent scientists like Freeman Dyson, who either dressed up religious belief in some kind of intellectual finery or provided some wiggle room for god’s existence, so the kind of vague justifications provided by people like Plantinga that enables intellectuals to feel comfortable being identified with religious beliefs was ripe for such recognition. If you are a prominent scientist who makes agreeable noises about god, you are likely to be on the prize shortlist.

The award announcement makes it clear that this kind of justification for god is exactly the kind of thing it is looking for.

“Alvin Plantinga recognized that not only did religious belief not conflict with serious philosophical work, but that it could make crucial contributions to addressing perennial problems in philosophy,” Dill said Tuesday (April 25) in an online announcement of this year’s award.

Because of Plantinga’s influence, it is no longer unusual for philosophy professors to bring their religious commitments to bear on their work, whether they be Buddhist, Jewish or Muslim, the Templeton Foundation’s statement said.

Until Plantinga, many philosophers viewed theistic belief as logically incompatible with the reality of evil.

Countering that, Plantinga, whose own religious tradition is Dutch Christian Reformed, argued that, “in a world with free creatures, God cannot determine their behavior, so even an omnipotent God might not be able to create a world where all creatures will always freely choose to do good,” the announcement said.

If you are allowed to add on any ad hoc ideas, you can make anything sound plausible. In this case, Plantinga seems to be saying that god has the power to create an entire universe but is baffled by how to avoid the very people he created committing evil. Surely a simpler solution is that god is evil and likes it that way, as the film The Brand New Testament suggests?

As Jesus and Mo said, people like Plantinga have an edge when it comes to the Templeton prize.

I am only surprised that he had not been given the award before.

Comments

  1. says

    Presupposition as “intellectual finery” is like the “elegance” of Mar A Lago – veneer and gold paint over something average and puffed up.

  2. KG says

    Countering that, Plantinga, whose own religious tradition is Dutch Christian Reformed, argued that, “in a world with free creatures, God cannot determine their behavior, so even an omnipotent God might not be able to create a world where all creatures will always freely choose to do good

    Is that supposed to be in any way novel? Religious apologists have been trotting out that particular piece of drivel for centuries. Aside from anything else, it completely fails to account for the vast amounts of excruciating agony that sentient beings suffered on this planet, millions of years before any agents that could be supposed to have the capacity for moral choice evolved.

  3. mnb0 says

    Maybe your quote is incomplete, but Plantinga’s most important contribution is not mentioned. From

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_the_Age_of_Science%3F

    “the thesis that natural theology has a priority over revealed theology”, the first being defined as “attempts to prove or show to be probable the existence of God or gods, and to acquire knowledge about them, on the basis of evidence or premises that can also be accepted by non-believers, such as empirical knowledge about the natural world.” (from chapter 1, introduction)
    Chapter 2.3 is called Downfall and Resurrection – Plantinga was instrumental for the latter.
    And that means that it’s thanks/due to Plantinga and a few others that you and your colleagues have blogs about the topic. It also means that the great quote of my compatriot, the apostate theologian and socialist Ferdinand Domela-Nieuwenhuis is relevant again: “To derive a divine world from our concrete world requires a salto mortale.” (late 19th Century). That’s what the Jesus and Mo cartoon is about.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    Previous Templeton winners have included Mother Teresa, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    Interesting how they never mention that other winner, Charles Colson, noted as a Creationist and a Watergate burglar.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    Countering that, Plantinga, whose own religious tradition is Dutch Christian Reformed, argued that, “in a world with free creatures…

    The God defended by Plantinga is not the God of the Bible. Yahweh often violated “free will”, such as when he “hardened the heart” of Pharaoh so that he could have an opportunity to show off by killing more people.

  6. jrkrideau says

    I rather doubt that a belief in a god is reasonable but professing a belief in a god may be reasonable. I have often wondered just how sincere the last US president’s coversion (or whatever) to Christianity was. Church attendance in the USA seems to equate with votes.

    Or as in another time and place, Henri IV (may have?) said, “Paris vaut bien une messe”.

  7. KG says

    mnbo@3,

    Even having followed your link, and having googled Ferdinand Domela-Nieuwenhuis, I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re trying to say. Would you like to try again?

  8. Chiroptera says

    KG, #7: …I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re trying to say.

    And that is pretty much presuppositionism in a nutshell.

  9. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Meh, Christian presuppositionism in a nutshell is more like:
    I know there is a god, and I know that you know too, and you’re just lying when you say that you don’t know that. I know that everyone knows that there is a god.

    Purportedly, based on the above poster, Plantinga says this:

    the thesis that natural theology has a priority over revealed theology

    That is a pretty clear condemnation of the Christian presupp approach.

    Of course, Plantinga has his own absolutely ridiculous arguments. I could spend quite a while describing their flaws.

  10. says

    I hate to see the words `industrialist` and `industrial` applied to people/businesses that are merely paper/money shufflers.
    To me `industry` means creation of wealth -not always marvellous
    but with a certain integrity to it.
    Plantinga is a twit too.

  11. mnb0 says

    @KG:
    1) that before Plantinga and a few others natural theology was dead and he revived it.
    2) that Domela Nieuwenhuis’ quote applies to almost all of their arguments and that that’s illustrated by the J and M cartoon.

  12. Chiroptera says

    EnlightenmentLiberal, #9:

    Actually, presuppositionalism goes more like: Logic was invented by God. If you’re an atheist, you don’t have any basis for logic, therefore you can’t even begin the debate. Ha ha, I win by default!”

    But I think you’re right that Platinga wasn’t involved in that. I was confusing my Calvinist apologists.

  13. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Chiroptera
    I take that correction, and offer another. There’s various forms of presuppositionalism, Christian or otherwise. They all revolve around the same basic argument “You must assume X in order to have a coherent world view”. Sometimes they’ll go through intermediaries, like “you must assume X in order for Y (such as the existence of logic), and you must have Y to have a coherent world view”.

    Many presuppositionalists will say, in addition, “And I know you already accept this assumption and believe it to be true, and I know you’re lying when you say you don’t”. Most of the standard Christian presupps do this, including Matt Slick, Sye Ten Bruggencate, Banana Man (Ray Comfort), and so forth.

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