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.