15 February, 2013

God, nature, and ethics

English: Alvin Plantinga after telling a joke ...
English: Alvin Plantinga after telling a joke at the beginning of a lecture on science and religion delivered at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I probably shouldn't be wading into this...

...but I respect David J. Theroux of the Independent Instittute, and he asked me to point out that Philosopher Alvin Plantinga Receives Prestigious Rescher Prize.  For details, click on the link and see the full article.

Having done that, though, it seems to be the interesting thing is not the article itself, but the comments that follow.  Plantinaga is noteworthy for his attempts to show, from a Christian theist perspective, that "naturalism/atheism" is "self-refuting and incoherent," thus disproving "the prevailing view in Western elites that human beings are merely “matter in motion” (i.e., purposeless, accidental, robotic products of a closed, natural world ruled solely by physical laws and that truth, reason, morality, and God are illusions)."

On the face of it, that claim doesn't make much sense to me.  First of all, "naturalism" and "atheism" may be mutually supportive, but naturalism doesn't necessarily lead to atheism (unless one holds to a variant of naturalism that assumes it from the start).  Likewise, I don't see any logical (let alone behavioral) necessity of connection between a god, of whatever nature, and morality, let alone truth.

Like so many things where you end up depends on where you start.
Nick Bostrom, a Swedish Oxford-educated philos...
Nick Bostrom, a Swedish Oxford-educated philosopher, at a 2006 summit in Stanford. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Lee Smolin at Harvard University
English: Lee Smolin at Harvard University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The anti-religion commenters are, in their own way, as closed-minded as anyone else.  And while I prefer an epistemology that bases intersubjective understandings on references to observations in the world, I accept it can--like logic--be just another way to go wrong with confidence.  Maybe there is a god.  Or God.  Or gods.  Or whatever.  Since I don't even know what that words means, I don't worry about it very much.

I would, however, enjoy to see a debate between Plantinga and Bostrom on the simulation hypothesis.  With Smolin adding comments on the theory of cosmological natural selection.  Now that could prove interesting.