Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism

Synopsis

This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, on one of our biggest debates - the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging.Plantinga, as a top philosopher but also a proponent of the rationality of religious belief, has a unique contribution to make. His theme in this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord. Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist - evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion - as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a casethat their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological"fine-tuning" in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way - as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, thereis a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise.

Excerpt

My overall claim in this book: there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.

Now central to the great monotheistaic religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam—is the thought that there is such a person as God: a personal agent who has created the world and is all-powerful, allknowing, and perfectly good. I take naturalism to be the thought that there is no such person as God, or anything like God. Naturalism is stronger than atheism: you can be an atheist without rising to the full heights (sinking to the lowest depths?) of naturalism; but you can’t be a naturalist without being an atheist.

Naturalism is what we could call a worldview, a sort of total way of looking at ourselves and our world. It isn’t clearly a religion: the term “religion” is vague, and naturalism falls into the vague area of its application. Still, naturalism plays many of the same roles as a religion. In particular, it gives answers to the great human questions: Is there such a person as God? How should we live? Can we look forward to life after death? What is our place in the universe? How are . . .

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