A Journal like No Other
Parsons, Keith, Free Inquiry
In the staid and sober world of academic journals, something exciting has just happened. A new, peer-reviewed philosophy journal has just been launched to do something unheard of - offer rigorous critiques of theistic and religious claims.
The journal's name is Philo. It began when I proposed the idea to FREE INQUIRY Editor Timothy J. Madigan. He raised the issue with Paul Kurtz, who enthusiastically supported the project and agreed to make Philo a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. Philo is sponsored by, and is the official journal of, the Society of Humanist Philosophers. With considerable diffidence, I agreed to edit the new journal, but only because I was. assured of the support of Lewis Vaughn as my Executive Editor. His expertise makes the project possible.
My inspiration for selecting the name Philo, which was the name of Hume's skeptic in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, was a remark made by Richard Gale in his outstanding book The Nature and Existence of God. In his Introduction to the work, Gale comments that he wrote the book because, given recent, sophisticated work by theistic philosophers, he felt that it was time for a return of Hume's Philo. This is also the justification for the existence of this journal.
Over the past two decades, a number of outstanding theistic philosophers have produced a number of very significant works in the philosophy of religion. Some of these works employ conceptual tools developed in science, the philosophy of science, and formal logic to give new life to old arguments. For instance, Richard Swinburne's The Existence of God applies Bayesian confirmation theory to the traditional cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God. He thereby produces powerful new inductive versions of those arguments, which, he claims, are not vulnerable to the standard refutations. In a similar vein, William Lane Craig has employed highly technical points from current physical cosmology to refurbish cosmological arguments. 'Other philosophers defend sophisticated modal versions of the ontological argument.
Philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga and William Alston have developed defenses of theism that depart from the old-fashioned natural-theology project. Plantinga develops an anti-foundationalist position he calls Calvinist (or Reformed) Epistemology. This position permits belief in God as a properly basic belief, i.e., a belief that is rational though based on no evidence or argument. Alston argues the intriguing view that the Christian's claims to perceive God need be no less rational than our everyday perceptual claims. R.M. Adams also provides novel treatments of old issues, such as the problem of evil.
A new development has been the resurgence of anti-evolutionism and the emergence of so-called intelligent design theory. Led by activists such as Philip Johnson, this movement has attracted endorsements from several leading philosophers. More sophisticated than the crude propaganda of "scientific creationists," the new anti-evolutionism is also an attack on scientific naturalism. I intend that an entire issue of Philo will soon address "intelligent design" and its philosophical defenders.
Finally, the Fellowship of Christian Philosophers has flourished and produces an outstanding journal, Faith and Philosophy. …