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An Interview Showing Theist Alvin Plantinga's Vacuity

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Initial post: 10 Feb 2014 22:08:55 GMT
Henry James says:
Plantinga is widely considered to be the theist who presents the best arguments for his position.
Read the article below in the New York Times, and the accompanying comments. I think the interview shows the vacuity of Planinga's arguments for God. Do you disagree? (the comments are caustic towards Adorable Alvin).®ion=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

Posted on 11 Feb 2014 06:42:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Feb 2014 06:43:19 GMT
Withnail says:
His main argument seems to be either god exists or it doesn't (like whether there are an odd or even amount of stars), however that is ill-conceived. If you buy a lottery ticket you can either win the jackpot or not, but that doesn't make it a 50/50 chance of winning the jackpot. I'll be honest I continued to read beyond this first argument, but he offered nothing that I haven't read (and been unconvinced by) before, so I didn't finish the article. Was there something amazingly insightful at the end that I might have missed?

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 09:12:36 GMT
Bearman says:
Well I just read that interview, and it is certainly devoid of any substance. His argument is nothing more than tedious word games, and he thinks it's evidence.

Posted on 11 Feb 2014 09:44:32 GMT
I have always been a supporter of Platinga. Of all the theist philosophers he generally had a better grip on the arguments and some of the logical approaches he has taken are very sophisticated. This interview is a disaster...

"But lack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism. No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there are an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars. The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism. In the same way, the failure of the theistic arguments, if indeed they do fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism. Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence."

Funnily enough I have just had a go at MBen for exactly the same 'weak' thinking which, if you have not seen it I reproduce here...
"A logical proof that God does not exist."

The two lines that are important are lines 4 & 5
Line 4 says
4. E! g: (g <= ŽV)
which means there exists a god who is a member of the non-evidenced set. Now you are making claims that this is false BUT we have not seen any evidence to support that claim and the lack of evidence would indicate it is actually a true one. Please bear in mind that no one has produced such evidence for ANY god let alone yours in the last 10,000 years or so. Bear in mind that were any religion to produce irrefutable evidence for their God that would be the end of all other religions and yet we find that, far from one religion swallowing all the others we have a situation where we seem to be growing disparate religions and gods!

Which brings me to line 5.
5. P(g<=X) = {ŽV & X}/{ŽV}
which is a definition of the probability of god existing when there is no evidence (or anything such as the flying spaghetti monster and unicorns) and it it turns out that this probability evaluates, not to very small, but actually to zero. So you don't even get to be an agnostic about god.

In short


The point about the argument is that you can be agnostic about the quality of evidence but unless you designate any evidence as true then the probability of god is zero so agnosticism is not the correct decision for god only for the evidence.

Posted on 11 Feb 2014 09:49:32 GMT
Dreary me... You have no idea how disappointed I am with this

"The universe seems to be fine-tuned for life. For example, if the force of the Big Bang had been different by one part in 10 to the 60th, life of our sort would not have been possible. The same goes for the ratio of the gravitational force to the force driving the expansion of the universe: If it had been even slightly different, our kind of life would not have been possible. In fact the universe seems to be fine-tuned, not just for life, but for intelligent life. This fine-tuning is vastly more likely given theism than given atheism."

This is an example of "God of the Gaps" argument for theism. It is also an example of the 'Lottery Winner' fallacy.

Posted on 11 Feb 2014 09:51:09 GMT
"The most important ground of belief is probably not philosophical argument but religious experience." This turns into 'argumentum ad populum'

I am desolated!?

Posted on 11 Feb 2014 09:57:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Feb 2014 09:58:32 GMT
"Here's why. If a belief is as likely to be false as to be true, we'd have to say the probability that any particular belief is true is about 50 percent. Now suppose we had a total of 100 independent beliefs (of course, we have many more). Remember that the probability that all of a group of beliefs are true is the multiplication of all their individual probabilities. Even if we set a fairly low bar for reliability - say, that at least two-thirds (67 percent) of our beliefs are true - our overall reliability, given materialism and evolution, is exceedingly low: something like .0004. So if you accept both materialism and evolution, you have good reason to believe that your belief-producing faculties are not reliable.

But to believe that is to fall into a total skepticism, which leaves you with no reason to accept any of your beliefs (including your beliefs in materialism and evolution!). The only sensible course is to give up the claim leading to this conclusion: that both materialism and evolution are true. Maybe you can hold one or the other, but not both.

So if you're an atheist simply because you accept materialism, maintaining your atheism means you have to give up your belief that evolution is true. Another way to put it: The belief that both materialism and evolution are true is self-refuting. It shoots itself in the foot. Therefore it can't rationally be held."

This on the other hand is quite a clever piece of work. The big bang argument flies in the face of the Weak Anthropic Principle and as I mentioned was the lottery winner fallacy. Here he has turned that argument around and is trying to tie the fallacy to the evolution argument.

Anyone know why, as clever as this is, it fails?

It fails because WAP is predicated on a random process... maybe there were trillions upon trillions of universes eventually one would be right and here we are. He cannot use that argument on evolution either physically or spiritually. It is not a random process but is in fact a selective Markov process. The next state is bound entirely on the condition of the last state WITH a selective criterion for success.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 11:11:14 GMT
Drew Jones says:
Palntinga defines atheism as knowledge there is no god (which is wrong) and challenges this claiming that agnosticism is the best and most honest position, yet he's not an agnostic.

He's arguments for belief start off weak and get worse as he goes. Plantinga is articulate but not reasonable or on solid ground, yet articulate is all it takes to be a 'sophisticated theologian'.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 11:24:39 GMT
Drew Jones says:
Unless there is a breaking point in the numbers Plantinga thinks that distingishes people experiencing things because the assumption behind it is true and people experiencing things but mistaken I'm not sure if it's the argumentum ad populum. I assume Plantinga would insist that any and all religious experience must relate to the thing it believes itself to experience. It's circular and useless. Any and all beliefs are do to whatever is assumed behind it so there are a multitudes of gods and none of them are as powerful as claimed because non-belief diminishes that "important ground of belief".

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 12:50:16 GMT
Drew Jones says: "and challenges this claiming that agnosticism is the best and most honest position"

What saddens me is that he used logic to produce (as did Godel) a proof of God. Like my proof of NO god the 'error' lies always in the assumptions and not generally with the logic unless one is being careless.

The case rests on whether there is evidence.

Is the claim 4. E! g: (g <= ŽV) true.

So we end up with the fact that if there is true evidence then God exists. If you doubt the evidence as an agnostic then you are agreeing that statement 4 is true simply by being agnostic on the evidence. God could exist but he is un-evidenced. The outcome is exactly the same if you believe God exists truly, no doubting but again there is no evidence. It leads directly to statement 5 and again we have the probability of god as zero.

No matter how you argue it either there is evidence and god exists or there is doubtful or no evidence and god does not exist. God cannot be in both sets at the same time. So being a theist or atheist is honest but an agnostic is not!!

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 14:48:18 GMT
Henry James says:
Yes Bearman, I am with you. No substance.
and the 50/50 argument was ludicrous.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 14:53:53 GMT
Henry James says:
Nestov - I have wanted to have respect for Plantinga as well. I have tried. I really have. But this interview presents him at his worst.

BTW, a central part of his argument has always been that our conviction that God exists is evidence that He does. I have always found that contention amazingly absurd for a respected academic or Scotsman to make. I am convinced that Thor exists. And my brother is convinced that No God exists. Why is Plantinga's evidence better than my brothers?

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 14:57:15 GMT
Henry James says:
Let me repeat that the Readers Comments in the New York Times are devastating to Plantinga's "arguments" as well. And I thought I was the only one who saw through them!!!
What else would you expect from those Godless Gomorrah Geeks who read the NYTimes.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 14:57:31 GMT
Hi Henry, nice to hear from you.

"a central part of his argument has always been that our conviction that God exists is evidence that He does." It is basically the argumentum ad populum. X billion believe in god. They cannot all be wrong! Well yes they can. Just like the Phlogiston theory, plausible but wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 15:23:14 GMT
I've always thought that the problem of evil was the greatest stumbling block to belief. Not because the fact of lack of evidence is less convincing, but it really only shows that we have no good reason to accept theism if the only type of good reason for belief is evidence, and I'm not convinced of that ( I mean: where's the evidence?).

But seriously; I think this is so because I think I've always looked upon theism as a thesis about the fact that moral significance is woven into the fabric of existence, rather than a thesis about explanations and origins (though I know it is that also).

I think that the free will defence fails miserably in the face of the holocaust etc. indeed I think that to mount such a defence is immoral. I have read Plantinga's freewill defence, and despite his rigorous use of modal logic I feel the same about this.

This interview is just a popularisation so I wouldn't feel it was fair to judge his work from this.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 15:31:14 GMT
I agree entirely. Anthony. The issues of freewill and of evil are paramount to the argument. The use of modal logic is fun but in reality is irrelevant. I have looked at both Godel and Platinga and frankly my argument is better only because it is actually simpler (IMHO!). In the end though they all fail because of the potential argument over evidence and what constitutes it. Platinga tried to dismiss the Russell teapot but I felt he simply played a little fast and loose with the actual meaning of what is after all simply an example or thought experiment. In order to discredit it Platinga seemed to pretend that it was literal.

As Stephen Hawking found when he popularised Cosmology, you end up glossing over things in order to make them populist and this then comes back to haunt you (unfairly really!) later.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 15:47:17 GMT
Pendragon says:
Hi Bella ... sorry I mean Nestov!

You say "WAP is predicated on a random process... maybe there were trillions upon trillions of universes eventually one would be right and here we are".

I thought WAP was not reliant on a random selection from an assumed multiverse, but rather is that the universe's ostensible fine tuning is the result of selection bias: i.e., only in a universe capable of eventually supporting life will there be living beings capable of observing any such fine tuning, while a universe less compatible with life will go unbeheld.

In other words, here we are, so we can make the observation.

Bit like sin really. Were it not for man's existence, the Universe would know no sin.

I entirely agree that AP's arguments all fail.

Why can't he be honest and say there is no evidential or philosophical justification for God, but nevertheless I believe He exists? It's a matter of faith.


In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 16:07:56 GMT
" It's a matter of faith." Funny that... but they never say this. I feel mainly because it puts their god on a par with fairies and elves...

I agree WAP does say that but Platinga was using the 'fine tuning' argument and that is the lottery winner fallacy. The issue here is that in all possible Universes at least one will have the conditions to enable the sentient life in it to make these observations (WAP). And here we are holding the lottery ticket. His argument says we could not have won the lottery without someone helping us to cheat!!!

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 21:41:19 GMT
Henry James says:
I agree that the Free Will Defense "fails miserably," and especially that it is immoral. Perhap "a-moral" would be a better description.
The people who I have heard use it do so mindlessly, repeating a dogma, rather than thinking about the real-world occurrences that make it a grotesque parody - those children and mothers of children who die in Tsumamis are punished as a result of their "free will decisions?????" Nauseating.

Posted on 12 Feb 2014 18:30:38 GMT
Spin says:
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In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2014 16:36:24 GMT
AJ Murray says:
Hi Henry James,

Vacuity is correct, it starts bad:

"(I take atheism to be the belief that there is no such person as the God of the theistic religions.) "

And steadily gets worse, until all pretence at reason is ejected:

"The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might - e.g., having them boiled in oil - God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures. I'd say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering."

One can only imagine his eyes glazed over at that point as he is fully in throes of religious nutbaggery.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2014 20:52:35 GMT
Mrs. F. Shaw says:
or churches...
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Discussion in:  religion discussion forum
Participants:  10
Total posts:  22
Initial post:  10 Feb 2014
Latest post:  13 Feb 2014

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