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on 28 October 2017
Interesting review of philosophy / science / Christianity/Theism / Naturalism discussion
Quite scathing re Dawkins etc, but does point listeners in the direction of other proponents of naturalism/atheism that he considers having more depth
Was a little hard going at times with involved philosophical /mathematical /Logic arguments which were beyond me
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on 2 August 2015
Alvin Plantinga is regarded as a philosopher's philosopher. I came across his name after other philosophy and apologetics books referenced his work, so I thought it was time to give the man a go.

For some reason I believed 'Where the Conflict Really Lies' was his attempt at writing for a more mainstream audience, in response to the pop atheism books available, but I was very wrong. He even says himself in his introduction that the book is aimed at philosophy students, but I didn't let that deter me.

I soon realised though that Plantinga lives on an intellectual plain far higher than us mere mortals. The big 'hint' here was when I reached the chapter that looks at an equation discussing Mother Teresa's altruism! And that is just one of many philosophical equations that he deals with throughout the book, so if you're not familiar with that kind of reasoning it'll just simply fly over your head.

Nevertheless, Plantinga tackles the big issues with such concise detail that it's amazing to read. It's a shame though that the majority of his arguments will remain in the philosophical realm and not filter down into the mainstream. Maybe one day though.
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on 4 March 2012
This was not an easy book to read, but having got the bit between my teeth, I am very glad that I did so. On the basis of a first careful reading, my conclusion is that David Robertson did actually read the same book, whereas Mr Van Berg appears to have been reading something else - or perhaps skipped to the bits he wanted to disagree with. Plantinga is, for instance, quite careful to define what he means by 'random' when he describes natural selection, and he frequently cites key evolutionary scientists when he does so.

Having dabbled a little in the past with Plantinga's writings, and found them pretty challenging, I did find that the approach he has adopted here was extremely helpful. The inclusion of more technical material, more apposite for those with some background in the discipline of philosophy, but identified by means of a distinct typeface, was very helpful. This enabled me to make decisions about whether I should skip material or not (actually, 'not' became more frequent as one worked through the book) - and reinforced the fact that the book is appropriate for both novices and the more capable.

Plantinga's style of writing does encourage engagement with his subject, and he systematically advances his case (that theism and science are not in conflict, but that theism and science ARE in conflict with naturalism) by steady increments. His examination of the somewhat tenuous arguments employed by Messrs Dawkins and Dennett was particularly helpful - mainly because Plantinga's analysis helps to bring clarity to help one to see through the kinds of crassly dogmatic claims advanced by such individuals in pursuit of an anti-theistic worldview.

This kind of steady, systematic building of a case is very much Plantinga's hallmark. I can now understand that readers who jump in with 'Warranted Christian Belief' would struggle with it, given all the foundational work that he had constructed in the previous two volumes. This (for Plantinga) relatively brief work shows the care and rigour which he brings to his subject - unlike Dennett and Dawkins, and their acolytes, he takes great care to ensure that the groundwork is in place before he starts to build the upper stories of his case.

Another strength with this book is its structure. The 'Contents' section shows an utterly methodical breakdown of sections and subsections - and in the preface, he takes care to outline what it is that he is going to show his reader. I would like to think that this level of rigour would appeal to theists and atheists alike, and would hope that we would not see too much of the ritual shooting down of the great man - but I'm not going to hold my breath!

I would recommend this to any Christian wishing to work through issues relating to the interaction between 'faith' and 'science'. You will find that Plantinga's clarity and rigour will help clear many of the red-herrings out of the way, and reduce the arguments to their key components. An enlightening exercise, where so much else that goes on is an exercise in refined obfuscation!
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on 11 March 2012
It has been clear to me for some time that the New Atheists offer us a false dichotomy between science and religion. Plantinga recognises this too. My degree is in physics and I see no conflict between science and theism. In fact science in my lifetime has become more God friendly; for example the Big Bang theory (which was only generally accepted in 1965), which showed that the universe had a beginning and the Anthropic principle, a word coined by Brandon Carter in 1974. Plantinga discusses the fine-tuning arguments in Chap 7.

Plantinga's argument is that "there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism". I think that his thesis is correct. The interaction between science and religion has been well documented in recent books by Alister McGrath, John Lennox and Ian Barbour. Plantinga, as a respected philosopher, has added a much needed contribution to this literature. Chapter headings are:

1. Evolution and Christian belief (1)
2. Evolution and Christian belief (2)
3. Divine action in the world: The Old picture.
4. The New Picture.
5. Evolutionary Psychology and scripture scholarship
6. Defeaters?
7. Fine-tuning (The Anthropic Principle)
8. Design Discourse
9. Deep Concord: Christian Theism and the Deep Roots of science
10. The evolutionary Argument against Naturalism.

Personally, I would have liked him to spend more time on the physics rather than biology/evolution. Robert J Spitzer does this better in his book "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy"
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on 23 June 2017
This book is ideal for those spiritually seeking or spiritually skeptical. Debra Rufini - Author of 'The Artist's Page.'
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on 29 December 2015
Very heavy reading. I would have given 4 stars or even 5 had I understood half of the book as I should. I am a bit dim in my brain but still was able to see some of the arguments put in the book and has more clarity on the fact that science opens and confirms the presence of a CREATOR rather than provide an alternative explanation of how the universe came to be. The heavens declares the glory of GOD. Nothing can create nothing.
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on 2 March 2012
This book is heavy going with some of the mathematical and philosophical comments requiring some hard work in terms of thinking. Of course reviews will generally be prejudiced - some Christians will struggle with Plantinga's acceptance of evolution, whereas the New Fundamentalist Atheists will dismiss the book before they even read it with their usual circular reasoning. Personally I found this book to be well written, intellectually coherent and in parts a brilliant debunking of naturalism as a scientific philosophy. For Plantinga naturalism and science are incompatible. He explains why. It looks to be a knock dead argument and I would like to see a reliable refutation. One suspects though that the emotional need of naturalists to believe their faith will mean that they are impervious to the kind of rigourous reasoning that Plantinga demonstrates. For anyone else with a genuine interest in the discussion this book is a must!
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on 19 February 2013
For many people it is virtually an unquestioned assumption - science and christian belief are incompatible. But this book by eminent philosopher Alvin Plantinga turns that on its head - he argues that science and theism are very compatible while it is science and atheism/naturalism that are incompatible.

Plantinga opens his book with his central claim: "There is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism."

He goes on to cover some deep topics:

Evolution and theism
Divine action in the world (are miracles possible now we know the laws of science?)
Evolutionary psychology
Historical criticism of the Bible
Fine-tuning of universal constants and laws
Biological intelligent design
How christian theism explains many aspects of science (reliability & regularity; laws; mathematics; learning from experience; and more)
The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

This book is not a knock-down set of theistic arguments, such as those provided by WL Craig in his Reasonable Faith. But Alvin Plantinga is one of the most respected philosophers in the English-speaking world today, and this book is a subtle, thoughtful and fair-minded examination of a wide range of very interesting questions. It has given me plenty to chew on, and a few arguments to work through and use.

I would hesitate to recommend it to atheists who are waiting to be convinced of christian belief, nor to christians who are looking for ammunition. But if you want to be extended in your thinking, this book should do that.
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on 2 February 2015
I found this book to be very well considered and thought provoking. Highly recommended. It doesn't try and win the readers over with soundbites and pop-culture references but instead it offers a methodical critique of the argument that theistic conviction and science are at loggerheads.
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on 1 February 2012
It would be as disingenuous for scientists to deny that evolution does engender a certain outlook, in which Darwin and many others have seen grandeur, as it is for creationists to claim that their concerns are scientific and not religious (mutatis mutandis this applies equally well to other types of objections, e.g., moral, aesthetic, intellectual, or political).

To claim that a bleak, nihilistic, Godless worldview devoid of any meaning is justified (or, worse, proven) by evolutionary science is to commit the naturalistic fallacy. Equally well, evolutionary science has nothing to say about the role, if any, played by God in the process. In this respect the situation is no different from that of, say, physics. However, few seriously ask if the hand of God is or isn't in the trajectories of elementary particles. There must be something in the typical believers' conception of God and His plan on the one hand and their understanding of how evolution works on the other hand that makes evolution so unpalatable.

The theistic concept of evolution views divine ordination as an essential part of the evolutionary process. (Deism identifies God in some sense with the laws that govern the process, whereas theism postulates a more personal, active God. Theism can have a broader meaning that encompasses deism, but Plantinga's is the narrower meaning here.)

Since, as Plantinga rightly points out, basic beliefs require no further justification, the theists are entitled to their interpretation of evolution: after all, evolutionary theory proceeds as before, unless the theist wishes to invoke divine intervention to explain a specific evolutionary event, such as the origin of a particular species or the development of a particular organ. This stratagem leaves the theist with little manoeuvring space should a non-divine explanation be subsequently found; such are the pitfalls of God of the gaps reasoning and most philosophers, religious and non-religious alike, agree that this is a road best not taken.

Alvin Plantinga, a prominent defender of theism, here claims that theism, with its vision of an orderly universe superintended by a God who created rational-minded creatures in his own image, deserves to be called the scientific worldview and that those who would beg to differ have a mental disorder: their sensus divinitatis does not work properly and leads them to commit the naturalistic fallacy. Although Plantinga purports to embrace the scientific theory of evolution (adding, oddly, "as all Christians should'' which is more than an evolutionary theorist would require of a Christian---or anyone else, for that matter), his characterisation of natural selection as a random process and his advocacy of Intelligent Design demonstrate that he does not understand the first thing about evolutionary theory. For this reason, his book is without any value.

In the words of Michael Ruse: "He gets his victory at the level of gelding or significantly altering modern science in unacceptable ways.''
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