Saturday, May 31, 2014

Another response to Plantinga's EAAN. (Part 3)

I’ve been blogging about Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) this month. If you’re a naturalist (like me), this argument challenges the very rationality of all of your beliefs, including your belief in naturalism itself. If you’re a theist (like Plantinga), on the other hand, you can claim that your beliefs, including your belief in God, are rational because God has made us in his image with faculties that track Truth, including the Truth of his existence.

Or can you?

Have you ever thought to yourself, or even claimed that, “the Lord works in mysterious ways”? As crass as this phrase seems, many high brow apologists – even Plantinga himself – have used just this tact to get out of evidential arguments against the existence of God. The idea is that, all things considered, we lowly humans aren’t in a position to know what God would do or permit in any given situation.

For example, so much natural suffering seems pointless (think of children and animals being maimed or orphaned or dying slowly from forest fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, cancer, tuberculosis, and parasitic eye infections  - just to name a few), seriously challenging the theist’s belief in a personal God who is omnipotent and morally perfect. But theists often respond as Plantinga does here:

From the theistic perspective, there is little to no reason to think that God would have a reason for a particular evil state of affairs only if we had a pretty good idea of what that reason might be. On the theistic conception, our cognitive powers, as opposed to God’s, are a bit slim for that. God might have reasons we cannot so much as understand…

But then, who’s to say that God doesn’t have reasons that we cannot so much as understand for providing us with faculties that don’t track Truth? Theism entails such an enormous epistemic chasm between us and God that I’m afraid that nobody, not even a genius like Alvin Plantinga (and I do mean that - I really do think that he's a genius)can say that.

It seems that, for all we know, theists are in no better position to think that their faculties track Truth than naturalists are. All we all can do is use the faculties we have to make the best, most honest sense of things that we can. For all we know, God may be testing our powers of rationality and hoping that we'll come to the conclusion that the type of God he has permitted to be portrayed by classical monotheism doesn't, in fact, exist! Back to our faculties and their deliverances, then.

"The lord works in mysterious ways" is an escape clause that in philosophy lingo is known as "skeptical theism". I'm sure that I'll be posting about it in the future because it's not just damning to the idea that we can be confident that God has given us reliable faculties. It's damning to the idea that God doesn't lie to us. Heck, it's damning to the idea that we can know anything about God at all.

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