Alvin Plantinga is among the preeminent philosophers of his generation. After a long career, chiefly at Calvin College and the University of Notre Dame (where he is emeritus John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy), Plantinga has formally retired, but he hasn't been idle. In his new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford University Press), he sheds light on a subject that is often obscured by posturing and superficial polemics. John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture, spoke with Plantinga about the underlying harmony between scientific and religious accounts of reality.
Most of your book is taken up with the proposition that there's superficial conflict but deep concord between theistic religion and science.
In certain areas, the right word would be alleged conflict. For example, I argue that there's no real conflict between evolutionary theory—that is, the scientific theory of evolution apart from any naturalistic spin—and what C. S. Lewis called "mere Christianity." There's no real conflict, even though conflict has been alleged by people on the Right as well as on the Left. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and a host of others claim that there is outright conflict between evolutionary theory and belief in such a person as God, who has created and designed the living world. At the other end, there are Christian thinkers, too—like Phillip Johnson—who think there is irreconcilable conflict between the scientific theory of evolution and Christian belief.
But I don't think there is. What current scientific evolutionary theory says is that the living world has come to be via a certain process of natural selection operating on some form of genetic variation. And it's ...1