Q & A: Alvin Plantinga on Conflict Resolution with Science
So they're really shuttling back and forth between science and philosophy, and presenting the philosophizing as if it were science.
Yes, I think that's the right way to put it. And it's worth noting that evolutionary theory is ordinarily presented to students as entailing philosophical naturalism. I recently saw a list of biology textbooks at the college level, all of which said exactly that. They just took it that the theory entails unguided evolution.
In the last, much briefer section of the book, you discuss whether there is a fundamental incompatibility between naturalism and the theory of evolution.
I think that's an extremely interesting and important point, though to argue for it properly is quite complicated; it's hard to do in a brief compass. The basic idea, which is far from being original, is that if you are a naturalist and think that we have come to be by evolutionary processes, then you will think that the main purpose of our cognitive processes, our mental faculties, is survival and reproductive fitness, not the production of true belief. Evolution doesn't give a rip about whether your beliefs are true. It only cares whether or not your actions are adaptive, whether they contribute to your fitness. From the point of view of evolution together with naturalism, you wouldn't expect that our faculties would be really adjusted to truth or aimed at truth. They would just be aimed at fitness.
But if this is true, if our minds are aimed at mere survival, not at truth, then it's not probable that our minds should be reliable—that is, produce an appropriate preponderance of true over false beliefs; and if that is so, then one who believes both naturalism and evolution should reject the thought that our minds are reliable. But that's a crippling position to be in. Nietzsche is among the people who have suggested this problem. Some contemporary philosophers—Thomas Nagel, for example—have voiced the same worry, and so did Darwin himself.
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Previous Christianity Today coverage of the debate between science and religion includes:
The Search for the Historical Adam | The center of the evolution debate has shifted from asking whether we came from earlier animals to whether we could have come from one man and one woman. (June 3, 2011)
Sin in the Double Helix | Reports linking moral behavior to genetic traits actually prove Scripture's claims, not undermine them. (March 17, 2011)
Adamant on Adam | Resignation of prominent scholar Bruce Waltke underscores tension over evolution. (May 25, 2010)