Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Argument Putting Pressure on Atheism

This is a wonderful interview with a leading philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, who is also a Christian, about rationality and atheism, "Is Atheism Irrational?"  The title is designed to catch our attention, to be sure, but it isn't that far from one of the arguments Plantinga makes (briefly in the article, and in greater detail other places, video, book).  The article ends with a summation of his argument, but it covers a handful of other topics as well.

Plantinga addresses an area in which most atheists, especially those heavily influenced by "New Atheists," seem to have declared a win simply by intellectual fiat.  They don't see any evidence for God, therefore their reasonable conclusion is atheism - that the God of the theists doesn't exist.  Plantinga, however doesn't buy that simple move.  He makes the case for atheists making their case.  It is a belief about what is true in the ontology of the universe, so they don't get off the hook by simply saying they don't see evidence for God.  They need to supply their own evidence for the belief.

Plantinga addresses a very common objection to theism, the "problem of evil," but he deals with that well in terms of what is reasonable to believe about the kind of world we live in and the kind of conclusions made by intellectual honesty (my words, not his).

And eventually he addresses his argument that materialism, and atheism for the sake of materialism, makes the belief in atheism (really, any belief about the truth of things) irrational.

I have seen a few atheists dismiss Plantinga's arguments as a kind of question begging, but this only highlights their need to understand the arguments better than they do and go beyond the often simplistic triumphalism they exude.

To whet your appetite for the argument, here is the conclusion:

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.

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