About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Michael Ruse on Alvin Plantinga

I haven't read Plantinga's new book, obviously, so I can't comment on whether the relevant chapter gives tacit-cum-explicit support to Intelligent Design theory. Given what I have read by Plantinga in the past, however, I'd be surprised if he didn't give some support to ID beyond the vague claim that God created and designed the universe as a whole. Plantinga has always argued that the cognitive powers of human beings could not arise from a merely naturalistic process, which must surely mean that there has been supernatural intervention in the detail of what cognitive powers we have ended up having. How is that not a form of Intelligent Design?

Anyway, the debate goes on. Michael Ruse has something nasty to say about everyone, but he does seem to score points against Plantinga here.


Richard Wein said...

Strictly speaking, supernatural causation does not entail intelligent causation. Astrologers could claim that events just happen in accordance with astrological principles, without being caused by any intelligent being. It could be claimed that organisms just spring into existence on their own. (People use to believe in "spontaneous generation".) It could be claimed that there is some supernatural tendency for species to evolve towards greater intelligence. With "the supernatural" anything is possible.

Russell Blackford said...

I probably agree - though "supernatural" is a very slippery concept. I do make the assumption in my own writing that there are (imagined) principles and forces and so on that we can regard as "supernatural".

Russell Blackford said...

Plantinga is clearly thinking of God, though. It's not as if he thinks our cognitive faculties were designed by the stars or the product of a supernatural force that tends toward intelligence, or something of the kind. I agree that we'd have to consider explanations like that if we gave up on naturalism.

Richard Wein said...

Agreed. I was taking Plantinga's argument strictly as presented.

In fact I think Plantinga's argument is broadly of the same type as ID arguments: it is primarily an anti-evolutionary argument, even if Plantinga does present it as something else.