Does evolution prove God? Alvin Plantinga’s Christian Philosophy
Have universities and the leading edge of academia completely forsaken God?
Many atheist professors, especially in the humanities and sciences, are frankly opposed to Christianity. According to Harvard Review, about 40 percent of teachers are atheists or agnostics in âeliteâ schools.
As professors flock to millions of young adults in their most formative years, it seems that more and more students are coming to believe in religion as mere superstition, or at best just “personal truth.” “.
Of course, college professors need to hear the good news. In addition, Christians must rise in the intellectual world and pursue scholarship more effectively and follow the pattern of the âtransformative culture of Christâ in our approach to academia.
Philosophy may seem intimidating (or even unnecessary) to some Christians, but, as a subject student and aspiring researcher, I hope to offer a better perspective by examining one of the greatest living thinkers, Alvin Plantinga, who also happens to be a Christian.
Who is Dr Alvin Plantinga?
Dr Alvin Plantinga is an analytical philosopher at Notre Dame who received his doctorate. in philosophy at Yale in 1958. Perhaps his most remarkable work is God and other spirits, published in 1967, in which he argues that believing in God is just as rational as believing in the existence of other human spirits.
In 2017, he won one of the most prestigious awards of influential thinkers: the Templeton Prize. A committee and panel of judges, brilliant thinkers in their own right, select the recipient of the $ 1.4 million award from a wide range of thinkers from various fields.
Why did Plantinga win this award?
Templeton’s website testifies: âAlvin Plantinga is an American philosopher whose rigorous scholarship over half a century has made theism – belief in a divine reality or in a god – a serious option within the academy.
Since his philosophical arguments stand up to rigorous criticism, they are therefore complex and difficult to understand. Analytical philosophy often reaches levels of logic that require complex algebra to express arguments.
However, one of its popular arguments can be explained a little more simply: the evolutionary argument against naturalism.
When considering this argument, please do not view my explanation as the equivalent of his argument. If you want to criticize it or go deeper into it, you can hear him explain his evolutionary argument against naturalism in an interview.
The Evolutionist Argument Against Naturalism
Plantinga’s argument shows that it’s irrational to believe in evolution and naturalism at the same time. Let’s first define two terms.
Naturalism maintains that nothing intangible like the soul or God exists; only the “natural” exists. Almost all atheists are also naturalists.
The evolution is pretty self-explanatory. According to the theory of evolution, at a basic level, natural selection chooses the most suitable candidates to pass genetic material to offspring because that candidate reproduces more. This leads to “survival of the fittest”.
(For the record, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in evolution or not for this argument to work. What is important is that every naturalist is an evolutionist.)
The argument states that because evolution does not prioritize truer belief, as evolved humans we must therefore doubt all of our own beliefs, including naturalism and evolution.
An example featuring two cave man brothers
Let’s explain it with cavemen Fred and George, two evolving Homo sapiens.
Let’s say Fred really likes saber-toothed tigers. From an early age, Fred made it his sole mission to cuddle them. Well, in terms of natural selection, let’s just say Fred won’t last very long. Unfortunately, he will not be able to marry his beloved Ulga and have children.
So Fred behviour cuddling with predatory felines means he gets eaten quickly, and natural selection kicks him out. Thus, the gene “cuddle with saber-toothed tigers” is not transmitted.
Now let’s say his brother George also enjoys cuddling tigers. But, George thinks that running away from or fighting the tigers, for whatever reason, will make the tigers want to snuggle up to him. even more. This belief is absurd and turns out to be false every time he meets a tiger and lives to see another day.
However, George is stubborn and he clings to his ridiculous notion that “running away from tigers will mean more tiger hugs later.”
Notice that George behviour gives it an advantage. Running away from or fighting tigers helps him survive even if he has a false belief on his actions. Thus, the gene for the behavior “fight or flee tigers” is transmitted and perhaps also its false belief.
This means evolution doesn’t care about your beliefs; he only selects for behviour it gives you a greater chance of survival.
Therefore, human behavior will get better and better to survive, but our ability to uncover the truth (to hold beliefs with precise content) remains the same and does not evolve to improve.
What does this conclusion mean?
Now, if humans have simply evolved from natural selection, it means that we cannot trust our brains to have very true beliefs. If natural selection doesn’t care about true or false beliefs, then who knows? Each belief that we have would be around fifty / fifty, and we cannot trust our own reason.
This means that if you believe in evolution and naturalism, then you have a reason to be extremely skeptical about everything, even your own belief in naturalism!
When we don’t trust our own rationality, it is usually called skepticism, and if Plantinga is right, it would lead to deep and “hard” skepticism.
However, believe in evolution and God, or simply believing in God without evolution, is entirely rational. For example, Alvin Plantinga believes that God orchestrates evolution, which allows humans to evolve with spirits aimed at collecting the truth.
Even if you personally, as a Christian, do not believe in evolution, the argument still shows that naturalism is irrational.
Why don’t I say that this argument ârefutesâ naturalism? Because technically not. This is one of Plantinga’s stumbling blocks. The argument only shows that it is irrational To to believe in naturalism, which helps to show that believing in God is all the more reasonable.
In the world of philosophy, this argument joins a rich history of two millennia of thought which shows that belief in God is reasonable.
Charles Darwin and CS Lewis
Even Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, wrote in About the origin of species, “I have to assume that I have nothing to do with the origin of primary mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself.” In a letter to a friend, he wrote “But then, with me, the horrible doubt always arises whether the beliefs of the mind of man, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”
Cs lewis succinctly makes the point similar to Plantinga’s argument: “Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought in order not to believe in God.”
Alvin Plantinga, in his Templeton Prize acceptance speech, said: “I hope the news of the award will encourage young philosophers, especially those who bring Christian and theistic perspectives to their work, towards more creativity, integrity and daring.”
Pursue a rigorous scholarship
As a young philosopher, this certainly encouraged me.
If you are interested in philosophy, consider turning to theologian and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig. A good place to start is accessibility On guard: defend your faith with reason and precision. If you are interested in more arguments against naturalism, I recommend you Ascending Soul Desire: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason about which I just wrote a book review.
And, above all, read the great classics and face them, do not be afraid of divergent points of view. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Schaeffer are some of my personal favorites.
As we pursue our own studies and fields of work, whether it be carpentry or philosophy, we are to âwork heartily, as for the Lord and not for menâ (Colossians 3:23).
The world of philosophy, science and the humanities need not be enemies of Christianity, if only believers continue to pursue rigorous studies, representing the light of Christ at a central place in our culture: the universities.