Monday, January 15, 2007

Plantinga Contra Dawkins

This* appears to be Alvin Plantinga's response to Dawkins' The God Delusion. I say appears because it's not obvious why the review has been issued on a Norwegian website. However, it's written in the forthright style familiar to fans and (non-fans) of Plantinga's earlier work, and it employs the anti-naturalist argument Plantinga has expounded in many places. (e.g. here) So caveat lector and all, but it looks genuine.

Anyway, here's Plantinga's take Dawkin's complexity argument (Which seems to be the only new anti-theist argument that Dawkins advances):

Now suppose we return to Dawkins’ argument for the claim that theism is monumentally improbable. As you recall, the reason Dawkins gives is that God would have to be enormously complex, and hence enormously improbable (“God, or any intelligent, decision-making calculating agent, is complex, which is another way of saying improbable” (109)). What can be said for this argument?

Not much. First, is God complex? According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in Him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like. Some of the discussions of divine simplicity get pretty complicated, not to say arcane.[1] (It isn’t only Catholic theology that declares God simple; according to the Belgic Confession, a splendid expression of Reformed Christianity, God is “a single and simple spiritual being . . . .”) So first, according to classical theology, God is simple, not complex.[2] More remarkable, perhaps, is that according to Dawkins’ own definition of complexity, God is not complex. According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are “arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone” (7). But of course God isn’t a material object at all and hence has no parts. God is a spirit, an immaterial spiritual being, and therefore has no parts at all.[3] A fortiori (as philosophers like to say) God doesn’t have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex.

[1] See my Does God Have a Nature?

[2] The distinguished Oxford philosopher (Dawkins calls him a theologian) Richard Swinburne has proposed some sophisticated arguments for the claim that God is simple. Dawkins mentions Swinburne’s argument, but doesn’t deign to come to grips with it; instead he resorts to ridicule (110-111).

[3] What about the Trinity? Just how we are to think of the Trinity is of course not wholly clear; it is clear, however, that it is false that in addition to each of the three persons of the Trinity, there is also another being of which each of those persons is a part.

* Link removed by request.

No comments: