Re: on co-opting impulses towards organized religion

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Thu Jul 26 2001 - 22:10:29 MDT

At 07:50 PM 7/26/01 -0400, Mark wrote:

>(BTW, I see so many strawperson versions of religion attacked as irrational
>on this list. There are some towering intellects among believers, I wish
>their views would be scrutinized. For example, one luminary may be found

Good point, but the example is odd (I say after the briefest visit to Dr
Plantinga's homepage). Regard this strange assertion:

A letter from Plantinga, a philosophy professor, and Huston Smith, a
religion professor at Berkeley, moved the National Association of Biology
Teachers to remove anti-religious language from its statement on evolution.

For years, the association's official position read: "The diversity of life
on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal,
unpredictable and natural process."

Recently, after Plantinga and Smith objected that "unsupervised" and
"impersonal" go beyond scientific evidence, the association dropped those

"I was a little surprised, actually, but I was very pleased," says
Plantinga, a member of South Bend Christian Reformed Church who came to
Notre Dame from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, 15 years ago. "It's a small
but significant little thing in the whole debate.

"There is so much heat in this area -- people's faith, people's ideology is
involved-- that often straightforward, rational discussion doesn't work
well." Plantinga and Smith are among a growing number of Christian
scholars, including scientists, who challenge what they consider the
unscientific presuppositions of modern culture with respect to evolution.

"I think the main thing to see about it is that it is by no means merely a
scientific doctrine at all," Plantinga says. "It is about naturalism vs.
theism, naturalism vs. American religious belief, naturalism vs. Christianity.

"They think science has shown that human beings are not really created by
God. That's not true at all. That's not science. That's theology. It's bad
theology because it's theology confused with science."

That's the point he and Smith argued successfully about the biology
association's position.

"A good bit of it was theology, not science," Plantinga says. "There's no
way, simply on the basis of physical science, that you could have
discovered that the process is unsupervised or impersonal.

"That's not part of evolutionary theory as science at all. We wondered why
it was stated as a piece of science."

Unlike those who object to evolutionary theories on religious grounds,
Plantinga and others do not insist that the Genesis account of creation
must be taken literally.

"I'm somebody who thinks God created the world," Plantinga says. "I'm not
sure that's what the Lord intends to teach in that part of Genesis. I don't
know exactly how he did it. It's possible he did it by evolution."


So the bacteria changing rapidly in human bodies within the span of a few
decades might be doing so *under the personal supervision of a deity*? Or
is it under the personal supervision of the devil? Cf. his whimsical

< alvinize, v. To stimulate protracted discussion by making a bizarre
claim. "His contention that natural evil is due to Satanic agency alvinized
his listeners." >

I assume Dr Alvin P. does find this a bizarre assertion; I regard his own
assertion--that we might any longer regard stochastic evolutionary
processes as under
the guiding hand of a god--exactly as ridiculous. I'm ashamed that the
National Association of Biology Teachers caved in.

But maybe Dr Plantinga has more intelligent things to say elsewhere. Got a
specific paper you'd recommend, Mark? (Or am I missing a meta-point, and
you're poking fun at this `luminary'?)

Damien Broderick

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