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A Rational Defense of Belief in God

The New York Times recently posted a review of Alvin Plantinga’s book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and NaturalismIn it, Plantinga argues on philosophical grounds that, among other things, theism is not in conflict with science, that a belief in naturalism along with evolution is contradictory, and that “Faith…is another basic way of forming beliefs, distinct from but not in competition with reason, perception, memory, and the others.” It’s a dense, but great read. The video above is a short interview with Plantinga that is also illuminating.

From the book review:

Plantinga holds that miracles are not incompatible with the laws of physics, because those laws determine only what happens in closed systems, without external intervention, and the proposition that the physical universe is a closed system is not itself a law of physics, but a naturalist assumption. Newton did not believe it: he even believed that God intervened to keep the planets in their orbits. Plantinga has a lengthy discussion of the relation of miracles to quantum theory: its probabilistic character, he believes, may allow not only miracles but human free will. And he considers the different interpretations that have been given to the fine-tuning of the physical constants, concluding that the support it offers for theism is modest, because of the difficulty of assigning probabilities to the alternatives. All these discussions make a serious effort to engage with the data of current science. The arguments are often ingenious and, given Plantinga’s premises, the overall view is thorough and consistent.

The interest of this book, especially for secular readers, is its presentation from the inside of the point of view of a philosophically subtle and scientifically informed theist—an outlook with which many of them will not be familiar. Plantinga writes clearly and accessibly, and sometimes acidly—in response to aggressive critics of religion like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. His comprehensive stand is a valuable contribution to this debate.

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