Page 3 – Where the Conflict Really Lies – Alvin Plantinga
Plantinga also notes the roots of science in Christian Europe. He notes that Albert Einstein calls a proper scientist a “real seeker after truth” (267). Having scientific knowledge also does not preclude other forms of knowledge. Using the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Plantinga notes that the image of God in humanity includes the intellect. “Science, clearly, is an extension of our ordinary ways of learning about the world” (270). Science requires a high degree of regularity and predictability in the world, which includes not only natural laws, mathematics, and an empirical element, but also learning from experience, simplicity, and beauty.
Finally, he argues a deep conflict exists between evolution and naturalism and here restates his “evolutionary argument against naturalism.” He reiterates again that the claim that evolution is unguided is a metaphysical one. Again using Thomas Aquinas, Plantinga argues that since humanity has been made in the image of God, humans can trust their cognitive abilities. Naturalists like Nietzsche and Darwin, on the other hand, have doubted “that human cognitive faculties produce for the most part true beliefs” (316). Plantinga concludes that the probability of our cognitive faculties being reasonable within naturalism is low. Since naturalism makes metaphysical claims, Plantinga concludes it is a quasi-religion, and thus “there is indeed a science/religion conflict, all right, but it is not between science and theistic religion: it is between science and naturalism” (350).
While Plantinga hopes that this work may be of interest to a general reader, some background in analytical philosophy and science would benefit interested readers. One can easily get bogged down in some of his logical arguments even with some knowledge in those areas. Also, despite the fact that the book was recently published, Plantinga did not interact as much with literature published after his Gifford Lectures, like Alister McGrath’s Gifford Lectures, published as A Fine-Tuned Universe.
Despite these issues, Plantinga shows effectively in Where the Conflict Really Lies the problems with seeing an insurmountable tension between science and religion, for both people of faith and secularists. He interacts well with a variety of figures in science and religion discussions, and even finds wisdom and insight in unlikely places. The work will benefit primarily Christians with an interest in the interactions of philosophy, theology, and science.
Shaun C. Brown is Associate Minister of Youth at Central Holston Christian Church in Bristol, TN, where he lives with his cat Tonks.