Where the Conflict Really Lies – Alvin Plantinga [Feature Review]

February 8, 2012


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.

2 responses to Where the Conflict Really Lies – Alvin Plantinga [Feature Review]

  1. Thanks to Shaun Brown and ERB for this making this review available.  Very clear presentation of what must have been a challenging read.

  2. Plantinga’s book is primarily directed to atheists (especially naturalists), but has lessons for apologetics as well. Most religious people respect science and all use its findings. Many scientists are religious, some very much so. Both science and religion, however, have limitations which should be mutually respected.

    In my free ebook on comparative mysticism, “the greatest achievement in life,” is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is the center of all religion.”

    E=mc², Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Love, Grace, Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.http://www.peacenext.org/profile/RonKrumpos