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by Alvin Plantinga

Evolution vs. Naturalism

Why they are like oil and water.

As everyone knows, there has been a recent spate of books attacking Christian belief and religion in general. Some of these books are little more than screeds, long on vituperation but short on reasoning, long on name-calling but short on competence, long on righteous indignation but short on good sense; for the most part they are driven by hatred rather than logic. Of course there are others that are intellectually more respectable—for example Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's contribution to God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist[1] and Michael Tooley's contribution to Knowledge of God.[2] Nearly all of these books have been written by philosophical naturalists. I believe it's extremely important to see that naturalism itself, despite the smug and arrogant tone of the so-called New Atheists, is in very serious philosophical hot water: one can't sensibly believe it.

Naturalism is the idea that there is no such person as God or anything like God; we might think of it as high-octane atheism or perhaps atheism-plus. It is possible to be an atheist without rising to the lofty heights (or descending to the murky depths) of naturalism. Aristotle, the ancient Stoics, and Hegel (in at least certain stages) could properly claim to be atheists, but they couldn't properly claim to be naturalists: each endorses something (Aristotle's Prime Mover, the Stoics' Nous, Hegel's Absolute) no self-respecting naturalist could tolerate.

These days naturalism is extremely fashionable in the academy; some say it is contemporary academic orthodoxy. Given the vogue for various forms of postmodern anti-realism and relativism, that may be a bit strong. Still, naturalism is certainly widespread, and it is set forth in such recent popular books as Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker, Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea, and many others. Naturalists like to wrap themselves in the mantle of science, as if science in some way supports, endorses, underwrites, implies, or anyway is unusually ...

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