Home » What's New » July 31, 2023

July 31, 2023

Added Plantinga’s Selective Theism: The Circular Reasoning at the Heart of Where the Conflict Really Lies (2023) by Doug Mann to the Alvin Plantinga page under Criticisms of Christian Apologetics and Apologists in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

For more than 30 years, Alvin Plantinga has argued that the guiding hand of the Christian God was necessary for evolution by natural selection to produce reliable human cognitive faculties that produce a majority of true beliefs. This paper focuses on two of the many problems with Plantinga’s argument. First, Plantinga’s explication of what it means for “our cognitive faculties” and “beliefs” to be “reliable” is woefully inadequate in scientific terms. Second, even if we give Plantinga’s shaky cognitive science the benefit of the doubt, my analysis of Plantinga’s selective theism reveals that his argument is circular. I discuss a mainstream version of Christian theism that leads to a conclusion about the expected reliability of our cognitive faculties under theism that is the opposite of Plantinga’s, undermining his claim of a “deep concord” between theism and science.

New in the Kiosk: Free Speech and Press (2023) by James A. Haught

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States forbids any law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and yet conservatives have spent centuries trying to do exactly that. Freedom of speech or of the press refer to the same thing—the ability voice beliefs or ideas, however unpopular, without fear of punishment for speaking up. As a governmental right, it was a slowly-won one that lies at the heart of democracy. The right to speak up is no more and no less than the right to think freely without arrest or prosecution. Haught surveys the history of censorship from suppressing heterodoxy and nonconfirmity to sexual censorship up through our present day era of religion-driven murder for saying or doing the “wrong” things.

Recommended reading: Why It’s OK to Trust Science (2023) by Keith M. Parsons

Why should science have more authority than “other ways of knowing?” Is science merely a social construct? Or worse, a tool of oppression? Why It’s OK to Trust Science takes on these and other explosive questions—lodged by both left-wing and right-wing ideologues—and offers a well-researched defense of science against its detractors. This defense includes a critical examination of the recent history of critiques of science from scholars like Bruno Latour, Simon Schaffer, and Thomas Kuhn, before turning to case studies from dinosaur paleontology that show how science generates objective knowledge even during revolutionary episodes. Along the way, it exposes a number of flaws in the “underdetermination thesis” that indefinitely many hypotheses are compatible with any body of evidence, and explores whether value-laden questions can be answered by science. The book closes by examining how objective knowledge can be gained even for extremely complex issues like climate science, where skepticism moves from healthy questioning to dogmatic denial. Appendixes summarize Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Richard Rorty’s The World Well Lost, and the evidence for anthropogenic climate change.