Feb 13, 2014

An anti-anti-theist argument

Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has developed an argument against an argument against the existence of God. This isn't a positive argument for God, but an explanation of the limitations of one common atheist claim. I don't find Plantinga's positive arguments particularly compelling, but his counterarguments, anti-anti-theist arguments, are sometimes really interesting.

In the New York Times, he responds to the critique of the "God of the gaps." The case that God, because God isn't a good scientific theory, must not exist, doesn't hold up very well.

Plantinga says:
Some atheists seem to think that a sufficient reason for atheism is the fact (as they say) that we no longer need God to explain natural phenomena -- lightning and thunder for example. We now have science. As a justification of atheism, this is pretty lame.  
We no longer need the moon to explain or account for lunacy; it hardly follows that belief in the nonexistence of the moon (a-moonism?) is justified. A-moonism on this ground would be sensible only if the sole ground for belief in the existence of the moon was its explanatory power with respect to lunacy . . . The same thing goes with belief in God: Atheism on this sort of basis would be justified only if the explanatory power of theism were the only reason for belief in God. 
Plantinga thinks there are several dozen "pretty good theistic arguments," none of which are conclusive but which he thinks can be, nonetheless, persuasive.

One caveat: "I don't think arguments are needed for rational belief in God. In this regard belief in God is like belief in other minds, or belief in the past."