Dr. Alvin Plantinga

Having previously briefly commented on Richard Dawkin’s latest foray into the realm of philosophy and (a-)theology, a friend recently sent me the following review:

The Dawkins Confusion

Of particular note, this response is from my all time favorite philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, who I’ve mentioned several times on this list. It has been my contention that Dr. Plantinga has put the last nail in the coffin of Logical Positivism; the epistemology of Modernism. Usually, when I pick up a book like Dawkins’ (or Sam Harris’, or Dennett’s, etc.), the first thing I do is check the index to see if they’ve dealt with Plantinga. I’ve yet to find him even mentioned. Not surprisingly each of these writers presents their case from a pathetic and naively Positivist set of presuppositions.

Plantinga is known for his sense of humor and wit (even in his treatises on Epistemology and Analytic Philosophy) and this article is replete with it. What else should we expect from someone that, while teaching at the Catholic University Notre Dame, once joked about possibly being the first Calvinist Pope, but then reasoned that he’d get more respect at the institution by being the head football coach?

In response to Daniel Dennett’s concern about receiving a “fist to the face” for writing his atheist polemic, Plantinga says:

religion-bashing in the current Western academy is about as dangerous as endorsing the party’s candidate at a Republican rally

Reflecting on some of the vitriol in Dawkins’ book he says:

one shouldn’t look to this book for evenhanded and thoughtful commentary. In fact the proportion of insult, ridicule, mockery, spleen, and vitriol is astounding. (Could it be that his mother, while carrying him, was frightened by an Anglican clergyman on the rampage?)

And, while admitting that Dawkins is “perhaps the world’s most popular science writer; [and] also an extremely gifted science writer,” of his philosophical pursuits Plantinga comments:

You might say that some of [Dawkins’] forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.

Of course, Plantinga also deals with the thrust of Dawkins’ complaints (such as they are), with the same characteristic attitude so it’s worth the read even if your sensibilities are offended by such sentiments (of course – I’m not sure why you’d be reading this blog if that were the case).

Hat Tip: Mike Harnish