Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pete Hale Links Me to Alvin Plantinga!

Pete's Hale and Handsome Hand
Don't press that button!
Google Images

I don't seem to have a complete photo of my old Ozark friend Pete Hale, who's now a physicist working on some technological device with which he, like Cartoon Network's Mojo Jojo, aims to destroy the universe, so in lieu of a complete Pete, here's Mojo Jojo instead:

Mojo Jojo

I'll try to stifle an impulse to veer off on a tangent about another bad chimp, one who goes by the name of Bruno Littlemore and has a connection to Pete by way of Pete's multi-talented son Benjamin, so I'll rather stay the straight course, which today deals with an article Pete read and notified me about:
Interesting interview involving atheism, evolution, BRussell, beer, and refrigerators, at the very least . . .
That long phrase includes an allusion to how BRussell spouts off about a celestial teapot -- which somehow makes me think of Brussels sprouts, oddly enough, for they're not everyone's cup of tea -- but the central point for me actually concerns a beer in the refrigerator, as described by Alvin Plantinga in an interview for the NYT Opinionator site by Gary Gutting on the rationality of theism, an interview in which Plantinga argues:
I'm interested in the fact that beliefs cause (or at least partly cause) actions. For example, my belief that there is a beer in the fridge (together with my desire to have a beer) can cause me to heave myself out of my comfortable armchair and lumber over to the fridge . . . . [H]ere's the important point: It's by virtue of its material, neurophysiological properties that a belief causes the action. It's in virtue of those electrical signals sent via efferent nerves to the relevant muscles, that the belief about the beer in the fridge causes me to go to the fridge. It is not by virtue of the content (there is a beer in the fridge) the belief has . . . . [b]ecause if this belief -- this structure -- had a totally different content (even, say, if it was a belief that there is no beer in the fridge) but had the same neurophysiological properties, it would still have caused that same action of going to the fridge. This means that the content of the belief isn't a cause of the behavior. As far as causing the behavior goes, the content of the belief doesn't matter . . . . Materialism can't be sensibly believed, at least if, like most materialists, you also believe in evolution . . . . Evolution will have resulted in our having beliefs that are adaptive; that is, beliefs that cause adaptive actions. But as we've seen, if materialism is true, the belief does not cause the adaptive action by way of its content: It causes that action by way of its neurophysiological properties. Hence it doesn't matter what the content of the belief is, and it doesn't matter whether that content is true or false. All that's required is that the belief have the right neurophysiological properties. If it's also true, that's fine; but if false, that's equally fine . . . . [Therefore e]volution will select for belief-producing processes that produce beliefs with adaptive neurophysiological properties, but not for belief-producing processes that produce true beliefs. Given materialism and evolution, any particular belief is as likely to be false as true.
Materialism combined with evolution does not guarantee true beliefs and thus is not conducive to the rise of rationality. An intriguing argument! Note that Plantinga dismisses neither evolution nor materialism alone but rather their combination. He also offers an elevated argument from design -- one that does not preclude evolution -- as evidence for the existence of God:
One presently rather popular argument . . . [for God's existence is the] fine-tuning [of the universe]. Scientists tell us that there are many properties our universe displays such that if they were even slightly different from what they are in fact, life, or at least our kind of life, would not be possible. The universe seems to be fine-tuned for life. For example, if the force of the Big Bang had been different by one part in 10 to the 60th, life of our sort would not have been possible. The same goes for the ratio of the gravitational force to the force driving the expansion of the universe: If it had been even slightly different, our kind of life would not have been possible. In fact the universe seems to be fine-tuned, not just for life, but for intelligent life. This fine-tuning is vastly more likely given theism than given atheism.
Fascinating argument -- even if I have heard it before. I urge readers with metaphysical leanings to take a look at this article. Meanwhile, I had to thank Pete:
Well, I want there to be a beer in my fridge, and if I've grasped Plantinga's argument, that beer being there is far more likely if I assume theism, so I believe in God -- but I've just checked, and the beer isn't there, so I can only conclude that the devil took it, and I'm now waiting for a miracle to strengthen my faith . . .
About my manner of giving thanks, Pete replied:
Ha! Yeah, absolutely. I think my only hope is to cling to smarmy old agnosticism and move on . . .
Well, that's a decision to remain in ignorance, so I still choose theism because I really want to know that my belief in a beer in my fridge is a true belief about a real beer in my fridge (though not a bottomless beer) within a universe designed for life to its fullest.

Go for the gusto, I say!

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At 5:55 AM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

While you've been away overseas, evangelical mega-churches have really been going for the gusto in the U.S. I love how their creationist museum has now explained that their god placed a huge amount of information within each created kind allowing them to diversify into the myriad of plants and animals we see today which is not evolution but creation. This helps explain how St. George didn't actually kill a dragon. Instead, he killed a dinosaur.

If you get a chance to watch it, the "Questioning Darwin" documentary in the the first link verifies that we are still living in the Dark Ages here in the 21st century.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

They need to pack a lot into 6,000 years, but the way they've packed means change has had to come very fast at first. Why not go the other direction and say that, e.g., the first two thousand years took a lot longer than the past four thousand years?

Jeffery Hodges

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