Re: Fwd: Alvin Plantinga's paper

Ed Brayton (
Fri, 15 Jan 1999 15:35:17 -0500

Before responding to Dr. Plantinga's paper, let me make a couple of statements
that stake out my position.

First, I respect Dr. Plantinga enormously. I am not a Christian myself, but I
regard him as probably the single finest thinker in modern Christian
apologetics. As such, his opinions are not to be taken lightly and should be
given all due consideration.

Second, the issue of whether evolution or creationism should be taught in public
schools is ultimately a moot point for me because I favor the phasing out of
public schools entirely.

Having said that, however, I do think Dr. Plantinga's paper raises several
problems. I wonder how consistently he would apply his own criteria. He offers
the following justification for eliminating the teaching of evolution in public

"(BR) Each of the citizens party to the contract has the right not to have
comprehensive beliefs taught to her children that contradict her own
comprehensive beliefs."

The major problem I see with this is that it can be applied to any number of
situations with more or less equal merit. The teaching of evolution is not the
only instance in which a school curriculum can contradict the deeply held
beliefs of a portion of the parents whose children attend public schools. When
public schools teach that the earth is a sphere, is it a violation of the basic
rights of those parents who believe that the earth is flat? By the same criteria
that Dr. Plantinga advances, flat earthism is, for those parents, an integral
part of their comprehensive religious beliefs and their beliefs are based upon
an interpretation of the bible that they feel is absolutely a part of the
bible's teachings about the world. When we teach the heliocentric model of the
universe in public schools, do we violate the basic rights of those parents who,
along with John Calvin and Martin Luther, believer fervently that the earth is
the center of the universe and that acceptance of the bible demands that this be
true? When we teach about the Holocaust, do we violate the basic rights of that
group of white supremacists who deny that it occured? When we teach the germ
theory of disease, do we violate the basic rights of Christian Scientists? When
we teach standard meteorology, do we violate the basic rights of those who
believe that bad weather is sent by God to punish the wicked?

Any thoughts?

Ed Brayton