Re: Alvin Plantinga's paper

Moorad Alexanian (
Tue, 19 Jan 1999 13:16:16 -0500 (EST)

At 09:53 PM 1/16/99 -0600, Keith B Miller wrote:


>Evolutionary theory is a central organizing theory for much of the sciences
>today. To avoid its teaching as part of a science curriculum is
>indefensible. How can our students be prepared to engage scientific
>questions as informed citizens, let alone pursue careers in science, if we
>fail to introduce them to fundamental scientific concepts in the schools?
>How can Christians engage and transform the university, if they are
>unwilling to even understand one of its fundamental intellectual concepts?

I take issue with the first sentence of your comment. Let us not confuse the
fact that the universe evolves with evolutionary theory. For instance,
evolutionary theory has nothing whatsoever to do with the science of physics.

>As many have stated in many ways before, what is needed is a clear
>presentation in the classroom of what the scientific enterprise is. We
>need to make clear the self-imposed limitations of the methodologies of
>science. Science can make no claim to be the sole possessor of truth.
>Science is only one way of knowing, and its understandings of the universe
>should always be held tentatively. Our understandings of the universe are
>continually evolving, always subject to new discoveries and insights.
>Evolution should not be taught as a static accomplished fact, but as a
>continually and dynamically changing conception of the physical mechanisms
>for the history of life on our planet.

I agree with your general tone. But let us no forget that most of what we
consider science has nothing to do with the question of origins. It is a
very limited area of science that considers the question of origins and I
must say most is highly speculative. Witness all the theories of how our
solar system came into being.

>Plantinga states near the end of his paper that evolution should be taught
>"conditionally." But no scientific statement is "unconditional." Science
>can by its nature make no statement of absolute fact. Even the statement
>"the Sun revolves around the Earth" is not a statement of absolute fact,
>but a theoretical understanding of the solar system which is held with
>great confidence. Scientific statements represent the whole broad spectrum
>of levels of confidence from nearly unquestioned levels of confidence to
>highly speculative ideas. Different scientists will hold the same theory
>at different confidence levels.
>My point here is, in the end, I don't think Plantiga's paper really can be
>used to proscribe the teaching of any subject matter. Rather what is
>really being requested is a committment that science should be taught
>properly and well, a goal that I believe we all share. Furthermore,
>science should not claim for itself more authority than it actually has,
>and any identification of science with philosophical naturalism should be
>vigorously refuted.
>I will continue to teach evolutionary theories as well-supported, and
>highly fruitful theories with great explanatory and predictive power.

What does evolutionary theory predicts man to look like in the future? Will
man remain bipedal? Will he evolve to become a flying animal? Evolutionary
theory assumes man evolved from situation A to situation B and the
predicative power is limited to finding evidence along that particular
trajectory in time. It cannot predict anything beyond B or earlier than A.
Therefore, the predicative power of evolutionary theory is to confirm its
assumptions. Am I right?

Take care,