Posted on Mar 2, 2012 by Tom Gilson
Jerry Coyne explains today why Alvin Plantinga is “so in violation of the normal canons of reason,” such an “infuriating” example of the “drivel” that “passes for sophisticated philosophy in theology.” Plantinga missed this possibility, you see:
Couldn’t God, if he’s omnipotent, commit divine suicide?
And he really ought to understand, says Coyne, that God need not be viewed as the First Cause, for just like God,
as we know, the Universe could have “caused” itself.
Take that, Dr. Plantinga! Got you lassoed around the logical throat now, don’t I? Hah!
I wasn’t going to bother pointing out what’s so mistaken about these two points—it ought to be plain enough—but in case Coyne comes and reads this:
1. God’s omnipotence is not (and no thinker has ever thought it was) his ability to do anything at all. It is his having the power to do anything that power can do.
There are many things God cannot do. He cannot lie. He cannot deny himself, for he himself is truth. When humans do those kinds of things they are not acts of power; rather they are acts in propositional, logical space. God cannot perform what is logically impossible. No amount of power could create a square circle, for example. Nor could power make being into non-being. That last clause relates to the fact that God is being itself, and that all else that exists derives its existence from him.
What Coyne is really telling us is that he doesn’t know the meaning of the term omnipotent. Yet he feels to mock Alvin Plantinga over it anyway.
2. Nothing can cause itself. No thinking person thinks that God caused (or causes) himself. God is self-existent, but not self-caused. In order to cause itself, the Universe would have had to exist before it existed.
“As we know,” that’s not possible.
Once again Dr. Coyne reveals how little he knows what he’s talking about. He thinks he’s smarter than Plantinga. I’m sure that in matters biological he is, and that Plantinga would agree that he is. In philosophy and theology, however, he’s making a sad spectacle of himself.
P.S. Not that this makes the slightest difference in any way, but…
Some time ago Coyne posted on my “lucubrations,” as he called them. Today when he also described Plantinga’s work as lucubrations, I thought I was in good company. Then for laughs I did a site-specific search, and discovered how much he loves the word. Bertrand Russell (elsewhere, “Bertrand Russell et al.”), compatibilists, Charles Darwin, Terry Eagleton, Mark Vernon, Ken Ham, Elaine Ecklund, Muriel Barbery, Alvin Plantinga, C.S. Lewis, Karen Armstong, a Templeton grant requester, John Haught, John Polkinghorne, Simon Conway Morris, “philosophers and journalists,” Jan Sap, Phila Borgeson, P.Z. Myers, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Jerry Coyne himself, and I all (Is there a verb form? I’ll make one up) lucubrate.
It’s a fine word, isn’t it?