Second Guessing Richard Carrier, Part III

In my previous two articles, I talked about Carrier’s mischaracterizations of Dr. Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). Just since the release of those two posts (over the last two days) I have received some blowback as a result of the content, mainly from Carrier himself. In this article I want to briefly address some of Carrier’s concerns he expressed over social media.

Unless Carrier responds with something wildly different from what he’s already presented, this will be my last post with respects to his characterization of Plantinga’s EAAN.

What was wrong with my last two articles?

As mentioned, Carrier didn’t like the previous two articles I wrote; but why? Well, let’s find out from the source. On Facebook—where the most beneficial academic developments take place—Carrier, responding to a sub-thread under the part I article, says:

Philosophers who build arguments on scientifically false or science illiterate premises, are pretty much just engaging in pseudo-philosophy. It is the fundament moral and professional responsibility of a philosopher to correctly understand the science they are basing arguments on, at least such that once corrected on a science error, they’d issue a correction or retraction.

This isn’t the first time Carrier has claimed Plantinga is arguing against a straw-man. It appears then that Carrier dislikes my first article because in it I claim:

But Plantinga is not trying to develop a model for evolutionary anthropological cognition, or characterize how natural selection developed the biological neurological synapses in the human brain, for example. Plantinga, rather, is hitting on a philosophical issue, and if Carrier’s thinking was sophisticated enough on this subject, he would’ve picked that up.

Carrier insists that Plantinga must take into consideration the correct science with respects to his philosophical argument dealing mainly with probabilities given the truth of certain propositions. Ok, fair.

But…

First, it doesn’t take an expert in biological evolution to consider the implications of any two particular propositions. For instance, if I wanted to evaluate the implications of, “all reality is material in substance,” and, “all abstract laws are human conventions,” I could logically draw the conclusion that, if these two things are true together, there are no abstract absolutes (i.e. absolute moral values, transcendent laws of logic, etc). I could even draw this conclusion without knowing much about the laws of logic, nor would I have to know the specifics of materialist philosophy. The conclusion simply follows from those two premises.

Second, Plantinga, in his talk at the Veritas Forum, actually cited what and who he was responding to. Plantinga’s argument is a response to claims made by people in the field. In fact, in my first article, I even write:

In his talk, Plantinga describes multiple theses on evolution. He discusses both the common ancestry thesis and Neo-Darwinian natural selection. Keep in mind that Plantinga, in this video, is stating his argument within the context of a broader conversation about where the conflict really lies between evolution and the Christian system.

Perhaps in his response article, he will include further detail, but so far, despite his dislike of my articles, Carrier is unable to provide an explanation for his claim that Plantinga has the science wrong. Better yet, he has not explained why he thinks Plantinga is misunderstanding Dawkins. The most he ever wrote concerning this can be found in the article I initially responded to:

Not only is Planting’s idea impossible—his model would require billions of trillions of years to even get to any point of being useful; whereas the correct model, of what actually happened, is vastly more probable—but it’s also illogical: a vast system of fixed commands to always run from tigers et al. would hugely reduce our ability to survive, relative to a peer who got a simple general intelligence instead; so evolution will always select the latter over the former.

This is why:

General intelligence is far simpler (it does not consist of a zillion one-line “if, then” commands) and scaleable (you can start with a crude general intelligence and leverage it smarter and smarter with successive adaptations). So it’s far easier to stumble on by accident; it’s therefore inherently vastly more probable as an outcome of natural selection. But it also has two huge advantages over Plantingian programming: it can save us from new and unanticipated dangers, and as such can save us from potentially infinitely many dangers, whereas Plantingian evolution is totally incapable of that (instead it requires killing a lot of people just to get a single “if, then” advantage); and a general intelligence can diversify our response to dangers in ways that greatly increase our differential reproductive success over versions of us that can’t.

“Plantingian programming”? This is a major part of the problem. In my first article I pointed out that Plantinga never develops a model of evolution in his argument. Despite this fact, Carrier critiques Plantinga as if Plantinga’s intentions were to set forth an evolutionary model, and then argue against that evolutionary model.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As I also mentioned, in part I of my response, Plantinga is not arguing against evolution, nor does he try to build a model of evolution from scratch. He’s simply taking the claims of others (i.e. Dawkins and Dennett), and responding accordingly.

Moreover, it’s important to understand the nature of Plantinga’s argument. Remember, in my first article I pointed out that Plantinga’s argument comes to us within the context of a broader discussion, one specifically expounded in his book, Where the Conflict Really Lies. Carrier keeps treating Plantinga’s argument as if it’s an argument against evolution.

It’s not.

What Carrier Really Needs

In weighing my priorities, I’ve been kicking around whether or not I should continue to pursue this matter. Carrier gets away with spewing so much garbage to his readers, his “academic” work is nothing less than absolutely sloppy, and he totally lacks charity and professionalism. I could continue to spar with Carrier, but it would be endless. He’s not the type of guy that simply accepts a rational response and concedes his point. We all have times where we do this, and it’s important to admit that. In this case, however, the evidence completely tends towards negligence and ignorance/intellectual dishonesty in Carrier’s work.

I think, for now, I’ve decided to hang up my hat when it comes to responding to Richard. He’s doing exactly what he’s expected to do as an unbeliever, that is, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-21). His covenant head continues to be the first Adam, and he cannot see past his own depravity in order to chase truth. This is why Paul says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:8).”

Carrier needs Christ as both his Lord and Savior.

The same sin Adam committed in the garden is the same sin Carrier commits today. For Carrier, his mind is ultimate. He is an autonomous creature with no need for God, especially the Triune God of the Scriptures. Despite the fact he knows God, he suppresses the truth about God in unrighteousness. This is what I did until God opened my eyes and gave me a new heart. This is what all people do until God works in their lives.

This sin that we commit is the sin Christ came to destroy.

The Father demands justice for sins such as these, but in His love, God—in the Covenant of Redemption before the foundation of the world—decreed to send forth the second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, as a perfect sacrifice. Christ would be the object of the Father’s just wrath upon the cross. He would take upon Himself the punishment we deserved.

I could spend time deconstructing something like Carrier’s book On the Historicity of Jesus, bringing to bear N. T. Wright, Ron Nash, Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga and others, but it would do no good so long as Richard is blinded by his own sin. Every Christian reading this ought to be praying for Carrier’s salvation.

The Christ that defeated death in His death is the same Christ Carrier needs.