Does Plantinga Adequately Respond to Fales Tu Quoquo Objection?
Toward the end of Evan Fale’s article “Darwin’s Doubt, Calvin’s Calvary,”# Fales attempts to turn the tables on Plantinga. Fales claims that there is no good reason to suppose that P(R/T) is high (where T is Christian theism). According to Fales, there is almost no evidence supporting Plantinga’s claim that God has created us with reliable cognitive faculties (Let us call this claim G).
Fales first argues that many sources must be discounted. The Bible must be discounted because of the many inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies#. Moreover, any appeal to the similarity thesis will not suffice. The similarity thesis claims that we are made in the image of God. This is generally understood to mean that our minds are made in the image of God. However, to what degree are our minds made in the image of God? Presumably the resemblance cannot be to great, for God’s mind is infinite, while ours is finite.
Arguably the strongest point Fales makes, is his claim that God has not made us very good knowers. Fales supports this using the probabilistic argument from evil. What is important is not that God allows evil, but rather that we are unable to understand why he allows such evils. From this argument, Fales argues that it is perfectly conceivable that God could make our cognitive faculties unreliable for some greater good. Fales argues that since we do not grasp God’s divine plan very well, we are not warranted in making claims about what he would or would not do (Fales, 55-56). Since we do not seem to understand God’s divine plan, as illustrated using the probabilistic argument from evil, Fales concludes that P(R/T) is at a minimum inscrutable.
In formulating a response, Plantinga succeeds, to a degree, in defending one aspect of his view. However, he fails in the other aspect. Plantinga begins by accurately stating the two questions Fales asks: (a) Does the reflective Christian theist get a defeater for R? (b) Does the reflective Christian theist also get a defeater for his belief in theism? (Plantinga, 265-67). Plantinga obviously answers no to both (a) and (b). However, he only defends his answer for (b). For the sake of this paper, it will be granted that his defense of (b) succeeds. However, it will be argued that unless the theist can cogently argue for (a) he/she will be in serious epistemological trouble.
The Failure Of The Cartesian Claim That God Is Not a Deceiver
As stated earlier, Plantinga does not respond to Fales’ claim that P(R/T) is either low or inscrutable. In this section, I will defend Fales’ claim that the theist has no justification for holding that P(R/T) is high. In order to show this, I will demonstrate that the conjunction of Christian dogma with the definition of God does not secure one in believing that his mind is reliable.
The Christian God, as well as most other monotheistic conceptions of God, is defined as follows: God is defined as a being whom is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good. Moreover, as part of Christian dogma, God is a being whom fashioned us in his own image and likeness. Given these two facts, which will be granted to the theist, can the theist informally derive the conclusion that his mind is reliable? To see why not, we must first see that the definition of God does not secure this. To do this, I will describe several cases where the best thing to do is to deceive them.
Imagine you have a terminally ill child. Moreover, suppose that this child is extremely afraid of dying. In order to make this child’s last moments as happy as possible, it would seem that the best thing to do would be to deceive them; in order to make their last moments more comfortable, one would need to convince the child that they were not dying. In addition, it seems that not only would lying to a child be the most loving thing to do, but from a normative standpoint (discounting Deontology), the moral thing to do. Hence, it would appear that if one is to be considered good in the above example, one must deceive the child.
Given the above example, it is perfectly within the realm of possibility that God could cause us to have mass delusions for some greater purpose. Furthermore, it seems perfectly conceivable that the most moral thing for God to do would be to cause deception, as illustrated in the above example. Thus, contrary to Descartes, it is perfectly consistent within Christian theism for God to be a deceiver.
A similar conclusion was drawn by Richard Carrier in his article “An End to Pascal’s Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven.”# In his paper, Carrier argues, as the title suggests, that only non-theists will go to heaven. The whole point of Carrier’s paper, is to provide a coherent picture of why God would want to massively deceive us. Moreover, Carrier argues that given Christian theism, it is not only possible that God is massively deceiving us, but that it is probable that God is massively deceiving us.
Richard Carrier argues that this world, just as theists claim, is a test of sorts (if God exists). Carrier argues that any sufficiently reflective person will conclude from the world around him, that either God does not exist, or that God is evil. Richard Carrier then argues that this world is a test to see if we have the moral fortitude to be intellectually honest and conclude that God does not exist. Carrier states:
The only way to truly test human beings is to see if we will become nontheists after serious and sincere inquiry into these matters: to see if we have the courage and fortitude to choose morality over faith or loyalty, and be good without fear or hope of divine reward. No other test will ensure a result of the genuinely good being self-selected into a predictable belief-state that can be observed in secret by god (Carrier, 2002).
Carrier’s account of why God allows various evils is interesting, even it is fallacious in some way. Carrier concludes that if God exists, and if God is all-loving, then the only way to ensure that heaven is populated by intellectually honest and moral individuals is to create a world where it seemed that he did not exist. From this, a sufficiently reflective person will become an atheist. Richard Carrier, echoing Evan Fales, provides a very plausible explanation of why and all-loving God would want to deceive us. The question that Plantinga and his cohorts must answer is this: In virtue of what, can we suppose that God has chosen to not deceive us, as opposed to his deceiving us for some greater purpose? Until a response is formulated, Plantinga and Descartes claim must be viewed with dubiety.
One objection one might lodge against my defense is as follows. I have failed to back up the claim that God wants us, as Carrier claims, to become atheists in order to test us. I completely agree. I personally do not fully agree with Carrier’s conclusion that it is likely that God is testing our moral fortitude. However, this is not the point. The main point was that there is no reason to suppose that God’s intentions are non-deceptive as opposed to deceptive. Moreover, this was also Fales main point. Carrier’s paper, like Fales tu quoquo objection, is properly viewed a skeptical objection to the claim that God is not a deceiver; not, that God is in fact a deceiver.
One might also suggest that Carrier’s claim that any sufficiently reflective person ought to conclude that God is either evil or nonexistent is not well supported. I completely concur. However, it must be granted that this is one conclusion one could come to one upon reflecting on God’s existence; I would argue, this is a very plausible conclusion. I am willing to grant that a sufficiently reflective person could still retain his/her belief in theism and not necessarily be considered irrational. However, I find it hard to imagine how one could retain his/her belief in theism (but that is merely my own familiar of imagination).
Plantinga said that the truth takes a backseat when it comes to naturalistic evolution. Behavior, not truth, is what is important to evolution. Plantinga, like Descartes, thinks that Christian theism assures him that his mind is reliable: “…human beings have been made in the image of God. This means, among other things, that God created us with the capacity for achieving knowledge…” (Plantinga, 2). Plantinga may be right. However, Plantinga does not know that this is the case. Therefore, the P(R/T) is at least inscrutable. Since P(R/T) is inscrutable, Christian theists have an undercutting defeater for R. Ergo, if Plantinga is correct, the theist and the naturalist are both in the same epistemological boat.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Carrier, Richard. “An End To Pascal’s Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven.” From, http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/heaven.html
Fales, Evan. “Darwin’s Doubt, Calvin’s Calvary.” James Beilby (ed.). Naturalism Defeated?
Plantinga, Alvin. “Reply to Beilby‘s Cohorts.” James Beilby (ed.). Naturalism Defeated?
Plantinga, Alvin. “Introduction.” James Beilby (ed.). Naturalism Defeated?
"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions