Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?
Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel)
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. One of today's most controversial and heated issues is whether or not the conflict between science and religion can be reconciled. In Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? , renowned philosophers Daniel C. Dennett and Alvin Plantinga expand upon the arguments that they presented in an exciting live debate held at the 2009 American Philosophical Association Central Division conference.
  2. An enlightening discussion that will motivate students to think critically, Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? opens with Plantinga's assertion that Christianity is compatible with evolutionary theory because Christians believe that God created the living world, and it is entirely possible that God did so by using a process of evolution. Dennett vigorously rejects this argument, provoking a reply from Plantinga, another response from Dennett, and final statements from both sides.
  3. As philosophers, the authors possess expert skills in critical analysis; their arguments provide a model of dialogue between those who strongly disagree. Ideal for courses in philosophy of religion, science and religion, and philosophy of science, Science and Religion is also captivating reading for general readers.

Amazon Customer Review
  1. The book is just 82 page long and is a debate between two well-known scholars (philosophers) on whether science and religion are compatible. The arguments are those which were presented in a debate at the 2009 American Philosophical Association Central Division Conference. In the debate, Alvin Plantinga makes the case that science and religion are compatible whilst Daniel C. Dennett, as an atheist, puts the case for incompatibility. However the argument soon shifts with both Plantinga and Dennett accepting that science and religion are compatible, but with Dennett considering the probability of compatibility to be very low.
  2. The starting arguments relate to evolution. Most readers want an answer to the question ‘Does holding a standard scientific view of evolution (if there is one) logically conflict with holding a religious (Christian) belief?’ Plantinga does make the point that he considers that there are three main evolutionary arguments against religion (page 7). These are
    1. that the concept of evolution can replace the concept of a designer
    2. that evolution is a process that is so wasteful and cruel that it is not one that a loving God would use and
    3. that the concept of unguided evolution is more probable than guided evolution as unguided evolution is a simpler explanation (Ockham’s Razor).
    Having stated the evolutionary arguments against religion, Plantinga then goes on to counter each of these arguments in turn. Different readers will evaluate the validity of the counter-arguments differently. My own view that he did not present a good enough case opposing the second evolutionary argument against religion. He does, however, make the good general point that academic argument is unlikely to convince anyone of the truth of religion.
  3. Dennett then had his turn to argue against the existence of God. He gives away what might have been expected to be a strong line of defence and agrees that ‘contemporary evolutionary theory is compatible with theistic belief’ (p. 26), but then chips away at the argument by exploring definitions. Dennett uses less space in the book than Plantinga. Each of them has a second chance to improve on their arguments with a final chapter each, but in the end, unsurprisingly neither argument defeats the other. After reading this book, Christians will remain Christians and atheists will remain atheists. I was not convinced that either side deployed the most cogent arguments to support their case.
    →Dr. Bill P. Palmer

Book Comment

OUP USA (5 May 2011)

"Sterba (James P.) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Foreword"

Source: Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?

Full Text
  1. It was the last time slot of the American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting in Chicago for 2009. Sessions at that time slot for obvious reasons are usually not well attended, but this debate between Alvin Plantinga and Daniel Dennett was going to be different. As I approached the room assigned for the debate, I was redirected to a much larger room. Although I was still about ten minutes early, when I got to the new room all the seats had already been taken. I could have stood in the back or joined those who were beginning to fill the center aisle. Instead, I decided to walk to the very front of the room and found an empty spot just to the side of the speakers next to the wall. I couldn't have been closer.
  2. Soon nearly all the floor space was occupied. The session was as well attended as a Presidential Address, and the room was abuzz with excitement, very different from a typical philosophy session. You could tell that people in attendance were expecting this to be a memorable event. And it was.
  3. Plantinga began by narrowing the debate topic from "Are science and religion compatible?" to "Are contemporary evolutionary1 theory and the God of traditional Christian belief compatible?" He argued that not only is contemporary evolutionary2 theory compatible with the Christian God, but that it would be incredible to believe that "the wonders of the living world" resulted from an unguided evolution3. In short, belief in evolutionary4 theory required belief in God.
  4. Somewhat surprisingly, Dennett, at least initially, agreed with Plantinga that contemporary evolutionary5 theory and theistic belief were compatible. What Dennett strongly rejected, however, was the idea that unguided evolution6 was incredible or that belief in evolutionary7 theory required belief in God.
  5. At various points in the debate. Superman, under different guises, the biochemist Michael Behe, and hand calculators, from simple to complex, were all used by Plantinga and Dennett to support their respective sides of the argument. When the debate concluded, no one really wanted it to be over.
  6. So what we have done in this book is allow the debate to go on. First, we have reproduced the debate as it originally took place. Then8, we have added a response of Dennett to Plantinga, another of Plantinga to Dennett, and a final response of Dennett to Plantinga. Hopefully, in this expanded version of the debate, one or the other of these distinguished philosophers will have succeeded in winning you over to his side of the argument.

In-Page Footnotes ("Sterba (James P.) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Foreword")

Footnote 8:
  • So, it looks like the original debate had Plantinga on twice, and Dennett on only once.
  • So, Chapters 1-3 reflect the debate, and 4-6 are added.
  • Is this so? Or, is it more subtle than that?

"Plantinga (Alvin) - Science And Religion: Where The Conflict Really Lies"

Source: Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Chapter 1

"Dennett (Daniel) - Truths That Miss Their Mark: Naturalism Unscathed"

Source: Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Chapter 2

"Plantinga (Alvin) - Superman vs God?"

Source: Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Chapter 3

"Dennett (Daniel) - Habits Of Imagination And Their Effect On Incredulity: Reply To Plantinga (Essay 2)"

Source: Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Chapter 4

"Plantinga (Alvin) - Naturalism Against Science"

Source: Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Chapter 5

"Dennett (Daniel) - No Miracles Needed"

Source: Plantinga (Alvin) & Dennett (Daniel) - Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Chapter 6

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2023
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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