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Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? (Point/Counterpoint) Paperback – September 10, 2010

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Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? (Point/Counterpoint) + Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199738424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199738427
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Given the stature of its two protagonists, this book will become something of an instant classic, occupying a unique and special place in the literature on this topic, and enjoying wide and long-lasting readership and usefulness as a supplementary text."--Gary Rosenkrantz, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

"This engaging little book treats key issues of chance and design in the science-religion dialogue. It would be appropriate for courses in the philosophy of religion, religion and culture, and science and religion. I would be highly likely to adopt the book in my philosophy of science course because it is brief, clear, and to the point."--Michael L. Peterson, Asbury College

About the Author

Daniel C. Dennett is the Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies, University Professor, and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. He is the author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006) and Freedom Evolves (2003).

Alvin Plantinga is John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Essays in the Metaphysics of Modality (OUP, 2003) and Warranted Christian Belief (OUP, 2000).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Clarke on February 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The original debate (at an American Philosophical Association meeting) was meant to be on whether science and religion are compatible. Plantinga begins by narrowing the debate to "Are contemporary evolutionary theory and the God of tradional Christian belief compatible?" and argues that they are. But, surprisingly, Dennett agrees, so there is no debate on the original subject.

Instead, the real debate centers on Plantinga's "Evolutionary argument against naturalism" and on questions about the likelihood of theism being true.

My impression is that Plantinga's logic is on the whole more rigorous than Dennett's. However, Plantinga makes a tactical mistake in taking on board unnecessarily the ID arguments of Michael Behe's book "The Edge of Evolution", bringing the debate into an area where Dennett has most scientists on his side.

I enjoyed reading this debate between two top-level philosophers. The book has an excellent index.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Josiah Batten on March 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was excited to see this book, simply because the weight of the scholars debating this issue. Daniel Dennett and Alvin Plantinga are both very good philosophers. This little point/counterpoint book is exactly what we would expect from these passionate, very intelligent men debating an issue that draws public attention from university discussions to presidential races.

Plantinga begins by arguing science and Christianity are compatible, but there is in fact a disagreement between science and religion. Using his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN), Plantinga classifies evolution as the science that naturalism (a religion) is incompatible with. Of course, Plantinga maintains we should abandon naturalism, pointing out theism is much more compatible with evolution.

Dennett strikes back, likening theistic belief to a belief in Supermanism or something equally absurd. Trying to outmaneuver Plantinga's EAAN, Dennett attacks the idea that the probability of having reliable cognitive faculties through evolution given naturalism is low.

In the replies to one another that follow these initial statements, the debate is very lively and interesting. It's a fine read, especially for the philosophically minded.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jaime Andrews on May 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
The book is inspired by a real encounter between the two thinkers held at the American Philosophical Association (APA) Central Division Meeting in Chicago back in 2009. In an effort to outsmart each other, Alvin Plantinga and Daniel C. Dennett provide us with impressive reasons for believing in their respective positions, Plantinga defending the side of theistic religion and Dennett the side of science. Whether their reasons are indeed objective and rational is for the reader to judge. However, the title of the book is perhaps slightly misleading. The question actually dealt with in this book is whether contemporary evolutionary biology and theistic religion are mutually incompatible.

I think the two are highly competent philosophers. Plantinga's work on modal logic is extremely well known, though his opinions are often controversial and I don't think most philosophers share them (surveys actually show that most philosophers are atheists, while Plantinga is a kind of champion of Christian philosophy). Dennett is well known for his work in philosophy of mind, evolution, and more recently, his work on atheism. It was actually the fact that both are heavy weights that made the book really exciting to get and to read. In this debate, audiences might be convinced one way or other depending on the makeup of their background beliefs.

This book adds a valuable debate to the contemporary dialogue to the philosophy religion. Would I receommend it? Surely, as I would Reasoned Faith: Essays in Philosophical Theology in Honor of Norman Kretzmann.
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18 of 27 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on February 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a debate one can read at a single sitting, or perhaps with a break for a cup of hot chocolate. Whatever else they are, both protagonists are witty, informed, and fun to read. I find Plantinga far the more profound and dialectically sharp; Dennett, likely better informed on evolution.

As others observe, Dennett essentially concedes the purportive issue almost right away: yes, science and religion are compatible, at least on a bare theoretical level. (One reviewer then goes on to suppose that Dennett "won" the supposed fall-back debate on whether theism is probable: but in fact, there is no such fall-back debate, nor does Plantinga begin to address it.)

Dennett is, in reality, largely on the defensive in the de facto debate to which the participants (in part) fall back: whether materialism is compatible with evolution. Plantinga argues that it is not. He makes an interesting case by distinguishing between cognitive "indicators" that allow a complex animal to survive, and rational thought, arguing that nothing in evolution demands that our thought be oriented towards finding truth, as opposed, say, to catching flies, or defending against pathogens. I don't think his case really works, but I don't think Dennett defeats it in this book, either.

In his other arguments, I think Plantinga is reasonably successful, for the shortness of the discussion. He pins his finger on the problem with the "Flying Spaghetti Monster / tea cup fairy / Superman" analogies so beloved of skeptics quite well. He's also the funnier of the two, his witty analogies and repartees, and Dennett's eloquent sermonizing, making this anything but a dull book. One wishes it were longer.

I have to say I wearied of Dennett's constant attacks on Michael Behe, though.
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