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3.0 out of 5 stars The Rationalizing of Theism, January 20, 2012
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This review is from: The Rationality of Theism (Paperback)
Together, the three sections of the book cover an impressive range of topics. Part 1 makes preliminary points about establishing theism. Part 2, the largest section, covers 7 major arguments for the existence of God, including the ontological, cosmological, teleological arguments, as well as the arguments from morality and consciousness. Part 3 addresses two arguments against God's existence, the problem of evil, and the argument from the incoherence of theism.

While no critique can cover everything, the chapters did typically either suffer from poor argumentation, or lack of depth. For example, Robert Koons argues for the concordance of science and theism, even going so far as to say that Christian theism made science possible. He ignores substantial Greek and Roman advancements in science. Moreover, there is not a single mention of the Christian Dark ages, where progress in science halted for centuries.

In the chapter on the teleological argument, Author Robin Collins relies on the "prime principle of confirmation," which states that "whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability" (p. 136). Unfortunately, by Collins' logic, this means that if I win the lottery, this is strong evidence in favor of the hypothesis that magic gnomes love and favor me, and have the power to make me win the lottery. Obviously, other considerations, like simplicity and prior probability are also necessary to find a reasonable hypothesis. While Collins is aware of this limitation, it is fair to say that as presented, Collins' chapter lacks the depth needed to make a strong argument for theism.

Despite the shortcomings, for skeptics and believers who want an efficiently written overview of the basic arguments regarding the existence of God, this book is well worth the time. Still, unless one is already a believer, this book will provide insufficient grounds for accepting the "rationality of theism."
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 1, 2012 4:28:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 1, 2012 4:30:34 AM PDT
Matko says:
"For example, Robert Koons argues for the concordance of science and theism, even going so far as to say that Christian theism made science possible. He ignores substantial Greek and Roman advancements in science. Moreover, there is not a single mention of the Christian Dark ages, where progress in science halted for centuries."

What are those Greco-Roman substantial advancements in science? Their medicine was useless, their cosmology and most of physics was discredited, their chemistry was false, and they didn't know about the scientific method. And there's no single mention of the Dark Ages by Koons because any historian worth his salt knows that there were no Dark Ages that halted science to begin with. It's something stuck on the popular level and believed by ignoramus like you because it confirms their anti-religious prejudices but not taken seriously in serious historical research.

"In the chapter on the teleological argument, Author Robin Collins relies on the "prime principle of confirmation," which states that "whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability" (p. 136). Unfortunately, by Collins' logic, this means that if I win the lottery, this is strong evidence in favor of the hypothesis that magic gnomes love and favor me, and have the power to make me win the lottery. While Collins is aware of this limitation, it is fair to say that as presented, Collins' chapter lacks the depth needed to make a strong argument for theism."

What kind of depth do you expect from an introductory book? Collins is aware of this objection and addresses it on page 206 of "Blackwell's Companion to Natural Theology".

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2012 9:41:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 19, 2012 9:42:45 PM PDT
Nolan says:
I think it's fair to say that the use of the term "Dark Ages" has fallen into disuse among most academics. Still, the early middle ages marked a large loss of scientific and technological knowledge that had been built up by Greeks, and a slowing of progress that ought to have been acknowledged by Koons.

As for Greco-Roman scientific progress, There are countless academic textbooks on science and its development in ancient Greece and Rome. Here's a (very small) sample:

Greek Science After Aristotle

Science and Mathematics in Ancient Greek Culture

Scientific Method in Ptolemy's Harmonics

Engineering in the Ancient World, Revised Edition

I agree that much of what they believed was false, but they invented logic and the scientific method. It takes some time applying the method to better approximate truth. Thanks to the Greeks, when people finally got to using the scientific method again in the Middle Ages, they had a strong foundation to build on.

Based on the contents of these academic books, it appears untenable that there were no substantial advancements in Greece and Rome. I think you clearly overstate the your case.

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2012 9:48:50 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 24, 2012 11:18:40 PM PDT
Nolan says:
As for Collins' argument above, I think my analogy in my original review shows exactly why it is basically worthless. If Collins' own logic makes an equally strong case for magic gnomes who love and favor me, it is clearly lacking some key premises. It doesn't help that Collins is aware of this. It just makes the chapter even less excusable.

I acknowledge that Collins makes a more substantive argument in a different book, but I'm not reviewing the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, so bringing that up is irrelevant. I stand by my claim that the chapter, as it is in this book, does not contribute in any meaningful way to a case for the "Rationality of Theism."

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2012 1:33:27 AM PDT
Matko says:
"I think it's fair to say that the use of the term "Dark Ages" has fallen into disuse among most academics. Still, the early middle ages marked a large loss of scientific and technological knowledge that had been built up by Greeks, and a slowing of progress that ought to have been acknowledged by Koons."

Koons doesn't need to acknowledge what is false. The early middle ages marked the invention of the stirrup, heavy plow, horse collar, and spread of watermills (among other things), which caused a population explosion. By the tenth century Europe was technologically head on over Ancient Rome, not declining.

http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2009/08/reawakening-west_06.html

http://scholar.chem.nyu.edu/tekpages/Subjects.html

And if you presume there was a decline (there wasn't) you still have to show it was due to religion.

"I agree that much of what they believed was false, but they invented logic and the scientific method. It takes some time applying the method to better approximate truth. Thanks to the Greeks, when people finally got to using the scientific method again in the Middle Ages, they had a strong foundation to build on."

If they had invented the scientific method already back then, than how were they wrong about almost everything concerning the natural world? Were they geniuses and morons simultaneously? The medieval Europe had foundations but which had to be rejected to achieve scientific advancement at all.

"Based on the contents of these academic books, it appears untenable that there were no substantial advancements in Greece and Rome."

What are those substantial advancements?

"I acknowledge that Collins makes a more substantive argument in a different book, but I'm not reviewing the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, so bringing that up is irrelevant. I stand by my claim that the chapter, as it is in this book, does not contribute in any meaningful way to a case for the "Rationality of Theism.""

How much rigor to do you expect from a book that is introductory and aimed at first comers? The other reviewer has more mature insight about the book's merits than you. I advise you to read him.

If you consider yourself such a intellectual giant, why don't you tackle some heavy weight stuff?
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