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Open Theology

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A De Jure Criticism of Theism

Liz Goodnick
Published Online: 2016-02-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0003

Abstract

An evolutionary by-product explanation entails that religious belief is an unintended consequence of a cognitive process selected for by evolution. In this paper, I argue that if a by-product explanation is true, then religious belief is unwarranted (even if God exists). In particular, I argue that if the cause of religious belief is the god-faculty (HADD + ToM + eToM + MCI), then it is likely unreliable; thus, religious belief is unwarranted. Plantinga argues that de jure criticisms are not independent of de facto criticisms: without knowing whether or not God exists, one can’t say that belief in God is unwarranted, since if God exists, it is possible that God has planned that this mechanism would lead to belief in Him. Against Plantinga, I show that in order for de jure criticisms to have force, it is not necessary to know that God does not exist. Instead, one only needs to doubt His existence. And if by-product explanations turn out to be supported by the evidence, this fact alone gives us reason to doubt God’s existence. Thus, if the by-product explanation is true, belief in God is not warranted; if we know this, then we have reason to doubt theism.

Keywords: Cognitive Science of Religion; HADD; Plantinga; religious epistemology

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About the article


Received: 2015-08-30

Accepted: 2015-12-07

Published Online: 2016-02-22


Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 2, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0003.

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©2016 Liz Goodnick. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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