Nagel Reviews Plantinga

Thomas Nagel has recently reviewed Alvin Plantinga's Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism for The New York Review of Books. While Plantinga's argument for faith's epistemic validity leaves me unconvinced (as presented by Nagel), the problems he identifies with naturalism do indeed merit recognition. (Nagel's own upcoming book Mind and Cosmos tries to grapple with these very problems.) Despite being an atheist, Nagel's review of the book is heart-warming and justly charitable:

"The interest of this book, especially for secular readers, is its presentation from the inside of the point of view of a philosophically subtle and scientifically informed theist—an outlook with which many of them will not be familiar. Plantinga writes clearly and accessibly, and sometimes acidly—in response to aggressive critics of religion like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. His comprehensive stand is a valuable contribution to this debate.

I say this as someone who cannot imagine believing what he believes. But even those who cannot accept the theist alternative should admit that Plantinga’s criticisms of naturalism are directed at the deepest problem with that view—how it can account for the appearance, through the operation of the laws of physics and chemistry, of conscious beings like ourselves, capable of discovering those laws and understanding the universe that they govern. Defenders of naturalism have not ignored this problem, but I believe that so far, even with the aid of evolutionary theory, they have not proposed a credible solution. Perhaps theism and materialist naturalism are not the only alternatives."