Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 34, 2009

D. Blake Roeber
Pages 305-328

Does the Theist Have an Epistemic Advantage over the Atheist?
Plantinga and Descartes on Theism, Atheism, and Skepticism

Recent iterations of Alvin Plantinga’s “evolutionary argument against naturalism” bear a surprising resemblance to a famous argument in Descartes’s Third Meditation. Both arguments conclude that theists have an epistemic advantage over atheists/naturalists vis-à-vis the question whether or not our cognitive faculties are reliable. In this paper, I show how these arguments bear an even deeper resemblance to each other. After bringing the problem of evil to bear negatively on Descartes’s argument, I argue that, given these similarities, atheists can wield a recent solution to the problem of evil against theism in much the way Plantinga wields the details of evolutionary theory against naturalism. I conclude that Plantinga and Descartes give us insufficient reason for thinking theists are in a better epistemic position than atheists and naturalists vis-à-vis the question whether or not our cognitive faculties are reliable.