I started reading Where the Real Conflict Lies in a bookstore coffee shop around Christmas time and was so intrigued by its thesis that I knew I had to buy it. That thesis, expressed early and often, is this: “there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.” In other words, on the surface it appears as though there is a conflict between theistic religion and science but, in reality, theistic religion provides just the right environment for science to flourish. Conversely, while there appears to be agreement between science and naturalism (unguided evolution) there is actually deep conflict. On this latter point, Plantinga argues that believing in naturalism and evolution is an untenable position. I believe this is the most recent form of his “evolutionary argument against naturalism.”
Plantinga is a philosopher and so he argues his points from a philosophical point of view. Logic is his primary tool of argumentation, though he also calls upon the latest scientific theories (including evolutionary biology, quantum mechanics, etc.). All of this is filtered through a broadly Christian perspective and all Christians (and, in fact, many other theists) will benefit from his well reasoned arguments against naturalism. It should be noted that throughout Plantinga assumes the position of guided evolution. Nevertheless, many of his arguments are compelling regardless of your views on the age of the earth.
Plantinga is a deep and careful thinker. The book is filled with fresh (for me, anyway) insights into the relationship between theistic religion and science. For many, this book has the potential to provide a paradigm shift in how to look at the religious/scientific/naturalistic worldviews.
My only trouble with this book was the style. The writing is excellent, but I struggled with the style. Plantinga is a great and witty writer. However, at numerous points, he adopts what I can only assume to be a technical philosophical style, which basically looks like math formulas. This may be par for the course in a philosophical work as this is but for the untrained (me!) it wasn’t hard to get lost. I probably would have found his arguments more compelling had I understood them better.
I recommend this book for those interested in a strong philosophical defense of Theism. Plantinga is one of the modern masters in this area. However, if you do read this, you must be willing to think! This is no light reading. Following his arguments takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.