A thought experiment is an idea, question, or idea for scientific inquiry which can be explained through words alone and does not require the use of reality to demonstrate. 

The thought experiment ‘Land of Giants’ by Alvin Plantinga in his book God and Other Minds attempts to highlight a moral dilemma.

 It poses the question: “Imagine that you are again finding yourself on a crossroads in the middle of nowhere when it comes to belief—in this case, belief about whether personal identity continues after death.

Which point does full in wider intend to make with the “land of giants” thought experiment?

It was Plantinga’s goal to show that given certain conditions of being “on a crossroads”, the thought experiment is consistent with Christian belief. 

There is no evidence to indicate that Plantinga himself believes in the ‘land of giants’. He believes in an afterlife, he made it clear in his book “How Can God Help Me?”

1. The setting for the thought experiment is the “crossroads in the middle of nowhere”.

 The people who have traveled to this crossroads have no knowledge of the location or any information except that there are giants and glass houses, and that this is a point at which one must choose whether or not to believe in God.

2. There is a choice to be made, whether or not one believes in God. 

This choice needs to be made knowingly, not under duress and with better options than in this thought experiment.

3. There is no information regarding the location of either glass houses, giants, or evidence of a deity. 

Plantinga calls this a ‘state of being on a crossroads’ in which one can try to disprove the possibility of resurrection after death by finding evidence that there are either giants or glass houses, but if one cannot find any evidence and believe in God, then it must be concluded that it is more reasonable to believe that God created the world.

4. In this state it turns out there are giants who live in glass houses and have a very strong belief in God.

Plantinga says that though these people are wrong to believe in God, they are also not being actively malicious against the person who is being tortured in the thought experiment. 

Also, if such a person was being tortured by one of them, it would be hard for the torturer to persuade them when they know so much about this very thing.

5. All of these people come together and attempt to convince each other that they are right. 

The person being tortured is included in this group.

 Plantinga argues that if the torturer were to come across someone else who had a very strong belief in God they might try to persuade him/her that they are wrong and therefore also be persuaded themselves by this person as well.

 Plantinga is not arguing that it is better to believe in something you know isn’t true, but rather it is better to believe something you know might be right even though there is no proof than believe nothing at all. 

The person being tortured can either choose not to believe and be tortured for eternity or he/she can choose to believe and possibly have a chance of release from the torture.

6. Some people in the group are smarter and more powerful than others. 

They can use this to persuade the rest of the group that they know better. Plantinga argues that in a case where someone is being tortured, someone with enough power and influence could possibly influence the person being tortured to also believe that there is no afterlife rather than believing in God.

 This would be an unjustified belief, but if this torturer was “the most powerful, clever” person around, it would be hard for him/her to refute their claim.

7. The people in the land of giants can see the person being tortured and want to help, but don’t know how. 

Plantinga says that if this person were from a different country, they might not believe in the same God as the people living here and therefore might not be able to help as much as someone who is a follower of one of their own gods.

8. The person being tortured is unsure whether he/she believes in God or not.

Plantinga uses this point to further clarify that they need to believe in God under their own free will.

This thought experiment is an example of a typical logical fallacy: the naturalistic fallacy.

 The whole argument relies on the assertion that if it is possible that belief in “God” could be reasonable, then, according to Plantinga’s assertions, it must be reasonable for all actually existing believers. However, the mere possibility of something does not entail its actuality.


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