According to the Mirriam-Webster Online dictionary, this is what it means to be pathological:


Main Entry:

also path·o·log·ic Listen to the pronunciation of pathologic \-jik\

1: of or relating to pathology
2: altered or caused by disease; also : indicative of disease
3: being such to a degree that is extreme, excessive, or markedly abnormal <a pathological liar> <pathological fear>

Now, it’s old news that infidels.org is not a place to find reliable information on philosophy of religion. But every once in a while I accidentally stumble across one of their pages in a web search, and I receive a reminder so concentrated that it makes my eyes bleed.

They have a page here on the work of Alvin Plantinga. Under the first heading, in their summary of his “Naturalism vs Evolution: A Religion/Science Conflict?” they begin with an overall claim: “In this chapter, Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism entails that our beliefs cannot affect our behavior, but natural selection only selects for beneficial behaviors.”

This in spite of the fact that they reproduce that same chapter at their website, in which Plantinga clearly says that beliefs do affect our behaviour – even in naturalism. Anyone at all who is familiar with the argument in that chapter – an argument Plantinga is famous for (the “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism”) will recall this. To deny this is like saying “in Locke’s famous work on human understanding, he argues that innate ideas exist….” Read the actual essay by Plantinga that the Infidels are summarising here (as provided on their site), it’s a good piece.

Plantinga’s argument is that beliefs are causal for behaviour, but that given naturalism and evolution, this causal relationship undermines the reliability of those beliefs. There, I summarised it in one sentence!

What’s tragic here is that the appearance of a summary gives the impression that someone from Infidels has actually read the essay, and still thinks that this is what Plantinga said!

Whether intentional or not, it fits the dictionary definition (definition #3) of pathological misrepresentation.