Monday, January 21, 2013

Schliesser on the Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism


I commented recently on the remarks about Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos made by Eric Schliesser over at the New APPS blog.  Schliesser has now posted an interesting set of objections to Alvin Plantinga’s “Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism” (EAAN), which features in Nagel’s book.  Schliesser’s latest comments illustrate, I think, how very far one must move away from what Wilfred Sellars called the “manifest image” in order to try to respond to the most powerful objections to naturalism -- and how the result threatens naturalism with incoherence (as it does with Alex Rosenberg’s more extreme position).

The EAAN

First let me summarize Plantinga’s EAAN, which I think does pose a powerful challenge to naturalism, though I don’t think it shows quite what Plantinga thinks it does.  (Plantinga’s most recent statement and defense of the argument can be found in Where the Conflict Really Lies, which I recently reviewed for First Things.)

The EAAN begins by noting that what natural selection favors is behavior that is conducive to reproductive success.  Such behavior might be associated with true beliefs, but it might not be; it is certainly possible that adaptive behavior could be associated instead with beliefs that happen to be false.  In that case, though, there is nothing about natural selection per se that could guarantee that our cognitive faculties reliably produce true beliefs.  A given individual belief would have about a 50-50 chance of being true.  And the probability that the preponderance of true beliefs over false ones would be great enough to make our cognitive faculties reliable is very small indeed.

Now if evolution is only part of the story of the origin of our cognitive faculties, this is not necessarily a problem.  For example, if there is a God who ensures that the neurological processes generated by natural selection are generally correlated with true beliefs, then our cognitive faculties will be reliable.  But suppose that, as naturalism claims, there isn’t more to the story.  Then for all we know, our cognitive faculties are not reliable.  They may be reliable, but we will have no reason to believe that they are, and good reason to believe that they are not.  Now that means that we also have good reason to doubt the beliefs that are generated by those faculties.  For the naturalist, that will include belief in naturalism itself.  Naturalism, then, when conjoined with evolution, is self-defeating.  Evolution, concludes Plantinga, is thus better interpreted within a non-naturalistic framework.  

I think the basic thrust of this argument is correct, though I prefer the related argument that generally goes under the name of “the argument from reason” and has been defended in different versions by Karl Popper, Victor Reppert and William Hasker, and which I endorsed in Philosophy of Mind and The Last Superstition.  For one thing, I don’t think the basic point of the argument has anything to do with weighing probabilities, so that Plantinga’s tendency to state the argument in probabilistic terms needlessly muddies the waters somewhat.  The key point is rather that the logical relations that hold between thoughts cannot in principle be reduced to, supervenient upon, or in any way explained in terms of relations of efficient causality between material elements.  See the post on Popper just linked to for a summary of the argument as I would state it.

I also think that it is a mistake to suppose that the EAAN gives direct support to theism, specifically -- as opposed, say, to a non-theistic teleological view of the world (such as Nagel puts forward in Mind and Cosmos).  In Where the Conflict Really Lies, Plantinga acknowledges (rightly, in my view) that design inferences of the sort associated with William Paley and “Intelligent Design” theory do not constitute strong arguments for theism.  But he suggests reinterpreting the tendency to see design in complex biological phenomena as a kind of “perception” rather than an inference or argument.  Just as you can perceive that someone is angry from the expression on his face, so too, Plantinga suggests, can you perceive that an organ was designed from the order it exhibits.  And just as the former perceptual belief is rational despite its typically not involving an inference or argument, so too is the latter rational even if it does not involve an inference or argument.

There’s a lot that could be said about this, but the most important thing to say is that it is simply too quick.  As any Aristotelian can tell you, it is one thing to attribute a function to something, but quite another to attribute design to it.  That roots have the function of anchoring a plant to the ground and taking in nutrients may well be something we just perceive on close examination.  But that is precisely because having such functions is of the nature of roots -- something built into them, as it were.  In that respect they are very different from an artifact like a watch, whose metallic parts do not have a time-telling function built into them by nature.  That function has to be imposed on them from outside, which is why a watch requires a designer.  But precisely because natural objects are not artifacts, to perceive functionality or order in them is not ipso facto to perceive design.  And that means that while Plantinga’s EAAN and defense of the rationality of “perceiving” functionality in nature strike a blow against the naturalist’s dogmatic rejection of teleology, they do not by themselves constitute reasons to embrace theism, specifically.  (For more on the distinction between function and design, see this post, this post, this article, and other earlier posts dealing with the difference between an Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of nature and “Intelligent Design” theory.)

That is not to say that a divine intellect is not ultimately responsible for the order of things.  But for the Aristotelian (and for Thomists, who build on an Aristotelian foundation) that is a claim which certainly does require an argument, and an argument which does not conflate function and design, as too many Christian apologists have done at least since the time of William Paley, but which Aquinas’s Fifth Way -- though often mistakenly assimilated to Paley’s argument -- does not.  (I’ve defended the Fifth Way in several places, including in Aquinas.)

The bottom line is that what the EAAN/”argument from reason” shows, in my view, is that we cannot coherently trust our cognitive faculties unless we suppose that they are directed toward the attainment of truth as their telos or end.  But this does not by itself entail any extrinsic, artifact-like teleology of the Paleyan sort.  One could opt instead for an immanent teleology of the Aristotelian sort (and then try to resist a Fifth Way-style argument to the effect that this sort of teleology too ultimately requires a divine cause).  This is, in effect, Nagel’s strategy.

Schliesser’s response to the EAAN

Let’s turn now to Schliesser’s remarks.  Do read his entire post (which, never fear, isn’t as verbose as mine often are) in case I have missed any important elements of the context in interpreting the passages I’ll be quoting from it.  Schliesser begins as follows:

[L]et's grant -- for the sake of argument -- the claim [made by Nagel, following Plantinga] that "Mechanisms of belief formation that have selective advantage in the everyday struggle for existence do not warrant our confidence in the construction of theoretical accounts of the world as a whole."  What follows from this?

My quick and dirty answer is: nothing. For the crucial parts of science really do not rely on such mechanisms of belief formation.  Much of scientific reason is or can be performed by machines; as I have argued before, ordinary cognition, perception, and locution does not really matter epistemically in the sciences. 

End quote.  If I understand him correctly, what Schliesser is saying here is that even if the EAAN casts doubt on the reliability of our cognitive faculties (given naturalism), that is irrelevant to the question of whether science is reliable, for what is crucial to science can be done by machines, and the EAAN does not cast doubt on their reliability.  He also writes:

[Nagel] thinks that somehow there are "norms of thought which, if we follow them, will tend to lead us toward the correct answers" to "factual and practical" questions… Now… if this claim is true, it is utterly unsubstantive--none of the non-trivial results in physics or mathematics are the consequence of following the norms of thought. (I realize that there is a conception of logic that treats it as providing us with the norms of thought, but even if one were to grant this conception, it does not follow one obtains thereby mathematical or scientific results worth having.)

Schliesser’s point here, I think, is that the substantive results of science are not arrived at mechanically via the simplistic application of a set of more or less commonsense rules of the sort one finds in a logic textbook.  That is to say, scientists don’t proceed by saying: “OK, now let’s take the traditional Laws of Thought, the valid syllogism forms, inference rules like modus ponens, etc. and start cranking out some implications from what we’ve observed.”   Scientific practice is far more complex than that, especially insofar as it involves the use of computers following algorithms very unlike the patterns of reasoning we rely on in ordinary life.  Hence (again, if I am reading Schliesser correctly) if the EAAN shows that ordinary patterns of reasoning are unreliable on the assumption of naturalism, that is irrelevant to the reliability of science insofar as it does not rely on these patterns anyway.  Continuing in this vein, Schliesser writes:

Okay, let's assume -- for the sake of argument -- that it matters that humans are engaged in scientific practices that generate the building blocks of theoretical accounts.  In most of these the ordinary or average products of Darwinian evolution as such are not allowed near the lab.  In fact, the ordinary or average products of primary, secondary, and university education are also not allowed inside the lab.  Insanely high "achievement" over, say, twenty years of human capital formation is required before one becomes a little cog in the collaborative, scientific enterprise. (It's likely, in fact, that such achievement may just be a consequence of being a relatively rare freak of nature--a "monster" in eighteenth century vocabulary.) Parts of this achievement undoubtedly takes advantage of our selected for cognitive capacities and, perhaps, enhances these in subtle ways.  A large art of this achievement is the actual unlearning -- or generating the capacity for temporary disabling -- lots of our avarage Darwinian programming.  Moreover, much of the unlearning takes place after one's formal education is complete and inside the lab, where one's cognitive capacities are transformed into engagement with particular model organisms and particular specialized techniques. One does not need to accept all of Foucault, to see that the disciplining of scientific agents is as much an enhancement of human nature as a battle with pre-existing nature. So, "in science" our "cognitive capacities" are not used "directly." (Moreover, in so far as any human perception takes place in the epistemic processes of science much effort and skill is directed at making it entirely trivial.)

End quote.  Here I take it that Schliesser’s point is that the cognitive tendencies hardwired into us by natural selection are unlearned in the process of scientific training and practice -- the whole point of science being, as it were, to replace the “manifest image” that our natural cognitive tendencies generate with the “scientific image” (again to allude to Sellars) -- so that it doesn’t matter if those cognitive tendencies are unreliable.  

So, as I read him, the reliability of the cognitive tendencies put into us by natural selection is in Schliesser’s view irrelevant to the practice of science -- and thus to the defensibility of naturalism, which regards the scientific description of the world as either exhaustive or at least the only description worth bothering with -- for two reasons.  First, the relatively few human beings actually involved in scientific practice in a serious way do not rely on the cognitive tendencies in question in the first place, but seek precisely to resist and replace them.  And second, the modes of cognition they are engaged in can be carried out by machines anyway, which don’t have any hardwired human cognitive tendencies to resist.  So the EAAN fails, because it falsely supposes that it is the reliability of those hardwired human cognitive tendencies that naturalism presupposes.

Schliesser on our cognitive faculties

What should we think of all this?  Let’s consider first the claim that scientific practice involves radically moving away from our hardwired cognitive tendencies and their deliverances.  There is of course much truth in this, and I think Schliesser is right to suggest that any criticism of naturalism that does not factor it in is superficial.  However, this by no means suffices to disarm the EAAN.  

To see why, consider a couple of analogies.  Suppose you criticized a portrait or landscape artist for his poor drawing ability and he responded: “Drawing?  I don’t need no stinking drawing!  I’m a painter!  Hell, I haven’t done a complete line drawing since I was in school, and I rarely if ever even sketch out my subject before getting out the paints.  No, it’s all in the brushwork.  Obviously you don’t understand what we artists do.”  Or consider a dancer who suggested that the physiology of ordinary walking was irrelevant to understanding what she does, since she has over the course of many years had to acquire habits of movement that go well beyond anything the ordinary person is capable of, and even to unlearn certain natural tendencies.  (Think e.g. of the unusual stress a ballet dancer has to put on the foot, or the need to overcome our natural reluctance to move in ways that would for most people result in a fall.)  

The problem with such claims, of course, is that the fact painting or dancing involve going well beyond, and even to some extent unlearning, certain more basic habits does not entail that those habits are entirely irrelevant to the more advanced ones or that they can be entirely abandoned.  On the contrary, the more advanced habits necessarily presuppose that the more basic ones are preserved at least to some extent.  Even if drawing constitutes a very small part of producing a certain painting, and even if no sketch in pencil were made prior to getting out the paints, a painter without skill in drawing is going to produce a bad painting.  (The point has nothing to do with realism, by the way; a good painting done in the surrealist, impressionist, pointillist, or cubist style also presupposes the skills involved in drawing.)  Dancers have to have at least the muscles, bones, comfort with one’s body, ease of movement, etc. that are involved in ordinary walking even if they must also have much more than that.  The skills involved in ordinary drawing and walking constitute a framework for the more advanced skills, a framework that can be so covered over and modified that it may go virtually unnoticed in the course of painting or dancing, but which nevertheless cannot in principle be altogether abandoned.

Now by the same token, the ordinary patterns of reasoning as familiar to common sense as to the professional logician -- modus ponens, disjunctive reasoning, conjunctive reasoning, basic syllogistic reasoning, basic arithmetic, etc.  --  are, as Schliesser implies, a “trivial” part of science, but only in the sense that being able to walk over to the barre is a trivial part of being a ballet dancer, or the ability to draw a line or circle is a trivial part of being a painter.  While being able to walk over to the barre is obviously very far from sufficient for being a good ballet dancer, it is nonetheless absolutely necessary for being one; and while being able to draw a line or circle is obviously very far from sufficient for being a good painter, it too is still absolutely necessary for being one.  Similarly, while having the ability to reason in accordance with modus ponens, basic arithmetic, etc. is very far from sufficient for being able to do serious science, it is still an absolutely necessary condition for doing it.  The reason scientists don’t make a big deal of these “norms of thought” is the same reason ballet dancers don’t make a big deal out of their ability to walk and painters don’t go on about their skill in holding a pencil.  It is not that basic inference rules, walking, and drawing are irrelevant to science, dancing, and painting, respectively; it is rather that their relevance is so blindingly obvious that it goes without saying.

As Hilary Putnam pointed out in Representation and Reality, if you are going to call “folk psychology” into question -- which is what Schliesser is essentially doing (at least in the context of scientific practice, if not in other contexts) -- then you are going to have to call “folk logic” into question as well.  But we have nothing remotely close to an account of how this can coherently be done.  However far removed from ordinary cognition scientific modes of reasoning might be, they will presuppose fundamental logical notions like truth, consistency, validity, and the like, and our ability to recognize them when we see them.  And that means that they will presuppose the very abilities that even uneducated, untrained, pre-scientific “folk” possess.  (The fact that such “folk” sometimes make basic, systematic logical errors doesn’t change anything.  Pointing out to undergraduates that “This inference seems valid, but it is not” requires that they be able to see validity somewhere, and in particular in the argument that tells them that the inference in question is not really valid after all.)

Something similar is true of our perceptual faculties, which modern physics (with its account of the world as made up of colorless, odorless, soundless, tasteless particles etc. -- think of Eddington’s two tables)  might seem to have moved beyond altogether.  That this cannot be the case is obvious from the fact that physical theory, in the name of which perception is said to be misleading, is itself empirically based and thus grounded in perception.  Science can supplement or correct what perception tells us, but it cannot coherently deny the reliability of perception wholesale.  That it is at the very least difficult to see how it could coherently do so has, as I have noted in several places (e.g. here), been noticed by a number of thinkers from Democritus to Schrödinger.

We might also note that the degree to which the actual practice of science really does involve moving beyond ordinary modes of cognition is itself a matter of controversy (as the work of thinkers like Michael Polanyi illustrates); and that equally controversial is the question of whether the methods of physics really do reveal to us the whole nature of objective material reality in the first place.  Nor need one take a purely instrumentalist view of physics to doubt that they do.  To appeal to an analogy I’ve used in earlier posts, when aircraft engineers determine how many passengers can be carried on a certain plane, they might focus exclusively on their average weight and ignore not only the passengers’ sex, ethnicity, hair color, dinner service preferences, etc., but even the actual weight of any particular passenger.  This method is very effective, and is effective precisely because it captures real features of the world, but it hardly gives us an exhaustive description of airline passengers.  Similarly, the methods of physics, which focus on those aspects of a system that are susceptible of prediction and control and thus abstract away aspects which cannot be modeled mathematically, are extremely effective, and effective precisely because they capture real features of the world.  But it simply does not follow that the description of physical reality they afford us is exhaustive, any more than the engineer’s description is exhaustive.  And thus the fact that that description is radically different from the picture afforded by perception does not entail that it falsifies the latter.  To assume otherwise is (as I have noted before) to commit what Alfred North Whitehead called the “Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.”  

In any event, whether we think our ordinary, pre-scientific perceptual and rational faculties are unreliable to only a minor extent or to a significant extent, we cannot coherently regard them as fundamentally unreliable.  And that they are fundamentally reliable is all the EAAN requires.  Even science at its most rarefied presupposes that at some level our senses tell us the truth in a systematic way, and that basic arithmetic, modus ponens, conjunctive reasoning, etc. are valid modes of inference.  EAAN claims that naturalism is inconsistent with this presupposition, and nothing Schliesser has said shows otherwise.

Schliesser on machines

But couldn’t Schliesser now appeal to the suggestion that the role of human beings in science is irrelevant anyway, since what they do could just as well be done by machines?  

No, one reason being that the machines in question must be designed and constructed by human beings -- they don’t grow on trees after all!  That means that, however it is they get the results they do, the machines will be reliable only if the cognitive faculties of those who designed and constructed them --namely, human beings -- are reliable.  (Nor would it help to suggest that machines that were constructed by other machines rather than by us wouldn’t face this problem; for the machine-constructing machines, or their ancestors anyway, would have been constructed by us, so that the problem is only pushed back a stage or several stages.)

But a deeper problem is that however they get here, machines in fact cannot carry out the cognitive tasks associated with scientific reason.  What they can do is merely serve as instruments to assist us as we carry out those tasks, as telescopes, microscopes, electrometers, scales, slide rules, pencil and paper, etc. do.  Schliesser is essentially taking for granted the computationalist theory of mind, on which cognitive processes in general are computational processes (in the sense of “computational” associated with modern computer science), so that they could be carried out by a machine as well as by us.  The “machine scientists” Schliesser is describing would accordingly be characterizable in terms of a kind of “android epistemology,” or perhaps in terms of what Paul Thagard calls “computational philosophy of science.”  But you don’t have to be an anti-naturalist to think that this whole idea is wrongheaded.  You just have to “get your Searle on,” as it were.

I am alluding here not to John Searle’s famous Chinese Room argument, but to the less well-known but more penetrating argument of his paper “Is the Brain a Digital Computer?” (restated in The Rediscovery of the Mind), according to which computation is not intrinsic to the physics of a system, so that it makes no sense to regard anything as carrying out a computation apart from the designers and/or users of a system who assign a computational interpretation to its processes.  (I discuss Searle’s argument in more detail in the post on Popper linked to above, since it is related to Popper’s argument.)  Saul Kripke has presented a similar argument, to the effect that there is nothing in the physical properties of any machine that can determine precisely which program it instantiates.  Any set of processes could, as far as their inherent physical properties alone are concerned, be interpreted either as the carrying out of one program or as a malfunction in the carrying out of some different program.  (I’ve discussed this argument too in greater detail in another earlier post.)

Now I think that it is in fact too strong to conclude on the basis of Searle’s, Popper’s, or Kripke’s arguments that there is nothing like computation inherent in physical processes, full stop.  The correct thing to say is rather that there is nothing like computation inherent in physical processes given an essentially materialist, anti-teleological conception of the physical.  However, if we allow that there is teleology of a broadly Aristotelian sort immanent to physical systems, then (as I’ve noted in earlier posts like this one and this one) we can make sense of the idea that certain physical systems are inherently directed toward the realization of this computational process rather than that one.  And if Nagel’s brand of naturalism is correct (though of course I don’t myself think it is), then such teleology can be made sense of without reference to a divine cause.  But what we would be left with in such a case is precisely Nagel’s form of naturalism -- a form that acknowledges the force of the EAAN and affirms teleology so as to get around problems of the sort the argument raises -- and this can hardly help to salvage Schliesser’s objection to the EAAN.

And of course, even if some computational processes are inherent to nature, that wouldn’t include those exhibited by the machines we use in our scientific endeavors, which are man-made and have only a derived teleology and thus a derivative status as “computers.”  We would be the true computers, with the machines serving as mere enhancements to our computational activity, just as binoculars enhance our vision but do not themselves see anything.  The reliability of the machines’ processes would, again, presuppose the reliability of our cognitive processes; and if the reliability of the latter is grounded in immanent teleology, then the force of the EAAN has been conceded and Nagel’s position will have been embraced rather than rebutted.

The bottom line is that we cannot altogether get outside our cognitive skins, even if we can modify, supplement, or even eliminate parts of those skins.  Schliesser’s position seems to suppose otherwise insofar as it implies that we could coherently practice science and accept its results while simultaneously denying the reliability of our cognitive faculties.  In fact, however we spell out the details of their relationship, Sellars’ “scientific image” is ultimately a part of the “manifest image” itself, so that the former cannot coherently be appealed to as a way of undermining the latter.  To quote Putnam quoting William James, “the trail of the human serpent is over all” -- or if not over all, then at least all over science, which is no less essentially human a practice than dancing, painting, machine-building, or philosophizing are.

434 comments:

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DNW said...

Edward Feser writes:

"But a deeper problem is that however they get here, machines in fact cannot carry out the cognitive tasks associated with scientific reason. What they can do is merely serve as instruments to assist us as we carry out those tasks, as telescopes, microscopes, electrometers, scales, slide rules, pencil and paper, etc. do. Schliesser is essentially taking for granted the computationalist theory of mind, on which cognitive processes in general are computational processes (in the sense of “computational” associated with modern computer science), so that they could be carried out by a machine as well as by us. The “machine scientists” Schliesser is describing would accordingly be characterizable in terms of a kind of “android epistemology,” or perhaps in terms of what Paul Thagard calls “computational philosophy of science.” But you don’t have to be an anti-naturalist to think that this whole idea is wrongheaded. You just have to “get your Searle on,” as it were."

The question of the teleology of machines aside, it might be helpful if Schliesser would provide examples of the kinds of machines that do not require the application of human folk logic at some level.

Maybe he's thinking of say, strictly digital machines wherein the output is discrete and all questions of user interface are somehow obviated; as for example in the elimination of parallax in the human reading of verniers or null meters.

I suppose someone may still be required to reason about whether the laser is working or vibration is affecting the reading or some quantizing error is affecting the aggregated output total ... but maybe not. I'll take a look at his article.

Interesting blog post, professor.

Eric Schliesser said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and very interesting response to my post! I liked it very much. But I think you misunderstand parts of my position: (i) on my approach, (and now adopting your Sellarsian terminology) the "naturalist" *need not take a stance* on the reliability of our cognitive faculties or the manifest image *when* evaluating the claims of the scientific image. (That is to say, in part, that one can't do so from the point of view of the manifest image.) SO, I deny I commit the “Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.” (I am too much of a student of Suzanne Stebbing!) Nothing I say should imply that I wish to promote eliminating the manifest image (as you unfairly imply). The manifest image is replaced within science for science not as such. (But equally one cannot appeal to the manifest image when denying the intelligibility or plausibility of the scientific image.)
(ii) I never claim that humans are entirely dispensable in science (although it is compatible with my view that one day they may be); as I indicate in my post, (a) humans are essential for coordinating and bringing together resources for ongoing enquiry; (b) for the time being human judgment is also going to be required. But I claim that this judgment is very far removed from ordinary judgment. (In your terminology: the judgment within the scientific image is trained up and disciplined in ways extremely unlike our ordinary cognitive faculties.) So, I do not claim that in science we need to go "entirely out of our skins."
Now, (iii) a crucial claim you make is "the machines will be reliable only if the cognitive faculties of those who designed and constructed them --namely, human beings -- are reliable." Not so. This reveals considerable wishful thinking and equivocation. For, (a) the human faculties that are being deployed are being deployed in non-standard and even extremely rarefied fashion in science (it does not require that our faculties are ordinarily reliable--as I said above, that is irrelevant to the issue); (b) if you grant all the ways our faculties are enhanced and suppressed prior to the context of design and application of machines what matters is if we have procedures and techniques that can keep score on our faculties in the process of constructing (to use your terminology) the scientific image. (c) On my view within science one does not disagree with folk logic (one simply does not give a damn about the folk and its notions). This does not rule out the fact that one can re-engineer folk notions for regimented and ecologically specialized uses (that may have a family resemblance to the folk notions). (d) I do think YOU (and Putnam) underestimate that even in the class-room one sometimes simply uses authority to insist on validity of some rule over another rule. (Brandom has said useful things about this.)
[to be continued]

Eric Schliesser said...

(iv) A non trivial disagreement between us is over the status of the distinction between original and derived teleology; I do not have additional arguments that go beyond the Dennett/Searle debate(s). You seem to think it is a one-sided debate (Searle wins hands down), alas.
(v) As an aside (but not something I have ever argued for), I do not think Aristotelian teleology is the only way one gets computation into material systems. Santa-Fe style mathematical treatments of self-organizing systems seem to me more akin to Platonic forms than Aristelian ends.
Okay, but what about (vi) "Even science at its most rarefied presupposes that at some level [A] our senses tell us the truth in a systematic way, and that [B] basic arithmetic, modus ponens, conjunctive reasoning, etc. are valid modes of inference." I think [A] has become entirely irrelevant to the way modern science is practiced. I think [B] is certainly presupposed to some degree, although current norms of science allow that if necessary [B] can be dispensable. (This does not mean they have to be dispensable.) The enduring flirtation with quantum logic and more recently with non standard logics (for scientific purposes) suggests this. As I said in my post, however, [B] does not give you any substantive claims in science, so it is a bit of a red herring either way. (After all while it's true that arithmetic is presupposed in much of science, nobody denies that (ahum) machines are fantastically good at arithmetic (which is why we deploy them in science).)
(vii) My only complaint about your presentation of my views is that you imply that I think that the physics affords us an exhaustive (that is comprehensive) "picture of the world." I had started my post by insisting that to generate such a picture is the task of philosophy that as of yet is not undertaken.
(viii) I do not claim that science is the only way to acquire important knowledge of and insight into our world. I do not think this is what a mature naturalism holds--this is why I advocate a philosophical task.
Sorry to go on like this. I hope these remarks are useful to your readers.
Eric Schliesser

Untenured said...

Many naturalists seem to think that there is a modularity-based objection to the EAAN that is cogent; namely that our capacity for survival is continent upon the existence of cognitive modalities that would only enable us to survive on the condition that they were reliable.

I agree with this, to a limited extent. But it still cannot save the naturalist's bacon.

Which cognitive modalities, pray tell, would these be? Only the non-theoretical ones that keep us from falling into a ditch or breaking a leg or getting eaten by a predator.

But physicalists and naturalists want to claim that their metaphysical extrapolations from natural science are reliable, and that they entitle them to such theses as: mental states are identical to brain states; God does not exist; morally right actions (if they exist) are those which either maximize aggregate utility or treat no persons as objects, etc and etc.

And how far removed from the contingencies of survival are the cognitive mechanisms that yield these results that naturalists are so fond of? Even if we have evolutionary reasons to think that perception is reliable, why on earth should we think that there are purely evolutionary reasons for supposing that we could reliably arrive at the atheist/naturalist conclusions that are constantly rammed down our throats as the incontrovertible results of what our best "science" happens to "say"? Especially when they rely upon modal intuitions, knowledge of objective good and objective evil, and so forth.

These mainstream naturalists are self-deceived in the worst way.

Anonymous said...

(i) on my approach, (and now adopting your Sellarsian terminology) the "naturalist" *need not take a stance* on the reliability of our cognitive faculties or the manifest image *when* evaluating the claims of the scientific image.

Wrong. Without the reliability of our conginitve faculties science becomes helpless because they are utilized the most basic level (as well as the various layers that constitute a scientific theory). You can try and be an obscurantism and hide all the assumptions, reasoning, common sense under jargon, multi-level theories and exotic hypothesis, but it’s still there.

You also seem to claim that scientists are some high achieving individuals that are magically above the rest of society. If so, how do you explain the stupidity of “scientists” like dawkins, krauss, stenger etc?

The notion that the scientist is somehow impartial, uber-rational, dispassionate than others is a myth.

You also seem to claim that the scientist somehow rises above the basic cognitive faculties humans have and magically creates this new set of “scientific faculties”. If Nietzsche heard you he would laugh at you for trying to pull some causa sui nonsense, “pulling yourself out of the swamp of nothingness”.

While some of the methods of science may differ from everyday thinking, they are nonetheless reliant on human cognitive faculties or the Intellect if one were to use the better term. Given science’s dependence on them (your obscurantist claims not withstanding), there really is no way to escape the EAAN for the naturalist.

Anonymous said...

(In your terminology: the judgment within the scientific image is trained up and disciplined in ways extremely unlike our ordinary cognitive faculties.)

The difference is much smaller than you make it out to be. Regardless, your point is irrelevant, since it's still a human being doing the thinking. In order for the human being to be able to do said thinking, his Intellect must be able to facilitate it. That being said, if his faculties are unreliable, the problem still persists, since to "overcome" the unreliability he/she must still depend on at least some if not most of the aspects of rational faculty.

It's as if you think rational and scientific discourse can be done in suspended animation. That's just ridiculous.

DNW said...

Eric Schliesser said...

" ... the human faculties that are being deployed are being deployed in non-standard and even extremely rarefied fashion in science (it does not require that our faculties are ordinarily reliable--as I said above, that is irrelevant to the issue)..."

Which human faculties? A concrete example might help.

Apparently he's not talking about something so mundane as reading the results off an instrument or machine according to some set of rules which might not be obvious - "Take the readings of measured artifacts only after using calibration masters of the same material set at the same temperature"; or taking into account false color representation, or that numbers are being used ordinally only, or that negative numbers signal an increase in intensity.

Maybe one of Professor Feser's readers who is a professional scientist could give an example of a faculty being used in a nonstandard way.

grodrigues said...

Can anyone explain to me what this is supposed to mean?

"In your terminology: the judgment within the scientific image is trained up and disciplined in ways extremely unlike our ordinary cognitive faculties."

With a background in mathematics, and having just spent the last hour writing down a proof of Linton's theorem that the dual Banach space functor is monadic, I suppose I belong to that "trained up and disciplined" minority. My only problem is that I have no idea what extra-ordinary cognitive powers mathematicians are supposed to have. In my experience, the difference with the "untutored rabble" is merely in the degree of honing and training of certain skills, not the difference in kind that seems to be suggested, certainly nothing like "extremely unlike our ordinary cognitive faculties". And what to make of un-trained mathematicians, the most notable example being that of Ramanujan? But maybe I am just not understanding what the claim is exactly, thus my question.

" I think [A = our senses tell us the truth in a systematic way] has become entirely irrelevant to the way modern science is practiced."

I cannot understand this claim either. One of the most powerful amplifications of the human powers of observation is the LHC; and yet it would avail to nothing if the sense of sight is not essentially reliable, for otherwise those scientists cannot even rely on what they are "seeing" in the computer screen.

"The enduring flirtation with quantum logic and more recently with non standard logics (for scientific purposes) suggests this."

This is not quite correct. In fact, if the "enduring flirtation with quantum logic" shows anything is that, besides producing some interesting mathematics it has gone exactly nowhere. Besides, even though I am not sure what E. Schliesser means by non-standard logics, the fact is that they are evaluated and judged by the same methods, that is, one proves things *about* quantum logic(s) using the same standard, boring, "folk" classical logic. This is true even in contexts where the logic is strong enough to have a fully developed proof theory and semantics such as in Topos theory where the law of excluded middle is dropped. When a constructivist, or someone doing Topos theory, says that LEM is false he is not saying exactly the same thing a classical mathematician would say if he uttered the same sentence.

Anonymous said...

"Even science at its most rarefied presupposes that at some level [A] our senses tell us the truth in a systematic way, and that [B] basic arithmetic, modus ponens, conjunctive reasoning, etc. are valid modes of inference." I think [A] has become entirely irrelevant to the way modern science is practiced. I think [B] is certainly presupposed to some degree, although current norms of science allow that if necessary [B] can be dispensable.

If [A] is irrelevant then scientific realism is dead. That entails that the objects of science are evidently not the Real picture of the world. Without this, the authority (or better yet, the perceived - albeit insubstantial - authority of science is gone. Since modern naturalists put so much stock in this type of argument (although it doesn't help them in the least) their position is not only damaged but damaged to the point of being irreparable.

[B] Holds true whether you like it or not. Right now your entire diatribe has been one giant wishful thought, asserted but never effectively argued. You pretend that science is this larger than life thing that requires super-intellect of some sort that magically demarcates between the basic human faculties and these super-human nerdy science faculties. The irony is, they are both the same, in the sense that they reside in the same cognitive apart us of mankind. Sure there are some difference but they are peripheral not essential.

To put it simply, when a layman thinks and when a scientist thinks, the same thing is going on in both case as they are both fundamentally human. Some presuppositions and faiths my differ between one and the other but the activity is nonetheless the same.

Anonymous said...

"the machines will be reliable only if the cognitive faculties of those who designed and constructed them --namely, human beings -- are reliable." Not so. This reveals considerable wishful thinking and equivocation. For, (a) the human faculties that are being deployed are being deployed in non-standard and even extremely rarefied fashion in science (it does not require that our faculties are ordinarily reliable--as I said above, that is irrelevant to the issue);

The only one engaging in wishful thinking here is you. The machine will give you when you tell it to give you. Unless of course you have some naturalistic superstition that entails machines designing themselves, I think it would be to your benefit to concede the point.

Furthermore, and ironically, it's you claim that is a red herring, not Feser's. Just because we get creative with our cognitive faculties that does not mean we violate them not does it mean that we can go beyond them (for that would be prima facie absurd and metaphysically impossible). You are operating under numerous abstractions here and get lost on the way. It's still a human being thinking and it's still a human being designing. That's the beauty of humans, we have this freedom to explore and go beyond our current capacities but that does not entail destroying or denouncing our foundations, or forms.

If said foundation is faulty, which is what the EAAN shows to be the case from the confluence of naturalism and darwinism, you can beg the question all day and all night and you will still never get to any truth, correct reasoning or what have you. Nihilism is your only option.

Finally, flirting with quantum logic and the like (highly controversial as is dialetheism) is nothing more than acknowledging the instrumentalism in science. To get from instrumentalism to realism however is a very long journey... A journey that the naturalist simply cannot complete.

You're welcome.

DNW said...

"Blogger grodrigues said...

Can anyone explain to me what this is supposed to mean? ..."


Rhetorical question or no ... I'm reasonably certain that many here were hoping you would explain it to us.


And just for kicks:


"Posted by Edward Feser at 12:16PM"


"Eric Schliesser [replied]... January 21, 2013 at 1:30 PM"

Well, if that is not a record authorial response time for the good professor's blog, it ought to be.

Of course I suppose Professor Feser may have privately sent Eric Schliesser a complimentary 'heads up'.

In which case I retract the expression of amazement.

Jonathan Lewis said...

Schliesser:

"the human faculties that are being deployed are being deployed in non-standard and even extremely rarefied fashion in science"

Is this non-standard scientific thinking so unusual that it totally breaks free of the notions of truth and falsity?

It cannot be. Anyone who thinks that his scientific theory is true must still be relying on basic distinctions between the real and the unreal. You cannot transcend truth-seeking in your science. You cannot give up notions of coherence, consistency, non-contradiction,and truthfulness. Any science that tried to give these things up wouldn't be science.

Any sort of true theories must rest upon a foundation of simple cognitive reliability. No legitimate theory can levitate itself above this foundation.

Jinzang said...

The problem as I see it is that when science itself is subjected to scientific inquiry it is seen as a historical phenomenon pursued by fallible biological beings. And there is no reason to suppose it would yield the truth. If one objects that we can see that science has yielded the truth, this presupposes that one stands outside of history and biology and can judge science from this standpoint. But obviously we do not and the same critique can be made of our opinion of science. Hence the judgement that science is correct must rely on something outside of science. Either science fails or naturalism fails.

Anonymous said...

"With a background in mathematics, and having just spent the last hour writing down a proof of Linton's theorem that the dual Banach space functor is monadic, I suppose I belong to that "trained up and disciplined" minority."

"Linton"? As in "Papalinton"? Tell me you're joking...


And, unlike science, mathematics doesn't really give us knowledge about reality. The discovery that e^(pi*i) = -1 represents no advancement in human knowledge whatsoever, but rather exemplifies the quirkiness of a nebulous set of base axioms that do not necessarily correspond to reality.

reighley said...

"One of the most powerful amplifications of the human powers of observation is the LHC; and yet it would avail to nothing if the sense of sight is not essentially reliable, for otherwise those scientists cannot even rely on what they are "seeing" in the computer screen."

I think one of the most striking things about particle accelerator experiments is how, after all that, they are cameras.

Hrafn said...

"The EAAN begins by noting that what natural selection favors is behavior that is conducive to reproductive success.
Actually, this is more than a little inaccurate. Natural selection in fact favours anything correleated with reproductive success. This is an important distinction, as the more detailed version of Plantinga's argument makes a big (if misguided) deal about the causal link between beliefs and behaviour.
"Such behavior might be associated with true beliefs, but it might not be; it is certainly possible that adaptive behavior could be associated instead with beliefs that happen to be false."
However, as many have pointed out, the probability of false beliefs leading consistently to successful behaviour is very low. And survival requires consistently successful behaviour, as it takes only one wrong step to get you eatten.
"In that case, though, there is nothing about natural selection per se that could guarantee that our cognitive faculties reliably produce true beliefs."
Where those beliefs directly affect survival and reproduction, there is a very strong reason to accept that the beliefs would be a reasonable approximation of true.
Of course where those beliefs don't directly affect survival, it's quite possible that the beliefs are coimpletely false. Superstitions are an obvious example of this. And it is worth noting that one of the more important uses of science is to weed out such false beliefs.
I think it is worth emphasising this -- the scientific method DOES NOT assume that our cognitive facilities are perfect, it includes heuristics for correcting imperfections in them.
"A given individual belief would have about a 50-50 chance of being true. "
No it would not. There is in fact no logical or statistical basis whatseover for assigning a 50% probability. Edward Fesar, I would suggest to you that your understanding of statistics is deeply flawed and that it should completely disqualify you from opining on a statistically-related argument. (Admitedly, I have no reason to believe that Plantinga's understanding of statistics is substantively less flawed.)
And the probability that the preponderance of true beliefs over false ones would be great enough to make our cognitive faculties reliable is very small indeed."
That conclusion is wholly unsupported by the facts, which supports a "preponderance of true beliefs over false ones" where said beliefs are directly relevant to survival, but no adducible conclusion (NOT a 50% probability, nor a "very small" probability) where the beliefs aren't relevant to survival.
In conclusion, I would note that while the EAAN seems to be quite popular in Philosophy of Science circles, it does not appear to be taken seriously among scientists or atheists. This is perhaps because scientifically-speaking it is deeply unserious, presenting a mangled strawman of evolutionary biology and of statistics. The former may be attributable to Plantinga's preference for the company of creationists -- who have a vested interest in the misrepresentation of evolution. It is likely that this has also given him a rather distorted view of science more generally.

יאיר רזק said...

" DNW said...
Eric Schliesser said...

Maybe one of Professor Feser's readers who is a professional scientist could give an example of a faculty being used in a nonstandard way."

Well, as an ex (very minor) physicist - consider the faculty of geometry, of perceiving and thinking about geometrical relations and structures. At one of my graduate courses, for example, we considered how spacetime is built inside a certain type of black hole. It turns out that the direction of time changes, so that it becomes equivalent to the distance from the center. In trying to twist your mind around that, you are trying to imagine these strange geometries but to apply them to spacetime rather than space, so you can make sense of the mathematical description. This distances the faculty from any naive notion of "reliability". The reliability of the faculty is simply not an issue; it is used in a "non-standard way" to do stuff totally unrelated to its original function, the one selected for under natural selection.

Schliesser's point, I think, is not that science necessarily obviates our faculties in this way, but rather that can. It can distorts and "mis"-applies them so much that their use bears no relation to their evolutionary genesis. Even logic itself, per Schliesser, can be replaced in this way.

Personally, I disagree with Schliesser's position, at least in regards to logic, but that's his idea as far as I can understand it.

Hope that helps,

Yair

Anonymous said...

Edward Fesar, I would suggest to you that your understanding of statistics is deeply flawed and that it should completely disqualify you from opining on a statistically-related argument. (Admitedly, I have no reason to believe that Plantinga's understanding of statistics is substantively less flawed.)

His name is Feser, not Feser. Your inability to spell the name of the person you're responding to, on their own blog, utterly exposes you as having no competence to critique their ideas and thus you should, on pain of being exposed as intellectually dishonest, withdraw from the conversation.

However, as many have pointed out, the probability of false beliefs leading consistently to successful behaviour is very low.

That's not pointing out. That's asserting without support.

Bye-bye.

יאיר רזק said...

I'd like to ask a question regarding the introduction of this post. I know it takes us away from Schliesser's arguments, which are the core of the post, so I apologize; feel free to ignore me. :)

Feser said: "The key point is rather that the logical relations that hold between thoughts cannot in principle be reduced to, supervenient upon, or in any way explained in terms of relations of efficient causality between material elements."

Is it your (Feser's) position that the EAAN relies on this premise? Namely, on denying the premise that "the logical relations between thoughts can ... be reduced [etc.] to relations of efficient causality between material elements"? And isn't this premise, or something rather like it, something any naturalist theory of mind commits to? If this is the case, I think it renders the EAAN rather pointless. If the EAAN denies this naturalistic premise, then it relies on naturalism being wrong about rather fundamental propositions to say that naturalism is incoherent...

For the record, as I understand the EAAN it is not committed to such a claim. I think the EAAN can be argued-for even accepting, for the sake of the argument, a theory of mind (such as functionalism). That's one of its virtues. One can claim, for example, that the person is equally likely to run away from the tiger if he has the brain-structure representation (and hence, by functionalist reasoning, belief) of the tiger being frightening and running away will get you far from it as he is if he has the brain-representation of that tigers are cute and that running away from something will get you closer to it.

To be clear - I think the EAAN fails (I'm a naturalist), but not because it assumes naturalistic theory of mind is false. And that's the point I was hoping to raise in this post - to see the opinion of Feser on this, and of the commentators (if any).

Thanks for any replies,

Yair

Anonymous said...

Yair,

I think there Feser is explaining the argument from reason in that section, not the EAAN. And the "key point" is itself argued for, not assumed.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed how much like mystics and gnostics the view of scientists being advanced here is?

To be coherent, and not forever beyond our grasp, science simply cannot stretch logic and the boundaries of rational thought too far. That some need reminding of that is disappointing.

seanrobsville said...

@DNW
Scientific theories could not be constructed by computationalism or a 'mechanistic mind', because such theories could never be formulated as being 'about' anything in the external world.

David T said...

(c) On my view within science one does not disagree with folk logic (one simply does not give a damn about the folk and its notions). This does not rule out the fact that one can re-engineer folk notions for regimented and ecologically specialized uses (that may have a family resemblance to the folk notions).

Isn't there a problem of the First Scientist here? Science is an invention of man; prior to the invention of science, man was necessarily entirely immanent with respect to folk logic. Folk logic was all he had or could have until he invented something else. But whatever it is he invents, the invention must be created in terms of, and evaluated by, folk logic, since folk logic is all man has at that point. Modern science is but one of many possible cognitive procedures, and the fact that it was recognized as superior to alternatives (e.g. chemistry vs alchemy, astronomy vs astrology), must itself have been a function of pre-scientific thought ("folk logic"). Galilean science didn't triumph because people arbitrarily submitted to the scientific authority of Galileo; it triumphed because people could and did recognize it's superiority in terms of non-scientific thought - just like Galileo himself did. But if folk logic is by its nature unreliable, then the First Scientist's invention of science is itself unreliable and science can never get started.

FM said...

To claim that science does not give a damn or care 'folk logic' is not really true.

It holds a utopian, fairy-tale idea of science that in reality does not exists.


The idea that the scientific process is a sort of 'swimming against the current' of normal human cognitive processes is plainly wrong.

We see it in the good and the bad sides.

For the 'bad side': one just needs to read a recent Angewandte Review:
"The Seven Sins in Academic Behavior in the Natural Sciences" by Wilfred F. van Gunsteren (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 118 – 122)

This shows how VERY HUMAN the scientific process is, and indeed often flawed by the flaws in humans themselves.

As even many smart scientists themselves have realized (read for example "The Double Helix : A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA" by J. D. Watson) science is NOT AT ALL the 'perfect logical machine like process' some people believe, but it is indeed a process that takes even many steps backwards, is frustrated by dogmatisms and closed thinking and other flaws in human reasoning.



There is the good as well:
The positive qualities of human reasoning bring it forward. That is: it is the natural human cognition itself, when used correctly, that elevates and makes science progress


These good qualities in cognition that makes good scientific progress and thinking are ALSO inherent in 'folk logic'.

The difference is that "scientific logic" is a sharpening of folk logic.

Like a sportsman trains his muscles to do more that what most people do with them rely upon what muscles ALRREADY can do.

For exaple I am a scientist but no sportsman. I can train 16 hours a day and I am sure i will never be more of an amateur in a sport anyway. My muscles and my body just has its limits.

The same goes with mental properties.

Scientific thought and logic is just a refinement of human inherent cognitive processes, like writing is just a refinement of language (which is naturally and basically oral first).

Folk logic and scientific logic are far more connected than Schliesser thinks, as the scientific process is based on hu8man reasoning which manifests itself even in folk logic even if it is untrained and unrefined.


SO even the statement he makes:

""the human faculties that are being deployed are being deployed in non-standard and even extremely rarefied fashion in science""

is false.

As the review by van Gunsteren that I cited above shows there is nothing so unusual in the though process of the scientific community... actually it is so plainly normal and common that is is also plagued by the same afflictions that plague 'folk logic'.

Hrafn said...

"His name is Feser, not Feser."

ROFLMAO!

"Your inability to spell the name of the person you're responding to, on their own blog, utterly exposes you as having no competence to critique their ideas and thus you should, on pain of being exposed as intellectually dishonest, withdraw from the conversation."

Yes, because a simple spelling error (one which you yourself duplicated), is EXACTLY equivalent of displaying BASIC STATISTICAL INCOMPETENCE, in attempting to explain and offer support for a statistically-based argument.

"That's not pointing out. That's asserting without support."

Please suggest an explanation whereby false beliefs might lead to consistently successful behaviour. All Plantinga has offered is an absurd fairy story about a tiger, which lacks credibility as an explanation of even a single conceivable instance of false beliefs leading to successful behaviour, and does not even attempt to explain behaviour which might have sufficient frequency to have a meaningful effect on selection and evolution.

Hrafn said...

Does anybody believe that there is no correlation between having reasonably accurate beliefs and behaviour that gives a good chance of survival?

For example does anybody believe that somebody who has frequently false beliefs (e.g. a schizophrenic) does not generally also exhibit behaviour that gives them a lower than average probability of survival?

If so, then please present compelling contrary examples and DATA to support them.

If not, then please give up on trying to present the EAAN as anything more than a piece of unconvincing rhetorical sleight-of-hand.

grodrigues said...

@Anonymous:

"Linton"? As in "Papalinton"? Tell me you're joking...

No, as in F. E. J. Linton. But just imagine the delightful irony it would be that Papalinton was, unbeknown to us, a real bona-fide competent mathematician?

And, unlike science, mathematics doesn't really give us knowledge about reality. The discovery that e^(pi*i) = -1 represents no advancement in human knowledge whatsoever, but rather exemplifies the quirkiness of a nebulous set of base axioms that do not necessarily correspond to reality.

Mathematics is knowledge, period. The question is knowledge of what exactly. The "quirkiness of a nebulous set of base axioms that do not necessarily correspond to reality" is too ignorant and asinine a comment to respond to. And the position that mathematics gives us no knowledge about extra-mental reality is a philosophical position that needs arguing not ignorant loudmouthing.

grodrigues said...

@Yair:

"Maybe one of Professor Feser's readers who is a professional scientist could give an example of a faculty being used in a nonstandard way.

Well, as an ex (very minor) physicist - consider the faculty of geometry, of perceiving and thinking about geometrical relations and structures. At one of my graduate courses, for example, we considered how spacetime is built inside a certain type of black hole. It turns out that the direction of time changes, so that it becomes equivalent to the distance from the center. In trying to twist your mind around that, you are trying to imagine these strange geometries but to apply them to spacetime rather than space, so you can make sense of the mathematical description. This distances the faculty from any naive notion of "reliability"."

I am sorry, but this makes no sense to me. I understand what it means to stretch one's mind to try and grasp and get a conception of the curvature tensor, or to get a mental picture of a space-filling curve or of Weierstrass's monster, but this in *no way* means that it "distances the faculty from any naive notion of "reliability"". Precisely the contrary. It is *because* they are reliable in the naive sense, and that they can be trained and honed, that I (and many other people, far more smarter than me) can prove, to myself and anyone with the requisite knowledge, that a space-filling curve exists, or that a continuous function that is not differentiable at any point of its domain of definition exists, or explain the geomtry of space-time around a black hole singularity or any other number of weird, wonderful (if you are a mathematician) things.

Jonathan Lewis said...

It is not a question of false beliefs leading to truth; it is really about seeing how beliefs would never help your survival.

If you believe, as many naturalists do, that mental content is epiphenonmenal, then your beliefs have no effect on anything. If beliefs have no causal powers, then they cannot help you to survive, and therefore cannot be chosen by natural selection.

Pantinga was asking why any belief content would be necessary at all. If you have survival behaviours like running away at the sight of a predator, then you don't need to form beliefs. Running away can just be a programmed action. That is quite consistent with a mechnical theory of human nature. Your eyes see the predator and this triggers a nerve reaction that results in your legs moving and carrying you away from danger. Why bother forming beliefs? What would a belief add to the creature's survival ability?

If beliefs are unnecessary for survival, then it is unlikely they would appear through natural selection. Since we do have beliefs, then it is not likely that they were formed by natural selection alone.

Hrafn said...

Jonathan Lewis:

Please present an example of a naturalist who genuinely believes that "your beliefs have no effect on anything". This appears to be a blatant strawman!

Whether "any belief content would be necessary at all" is in fact irrelevant to whether or not it is selectable.

For true beliefs to undergo positive selection, all that is required is that they are positively correlated with pro-survival behaviour. Byproduct selection of correlated characteristics is widely documented within evolutionary biology (see for example research on biological spandrels). This is in fact a major unaddressed flaw in the EAAN.

Hrafn said...

On closer examination, Jonathan Lewis would appear to be that of conflating Eliminative Materialism with Naturalism.

Anonymous said...

But why think, at the very outset, that true beliefs will be or are very likely to be correlated with pro-survival behavior? Why can't you have pro-survival behavior in the absence of true beliefs?

Hrafn said...

"But why think, at the very outset, that true beliefs will be or are very likely to be correlated with pro-survival behavior? Why can't you have pro-survival behavior in the absence of true beliefs?"

Because, beyond a few very narrow and unrealistic 'examples', we have no reason whatsoever to believe that false beliefs can persistently be correlated with pro-survival behaviour, and numerous real-world examples (e.g. schizophrenia) to indicate that such persistence is unlikely.

reighley said...

@Hrafn,

"For true beliefs to undergo positive selection, all that is required is that they are positively correlated with pro-survival behaviour. Byproduct selection of correlated characteristics is widely documented within evolutionary biology (see for example research on biological spandrels). This is in fact a major unaddressed flaw in the EAAN."

First of all, Feser is pretty clear that he thinks taking a statistical angle on the argument is a mistake on Plantinga's part:

"
For one thing, I don’t think the basic point of the argument has anything to do with weighing probabilities, so that Plantinga’s tendency to state the argument in probabilistic terms needlessly muddies the waters somewhat."

Second, I think your objection strengthens the argument rather than undermines it. If the issue was merely survival then it could be argued that "adopting the position that doesn't get me killed" is a legitimate definition of truth. Since the fact that I am not dead might be the only thing I can know for sure, judging all of my knowledge against whether it might kill me and verifying that it didn't isn't such a bad epistemic plan.

The objection is that this death criterion does not seem to be enough to draw any logical conclusions from.

If you try to upend the argument by saying "wait, survival doesn't necessarily figure into it", then what you seem to be saying is that human belief is a random product of the environment, accidentally correlated with the survival of those who hold them.

I would say in closing that the proposition that beliefs are random has some good experimental evidence behind it. I think it goes without saying that most people are wrong about something sometimes, and some people are downright crazy. That said, once you have taken the stance that there is such a thing as truth, it isn't totally clear (at least not to me) how you can actually tell what the truth is with just your brain to work with.

Hrafn said...

reighley:

1) "adopting the position that doesn't get me killed" is a gross oversimplification of reproductive fitness -- which also includes issues like acquiring food, acquiring a mate, group dynamics, etc, etc -- i.e. a quite complex set of analyses.

2) It is not clear that there is anything left of Plantinga's argument if you eliminate the statistics. Certainly his argument is generally formally presented in a highly statistical manner.

3) Lacking its (flawed) statistical basis, it would appear to devolve into an Argument from Personal Ignorance/Incredulity, whereby the arguer claims that because they don't understand how the scientific method might provide heuristics that bootstraps the imperfect cognitive facilities that evolution has bequeathed us, into a considerably less imperfect system of scientific investigation, that such a bootstrapping is impossible.

seanrobsville said...

Why false beliefs may be beneficial:

'Other things being equal, we conceive of a sequence of stimuli as corresponding to a single enduring (though changing) object rather than to a sequence of different momentary ones [...] There are good reasons why we do not do so, primarily that such a representation is vastly too complex to use in practice. Any mind who lived in such a world of kaleidoscopically flashing phenomena would presumably be at an evolutionary disadvantage when compared with one that represented a world of stable, enduring objects.' - Jan Westerhoff
More here...

Hrafn said...

And reighley, "I would say in closing that the proposition that beliefs are random" is a statistically vacuous claim!

If you mean that beliefs are are not strictly deterministic, then I would reply "so what?" That claim does not no support any substantive claim of flawed cognitive facilities.

If you claim that beliefs present a high degree of variance, then I would suggest that more evidence is needed that a few (and highly anecdotal) outliers.

Hrafn said...

seanrobsville:

You present no evidence that belief in a "single enduring (though changing) object" is a false belief (let alone an egregiously false one).

It would appear that the two representations are roughly equivalent.

Anonymous said...

Hrafn,

However, as many have pointed out, the probability of false beliefs leading consistently to successful behaviour is very low. Where those beliefs directly affect survival and reproduction, there is a very strong reason to accept that the beliefs would be a reasonable approximation of true.

That’s just wishful thinking. There a re a plethora of examples that have been given that truth is in no way correlated to survivability and even further, that false belief is correlated to survivability. Your un-argued claims are irrelevant and empty.

Ancient person (ridden with superstitious beliefs – don’t you “modern” fools like to downgrade ancients eh? Well here it is for ya!) hears noise in forest, believes it’s an evil ancestral spirit, he starts running away. It turns out it was a bear behind some bushes and by running he saved his life.

This is perhaps because scientifically-speaking it is deeply unserious, presenting a mangled strawman of evolutionary biology and of statistics.

Science is silent on what is truth and what is not. Science is too impotent to investigate epistemological issues. Learn your stuff. The argument destroys your pathetic naturalism and you’re simply angry because of it. Trying to appeal to the “authority of science” (logical fallacy), which is non-existent on the matter (since the argument is epistemological) reveals two things, that you don’t understand the nature of the argument and that you falsely believe that this problem is one that can be resolved within science. IT cannot, for the simple reason that the problem is created by the metaphysics of naturalism. So it’s a philosophical problem. But keep wishing, maybe the indifferent universe will grant you your wish. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I would note that while the EAAN seems to be quite popular in Philosophy of Science circles, it does not appear to be taken seriously among scientists or atheists

It is popular (and ironically even your boy darwin, identified the issue in his writings but never thought of taking the issue to its logical conclusion). It’s popular because the argument is powerful and it works!

Stop talking on behalf of scientists. You’re not their representative. Whether a scientist takes it seriously is not for you to comment. There are many scientists who have commented on it and have taken it seriously and have admitted that it creates a huge problem for the naturalist. That’s a fact.

Also, not all scientists are trained to deal with the problem. A vast number of scientists are specialized in a field with little to no philosophical acumen. Furthermore, don’t confuse the fact that scientists don’t address the issue with anything more that it being outside of their domain of specialty or interest. A biologist can still do his job just fine with the EAAN being successful (which it is). The problem is therefore not for the scientist but for the naturalist. It’s naturalism that ends up being rejected FOR THE SAKE of science. So why should the scientist be worried?

Oh and as far as atheists/naturalists are concerned? Who takes those nutjobs seriously anyway? It’s not like the argument stands or fails on whether the personifications of superstition – the atheists – accept it or not. If they want to believe in their absurd worldview, which has not a single piece of evidence or proof, then it’s fine by the rest of us. But taking their superstition seriously is not something we’re willing to do.

*That doesn’t mean we won’t take an atheist scientists work on say chemistry/genetics/electronics/etc seriously. By all means, we will and we welcome them to the table. We just don’t take their blind faith seriously or their opinions regarding arguments that expose their irrationality, seriously. You follow?

Anonymous said...

2) It is not clear that there is anything left of Plantinga's argument if you eliminate the statistics. Certainly his argument is generally formally presented in a highly statistical manner.

That's just nonsense.

You don't need a statistical formalism for the argument to work. All you need to show, which is an undeniable fact, is that behavior conducive to survival is not equivalent or even worse identical to true belief. That's a fact, that no reasonable person can deny. You mental gymnastics cannot bridge the gap. Accept it and move on.

Not to mention that unless a belief is manifested in behavior it can never be beneficial to survival. So someone might believe in millions of false things that may not manifest in behavior is say fight vs flight or situations of danger. Since your magical feral spirit of natural selection can't see it, it remains in the individual regardless. So there's another way to refute your pathetic naturalism. And I'm not even going to bother with presenting the ever so ridiculous claim of some (perhaps many) naturalists that there are no such things as beliefs.

You're hopeless.

Hrafn said...

Speaking as a statistician, the proposition that it is not possible to develop heuristics that take in inaccurate knowledge and distil it down to a smaller amount of more accurate knowledge appears to be equivalent to the claim that the field of statistics does not exist.

Assuming that heuristics of this type exist, it does not appear in the least bit unreasonable that such could be applied to the products of imperfect, evolution-derived, cognition, and result in (a smaller volume of) less imperfect conclusions.

seanrobsville said...

@Hrafn

'A single enduring (though changing object)' is a conventional and convenient belief that is ultimately false, by reason of being internally contradictory.

If any material object truly endured without changing, it would be unknowable. In order to be known, an object has to interact in some way with an observer, and interaction implies it causes change, and in doing so must also inevitably itself be changed.

David T said...

Even supposing that evolution provides a survival advantage for true beliefs, the fact can never be the fundamental substantiation for our cogntive faculties. It's a high-level scientific conclusion that presupposes the veridicality of all the cognition that went on to support the scientific case for evolution in the first place. (This is a logical spin on the First Scientist problem I mentioned earlier).

If "Natural selection selects for true beliefs" is meant as a genuinely scientific conclusion, then it's negation must also be considered a live possibility, i.e. "Natural selection does not select for true beliefs", and the decision between the two decided by empirical evidence. And this implies that the scientific analysis itself is trustworthy whatever the outcome; which means that the trustworthiness of science cannot be based on its evolutionary advantages.

Hrafn said...

"You don't need a statistical formalism for the argument to work."

Yes you do, because all the argument is, is statistical formalisms that misrepresent reality.

"All you need to show, which is an undeniable fact, is that behavior conducive to survival is not equivalent or even worse identical to true belief."

The trouble is that naturalists never required perfect "true belief" in order for the scientific method to work. This is nothing more than a strawman requirement on the part of the supernaturalists.

"Not to mention that unless a belief is manifested in behavior it can never be beneficial to survival."

Already answered -- see scientific research on Byproduct Selection.

"So someone might believe in millions of false things that may not manifest in behavior is say fight vs flight or situations of danger."

Please provide actual real examples of people who "
"So someone might believe in millions of false things" who aren't locked up in mental institutions, or otherwise suffering severe reproductive-fitness deficits.

"Since your magical feral spirit of natural selection..."

Given that the existence of natural selection is a well-documented (in both the field and under laboratory conditions) scientific FACT, you are clearly delusional. Have fun talking to your magical sky spirit.

Hrafn said...

David:

"Natural selection selects for true beliefs" is ultimately an unscientifically vague hypothesis. And in fact, as far as I know, no scientist makes this claim.

It is in fact Plantinga who makes the claim that (i) natural selection cannot select for true beliefs & (ii) that this inability undercuts naturalism.

I would contradict that (i) he badly underestimates the correlation between (approximately) true beliefs and selectable survival & (ii) badly overestimates the level and accuracy of basic cognition necessary to be bootstrapped via the heuristics of the scientific method into a fairly (but not perfectly) accurate system of scientific investigation.

Anonymous said...

Yes you do, because all the argument is, is statistical formalisms that misrepresent reality.


You can keep saying that you do all you want. I explained why you don’t but it’s well above your intellectual grey matter to grasp perhaps? The only one misrepresenting reality here is you.

The trouble is that naturalists never required perfect "true belief" in order for the scientific method to work. This is nothing more than a strawman requirement on the part of the supernaturalists.



If you have no way of knowing true belief, which is the case for the naturalist, anything can follow from whatever proposition. Your case is indeed irreparable once you conflate naturalism with darwinism. The naturalist simply has no way to get to truth given his beliefs. That’s the point. Again, it’s over your head.


Already answered -- see scientific research on Byproduct Selection.



Fail again. That is not an adequate response nor does it address my criticism. In addition, you require a strong philosophical argument to substantiate your vacuous claims.


Please provide actual real examples of people who "
"So someone might believe in millions of false things" who aren't locked up in mental institutions, or otherwise suffering severe reproductive-fitness deficits.



That’s a red herring and ironically a strawman interpretation of what I am saying. You are one who believes in such false things and superstitions such as naturalism. Are you locked up? No. (although maybe you should?) Does that effect your survival? No. You’re a superstitious fool, who is still at pains to defend the indefensible.

"Since your magical feral spirit of natural selection..."

Given that the existence of natural selection is a well-documented (in both the field and under laboratory conditions) scientific FACT, you are clearly delusional. Have fun talking to your magical sky spirit.

After reading Jerry Fodor’s arguments against the amptiness of NS as a scientific theory I consider the matter a closed case. All evolution has at its disposal is historicism. Hence the magical spirit statement. Oh and make sure you say hello to your mechanomorphic “god” the materialistic universe for me, next time you have a “moment” with it.

See?Two can play this game

Anonymous said...

This entire argument is based on an easily disprovable assumption, which is that our minds report truth. In fact, our minds are subject to all manner of biases, distortions, and illusions (here’s a nice example). And the reason for this is because minds are not magic truth-engines but part of evolved survival-machines.

That we can go beyond our confused sense data and inherent biases and construct something closer to objective truth is indeed wondrous and cries out for explanation, and it is conceivable that philosophy could help find one. But invoking God is not an explanation, but an admission of defeat.

DNW said...

ק Yair said...

" DNW said...
Eric Schliesser said...

Maybe one of Professor Feser's readers who is a professional scientist could give an example of a faculty being used in a nonstandard way."

Well, as an ex (very minor) physicist - consider the faculty of geometry, of perceiving and thinking about geometrical relations and structures. At one of my graduate courses, for example, we considered how spacetime is built inside a certain type of black hole. It turns out that the direction of time changes, so that it becomes equivalent to the distance from the center. In trying to twist your mind around that, you are trying to imagine these strange geometries but to apply them to spacetime rather than space, so you can make sense of the mathematical description. This distances the faculty from any naive notion of "reliability". The reliability of the faculty is simply not an issue; it is used in a "non-standard way" to do stuff totally unrelated to its original function, the one selected for under natural selection.

Schliesser's point, I think, is not that science necessarily obviates our faculties in this way, but rather that can. It can distorts and "mis"-applies them so much that their use bears no relation to their evolutionary genesis. Even logic itself, per Schliesser, can be replaced in this way.

Personally, I disagree with Schliesser's position, at least in regards to logic, but that's his idea as far as I can understand it.

Hope that helps ..."

Thanks.

It helps insofar as it seems to reduce the possible claim of using human faculties in a non-standard way accessible only to a special class of scientific mutants, to one of more modest proportions.

Just ruminating generally ...

I suppose that trying to "visualize" the mathematicized descriptions of black hole conditions could be described as using or at least stretching mental faculties or habits relating to the perception of time and space in presently non-typical ways.

Your remarks about logic however don't seem to constitute an attack on generalizable rules of inference or the fundamental process of making inferences per se.


Maybe non-standard use can be interpreted as meaning adapting to conditions presently considered counter intuitive. Or requiring additional premises, not generally or widely grasped. Or as, not used according to the "principles", or better "habits" of naive realism.



Whether the essential "non-standard faculty use" claim is that as a general process it

1. differs in kind,

or

2. just degree from

say, operating upside down with a mirror, or thinking of representative numbers and their inferred consequences in a different way than usual, I'm not sure.

Maybe the word "faculties" needs to be defined and the manner of non-standard use stipulated by the original claimant, in the way you have attempted to do.

You don't seem to have abandoned logic. Once one has, I am not sure how one reasons.

My guess is that behaviorism of some type is imagined as the replacement for reason as well as mind.

יאיר רזק said...

@Anonymous: "I think there Feser is explaining the argument from reason in that section, not the EAAN. And the "key point" is itself argued for, not assumed."

I can see that as a possible reading. My own reading was that the quote was intended to cover both arguments. This also seems to be the opinion of e.g. Jonathan Lewis above.

Following up on your interpretation, though - I find it difficult to understand where that puts the EAAN. Is the EAAN a "bad" version of the Argument from Reason (AR), in that it doesn't reject naturalistic theory of mind like "it should"? That makes little sense to me as it shouldn't reject naturalism if it's to show naturalism is incoherent. Is the EAAN a separate argument that accepts the naturalistic theory of mind, for the sake of argument? In this case, why is Feser clumping it together with the AR? I just don't understand what's going on here.

@grodrigues: "... even though I am not sure what E. Schliesser means by non-standard logics, the fact is that they are evaluated and judged by the same methods, that is, one proves things *about* quantum logic(s) using the same standard, boring, "folk" classical logic. This is true even in contexts where the logic is strong enough to have a fully developed proof theory and semantics such as in Topos theory where the law of excluded middle is dropped. When a constructivist, or someone doing Topos theory, says that LEM is false he is not saying exactly the same thing a classical mathematician would say if he uttered the same sentence."

I think the argument here boils down to whether any non-classical logic argument can be mapped onto a classical logic argument (or a limit thereof). That is my belief, but I'm not a mathematician. I was under the impression, however, mathematicians think this cannot be done, as non-standard logics are (sometimes) "stronger". Is this not the case?

"I understand what it means to stretch one's mind to try and grasp and get a conception of the curvature tensor... but this in *no way* means that it "distances the faculty from any naive notion of "reliability"". Precisely the contrary. It is *because* they are reliable in the naive sense... that I (and many other people, far more smarter than me) can prove [stuff]"

Perhaps we're using different meanings of "reliability", here?

The concept of "reliability" that is being invoked here is reliability with regard to correctly tracking the truth in our ancestral environment; of representing the mundane reality (the "manifest image") of the aspect of the world that's doing the selection. For our faculty of geometry, for example, that would be the correspondence between our geometric intuitions and the (approximately Euclidean) geometry of things in the environment of the organisms as they undergo natural selection.

How does the fact that our sense of geometry correctly tracks such geometric truths imply that you can "prove [stuff]"? Let me put it this way - if our faculty of geometry was different, say adapted to highly curved spacetime, that would not mean that we could not prove things by using it. We can prove things by using it because it's consistent, not because it correctly tracked the truth in our ancestral environment.

Now I do think that this method of adaptation does not stand when it comes to basic logic. But that's returning us back to the previous point.

Yair

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

This entire argument is based on an easily disprovable assumption, which is that our minds report truth. In fact, our minds are subject to all manner of biases, distortions, and illusions (here’s a nice example). And the reason for this is because minds are not magic truth-engines but part of evolved survival-machines.

That we can go beyond our confused sense data and inherent biases and construct something closer to objective truth is indeed wondrous and cries out for explanation, and it is conceivable that philosophy could help find one. But invoking God is not an explanation, but an admission of defeat.

January 22, 2013 at 8:40 AM"


As I've said to someone else before: You need to get a good etymological dictionary and look up the word "truth".

DNW said...



Yair said,

"The concept of "reliability" that is being invoked here is reliability with regard to correctly tracking the truth in our ancestral environment; of representing the mundane reality (the "manifest image") of the aspect of the world that's doing the selection. For our faculty of geometry, for example, that would be the correspondence between our geometric intuitions and the (approximately Euclidean) geometry of things in the environment of the organisms as they undergo natural selection.

How does the fact that our sense of geometry correctly tracks such geometric truths imply that you can "prove [stuff]"? Let me put it this way - if our faculty of geometry was different, say adapted to highly curved spacetime, that would not mean that we could not prove things by using it. We can prove things by using it because it's consistent, not because it correctly tracked the truth in our ancestral environment."

Nicely stated.

And, if that is all that Eric Schliesser really meant to say, I don't suppose there is all that much in dispute here.

Hrafn said...

Given that (i) Jerry Fodor has no expertise relevant to evolutionary biology (or philosophy of science for that matter) and (ii) his claims have been widely criticised by evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science, I think the only thing that is "closed" is your mind.

No I don't intend to formulate a lengthy essay on the topic of Byproduct Selection. The fact that selection does not require causality is widely supported in the scientific literature. A simple google search will provide you with numerous examples.

"If you have no way of knowing true belief, which is the case for the naturalist, anything can follow from whatever proposition."

No perfect truth means that "anything can follow from whatever proposition." What a ludicrous exaggeration. That we don't have perfect certainty does not mean that we cannot rule out some things as highly unlikely.

If by "believe in millions of false things" you do not in fact mean a belief system that is substantively flawed, then who cares? Naturalists, unlike their supernaturalist foes, never did specify a perfect God-given cognition system.

DNW said...

seanrobsville said...

@DNW
Scientific theories could not be constructed by computationalism or a 'mechanistic mind', because such theories could never be formulated as being 'about' anything in the external world.
January 22, 2013 at 3:32 AM "


I followed the link you provided and spent a few moments reading the text. I'll return to it later. But what I was pleased to see was what some might think of as a very basic survey of the materialist question in the form of asking just what is meant by proponents of (and on their own terms) materialism, physicalism, naturalism.

I think it's important to keep asking the question about the materialism predicate and just what it supposedly means and implies. Not because science or technological manipulations are contingent upon it, but because whatever else it is that the purest and noblest of scientists are busying themselves doing, there are plenty of excitable self-proclaimed disciples of science spinning social management and direction predicates off of a materialism premise.

It might be that a modern physicist can shrug off the billiard ball materialism of his intellectual predecessors with some blase remark that science progresses.

But can the reductionist form of the original materialist philosopher's (or anti-philosopher's) argument which was constructed upon entirely different substantive premises when it came to propositional content and thus substantively different propositions in terms of their soundness be said to be interchangeable with an argument posing substantively different premisses the soundness of which has yet to be decided?

So, what then? One has a supposedly valid argument form from the past, the soundness of which has now been rejected, and yet the original conclusion drawn is supposed to still be both valid and sound, despite the fact that the original premisses are no longer held to be sound?

You are right to do some of the plodding definitional work necessary to spotlight that intellectual move.

We certainly have had no success getting a resolution of the question here.

Anonymous said...

You need to get a good etymological dictionary and look up the word "truth".

OK, so what?

truth (n.)
Old English triewð (West Saxon), treowð (Mercian) "faithfulness, quality of being true," from triewe, treowe "faithful" (see true). Meaning "accuracy, correctness" is from 1560s. Unlike lie (v.), there is no primary verb in English or most other IE languages for "speak the truth." Noun sense of "something that is true" is first recorded mid-14c.

Crude said...

Yair,

Following up on your interpretation, though - I find it difficult to understand where that puts the EAAN. Is the EAAN a "bad" version of the Argument from Reason (AR), in that it doesn't reject naturalistic theory of mind like "it should"? That makes little sense to me as it shouldn't reject naturalism if it's to show naturalism is incoherent. Is the EAAN a separate argument that accepts the naturalistic theory of mind, for the sake of argument? In this case, why is Feser clumping it together with the AR? I just don't understand what's going on here.

I think one key different is that the EAAN is a probablistic argument, and the Argument from Reason is not. Hence you have Plantinga talking about the reliability of cognitive faculties being 'low or inscrutable' odds-wise on the EAAN. On the Argument from Reason, it's not an odds question.

The Deuce said...

I actually think Plantinga gives naturalists too much credit, in that he allows them to even have a distinction between the truth and whatever brain states natural selection causes us to have.

If the naturalistic, ateleological view of the world is true, then what we call "the truth" simply *is* whatever brain states natural selection causes us to have. It's not as if, according to naturalism, there's some single, abstract, and objective standard of truth which our completely material brains can mysteriously interact. Rather, according to naturalism, there are simply a bunch of reproducing meat robots. Some of the robots replicate before expiring and some don't. This causes the descendents of meat robots that survive and reproduce to have brain states conducive to survival and reproduction, and eventually it causes their descendents to call some of those brain states "truth". And that's all there is to it.

So for a naturalist to even draw a distinction between truth-as-it-is (aka objective truth) and what-natural-selection-makes-us-think is to violate their naturalism. For them to even say that natural selection is likely to produce beliefs and ways of reasoning (or, rather, brain states) that align with the truth is already out of bounds, because they are helping themselves to a concept of objective truth independent of the brain states natural selection has resulted in, but their naturalism implies that whenever they talk about "objective truth," they are actually still just describing the subjective brain states natural selection has produced in them, if they're referring to anything at all.

Anonymous said...

Given that (i) Jerry Fodor has no expertise relevant to evolutionary biology (or philosophy of science for that matter) and (ii) his claims have been widely criticised by evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science, I think the only thing that is "closed" is your mind.



Jerry knows enough to demonstrate the emptiness of the dogma of natural selection. Your argument is nothing but an ad hominem fallacy btw. Which is of course to be expected if someone is short-minded enough to the point that the only thing he has to argue is an assault on the arguer than the argument.

(ii) Of course biologists are going to get all angry and in arms since he showed the shallowness of their precious little feral spirit. Yet, not one has provided ad adequate response to his criticism. Even ned block and kitcher were defeated as they resorted to tautologies in order to defend their pet theory. Of coure, tautologies don’t help one iota.




No I don't intend to formulate a lengthy essay on the topic of Byproduct Selection. The fact that selection does not require causality is widely supported in the scientific literature.

You need to provide an argument. Simply appealing to some alleged findings does not help your case. I’m not going to do your homework for you. Either demonstrate what you’re claiming or concede. I am not amused.

Selection does not require causality? What on earth is that supposed to mean? Go on, tell us.

No perfect truth means that "anything can follow from whatever proposition."

Law of non-contradiction + principle of explosion. Do you deny either?

That we don't have perfect certainty does not mean that we cannot rule out some things as highly unlikely.



This is not about perfect certainty. This is about the reliability of human cognitive faculties. Your response is a red herring.

If by "believe in millions of false things" you do not in fact mean a belief system that is substantively flawed, then who cares?

Well naturalism is one such system. But the argument does not require to be applied to an entire theory, metaphysic, etc. Who cares? The person who seeks the truth cares. If that’s not you then too bad.


Naturalists, unlike their supernaturalist foes, never did specify a perfect God-given cognition system.

Neither did the Theist. I don’t think you even understand the problem the naturalist faces at this point. Honestly.

Crude said...

The trouble is that naturalists never required perfect "true belief" in order for the scientific method to work. This is nothing more than a strawman requirement on the part of the supernaturalists.

Plantinga's argument is not aimed at "perfect "true belief"". Hence why every time he brings up the EAAN, his claims zeroes in on the idea that under the conjunction of evolutionary theory and naturalism, the reliability of our cognitive faculties with regards to believing truth is low or inscrutable. Note: not 'imperfect'. Merely low or inscrutable. It can track truth sometimes, just not often or who-knows-how-often, and the argument can still go through.

Likewise, the point of bringing up the fact that behaviors conducive to survival don't need to involve true beliefs is just to highlight an otherwise trivial point about evolutionary theory under naturalism: the focus is on survival and reproduction, not truth. Hence you have the old Churchlands quote:

"Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost."

Naturalists, unlike their supernaturalist foes, never did specify a perfect God-given cognition system.

Great. Just point out the 'supernaturalists' who 'specified a perfect God-given cognition system', or admit you're just pulling things out of your ass here.

Hint: if you think the answer here is 'Christians', you need to read Genesis 1. You're wrong. However, your being wrong may correlate with some evolutionary advantages, so it's all good.

Crude said...

Whoops. Not Genesis 1, but Genesis, period. The relevant parts with the damn 'fall' and all. Even taken non-literally, it's clear that man does not have some perfect cognition under theism.

Eduardo said...

LOL

Crude, do you really think that "H" is here to attack the argument?

I was so hyped to see him show how truth correlate to reproductive success, but it seems he won't do it for now, so I guess it is up to us to analyse possibilities to get exactly when the argument fails and when the argument succeeds... like in every discussion in the net =_=.

Eduardo said...

My horrible analysis... PART 1

Well, let me see if I can drop U_U the hammer in the conversation. Sorry but I saw special pleading, and someone who very smartly shifted the burden of proof entirely to the other when I wanted to see him proof his point ... U_U disappointed!

*Hey Yair, welcome back man, promise not to hit hard on reason this time!!!*

So the EAAN:

Well, Plantinga always worked on epistemology, so the argument must be based on reliability that a belief is correct after acquiring the relevant information from the environment. Now unlike Hrafn, I don't any point in attacking Plantinga for his relation with creationists, for all I care a drunk beggar could have arrived at this argument; personal attacks are powerless until the argument depends on the person which it doesn't in this case, hence ... ad hominem fallacy.

Now the argument obviously involve a group of information, and our cognitive capabilities and any relation they have with which other plus anything that can alter this relation.

Now the argument is related to any belief, so at first we must decide just what exactly is a "belief". Well if "beliefs" are any thought related to an exterior world or our own mind, then absolutely anything will fall under the arguments line of fire. (I will call this belief General Beliefs)

If "beliefs" are things that are related to our power of GUESSING what it is true, then only mental content will fall under the arguments line of fire. (I will call this Guessed Beliefs)

Now I think that we can analyse the group "beliefs" when it comes to numbers. If there was only 1 possible "General Belief" about an event, then we would all agree which other since we all share the same set of beliefs about everything. However we if this theory is true then there could be no disagreement with other people, but I think we do HAVE those, so our minds must be capable to at least create 2 distinct "general beliefs". Now this eliminates the possibility that maybe there can be only 1 set of beliefs for 1 set of given events, so we ought consider those true (Pragmatic Choice).

u_u gotta break all these posts otherwise it will be long.

grodrigues said...

@Yair:

"I think the argument here boils down to whether any non-classical logic argument can be mapped onto a classical logic argument (or a limit thereof). That is my belief, but I'm not a mathematician."

Now you lost me. How does the fact that any "any non-classical logic argument can be mapped onto a classical logic argument" help E. Schliesser's case? Because if that is indeed the case, and that is part of my point, then his case for some sort of special, cognitive powers on the part of scientists looses force.

Following an argument in say intuitionistic logic, is a matter of discipline and paying attention, knowing what you can appeal to and what you cannot. But there is simply *nothing* "extremely unlike our ordinary cognitive faculties" going on, just the requisite training in a specialized technical field as mathematics is. After all, that is why communication in mathematics is possible, even between mathematicians using different logical assumptions (and this returns us to two very good points made by David T).

"I was under the impression, however, mathematicians think this cannot be done, as non-standard logics are (sometimes) "stronger". Is this not the case? "

Off the top of my head the only examples I know of stronger logics are artificial ones with absolutely no practical relevance, but outside some very specialized fields, I know very little about non-standard logics. But the same comments made above apply.

"How does the fact that our sense of geometry correctly tracks such geometric truths imply that you can "prove [stuff]"? Let me put it this way - if our faculty of geometry was different, say adapted to highly curved spacetime, that would not mean that we could not prove things by using it. We can prove things by using it because it's consistent, not because it correctly tracked the truth in our ancestral environment."

But as DNW said, who can quibble with that?

Consistency is the *minimum of minimums* required for the success of science. Inconsistency automatically precludes the correct tracking of "our ancestral environment". But once again, now not the EANN but as Feser explained its reformulation as the AfR, why are our faculties consistent in the first place?

"Now I do think that this method of adaptation does not stand when it comes to basic logic. But that's returning us back to the previous point."

I do not think it can, not together with other E. Schliesser's commitments (assuming I am reading him right). For he says in (ii) that "I never claim that humans are entirely dispensable in science (although it is compatible with my view that one day they may be)" and then goes on in (iii) to talk about the "cognitive powers of machines". Let us grant for the sake of argument that machines can "think" or "research" is a meaningful and coherent statement. This is highly *problematic*, but let us just go with the flow. Then we can ask what special extra-ordinary cognitive powers do machines, like beefed-up super scientists, have? Damned if I know. Replace machine by an idealized, universal Turing machine. What can this machine do that we cannot do? Damned if I know.

Crude said...

I will say, while I prefer the general argument from reason style of arguments to the EAAN, I think the EAAN has a pretty unique advantage to it (that I don't think Plantinga intended): it seems to face naturalists with a serious dilemma.

On the one hand, it could just be conceded that the reliability of our cognitive faculties are low or inscrutable given E&N, and we're off into the land of serious skepticism. I think something similar obtains if they attempt to avoid the question by going for an eliminative materialist position (and really, EM is something most naturalists, certainly most Cult of Gnu atheists, try desperately to avoid defending in front of any audience that isn't already chock full of people sympathetic to the idea.)

But what other possible replies are there?

Let's say someone argues that evolution is such that the reliability of the cognitive faculties of intelligent agents cannot help but be, on the whole, pretty reliable. To say that would be tantamount to arguing that the evolutionary process is fundamentally skewed towards the production of largely true beliefs - at which point, evolution now starts to look more teleological than ever, and in a fundamental way.

Someone may try to blunt this point and argue that it's only for particular populations or particular universes where this sort of direction takes place in the process, but that sort of move threatens to either land us right back into the skeptical category, or else produce a fine-tuning argument for evolution itself - again, not something naturalists want to achieve.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

" 'You need to get a good etymological dictionary and look up the word "truth".'

OK, so what?"


So, the definitions, assuming that you followed the link to "true" should, upon reflection, give you some idea that when you say, "This entire argument is based on an easily disprovable assumption, which is that our minds report truth." you have seriously truncated the case to the point where you are probably engaging with a misnomer.

So we experience illusion? So we misjudge?

Sure, minds don't "report truth" in some grandiose sense of processing sensory input and immediately generating unerring propositions or absolutely secure and comprehensive judgments upon encountering any given phenomenon. But the ideas of true and truth, if you reflect on what you have read for a moment, don't presume any such epistemic correlate as a conditional for their employment.

Nor, do they make it difficult for someone to successfully know this modest "truth" in a fairly unsophisticated and straightforward manner.

What you actually seem to drive at is the idea of some irreducible but gradually declining uncertainty regarding our conceptualization of the real nature of reality; which results from a relative poverty of our perceptual and cognitive apparatus.


Or at least I guess that your thrust was actually an epistemological challenge to sure or final knowledge ...

Scott said...

"In fact, our minds are subject to all manner of biases, distortions, and illusions (here’s a nice example)."

That's a great example (and one of my favorites) but I'm not persuaded that it shows what you think it shows.

The actual illusion is the existence of the checkerboard, which isn't really there. If it were a real checkerboard, though, we'd be right to see those two squares as different colors even though the wavelengths of light reaching our eyes from each of them were the same.

I think what the example shows is not that our minds fool us or distort things, but that our color qualia are not positively correlated with light wavelengths. In fact, if the checkerboard were real, our minds would be giving us correct information.

Eduardo said...

Agreed to Scott. XD.

Eduardo said...

Actually the argument is freaking complex XD, I just noticed the multiple possibilities for the argument's actions just a while ago XD.

Scott said...

Thanks, Eduardo.

Anonymous said...

@Scott, you are right, that illusion might not be the most illustrative. I was initially going to use the classic Muller-Lyer Arrow, but I figure everybody already has seen that one.

@DNW -- sorry, I read your remark three times without being able to figure out just what it is you are trying to say.

DNW said...

Not to flog a dead horse here, but this matter of using faculties in a non-standard way seems to me to require additional explication by the advocate, since his argument seems to hinge on it.

Yair has helpfully suggested the field of geometric conceptualization as an instance where a "faculty" or ability to reason about what space-time relations mean becomes counter-intuitive given the maths that are used to characterize it.

But before proceeding along those lines let's brush up more generally on faculties.

I've most often heard the term faculty - as a power - used in relation to the power of reason; or else, to the senses, either directly or as part of a generalized neural system.

So, if we were to say that vision, for example is a faculty, is there any sense in which a scientist could use the faculty of vision in a non-standard way which any other trained observer or interpreter could not? "A blank screen means a steady state, not 'off' ", "Yellow means the presence of hydrocarbons", "Pay attention to the frequency not the amplitude".

What other non-standard power of vision (visual interpretation suppose) might a scientist have? Probably none; and probably none is being claimed for it.

"I have trained myself to see, rather than infer from environmental signals, the propagation of sound waves"? Nah ...

So the faculty of hearing, or smell, or touch then? Same considerations I would think.

It must be then the faculty of reason only that is significantly meant.

And if it is the faculty of reason, perhaps numerical reasoning as applied to some putative phenomenon, are there then describable inferential process and steps to guide the non-standard use? And if so, are these steps themselves describable in terms consistent with the ordinary rules of inference?

Are we then merely talking about special case or method inferences enjoined by some prior rule for interpretation which itself does not represent a non-standard use of a faculty?

What exactly does non-standard use of faculties mean when laid out in terms of steps?

Does it begin with standard faculties, are there rules for progressively non-standard use? Or is it something much more globally mysterious ....

Eduardo said...

The argument most likely refer to any kind belief, bellief is simply a thought that refer's to something else and it is usually believed to be true, NOT ONLY THEORIES AND GUESSES ABOUT THESE THINGS XD.

You people seem to pressupose that only guesses are part of the argument XD but duh, is not that at all, anything that relies on cognitive faculties will fall pray to the argument.

HENCE, why doctor Schiliesser's take on cognitive faculties. *Maybe Yair have noticed it but I haven't read what he/she has written*

Has nothing to do with, PRESSUPOSING THAT OUR COGNITIVE faculties show TRUTH, the argument never does that, the argument is meant to show that naturalism and darwinism are incompatible, so way to go Anonymous that has no idea what the argument is about!!!

Oh shit, you people should simply try to create a mind experience where someone gathers any type of information. You begin by defining things, creating models to them, analysing their relations and natures, and seeing how the argument goes in each scenario... BUT OF F'ing COURSE this is too damn hard.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...


@DNW -- sorry, I read your remark three times without being able to figure out just what it is you are trying to say.

January 22, 2013 at 3:24 PM



That's ok. The upshot is that I think you have overextended yourself on the concept of "truth" and true, and that your argument, or objection is essentially otiose.

And that if you carefully consider the historical senses of the terms, once you do grasp how and to what the concept of the true actually applies, you will probably agree that you had been objecting to no real purpose.

But if that doesn't help we can agree to leave it there.

DNW said...

Eduardo writes,

"Has nothing to do with, PRESSUPOSING THAT OUR COGNITIVE faculties show TRUTH ..."

LOL

If it had, I suppose we never would have had to slog through so many tedious pages of philosophical exposition on "judgment" in school.

Eduardo said...

DNW

I find amazing is how people don't seem to grasp what the argument is about, what are the elements in play.

They don't care about a careful step-by-step analysis of the scenario that plantinga is arguing from.

Is way easier to dismiss something by saying: Oh group X doesn't care about it!!!

FREAKING AMAZING, what a wonderful argument of authority it is a shame that it is irrelevant to the argument at hand!

יאיר רזק said...

@Crud: "I think one key different is that the EAAN is a probablistic argument, and the Argument from Reason is not. Hence you have Plantinga talking about the reliability of cognitive faculties being 'low or inscrutable' odds-wise on the EAAN. On the Argument from Reason, it's not an odds question."

Feser makes a related point in the first part of the paragraph I quoted from, but he then proceeds to make another at the part I quoted. That is the part I don't understand. It seems that either Feser is ascribing to EAAN a rejection of naturalistic theories of mind, or he is maintaining that two very different arguments are essentially different versions of the same argument. I'm still confused on the interpretation of what it is that Feser is trying to say.

@Eduardo: "Hey Yair, welcome back man, promise not to hit hard on reason this time!!!"

Hey! :)

@grodrigues: "But as DNW said, who can quibble with that?"

The point of the EAAN is that naturalists can't be sure faculties are reliable, in that technical sense of tracking truth in the world. Schliesser is saying he doesn't care. It doesn't matter whether the faculty is reliable in that technical sense. I think we've established that this much is true for geometry; "who can quibble with that?". The question is more interesting in regards to our most basic logical intuitions.

"How does the fact that any "any non-classical logic argument can be mapped onto a classical logic argument" help E. Schliesser's case? Because if that is indeed the case, and that is part of my point, then his case for some sort of special, cognitive powers on the part of scientists looses force."

Schliesser's position appears to be that even our basic logic is "unreliable" in the above sense. It doesn't *matter* whether our logical intuitions track truth. These intuitions can be used or ignored or replaced by others, if science so wishes.

I think Schliesser is wrong, even incoherent, on this point. Well, to be more exact I think our basic logical intuitions don't really track anything in reality but do need evolutionary explaining under the assumption they're true.

Regardless, one way he seems to argue for his position is to point at non-standard logics, and claim they can be used to replace logic. This point would be moot and void if non-standard logic is actually a (limit of) standard logic. Hence, it is important to know if arguments in non-standard logics can be mapped to standard logic. If they can, they it seems to me that Schliesser's argument fails.

And as a bonus, I get to enjoy to keep a proposition I hold dear, namely that classical logic underlies all mathematical "logics", so that something like the Law of Noncontradiction really isn't dispensed with for coherent thought (by using some alternative logic system).

Yair

Crude said...

Yair,

Feser makes a related point in the first part of the paragraph I quoted from, but he then proceeds to make another at the part I quoted. That is the part I don't understand. It seems that either Feser is ascribing to EAAN a rejection of naturalistic theories of mind, or he is maintaining that two very different arguments are essentially different versions of the same argument. I'm still confused on the interpretation of what it is that Feser is trying to say.

I believe Feser does regard the EAAN and the Argument from reason as 'two very different versions of essentially the same argument'. You can probably quibble over just how similar they are, but they both involve our ability to reason and trust our judgments on naturalism. Other than that, I think they're pretty far apart from each other.

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

What I in fact stated was that Plantinga's argument presents "a mangled strawman of evolutionary biology and of statistics". I have offered explanation of why I believe his representation of evolution does not match evolution-as-it-is-defined-by-evolutionary-biologists (failure to account for byproduct evolution) as well as a number of my statistical concerns.

This is not an Ad Hominem fallacy!

Having made this accusation, I then suggest his association with creationists as an EXPLANATION of his misrepresentation of evolutionary biology.

Such an explanation is likewise not an Ad Hominem fallacy, but it is reason to more closely scrutinise Plantinga's representation of evolution.

Can you provide counter-evidence that Plantinga's representation of evolution fairly represents the field as actually practiced by evolutionary biologists?

If not, then I would suggest that rather than an "Evolutionary Argument Against Evolution", we have a Plantingavolutionary Argument Against Evolution, and a vanishing small number of Plantingavolutionists willing to be swayed by it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous:

Poiunting out that Fodor's claims have been widely criticised by those in the relevant fields (Evolutionary Biology and Philosophy of Science) is likewise NOT an Ad Hominem, it is simply an obvious counter-argument to your absurd "closed case" claim.

As far as I can see, Fodor's claims are making little if any progress in those relevant fields, a situation that he may be contributing to by his failure to engage his critics.

I am well aware that many religiously-motivated anti-evolutionists idolise anti-evolution philosophers like Fodor, Nagel, et al. But given their abject failure to gain any real traction in the relevant field of philosophy, Philosophy of Science, I don't see why supporters of the scientific consensus on evolution should give a rat's arse.

Hrafn said...

DO ANY NATURALISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE THIS?

Plantinga's argument would seem to rest on finding Naturalists who:

1) Accept that beliefs are real and important (such that they should give a rat's arse as to whether they are true or not).

2) But paradoxically do not believe that beliefs have any effect on actions.

As I think that this is a highly improbable combination of beliefs for a Naturalist to hold, I would question whether the argument under discussion amounts to an "Argument Against Naturalism", and would strongly suggest that it is a strawman.

Eduardo said...

QUOTE = What I in fact stated was that Plantinga's argument presents "a mangled strawman of evolutionary biology and of statistics". = QUOTE
-----------------------------------

ME = It might be, why don't you show us the proper definitions of natural selection and the statistical calculations to be done, the definition of beliefs you are using is also necessary. I was looking forwrd to that in the beginning XD. = ME
-----------------------------------

QUOTE = I have offered explanation of why I believe his representation of evolution does not match evolution-as-it-is-defined-by-evolutionary-biologists (failure to account for byproduct evolution) as well as a number of my statistical concerns. = QUOTE

-----------------------------------

ME = You did??? As far as I can remember you have STATED that there is problem, then you have simply said BYPRODUCT SELECTION is true and relevant to the point at hand, pruesto. I am sorry if I missed the point you did, but I seriously didn't see much of a substantiated argument just possible arguments that if true, seem to show that argument fail in it's objective. = ME
----------------------------------

QUPTE = This is not an Ad Hominem fallacy! = QUOTE
-----------------------------------

ME = Don't be so dense, first comment you try to substantiate that the argument fails in it's statistical analysis given that it depends on statistics, by attacking his relation with creationists who according to you misrepresent or are bound to misrepresent evolution... That was an attempt of ad hominem, not your whole argument, which I never said your whole argument ad hominem, actually... I never said where you did the ad hominem have I? = ME
-----------------------------------

QUOTE = Having made this accusation, I then suggest his association with creationists as an EXPLANATION of his misrepresentation of evolutionary biology. = QUOTE
-----------------------------------

ME = Your accusation has not been substantiated... you have simply stated without saying why things have to be in that way... it was a ad hominem xP live with it! = ME
-----------------------------------

QUOTE =Such an explanation is likewise not an Ad Hominem fallacy, but it is reason to more closely scrutinise Plantinga's representation of evolution. = QUOTE
-----------------------------------
ME = Irrelevant... if plantinga is misrepresenting evolution then the argument fails in it's objective, it might work to show something else of minor importance. Scrutinizing Plantinga's view has nothing to do with the argument, or is this a careful historical search of Plantinga's life??? this doesn't seem to be the case to me. = ME
-----------------------------------
QUOTE = Can you provide counter-evidence that Plantinga's representation of evolution fairly represents the field as actually practiced by evolutionary biologists?

If not, then I would suggest that rather than an "Evolutionary Argument Against Evolution", we have a Plantingavolutionary Argument Against Evolution, and a vanishing small number of Plantingavolutionists willing to be swayed by it. = QUOTE
-----------------------------------

ME = First ... what??? against evolution??? thanks for providing me with the necesary evidence that shows that you have no idea what is the objective of the argument. Is against NATURALISM ... not evolution ... NATURALISM, is an argument against naturalism o_O. The argument objective is meant to show that naturalism has to have a such beliefs about evolution or life and certain beliefs about the philosophy of naturalism itself but they are in contradiction, one supposing one kills the warrant for the other. = ME

Eduardo said...

Hrafn

last comment... show us how you reached those conclusions please.

If anything I will hunt down the EAAN written by Plantinga himself, then I will paste here otherwise we will never move an inch.

Eduardo said...

I found the book which might have the argument from primary source... Plantinga himself.

gonna go look for the relevant parts and post them here then we can go from there.

This is to everyone btw.

Hrafn said...

Everybody seems to be treating "cognitive faculties" as a all-or-nothing binary proposition -- either they're wholly reliable or wholly unreliable.

This would appear to be a misrepresentation of what I suspect Evolution of Cognition experts (and I suspect most Naturalists) would tell you -- that our cognitive facilities have evolved to be imperfect but reasonably functional.

Given the existence of imperfect-but-reasonably-functional cognitive facilities, is it unreasonable to suggest that human culture has developed heuristics (e.g. the scientific method) to further enhance their accuracy?

The argument should not be whether cognitive facilities, are, or are not reliable, but whether they are sufficiently reliable to allow for further self-augmentation.

I would suggest that most Naturalists would claim that they are, and that most Evolutionary Biologists would agree with them.

That being so, I would suggest that it is highly improbable that anybody could develop a compelling Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism based upon the impefection of cognitive facilities.

I would further suggest that any further attempt at such an argument should be more rigorously tested against what is genuinely "Evolutionary" and "Naturalism", before presenting itself as an argument that credibly pits the former against the latter.

Eduardo said...

No it seems to me that the argument end with ... any belief including naturalism seems to be not reliable if we start from naturalism.

I am seriously thinking that you are pressuposing that belief's are guesses and theories, and not a set of proposition about something.

Argument of popularity/authority...

Say why H, say why. What the biologist think is not of concern until what he thinks is taken to follow from valid premises, the weight of his lab coat is non existent in an argument, it is his reason that has the strenght.

By the way thanks for the guidelines... but since naturalism has very poor definitions I guess we can only analyse what the argument can show and what it can't, and LATER worry about if it beat naturalism whatever that is, or is perfectly related to Evolutionary Biology as defined by consensus.

The Deuce said...

Scott:

The actual illusion is the existence of the checkerboard, which isn't really there. If it were a real checkerboard, though, we'd be right to see those two squares as different colors even though the wavelengths of light reaching our eyes from each of them were the same.

Just so.

Additionally, how do we know that it's an illusion? The answer, of course, is that we gather data with our senses, and we use our reasoning faculties to conclude from that data that it's an illusion! As a matter of fact, *ALL* such examples, and all *possible* examples, of illusions meant to show that our senses or are rational faculties are fundamentally flawed, can only be recognized as illusions because we have used those same rational faculties to reason from data that we gathered with those same senses. And this is not an obscure point. It is obvious. It should occur to anyone attempting to use illusions to argue in this manner, if they spent even half a minute truly reflecting on it.

And the same goes for all arguments that attempt to reason from the highly abstract use of reason employed in the sciences (which we observe with our senses that scientists use), to the idea that our senses and our reason are unreliable, and that we don't need them to establish things as true.

I almost think we're being too polite here, and that this stuff just deserves to be mocked to ribbons as utter madness. It certainly brings to mind the discussion under the previous entry, where several commenters mentioned atheists who actually reject the Law Of Non-Contradiction. Nobody has quite done that outright here, but this thread has given some illustrations of why, if they are even a little bit consistent, all atheistic materialists are at least on the border of doing so. Then again, if you reject the Law Of Non-Contradiction, I guess you don't see any need to be consistent about it. :-)

Edward Feser said...

Hi Eric,

Many thanks for your reply. Some brief comments:

1. I did not mean to imply that your aim is to eliminate the “manifest image” full stop -- that’s why I characterized Rosenberg’s (explicitly eliminativist) position as “more extreme” than yours. My point was only that even if you don’t reject the manifest image wholesale, your response to the EAAN seemed to deny its epistemic relevance in certain crucial respects, and that even denying it just in those respects would lead to incoherence (or so I argued).

2. If I understand you correctly, you want to distinguish between putting aside the manifest image within science and for scientific purposes -- by which I think you mean keeping it out of the scientific image itself -- as opposed to putting it aside as such and full stop. I see the distinction, but I’m not sure how it helps. My claim was that there are certain cognitive capacities -- the ability to distinguish validity from invalidity, basic arithmetic, basic inference forms, etc. -- which are involved not only in everyday reasoning but in putting together the scientific image. Hence IF the reliability of these capacities is undermined, the reliability of the scientific image (which they play an essential part in generating, even if they are not part of the scientific image itself) would also be undermined. (Compare: A certain painting of a tree that you have painted might in no way represent the ability to paint -- painting has nothing to do with the content or subject matter of the painting -- but unless you have the ability to paint, you would not have been able to paint it. Similarly, the scientific image may not tell us anything about manifest image abilities like the ability to tell the difference between valid and invalid arguments, etc. -- they might turn out to be absent from the “picture” the scientific image of the world gives us -- but it still could not have been put together unless we had those abilities.)

3. Perhaps it’s true that our cognitive abilities are being deployed in non-standard ways when we design and construct machines, etc. (though like some other folks in the combox, I think it would be good to have examples of what you have in mind). But your remarks on this point don’t seem to me to address my point that however radically stretched and modified those abilities are, they are still essentially continuous with and dependent upon the more mundane abilities in the way that the ballet dancer depends on the same basic capacities involved in walking and the painter on the same basic capacities involved in drawing. In all three cases we have a ladder that cannot be kicked away once one reaches the top. In particular, the advanced capacities will still incorporate and presuppose the “folk” abilities to tell validity from invalidity, see that one and one make two, etc. Hence if the reliability of the “folk” abilities is undermined, so too is the reliability of the more recherché abilities (how recherché they are is irrelevant).

(continued)

Edward Feser said...

(continued)

4. I’m not sure what you mean when you say that “our senses tell[ing] us the truth in a systematic way” has “become entirely irrelevant to the way modern science is practiced.” I don’t have anything fancy in mind when I say that science presupposes the fundamental reliability of the senses -- just the obvious stuff (e.g. being able to trust our visual faculties when we look through a telescope or microscope, read dials, read peer reviewed articles, listen to papers at conferences, etc.). Nor is it relevant to the point that this sort of thing, and basic forms of reasoning (modus ponens, etc.), fail to give us any “substantive claims in science” -- any more (again) than the ability to walk over to the barre gives us any substantive advances in ballet or the ability to draw a line gives us any substantive advances in painting. The point is that in each case the abilities in question are absolutely necessary to having substantive advances even if (I agree) they are wholly insufficient for substantive advances. It seems to me that your position does not take account of the difference between the “folk” abilities being necessary as opposed to their being sufficient for the substantive claims (but maybe I’m missing something).

5. I did not mean to imply that you think that physics gives us an exhaustive description of the world -- in fact I would have been surprised if you thought that. I was just presenting the Eddingtonian idea that the world as presented by physics and the world as presented by perception are radically at odds, as one way of spelling out the claim that the scientific image has upended our “folk” epistemic capacities. And my comments in that section of the post were in part meant as a response to that idea rather than merely to your own views. Sorry I didn’t make that clearer.

Edward Feser said...

Hrafn wrote:

There is in fact no logical or statistical basis whatseover for assigning a 50% probability. Edward Fesar, I would suggest to you that your understanding of statistics is deeply flawed and that it should completely disqualify you from opining on a statistically-related argument.

I was summarizing Plantinga's views. The key words are "summarizing" and "Plantinga's." I was not giving my own views -- in fact I explicitly said that I did not agree with Plantinga's probabilistic approach to this sort of argument -- and I was not presenting Plantinga's actual argument in any detail.

For that you would, of course, have to read Plantinga himself. If you're not willing to do bother to do that, then I would suggest to you that your understanding of his position is bound to be deeply flawed and that it should completely disqualify you from opining on it.

Eduardo said...

Dr Feser

Don't worry, I will see to that XD, I can't copy and paste the argument but I can read and copy main points of the argument and offer a link for peer-review!!!

H will soon be Ph.D in the argument.

יאיר רזק said...

@Hrafn: "DO ANY NATURALISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE THIS?"

Depends on what you mean by naturalism... ;-)

But more seriously (and as a naturalist) - I don't think there are many naturalists that are even slightly impressed by EAAN, but I think it's useful to distinguish to versions of it that seem to have surfaced in this thread.

The strong one, that you're apparently contending with here, seems to assume that beliefs bear no relation to actions and the physiological structures that facilitate them. This is something I suspect no naturalist believes, so I think it's indeed strawman argument and it isn't clear to me at all why this idea has support here. Trying to understand whether this is Feser's own position was the main reason I posted on this thread - it appeared very jarring to me that a professional philosopher would advocate such an argument.

The weaker and thus more reasonable EAAN, and the one I think closer to what Plantinga has in mind, admits (if only for the sake of discussion) that beliefs are related to brain structures and activation and so on. It then argues - based indeed on a sadly shallow understanding of evolution and statistics, as you pointed out - that even given this it doesn't make sense for true beliefs to become fixated by evolution. This is essentially a mathematical argument, in the field of evolutionary biology, and one I think is flatly and scientifically/mathematically wrong.

Either way, the EAAN does not come out well. But this is our opinion, as naturalists. Don't expect the crowd here to agree with that - they're in a quite different camp. :)

Cheers,
Yair

Eduardo said...

We will soon see the strenght and weaknesses of the argument, I just have to write it down here and see what you guys can do...

Oh that will also save us from strawmen of any sort since the argument WILL BE RIGHT HERE!

Anonymous said...

It isn't very important, but I'm interested why Dr. Feser did not include C.S Lewis in his list of those who have made arguments from reason against naturalism?

Surely Lewis is the premier example, and in my opinion here is an extremely insightful figure (I will confess I find Lewis far more insightful and profound than any analytical philosopher of the last century) who deserves more intellectual prominence.

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

A definition of Natural Selection can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection . However my disagreement with Plantinga is not over the core definition, so I doubt that this is of much help. My disagreement with him is over the area of Byproduct Selection. I am afraid I cannot offer a concise definition of this subfield of Natural Selection, only examples. The most powerful example I am aware of is the preservation of the detrimental-but-recessive characteristic of sickle-cell anemia due to its correlation to a (dominent) partial immunity to malaria. (see for example http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1224522/ ). Other examples include phenotypic spandrels (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spandrel_%28biology%29 ).

A definition of Statistical Inference can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_inference . My objections to Plantinga's and Fesar'sa statistical claims is that they appear to have no basis in formal statistical inference (Frequentist, Bayesian or otherwise) , that on the contrary they appear to have no basis other than thjeir proposers' a priori beliefs (which may turn out to be nothing more than wishful thinking, and frequently strike me as counter-intuitive).

I have stated that EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGISTS accept Byproduct Evolution. If we don't accept their definition of evolution, then whose definition should we be accepting. I would note that NOBODY has presented any evidence that Evolutionary Biology does not encompass Byproduct Evolution, just like NOBODY has presented any evidence that Plantinga's representation of evolution accurately represents the scientific consensus. The latter point is I think a valid concern, given Plantinga's longstanding association with anti-evolution pseudoscientists.

I am asserting that Plantinga's representation of evolution is a strawman, because (i) his claims do not gel with any evolutionary research I've ever heard of, (ii) they contradict research that I have heard of (Byproduct Selection) (iii) I never been presented with any evidence that his evolutionary claims have a basis in such research & (iv) Plantinga has a longstanding association with, and documented sypmathy for, Johnson and his Intelligent Design crowd, a group that has a long history of misrepresentation of evolution.

How on Earth does the fact that "if plantinga is misrepresenting evolution then the argument fails in it's objective" render the question of whether he is misrepresenting evolution "irrelevant"?

Plantinga is basing his argument on claims about a scientific field for which he has shown very little sympathy, that do not appear to match how that field's practitioners describe their work. I think it is perfectly reasonable to place such claims under heightened scrutiny.

Eduardo said...

Hold your thought H... let me put his argument here AND THEN we connect your critiques to the proper proposition.

Feser said he doesn't use the statistical claim, he made fun of you for not noticing that he was quoting plantinga...

Wha??? I never said to accept other people's definition... your complain doesn't seem have anything to do with what I said man XD. Read until the end so you get what is my position while analysing the argument.

BTW, I was actually more interested in redoing Plantinga's argument based on the over all thrust of the argument, but since I got my hand on his argument, let's just look AT THE argument I will bring.

(i) Thanks, but I would have to get thoughly acquainted with field; I mean I can't take you by face value to think that you are right, all I can do is suspect that you are right since FOR NOW I see no reason for you to lie... disconsidering vested interest.
(ii) Once again, have to get acquainted with it, however I would like to make sure that byproduct selection does not fall under the line of fire, otherwise you are begging the question.
(iii) Right ...
(iv)Okay... relevance??? I can accuse you of that, you just said that Feser is doing statistical argument and he denies... I can pretty much accuse you of that too, but it has no weight as an argument.

Lemme explain why, I see arguments are inference of some sort. Now let's say that when I argue that a certain conclusion must follows from a couple of premises to prove that you are wrong. You however show to me that those premises do NOT apply to you and therefore my OBJECTIVE to show that you are wrong has failed. BUT the argument may still hold, it just doesn't work for my intented purposes.
Got it?

I prefer to use proper scrutiny on the subject XD even if the person in question may be shady to me XD.

Hrafn said...

A quick rummage around on information on Human Evolution and particularly the Evolution of the Human Brain turns up the strong impression that rapid growth and reorganisation of the human brain is one of the major features of human evolution from other apes (see e.g. Principles of Brain Evolution by Georg F. Striedter, p13) and no indication of any doubt that human cognition is under strong evolutionary pressure.

This appears to be at radical divergence from Plantinga's representation of the evolution of cognition, and leads me to ask the following question:

What is the scientific basis for Plantinga's claims about the Evolution of Cognition?

Sources please!

Eduardo said...

Hrafn

Sure what is the belief's Plantinga is attacking on the argument???

Maybe you are begging the quesstion with those researches ....

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous,

Poiunting out that Fodor's claims have been widely criticised by those in the relevant fields (Evolutionary Biology and Philosophy of Science) is likewise NOT an Ad Hominem, it is simply an obvious counter-argument to your absurd "closed case" claim.



The ad hominem was attacking Fodor’s credentials. Nice try at deflecting. Fail.

Being criticized by the preachers of Darwinism hardly constitutes a countr-argument. A counter-argument would require the provision of an adequate response. Such thing has not been forthcoming. Since there is no good response to Fodor’s argument the case is closed. Claiming otherwise would be nothing short of identifying yourself with the absurd.

Fodor showed that natural selection is empty as a scientific theory. Plain and simple.



As far as I can see, Fodor's claims are making little if any progress in those relevant fields, a situation that he may be contributing to by his failure to engage his critics.



Then as far as you can tell you are certainly wrong in thinking that just because Darwinist fundies are stuck on their dogma that entails anything short than narrow-mindedness on their part. In addition, most of the work of biologists (not necessarily the preachers of Darwinism like dawkins, dennett, coyne et al) does not require one to even consider the scientific status of this alleged natural selection thing. This is something that Fodo addresses actually, but since you’re too ignorant to even know the argument I suppose you’re forgiven.


I am well aware that many religiously-motivated anti-evolutionists idolise anti-evolution philosophers like Fodor, Nagel, et al. But given their abject failure to gain any real traction in the relevant field of philosophy, Philosophy of Science, I don't see why supporters of the scientific consensus on evolution should give a rat's arse.

If you think that arguments like those of Fodor, Nagel, Plantinga have not had substantial impact on thinkers in philosophy and philosophy of science then you are even more ignorant than I think you are. Also, this claim of yours is nothing but an argument based on popularity. That is not a designator of truth. But then again, to a superstitious materialist/atheist/whatever you are what is truth after all, eh? Some of us are more concerned with important questions, so please don’t try to pull us down your epistemological black holes into obscurity.

Finally, I am neither religiously-motivated nor do I think that evolution (even in its ridiculous Darwinian form) comes in conflict with religion. That’s the stuff idiots believe. Idiots like dawkins, and the rest of the gang I mentioned earlier. Obviously you are an idiot that believes it too. So I laugh at your pathetic (yet again) ad hominem.

The reason I reject natural selection is because I had an open mind and heard one too many objections and when said objections were powerful enough I abandoned my belief in evolution. So you have it all ass end backwards. I went from accepting Darwinism uncritically to rejecting its central premise based on sound reasoning.

Eduardo said...

What I have read of the argument he haven't said anything about that our evolution of cognition generated the problem ...

Wow have you actually read the argument from HIS MOUTH or WRITING ???

Anonymous said...

hrafn,

1) Accept that beliefs are real and important (such that they should give a rat's arse as to whether they are true or not).

2) But paradoxically do not believe that beliefs have any effect on actions.

As I think that this is a highly improbable combination of beliefs for a Naturalist to hold, I would question whether the argument under discussion amounts to an "Argument Against Naturalism", and would strongly suggest that it is a strawman.


This is precisely what you see when you take the beliefs of naturalists to their logical conclusion.

You'v just identified the inherent absurdity in naturalism. Of course we all know how naturalists have been rebranding their bankrupt beliefs over and over each time they end up shooting themselves in the foot. Nothing new early.

It's not a strawman. Read alex rosenberg and educate yourself before mouthing off nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Surely, this debate on the EEAN is about the compatibility of natural selection and rational inference in the broadest sense. Therefore, though I may be wrong, isn't the appeal by naturalists to ever more detailed fields of evolutionary science just another example of one of their favourite obfuscating tactics and not germaine to the broad issues at hand? Surely, there is precious little that need be included in understanding the EEAN and its claims than an understanding of evolution in its broadest terms.

Also Yair are you unaware of epiphenomenalism and eliminative materialism? Both of these would seem to totally severe beliefs or mental states from the physical brain.

The argument from reason starts by assuming we have valid rational inferences, it then shows this is incompatible with naturalism and materialism being true. This is a better way to phrase it than in terms of it assuming naturalism is or is not true.

Anonymous said...

-Addition: As the Anonymous above my last post notes, there is also a strong argument that all naturalism must logically end up being eliminative. Dr.Feser himself has made this argument.

Anonymous said...

hrafn,

I have stated that EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGISTS accept Byproduct Evolution.

Yes, the precisely what you did. Stated but never argued. You need to explain to us how this is relevant and how this salvages the naturalist's position when conflated with darwinism. Unless you do that, then you have no case. It's that simple.

Nor have you explained how evolution is being misrepresented adequate. This is one giant hand waving fallacy if I ever saw one. Blah blah blah darwinism = science... Anything that doesn't conform to the dogma is not science and no one gives a rats ass... blah blah...

It's always amusing seeing atheists cling to their dogmas with religious fervor once they are scrutinized.

So far, between special pleading fallacies, ad hominems and hand waving you and the other naturalists here have provided absolutely nothing to counter the problem created when conflating darwinism with naturalistic beliefs about the nature of reality.

Here's a hint, quoting scientists isn't the way to do it. LEt's see if you're smart enough to figure it out.

Anonymous said...

I also laugh when people talk of philosophy as if it were a subject in which one generation, or even century or millenia, necessarily is more correct or insight than another. Acceptance of a position amongst contemporary analytical philosophers is even less of a qualification for it being true than is the case of positions in any other intellectual field. Philosophy is simply, for the most part, not evolutionist.

Anonymous said...

The strong one, that you're apparently contending with here, seems to assume that beliefs bear no relation to actions and the physiological structures that facilitate them.

Although it is undeniable that many beliefs are not "visible" to evolution (assuming that natural selection isn't empty of course), that is a serious mischaracterization of the argument, at least the way you're presenting it.

based indeed on a sadly shallow understanding of evolution and statistics, as you pointed out - that even given this it doesn't make sense for true beliefs to become fixated by evolution.

Just read the entire argument. The way you're presenting the argument seems closer to a straw man. Ironically, it's your reading of the argument is is shallow.

the EAAN does not come out well. But this is our opinion, as naturalists. Don't expect the crowd here to agree with that - they're in a quite different camp

Tu quoque.

It goes both ways. You're naturalists, we surely don't expect you to agree with us. You have your ideological commitments to nurture after all ;-)

Anonymous said...

@Deuce And the same goes for all arguments that attempt to reason from the highly abstract use of reason employed in the sciences (which we observe with our senses that scientists use), to the idea that our senses and our reason are unreliable, and that we don't need them to establish things as true.

I almost think we're being too polite here, and that this stuff just deserves to be mocked to ribbons as utter madness.


Since nobody has made that argument, the only one trailing ribbons of madness is you.

The fact of flaws in our senses and biases in our cognition is easy to observe. Science helps us make more accurate observations and theoretical explanations of why things should be that way.

Science makes use of the senses (obviously). A large chunk of science consists in ways to enhance the senses so that the world can be observed with greater accuracy. It may be surprising that we can bootstrap our way from inaccurate sensors, biased cognition, and the inherent subjectivity of everyday life, to a more accurate and objective one, but that is how it is.

Anonymous said...

Acceptance of a position amongst contemporary analytical philosophers is even less of a qualification for it being true than is the case of positions in any other intellectual field. Philosophy is simply, for the most part, not evolutionist.

Nail, meet hammer's head!

Anonymous said...

The fact of flaws in our senses and biases in our cognition is easy to observe. Science helps us make more accurate observations and theoretical explanations of why things should be that way.

So now we're getting into anthropomorphic fallacies are we?

Science doesn't help you or tell you a damn thing, for the same reason that geography cannot play the accordion and history cannot recite the national anthem.

What you have is a scientist, with a cognitive faculty (contingent), a set of assumptions, a theory or two, normative elements, a collection of methodologies, religious commitments and several articles of faith giving you an opinion on a matter, after making several observations (or indirect "observations" dependent on technology (which is itself a human construct and subject to the same set of realities facing the human being.

THAT'S what you have. You should be committed to an asylum for being a loony toon if you think science "helps" you.

Anonymous said...

It may be surprising that we can bootstrap our way from inaccurate sensors, biased cognition, and the inherent subjectivity of everyday life, to a more accurate and objective one, but that is how it is.

Ah, the myth of scientism conflated with the delusions of Victorian "progress".

It would be tragic if it weren't so funny. ;)



Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

The EAAN is explicitly an argument concerning the evolution of cognition.

Fesar's original post alludes to this multiple times:

"In that case, though, there is nothing about natural selection per se that could guarantee that our cognitive faculties reliably produce true beliefs."

"evolution is ... part of the story of the origin of our cognitive faculties"

Plantinga himself makes the claim (via complicated hand-waving purporting to show that beliefs cannot affect actions) that cognition is "invisible to natural selection".

Eduardo said...

Ops, you were reffering to the STEPS evolution has taken not the mechanisms... the argument is about the mechanisms... got it???

יאיר רזק said...

Anonymous: "Yair are you unaware of epiphenomenalism and eliminative materialism? Both of these would seem to totally severe beliefs or mental states from the physical brain."

I'm quite aware of these ideas, thank you. :) I don't believe either maintains that "beliefs bear no relation to actions and the physiological structures that facilitate them". Epiphenomenalism maintains beliefs are correlated with such biological features. Eliminative materialism comes closer, but even there the things that correspond to the folk-notion of "belief" are related to brain structures and activity.

Forget naturalists, though - is it really your opinion that your beliefs bear no relation to the brain structures and activity in your brain? That if I were to induce a cancerous growth in your brain in carefully locale X, you won't change your beliefs as do the many patients recorded by neuroscience? That if I were to give you Valium, or alcohol, you won't be affected?

Forget naturalism. Forget theism. Who in the world truly holds that, in practice, our beliefs are "totally severed" from our physical brain? People may come up with elaborate stories about how the two are correlated, but everyone agrees that in practice they are.

If you think naturalists believe otherwise, then I submit you're fighting windmills, not real opponents. You can, like Feser did above, attempt to argue naturalism cannot coherently maintain the psycho-physical connection ("... the logical relations that hold between thoughts cannot in principle be reduced to, supervenient upon, or in any way explained in terms of relations of efficient causality between material elements"). But that's not the same as asserting that naturalism does not, as a matter of fact, maintain such a connection.

And the EAAN is supposed to show that naturalism + evolution is inconsistent, it does not do to start with premises that naturalism just doesn't accept. You can't argue that naturalism is incoherent by premising on a theorem all naturalists deny.

Cheers,
Yair

P.S. I'm sure you can find naturalists that would deny the psycho-physical connection wholesale. I stand by my opinion virtually no one will. This is not a good way to characterize naturalism in general.

Eduardo said...

let me put this way, just what the mechanism can do???

Since I am not fully acquainted with evolution, I can't answer and I know the talk is long ... so I won't bother if you don't answer.

Now I have to finish getting the argument so I can post XD.

Hrafn said...

It may be surprising that we can bootstrap our way from inaccurate sensors, biased cognition, and the inherent subjectivity of everyday life, to a more accurate and objective one, but that is how it is.

"Ah, the [proven track record] of [scientific investigastion] conflated with the delusions of Victorian "progress"[two centuries of successful research]."

There, corrected for you.

And how does that compare with the results of the 'Theistic Science' propounded by Plantinga, Moreland and Johnson, and practiced by Behe, Dembski and Axe?

Ever-increasing millions of discoveries and inventions, continually building upon each other versus a scant handful of publications in tame journals, leading to no further discoveries.

It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Eduardo said...

Yair

The argument has nothing to do with beliefs have nothing to do with the brain...

Is if the beliefs are reliable, is a system that previliges mostly survival and reproduction would "care" would favor true beliefs.

Talking about whatever empirical experience is to beg the question because the argument is asking if those empirical beliefs are themselves true. And going on to postulate a model to how things should be is, if you are a defender of scientism, just begging the question again.

The argument does speak of relation between beliefs and behavior ... not brain structures.

Anonymous said...

Yair, I think you are stretching the word relation to an uncharitable and downright silly degree. Almost anyone will agree that there is a relation, at the very least because we are talking about two aspects of the human mind or even two existing things.

The point being made is about the degree to which mental states are causally marginalised in epiphenomenalism and incoherently explained away in eliminative materialism. This is the sort of thing meant when someone is talking about how certain forms of naturalism severe beliefs from actions and what physiologically facilitate the latter.

I simply cannot understand in what sense you would think it sensible or helpful to equivocate over the word relate so intensely? Is this a good way to argue?

Anonymous said...

-that should have been sever, not severe.

יאיר רזק said...

Anonymous: "Just read the entire [EAAN] argument."
I did, once. I was not impressed, and don't want to repeat the experience. If my memory betrayed me and I characterized it poorly, however, feel free to offer a better one.

Just don't present the One True EAAN. There is no such thing. There are as many variants as they are people writing about it. More, probably, as each person offers a slightly different with each telling... So state what the best one is, or sketch it. Or sketch where it differs from my characterization of it.

And just don't let it premise on "totally sever[ing] beliefs or mental states from the physical brain". That would just make said argument irrelevant.

Eduardo said...

Hrafn

Or hundreds of years of creating wishful thinking.

This is going back to so many talks we had here in the past.

Eduardo said...

True I agree with Yair, let's hear the BEST EAAN that you can think of Anon.

But still, I would like to post the real one here so we can all see how it went...

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

I explicitly state that the mechanism of natural selection can, and in fact has, shaped human cognition. This assertion is supported by the rapid development of human cognitive facilities in the (evolutionarily relatively short) period since we split off from other great apes.

I further explicitly state that this selective pressure can occur whether cognition affects behaviour (as I would suspect most evolutionary biologists and naturalists think) or is merely correleated with it (via the sub-mechanism of Byproduct Selection).


As to exactly what natural selection can and cannot do, that would probably be the subject of a post-doc course of research. As far as what Byproduct Selection can and cannot do, it would be a question of the relative selective pressures of the main and byproduct characteristics, combined with the degree of correlation between these two characteristics, most probably mediated by a healthy dose of Population Genetics.

Expecting the average blog correspondent to be fully conversant of the details of such complex issues, let alone be able top distil therm down into a single (let alone layman-comprehensible) blog post is unrealistic.

I am likewise not conversant with the details of the thermodynamics and fluid dynamics of the Sun. That does not prevent me from stating with reasonable confidence that the Sun is fueled by Hydrogen->Helium fusion and that it's surface is highly unstable (and subject to solar flares, etc).

Eduardo said...

Sure thanks for telling me your opinion, let me do this then, I will get te definition of natural selection that you gave me before, and the paper that show exactly how the mechanism defined in that link of yours created human cognition.

So I want the link to agree with the definition somewhat at least, and go step-by-step to show how cognition was created and how it is reliable without pressuposing that their experiences are reliable.

I think that is what I need to show the argument is wrong the way you want to show it is wrong

Anonymous said...

Just don't present the One True EAAN. There is no such thing. There are as many variants as they are people writing about it.

No, there's not. The Argument from Reason makes no reference to evolution. The EAAN most people refer to with that title is explicitly Plantinga's.

There are many versions of evolutionary theory, but when people discuss the neutral theory of molecular evolution, the topic has been considerably narrowed.

יאיר רזק said...

@Eduardo:"Is if the beliefs are reliable, is a system that previliges mostly survival and reproduction would "care" would favor true beliefs."

But why doesn't natural selection care? I suggested above there are two possibilities raised in this thread:

(Strong) Beliefs are not subject to natural selection because they aren't related to biology at all.

(Weak) Beliefs are not subject to natural selection because, even though they are related to biology, the same beliefs can lead to different actions.

Anonymous believes I'm mischaracterizing the argument, however. We'll see.

@Anonymous: "The point being made is about the degree to which mental states are causally marginalised in epiphenomenalism and incoherently explained away in eliminative materialism."

How is this the point? As I see it, the point is about whether the naturalists hold that the physical and mental are "severed" so that selecting on one will not select on the other. The answer to which is: no, the naturalists hold no such position. Any argument that naturalism is incoherent based on this premise, is irrelevant.

Again - you can argue that eliminative materialism or epiphenomenalism should imply such a break between the physical and the mental. That would constitute a separate attack on these positions, however. It won't be the EAAN (and, if successful, will be far more direct).

"I simply cannot understand in what sense you would think it sensible or helpful to equivocate over the word relate so intensely? Is this a good way to argue?"

I'm afraid I can't see how to progress at this point. I clearly disagree with my characterization, but I'm at a loss as to why.

Why do you think natural selection cannot select for "true" beliefs? Is it not roughly for the reasons outlines in (Strong) or (Weak) above? Do you not recognize that both are valid reasons that can apply for an EAAN? Do you deny that members on this thread appealed to both?

I'm open to suggestion on how to proceed from here towards some sort of mutual understanding, as we're clearly not seeing the subject-matter the same way (let alone agreeing on the answers).

Yair

Anotheranon said...

Why do you think natural selection cannot select for "true" beliefs? Is it not roughly for the reasons outlines in (Strong) or (Weak) above? Do you not recognize that both are valid reasons that can apply for an EAAN? Do you deny that members on this thread appealed to both?

Because natural selection does not select for beliefs at all. It selects for behaviors and actions. Those behaviors and actions may or may not be correlated with one or another belief, but it's an indirect process.

Think of it this way. A blind man can't decide on what he'll wear based on color. He'll decide on texture, feel, and so on. Now, it may be that the clothes he tends to select have a habit of being a particular color. But he is not "choosing to wear red" in that situation. He's unaware of red.

יאיר רזק said...

Anonymous: "No, there's not. The Argument from Reason makes no reference to evolution. The EAAN most people refer to with that title is explicitly Plantinga's."

Please stick to EAAN, not AfR. We're not talking here about the AfR. If you feel the two are the same, please explain why - this, indeed was my original question, in a sense. I don't see it. The EAAN is, as Feser characterized it, roughly:
(a) natural selection favors is behavior that is conducive to reproductive success.
(b) Such behavior might be associated with true beliefs, but it might not be
(c) In that case, though ...A given individual belief would have about a [p] chance of being true.
(d) the probability that the preponderance of true beliefs over false ones would be great enough to make our cognitive faculties reliable is very small

If your argument doesn't conform to this outline, at least, roughly, then I submit it isn't the EAAN. So it isn't what I, at least, have been discussing for quite a few posts now.

Yair

Eduardo said...

Yair

Yeah, well I have to post the damn argument.

But I can say from what I have got so far, the argument says that natural selection does not care for belief's because only behavior is chosen, so it only cares about beliefs in an indirect way if at all.

Anyways I am back at typing it so I hope I might post it soon, then we can analyse it everybody ... together ...

Eduardo said...

Yair

Yes those are the overall steps of the argument XD.

I think D might be the only wrong one, MAYBE, have to finish copying it here, but overall I think it is pretty close to the target.

Anonymous said...

Yair,

Please stick to EAAN, not AfR. We're not talking here about the AfR. If you feel the two are the same, please explain why - this, indeed was my original question, in a sense. I don't see it.

I am sticking to the EAAN. I'm disputing your claim that there is no single EAAN, and that there is as many EAANs as there are people talking about it. That's simply false. The EAAN is associated with Plantinga expressly. I said the AfR was NOT the EAAN. That's not controversial either.

(d) the probability that the preponderance of true beliefs over false ones would be great enough to make our cognitive faculties reliable is very small

Low or inscrutable.

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

If my knowledge of the Evolution of Human Cognition was sufficiently encyclopaedic that I could take you "step-by-step" from the basic definition of Natural Selection, to how selective pressures actually shaped the human brain, I would most probably be writing a textbook on the subject, rather than commenting on blog posts of a philosopher of religion.

If you want to learn more, read some books on the subject of Human Evolution or Evolutionary Neuroscience. I'm sure that your local university will have some. If not, then try Amazon. I am certain that what you find there will have little overlap with the claims and implications Plantinga makes about the evolution of human cognition.

Admittedly most of what is written on the subject is likely to be highly tangential to Plantinga's claims -- as my experience is that scientists seldom look at the world in the same way, or are interested in the same things, as philosophers of religion are.

Eduardo said...

QUOTE = If my knowledge of the Evolution of Human Cognition was sufficiently encyclopaedic that I could take you "step-by-step" from the basic definition of Natural Selection, to how selective pressures actually shaped the human brain, I would most probably be writing a textbook on the subject, rather than commenting on blog posts of a philosopher of religion. = QUOTE
----------------------------------

ME = And of Mind and Ethics XD. Second, NOT YOU, a WORK that shows that, you seem to obivously knows mare then me about evolution so you MIGHT know of a paper that shows what I asked since you claimed that the mechanism did created reliable cognitive systems. = ME
-----------------------------------
QUOTE = If you want to learn more, read some books on the subject of Human Evolution or Evolutionary Neuroscience. I'm sure that your local university will have some. If not, then try Amazon. I am certain that what you find there will have little overlap with the claims and implications Plantinga makes about the evolution of human cognition.

Admittedly most of what is written on the subject is likely to be highly tangential to Plantinga's claims -- as my experience is that scientists seldom look at the world in the same way, or are interested in the same things, as philosophers of religion are. = QUOTE
-----------------------------------

ME = Agreed, although you have claimed, and it was such a strong claim I had to call it and either burn you or me... me for sort of being your critic.

I thank you for your advice and I absoultely agree with you. I should just read those books, but mostly I want to read the textbook's bibliography... after all there is the meat is 8D! = ME

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

My knowledge of human evolution is a combination of reading popular science articles online on the subject, reading the occasional scientific rebuttal of creationists claims about paleoanthropology and occasionally following a blog on Human Genetics. It was enough for me to 'smell a rat' on Plantinga's claims, and then do a quick rummage of (mainly tangential) literature that gives the strong impression that they're talking about something radically different to what Plantinga is presenting.

If I had found something sufficiently on-point to be worth recommending, I would be reading it now myself (and hopefully presenting more atriculate and fact-grounded arguments as a result).

The result of my reading (both in the past, and recent rummage) is that homo sapiens has made a very heavy investment (in gambling terms probably an 'all-in bet') on cognitive development, and has paid a very heavy fitness price (in terms of strength, speed, ease of childbirth, length of childhood, and probably dozens of other distinguishing characteristics) in order to develop it.

Given that humans have survived, and have in fact flourished, strongly suggest that this extraordinary cost and investment has in fact yielded extraordinary returns in terms of cognitive facilities.

I would therefore suggest that any argument that relies upon downplaying the potential of human cognition, is unlikely to win many converts, particularly among the scientific and naturalist communities.

Hrafn said...

Although not directly on-topic, this article: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/suppl.1/10661.full may prove informative.

Eduardo said...

My knowledge of human evolution is a combination of reading popular science articles online on the subject, reading the occasional scientific rebuttal of creationists claims about paleoanthropology and occasionally following a blog on Human Genetics. It was enough for me to 'smell a rat' on Plantinga's claims, and then do a quick rummage of (mainly tangential) literature that gives the strong impression that they're talking about something radically different to what Plantinga is presenting.
-----------------------------------

Hrafn... gut feeling??? let me post the argument then you can argue properly without gur feelings... and careful, people like are mostly fallacious s I could say that you are equally a rat of some sort, that there MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG with what you are saying XD, but that is just ... errr ... not very good reasoning on my part.

As for the rest of your comment... no the argument goes way deeper than that, you are still begging the question, pressuposing that on that class of facts are true! when the argument is talking about them too.

Anyways will read the link.

Hrafn said...

Interestingly enough, I found that article by an incredibly indirect route -- a search of Talk.Origins Archive turned up a post from the (anti-creationist) blog The Panda's Thumb, who had been pout onto a "PNAS special issue on evolution and the brain" ( http://www.pnas.org/content/109/suppl.1.toc ) that contained this article by prominent (but largely respected-by-the-scientific-community) creationist Todd Wood.

Eduardo said...

Nice I would love to see the new method XD seems pretty fun and less-time consuming.

But by the abstract it seems all the guy will do is classify the human brain as just a superior type of primate brain; well you know this comparison system I like to couple them with a nice philosphical approach otherwise is not different then just ... err ... opinion of the scientist which it relies entirely on his lab coat weight XD, and therefore not good XD.

Well it doesn't seem to argue especifically for a demonstration though... so Have to continue reading it.

Eduardo said...

I think you posted a wrong link ...

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

I never said "gut feeling"!

My generalised reading gave me a generalised impression of the generalised trend of scientific research on human evolution and the evolution of cognition. That general impression did not seem congruent with Plantinga's claims on the subject -- therefore I "smelled a rat". No 'guts' involved.

In making this argument, I did a "quick rummage" of what I could find on the topic, which tended to confirm my previous general impression, and a lack of congruence with Plantinga's claims.

Unless you expect us to hold silence unless we have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the topic (an expectation that would likewise silence Plantinga, Fesar, Nagel, Fodor, and numerous others), you will have to put up with us commenting on the basis of such a general impression.

Eduardo said...

Nice link no doubt, but I don't think it shows what I asked Hrafn it is just a scientist bitching about classification which is ... errrr ... must be grounded by philosophy first otherwise is just each scientist desire, some think they are extraordinary other's don't, who is right? No one.

Second it doesn't seem to show that how step-by-step it happened or why exactly the brain is reliable, actually the very question needs to be cleared in philosphy first so later can gather data to decide among the possibilities. Otherwise it becomes just: on the brain has structure X so it is reliable (even though nothing on structure X tells you that it is reliable), or we have success as a species (which doesn't necessarily means that our cognitive system is reliable).

Reliability becomes whatever you want it to become, just relate to something studied in science voilá, it is reliable XD.

Third... are you sure he is trying to argue for the reliability of the brain or just pressuposing that things evolved from A to B so I must analyse the difference between these two systems???

Hrafn said...

No, the link is correct, and should take you to an article titled 'The remarkable, yet not extraordinary, human brain as a scaled-up primate brain and its associated cost'

Anonymous said...

That general impression did not seem congruent with Plantinga's claims on the subject -- therefore I "smelled a rat". No 'guts' involved.

You should try actually reading Plantinga's EAAN before commenting on it. You "smelled a rat" insofar as you smelled that someone was making an argument against atheism, and went in swinging. But you're just hitting air.

Really. Read and understand first, THEN criticize. Feel free to ask questions when you inevitably feel you misunderstand something.

Eduardo said...

I never said that you said it XD, I am interpreting that it is gut feeling XD, that you guessed what is going on.

Exactly you guessed, unfortunately live sucks and we gotta read stuff throughly, which means I gotta read your link XD if I think it doesn't have anything to do exactly with I wanted... But who knows until I check every paragraph is hard to say...

Not really, For instance I know more and less MOST STUFF, hence I try as much as I can to NOT MAKE sweeping assertions because I could be wrong. So I only do the assertions when I think there is no way to argue with someone, I don't think that is the case with you or Yair.

But it is the case with some other people. If you are doubtful of something as I usually am, you try to weight your words more carefully wouldn't you agree???

But you are certain of something, you claim in clear voice what is your position, and you seem to do that a lot. SO in the end, I might just be holding you to the same standards I think I should be held... and yeah I hardly am up to par but at least we can always admit our mistakes and try to make it better next time.

Eduardo said...

Hrafn

I meant the second one XD, it was a big list.

I am reading the first one.

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

Please explain to me how whether "brain is reliable" is a rigorous, well-defined scientific question, such that a scientist would actually be interested in answering it, as opposed to a fuzzy-brained, hopelessly-informal, "not even wrong" idea that only an out-of-touch philosopher could love.

Then explain to me how research on the topic wouldn't be a heavily-balkanised patchwork of small research fiefdoms, like pretty near any other field of academic research.

Then explain to me how an only-occasionally-interested-amateur, like myself can be expected to sew this
heavily-balkanised patchwork into a "step by step" explanation comprehensible to somebody who knows even less about this field than I do.

Your expectations are ludicrously unreasonable. Unfortunately they are also not that uncommon, and would appear to somewhat resemble Nagel's own expectations, which is perhaps part of why the scientific community doesn't appear to take him very seriously.

Eduardo said...

Yeah I don't think the paper is fit to answer the argument. I mean let me put this way.

How do you know something is reliable? because there is a belief in the mind that often correlates with something outside in a rather accurate way. Let's say this is how we know something is reliable.

Now could a false belief always offer an accurate state of affairs... well yeah! That is why in science usually people try to set something as falsiable, the idea in your mind must be put against the external world and see how well it fits, to avoid these sort of mental models.

But the belief that the world you see outside is real and it is the way it is, or it is the way your particular philosophy say it is, are ALL beliefs too. A chair may be REALLY something completely different or maybe something non existent, what causes (if there are causes) the information that I relate to CHAIR, is completely unknown to me and therefore my belief that the chair I see is really there is absolutely wrong or completely unwarranted and is just based on my desire to believe that chair is there. now you could call upon your belief of the UNLIKENESS of things being this way, but it is ... just a belief, how do you know it is reliable or true, how can you know it is not your desire that things are more likely this way instead of another?

You see you have nothing to tell you what is reliable, there is no way I could objectively say what is reliable or what is true, and hence no reason to believe anything as true including naturalism. All we end up with is our desire to say, X is true, X is fact... we have no idea if the premisses of argument are taken to be correct and the argument succeeds...

But I gotta post the argument otherwise I feel like I leaving you wondering at sea XD.

Anonymous said...

Please explain to me how whether "brain is reliable" is a rigorous, well-defined scientific question, such that a scientist would actually be interested in answering it, as opposed to a fuzzy-brained, hopelessly-informal, "not even wrong" idea that only an out-of-touch philosopher could love.

It's not a scientific question per se, but a metaphysical question aimed first and foremost at a metaphysical view (naturalism). The question itself is rigorous and well-defined by Plantinga - he explains just what he means about reliability, beliefs, truth-tracking, etc.

Which you'd know, if you bothered to read and comprehend the argument itself.

Then explain to me how research on the topic wouldn't be a heavily-balkanised patchwork of small research fiefdoms, like pretty near any other field of academic research.

Because sometimes a given question is appropriate to its own field. Nor, again, is Plantinga's question some kind of empirical, scientific question. If you think that only scientific claims are worthy of consideration, that's great. Please stop advocating metaphysical views. (Note: materialism and naturalism are metaphysical views.)

Unfortunately they are also not that uncommon, and would appear to somewhat resemble Nagel's own expectations, which is perhaps part of why the scientific community doesn't appear to take him very seriously.

Don't be a rube. He's a philosopher, talking about philosophical problems. You go on about 'heavily balkanized fields of academia' on the one hand, and then immediately turn around and make it sound as if someone doesn't get the attention of the entire scientific community, then they must be wrong.

Stop trying to be a wannabe PZ Myers foot soldier, relax, and read what you're criticizing. Slip out of the "Must fight for the New Atheism!" PR mode. It's embarrassing when you're not walling in the mud of Pharyngula or Panda's Thumb.

Eduardo said...

All I can answer to this is... that is what I expect, if you can't answer that is my problem, if Science can't show me it might because it doesn't have the resources or maybe somebody hasn't tried it yet.

Anyways I know exactly what I want and why I want, I not gonna conform my beliefs to the system at hand just because it happens to be glorified in society n_n.

Second, careful since I see science great achievements as being 4: Description, Experiment, Theory, Model.

Anything else that a scientist has to offer is up for grab XD.

And reliability is one of them ;) whether scientists wanna answer those questions of not, is my problem XD and totally irrelevant to the answer of those questions.

Hrafn said...

"ou should try actually reading Plantinga's EAAN before commenting on it."

And you should not assume that just because I think an argument is complete bollocks does not mean I haven't read it.

I have in fact read numerous versions over the years, both in Plantinga's words and others.

I "smell" a dishonest hatchet-job by an apologist whose career is based upon undermining naturalism, who has a well-documented axe to grind against evolution, and has always been far more friendly with pseudoscientists than scientists.

Read it, understood it, and have no impression whatsoever that Plantinga understands evolution (and particularly the evolution of human cognition), statistics, the scientific method or naturalism.

I would also suggest that it would fail to convince anybody who is, not just a drunk-the-koolaid theist, but who (like Plantinga) wishes to see science subjugated to that theism.

Speaking as somebody who is philosophically minimally-pantheistic, I see nothing whatsoever to recommend it.

Eduardo said...

I am at the part where Plantinga talks pretty much about XD probability, this may not be fundamental to his argument though. Since it is mostly vague, and it is simply to illustrate mathematically what he has argued for.

Yeah if you guys wanna read it be my guest, but he seems to be only illustrating and playing with math in the end, but the bulk of the argument was before, I think at least.

Here it is the a book where I took the argument from... and yeah the ENTIRE BOOK criticizes the argument XD.

http://books.google.com.br/books?hl=pt-BR&lr=&id=p40tc_T7-rMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=naturalism+defeated&ots=T7YwdAn_Km&sig=jgNjPC96eeC3aCCVdJQdQOygoRA

Eduardo said...

Funny, I think that if someone accepts the argument the same person not really think that science is subjulgated by theism XD.

Eduardo said...

Hrafn

Ad hominem!!!

Now you did it, you can't escape it XD.

Hrafn said...

RE Nagel:

"He's a philosopher..." having a profound hissy-fit because the scientific community does not take his scientifically-meaningless philosophical questions (e.g. I very much doubt if any Philopsher of Mind could prove to a scientist that "intentionality" actually exists, let alone that it is worth scientific examination) seriously.

Nothing I have read of or about Nagel's claims give the slightest impression that he has any substantial knowledge of Evolutionary Neuroscience, let alone any real interest in engaging it on its own terms. And I would be surprised if any Evolutionary Neuroscientist gives a rat's arse what the entire field of Philosophy of Mind thinks (its too far divorced from anything science is actually capable of, or remotely interested in, researching to be of any interest), let alone the occasional individual squeeky wheel.

Eduardo said...

Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

By Plantinga's words with some parts cut off to make this thing as small as possible.

#1= EAAN begins from certain doubts about the reliability of our cognitive faculties.

#2= A cognitive faculty is reliable if the great bulk of its deliverances are true.

#3= These doubts are connected with the origin of our cognitive faculties.

#4= Human beings have developed from aboriginal unicellular life by way of such mechanisms as natural selection and genetic drift on sources of genetic variation: the most popular is random genetic mutation.

#5= Natural selection discards most of these mutations, but some of the remainder turn out to have adaptive value and to enchance fitness; they spread through the population and thus persist.

#6= It is by way of these same mechanisms that our cognitive faculties have arisen.

#7= If naturalism is true there is no God, and hence no God (or anyone else) overseeing our development and orchestrating the course of our evolution. (He says in the paragraph before that Christian, Jewish and Muslim tradition propose that God gives us the capacity to achieve knowledge so intheory these would agree that our cognitive capabilities are reliable. Sorry for not numbering this one is just that he sort of goes off-topic in the paragraph.)

#8= This leads directly to the question whether it is at all likely that our cognitive faculties, given naturalism and given their evolutionary origin, would have developed in such a way as to be reliable, to furnish us with mostly true beliefs.

#9= Quote from Patricia Churchland: "Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enable the organism to succeed in the FOUR F's: Feeding, Fleeing, Fighting and Fucking (she says reproducing...). The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive...Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost"

#10= What Churchland mean, I think, is that evolution is directly interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior (in a broad sense including physical functioning), not in true belief.

Eduardo said...

#11= Natural selection doesn't care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave.

#12= It selects for certain kinds of behavior: those that enhance fitness, which is a measure of the chances that one's genes will be widely represented in the next and subsequent generations.

#13= It doesn't select for belief, except insofar as the latter is appropriately related to behavior.

#14= But then the fact that we have evolved guarantee's at most that we behave in certain ways, ways that contribute to out (or our ancestor's) surviving and reproducing in the environment in which we have developed.

#15= Perhaps Churchland's claim can be understood as the suggestion that the objective probability that our dognitive faculties are reliable, given naturalism and... contemporary evolutionary theory... is low. (Sorry he added what I think are unnecessary words XD to make the whole thing more sophisticated, and think the omission won't rob him of his thunder.)

#16= Of she doesn't explicitly mention naturalism, but it certainly seems that she is taking it for granted. ( Because if she were to take God in consideration, the conclusion wouldn't necessarily follow)

#17= Are Darwin and Churchland (He quotes darwin asking to himself about his cognitive faculties) correct? Well they are certainly right in thinking that natural selection is directly interested only in behavior, not belief, and that it is interested in belief, if at all, only indirectly, by virtue of the relation between behavior and belief.

#18= If adaptive behavior guarantees or makes probable reliable faculties, then the probability will be fairly high.

#19= On the hand, if our having reliable faculties isn't guranteed by or even particularly probable with respect to adaptive behavior, then presumably the probability will be rather low.

#20= If, for example, behavior isn't caused or governed by belief, the latter would be so to speak, invisible to natural selection.

Eduardo said...

#21= In that case it would be unlikely that the great preponderance of true belied over false required by reliability will be forthcoming.

#22= Alternatively, we might say that the probability here is inscrutable, such that we can't make an estimate of it. Granted: it is unlikely that a large set of beliefs (for a human) should contain mainly truths, that gives us a reason for regarding the probability in question as low. On the other hand, we know something further about the relevant set of propositions, namely, that it is a set each member of which is believed by someone. Perhaps we don't know what to say, and should conclude that the probability is question is inscrutable.

#23= So the question about the value of the probability really turns on the relationship btween belief and behavior.

#24= Our having evolved and survived makes it likely that our cognitive faculties are reliable and our beliefs are for the most part true, only if it would be impossible or unlikely that creatures more and less like us should behave in fitness-enhancing ways but nonetheless hold mostly false beliefs.

#25= Is this impossible or unlikely? That depends upon the relation between belief and behavior. What would or could that relation be?

#26= I suggest that we think, not about ourselves and our behavior, but about a population of creatures a lot like us on a planet a lot like Earth.

#27= These creatures are rational: that is, they form beliefs, reason, change beliefs, and the like.

#28= We imagine furthermore that they and their cognitive systems have evolved by the way of the mechanisms to which contemporary evolutionary theory directs our attention.

#29= Now what is the probability, specified, not to us, but to them? To answer, we must think about the relationship between their beliefs and their behavior.

#30= There are four mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive possibilities.

Eduardo said...

#31= (1) Is epiphenomenalism: Their behavior is not caused by their beliefs.

#32= On this possibility, their movement and behavior would be caused by something or other which would be caused by other organic conditions including sensory stimulation: but belief would not have a place in this causal chain leading to behavior.

#33= If this way of thinking is right with respect to our hypothetical creatures, their beliefs would be invisible to evolution, and then the fact that their belief-forming mechanisms arose durinf their evolutionary history would confer little or no probability on the idea that their beliefs are mostly true, or mostly nearly true. Indeed, the probability of those beliefs being for the most part true would have to be rated fairly low (or inscrutable).

#34= (2) Is semantic epiphenomanlism: It could be that their beliefs do indeed have causal efficacy with respect to behavior, but noy be virtue of their content.

#35= This would be the suggestion that beliefs are indeed causally efficacious or at least a materialist way of thinking, a belief could perhaps be something like a long-term pattern way of thinking, a long-term neuronal event. This even will have properties of at least two different kinds.

#36= On the one hand, there are its neurophysiological or electrochemical properties: The number of neurons involved in the belief, the connections between them, their firing thresholds, the rate and strenght at which they fire, the way in which these change over time and in response to other neural activity, and so on. Call these syntactical properties of the belief.

#37= On the other hand, however, if the belief is really a "belief", it will be the belief that p for some proposition p. Perhaps it is the belief that there once was a brewery where the Metropolitan Opera House now stands. This proposition, we might say, is the content of the belief in question.

#38= This second possibilityis that belief is indeed causually efficacious with respect to behavior, but by virtue of the syntactic properties of a belief, not its semantic properties.

#39= On this view, as on the last, the probability in question (specified to those creatures) will be low. The reason is that truth or falsehood are, of course, amons the semantic properties of a belief, not its syntactic properties.

#40= But if the former aren't involved in the causal chain leading to behavior, then once again beliefs, or their semantic properties, will be invisible to natural selection.

Eduardo said...

#41= Then it will be unlikely that their beliefs are mostly true, and hence unlikely that their cognitive faculties are reliable.

#42= (3) It could be that beliefs are causally efficacious, semantically as well as syntactically, with respect to behavior, but maladaptive: from the of view of fitness these creatures would be better off without them. The probability in question together with this possibility, would also seem to be relatively low.

#43= (4) Finally it could be that the beliefs of our hypothetical creatures are indeed both causally connected with their behavior and also adaptive.

#44= What is the probability on this assumption, that their cognitive faculties will be true? I argued that this probability isn't nearly as high as one is intially inclined to think.

#45= For one thing, if behavior is caused by belief, it is also caused by desire (and other factor that we can here ignore). For any given adaptive action, there will be many belief-desire combinations that could produce that ation; and very many of those belief-desire combinations will be such that the belief involved is false.

#46= Quoting himself:"Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for better prospect, because he thinks it is unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief... Or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a large, friendly, cuddly pussycat and wants to pet it, but he also thinks that the best way to pet it is to run away from it... Or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a regularly recurring illusion, and, hoping to keep his wieght down, has formed the resolution to run a mile at top spee whenever presented with such an illusion; or perhaps he thinks he is about to take part of a 1600 meters race(1 mile for the Gaussian system users), wants to win, and believes the appearence of the tiger is the starting signal; or perhaps... Clearly there are any number of belief-desire systems that equally fit a given bit of behavior."

#47= Accordingly, there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of those combinations, the beliefs are false. Without further knowledge of these creatures, therefore, we could hardly estimate the probability in question in this final possibility as high.

#48= The problem with the argument as thus presented is this. It is easy to see, for just ONE of Paul's actions, that there are many different belief-desire combinations that yield it; it is less easy to see how it could be that most or all of his beliefs could be false but nonetheless adaptive or fitness enhancing.

#49= Could Paul's beliefs really be mainly false, but still lead to adaptive action? Yes indeed; perhaps the simplest way to see how, is by thinking of systematic ways in which his beliefs could be false but still adaptive.

#50= Perhaps Paul is a sort of early Leibnizian and thinks everything is conscious (and suppose that is false). Perhaps he is an animist and thinks everything is allive. Perhaps he thinks all the plants and animals in his vicinity are witches. But this would be entirely compatible with his belief's being adaptive; so it is clear, I think, that there would be many ways in which Paul's beliefs could be for the most part false, but adaptive nonetheless.

#51= Most of mankind has endorsed supernatural beliefs of one kind or another; according to the naturalist, such beliefs are adaptive though false.

Eduardo said...

Hrafn

I notice all you do is assert assert assert.

You never try showing why you think the way you think or why you claim what you are claiming, all you do is say that it is so, then you throw a argument of authority/popularity and think you have have stablished something, seriously this is appaling, and profound evidence that reading about science does not make someone any good at thinking XD.

Eduardo said...

From now on I advise peoploe to force hrafn to argue for his point on completely ignore him.

Sorry Hrafn you sound quite childish, and I can swear that you are getting angry over the conversation since most people here are not scientism true-believers and I am betting you find that appaling.


Hrafn said...

My own personal viewpoint is:
1) I have no reason to believe that Plantinga has a superior understanding of either evolution or statistics to my own.

2) His argument contains a number of claims and implications within those two fields that I find highly dubious.

3) I know that Plantinga is prepositionally inclined to accept theism over naturalism and a limited role for evolution over an expansive one.

Why then, unless I shared Plantinga's presuppositions, would I be willing to accept his argument that claims a limitation of evolution as part of the basis for dismissing naturalism?

Eduardo said...

wrong, he never touches both of them, have you read the argument you would know. And this time around I wil assert that you haven't read it, and if you did you haven't understood shit.

Time to repent and read the argument carefully, as I will try to read your critique carefully. And Yair's too.

Now 2) and 3), I have no idea XD why you need those two to accept the argument, the argument pressuposes Naturalism... or ONE TYPE of naturalism.

Second, what you accept is up to you man, I have no idea how you make your choices xD.

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

"I notice all you do is assert assert assert."

You have not ever even alluded to scientific research relevant to this topic, let alone cited any of it.

I notice that all Plantinga does is assert assert assert.

Likewise he does not ever even allude to scientific research relevant to this topic, let alone cite any of it.

I notice that all Fesar does is assert assert assert.

Likewise he does not ever even allude to scientific research relevant to this topic, let alone cite any of it.

I notice that all Anonymous does is assert assert assert.

Likewise he does not ever even allude to scientific research relevant to this topic, let alone cite any of it.

I on the other hand have at least attempted to allude to my (admittedly less-than-encyclopaedic) impression of the scientific research, and where I've been able to turn up something at least tangentially relevant, cited it.

Unless somebody is prepared to at least make an attempt to find empirical substantiation for the claims underlying the EAAN (claims that I frequently do not find credible), I don't really see why I should bother finding further evidence undermining them.

Eduardo said...

As far as I can see, the argument doesn't rely on statistics necessarily and neither it relies on how exactly things have evolved, it seems to rely on how things work, and depending on how they work, what would be the dynamic of these things while beings evolve.

Eduardo said...

What is the scientific evidence that he must show in order to back up a part of his argument???

Show some thinking skills instead of crying like a baby XD. I haven't asserted much, just that you suck at thinking, that you don't know the argument, and that you assert without substatiating your claims, and I don't need a freaking scientist to know that XD this shit is happening right in front of my eyes damn it XD.

Until you show that you have understood the argument Hrafn, you can get lost.

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

The argument in question is an explicitly "Evolutionary Argument", that makes use of, in a crucial step, the evolutionary mechanism of Natural Selection. Therefore to claim that it "never touches" evolution is monumentally stupid.

Likewise Plantinga's own formulation of the argument involves copious discussion of probability, a key concept of the field of statistics. In fact he formulates a key result of the argument as a conditional probability equation Therefore to claim that it "never touches" statistics is monumentally stupid.

Eduardo said...

True, I should have said it doesn't depend on it XD.

Second, the argument doesn't necessarily need the statistical part, third, go in the link I have provided and show that that he have used statistics incorrectly.

Eduardo said...

Actaully it doesn't necessarily need the mechanism, what it really needs is the relation on the structure with the mechanism.

Damn I might be monumentally stupid, but you don't fare any better XD.

Hrafn said...

"What is the scientific evidence that he must show in order to back up a part of his argument???"

That cognition is "invisible to natural selection", for starters.

That there is no correlation between accuracy of cognition and reproductive fitness of behaviour.

That evolutionary pressures have resulted in an insufficiently-advanced level of cognition that the scientific method cannot further bootstrap that cognition to allow an even higher level of function.

Hrafn said...

Eduardo:

If it "doesn't depend on" evolution or statistics, please present a well-formed version of this argument that makes no mention of either field. I would suggest that such a formulation (beyond something that is simply a restatement of the Argument from Reason) is impossible.

Eduardo said...

1) He says that beliefs are invisible to natural selection, nice beginning.

2) He argues given naturalism which is what the argument is all about XD, if you think that the arguments he gives do not suffice tell me why.

3)he makes no such claim, he claims that it most likely hasn't created any reliable set of beliefs given naturalism and evolutionary theory.

Seriously where the fuck have you read the argument???

Oh, just the fact that you have no idea what the argument is about even though the damn thing is just up on combox is TRULY MONUMENTALLY STUPID XD.

Eduardo said...

Oh I see... read the THE GIGANTIC number of hashtags I have posted up there XD, scroll UP and you will see it.

Second... mentioning something doesn't mean that the argument DEPENDS on it.

Eduardo said...

Well as far as I can see the argument doesn't depend on the actual evolutionary steps of a being.

Hrafn said...

1) Plantinga's model reduces all human activity down to "belief" and "behaviour", with the clear implication that "belief" encompasses all cognitive activity. (If you don't accept this then please explain either (i) where and how Plantinga treats non-belief cognition, or (ii) why his failure to account for this large range of cognitive activities does not fatally flaw his argument.) Therefore when he claims belief is "invisible to natural selection" it is hard not to interpret it as meaning that all cognition is invisible.

2) Each of Plantinga's purported "four mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive possibilities" divorce accuracy of cognition from reproductive fitness of behaviour.

3) His entire argument encompasses the claim that evolutionary pressures have resulted in an insufficiently-advanced level of cognition that the scientific method cannot further bootstrap that cognition to allow an even higher level of function. This purported insufficiency is why he offers God as an alternative explanation for advanced human cognition.

Hrafn said...

Fesar's informal description of the argument mentions evolution and natural selection. Plantinga's forma outlines of his argument contain more detailed discussion of evolution and natural selection. The title of the argument specifically states that evolution is a big part of it.

What are we therefore to think of somebody who thinks that evolution is superfluous to the argument.

If evolution is irrelevant to explaining human cognitive facilities, then how do naturalists (who don't believe in God) explain them? Magic pixie dust perhaps?

And if we aren't about analysising and critiquing how naturalists explain human cognitive facilities, then what are we here for?

I hereby withdraw the label "stupid" from Eduardo -- it is simply too pale and mild a label to be worth bothering with.

Eduardo said...

1) Plantinga's model reduces all human activity down to "belief" and "behaviour", with the clear implication that "belief" encompasses all cognitive activity. (If you don't accept this then please explain either (i) where and how Plantinga treats non-belief cognition, or (ii) why his failure to account for this large range of cognitive activities does not fatally flaw his argument.) Therefore when he claims belief is "invisible to natural selection" it is hard not to interpret it as meaning that all cognition is invisible.
-----------------------------------
ME = I don't see why his model reduces all human activity to that, he is analysing a particular feature of humans. Well I don't see that implication because I don't see why his model reduces everything to that. His argument wouldn't be fatally flawed because ALL cognitive systems may not be reliable, what is the point of talking about MORE cognitive systems. Well I can only see that as your favorite interpretation... is not hard for me to see possibilities beyond that xD. = ME

2) Each of Plantinga's purported "four mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive possibilities" divorce accuracy of cognition from reproductive fitness of behaviour.
-----------------------------------
ME = Hmmm and why should they be married??? Are you trying to say that I should go get scientific literature that pressupose that very thing we are discussing??? that is begging the question.
If that is not the case, then tell me why the guy who has the right beliefs about reality is more likely to survive, and of course refute the end of Plantinga's argument. = ME
-----------------------------------
3) His entire argument encompasses the claim that evolutionary pressures have resulted in an insufficiently-advanced level of cognition that the scientific method cannot further bootstrap that cognition to allow an even higher level of function. This purported insufficiency is why he offers God as an alternative explanation for advanced human cognition.
-----------------------------------
ME = He offers God as a guide for RELIABLE cognition, second has nothing to do with advanced system or whatever, he s saying that your beliefs are warranted to be believed in. = ME

Eduardo said...

Well the evolutionary steps themselves are superfluous to the argument, but how we acquire those believes is not.

Has nothing to do with the explanation of cognitive faculties, seriously read the argument and understand it.

Uhhh XD, says the guy that has no idea of what the argument is about and how it was argued. Good thing I don't give much a shit about how you label me XD.

Eduardo said...

Correction

ME = He offers God as a guide for RELIABLE cognition, second has nothing to do with advanced system or whatever, he s saying that your beliefs are NOT warranted to be believed in. = ME

Eduardo said...

Is kind of funny though, I made quite clear that the evolutionary steps are not important, but you have said EVOLUTION which could be more than the evolutionary steps.

Have you used a strawman against me XD???

Eduardo said...

Now Hrafn... I give up, hours talking to you and I have gained nothing from it XD quite literally XD, I think is best for me to simply let it go.

Eduardo said...

I think that the propositions that seem weak for me are

#6 - Don't know if Naturalism could come up with a different theory about how cognition arises, but I think it is a possibility.

#10 - Seems to be the one that is controversial since someone could say that fitness and true beliefs are related, but we can come up with all types of situations and scenarios that show this is not the case, so we end up with doubt if whether they are reliable or not.

#11 - I don't know how people define natural selection, I heard some different definitions, but Plantinga seems to imply that his definition of natural selection is one that only is related to behavior, and not what generates them internally. Don't if you can square that if certain definitions of Natural selection, for instance a more statistical definition.

Eduardo said...

There is more, but I am gonna take a nap XD.

Anonymous said...

"How is this the point? As I see it, the point is about whether the naturalists hold that the physical and mental are "severed" so that selecting on one will not select on the other. The answer to which is: no, the naturalists hold no such position. Any argument that naturalism is incoherent based on this premise, is irrelevant."

I'm not sure what you mean by selected. My point was that of course no one is saying naturalists maintain there is no relation between mental and physical brain states. What is being alleged is that some naturalists genuinely maintain that mental states have no meaningful causal potency. This is simply the most obvious explanation of the original sentence ""beliefs bear no relation to actions and the physiological structures that facilitate them". Your explanation is uncharitable and rather silly in the context.

I also think it might be the case, as implied in your comments about what you allege to be a strawman, that you do not fully understand the argument from reason, and its offshoots. Have you read C.S Lewis's original version of the argument from reason?

http://www.philosophy.uncc.edu/mleldrid/Intro/csl3.html

As Lewis makes clear, the centre of the argument from reason, including the EEAN, is in order to have valid rational conclusions they must be mostly or wholly due caused by and through the process of logical inference. I think your comments to me previously might indicate you are neglecting this central aspect of all versions and offspring of the argument from reason (as far as I'm aware).

Anonymous said...

- or to put it another way, the central premise of all arguments from reason, as far as I know, is that in order for valid rational inferences it is not enough that I come to the right rational conclusion, that rational conclusion must be caused by valid rational premises, and yet this is still not enough. Finally, these valid premises must cause me to come to my rational conclusion through valid logical reasoning. If any link in this chain is cut, or even severely impinged, then we undermine our capacity for rational inference (which, of course, undermines any rational argument for naturalism itself).

George R. said...

Eddy and Harry, a little advice: more contemplation, less typing.

BLS said...

Hrafn,

"I notice that all Fesar does is assert assert assert."

Which assertions are you referring to?

BLS said...

Also, can we get some good links to these alleged criticisms of Fodor (that were done by professionals)?

The Deuce said...

Hrafn:

A quick rummage around on information on Human Evolution and particularly the Evolution of the Human Brain turns up the strong impression that rapid growth and reorganisation of the human brain is one of the major features of human evolution from other apes (see e.g. Principles of Brain Evolution by Georg F. Striedter, p13) and no indication of any doubt that human cognition is under strong evolutionary pressure.

Okay, this (and other red herrings you've posted) makes it clear that you have absolutely no grasp of the actual argument you think you're responding to. The rapidity of the human brain's evolution, and the strength of the evolutionary pressures responsible for it, are completely irrelevant to the logic behind Plantinga's point, and to all other variations on the Argument From Reason, and if you understood them even a little bit, you'd understand that much at least.

BLS said...

My 2 cents, but it has probably been covered already so whatever.

Plantinga's point (from my POV) is that the truth of a belief is secondary to the actual action it causes. If the action/behavior is "pro-survival," then who cares what belief caused it? It all boils down to the actions that follow. For example if an animal sees a predator, and correctly "appraises" it as a threat, but isn't fast enough to outrun the predator, so much for its beliefs. So what are the odds that animals will "accumulate" enough "true beliefs" or "reliable truth-tracking mechanisms" to develop something like science, or even trial-and error in the first place? If Plantinga is somehow correct, then it means any organism with "beliefs" is in trouble, not just humans.

Still, I prefer the AfR to the EAAN, because I have no idea how Plantinga arrived at the "low or inscrutable" part. And my question to the materialist-naturalist: Is there any evidence that "true beliefs" are more likely to be correlated or "attached to" pro-survival mechanisms than "false beliefs?" (contra Plantinga)

And I think we should leave God out of this. Regardless of what Plantinga says, I think that "Therefore, God" is not the conclusion, but rather "Therefore, ~Materialist-Naturalism" It's not like Theism is the only alternative, see Nagel.

Anonymous said...

Epiphenomenalism maintains beliefs are correlated with such biological features. Eliminative materialism comes closer, but even there the things that correspond to the folk-notion of "belief" are related to brain structures and activity.

Epiphenomenalism entails that the mental is inert in behavior since after all it supervenes on the physical.

Eliminativism denies beliefs exist altogether.

Anonymous said...

Hrafn,

Ah, the [proven track record] of [scientific investigastion] conflated with the delusions of Victorian "progress"[two centuries of successful research]."



The pragmatic results of science do not entail bootstrapping your entire cognitive apparatus. They in fact require the apparatus to be functioning correctly in the first place. What you’re claiming (if you agree with the other anon) science can do is in fact magic.

Science and scientism are two different things by the way. The former is a collection of methodologies, assumptions, data that describe only as small segment of reality, which we use to make technology and medicine. The latter is an ideology that has gained the status of a religion with blind faithful followers such as yourself. The latter in fact, is self-refuting. Do your homework.

Finally, the issue here is about truth seeking and truth obtaining capacities, not pragmatic results of applications of scientific models. So not only have you not corrected anyone, you’ve shown the extend of your falshoods and ignorance.


And how does that compare with the results of the 'Theistic Science' propounded by Plantinga, Moreland and Johnson, and practiced by Behe, Dembski and Axe?



I don’t know. You’re going to have to ask the ID theorists about that. I’m not one of them.

Ever-increasing millions of discoveries and inventions, continually building upon each other versus a scant handful of publications in tame journals, leading to no further discoveries.

It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Here you’re conflating everything that can be “called” science under one umbrella and then have ID juxtaposed to it. Apart from the fact that science is not one uniform thing (contra to the wishful thinking of the scientism faithfuls such as yourself) and apart from the fact that say evolutionary theory is not on the same level as physics this all amounts to a rhetorical point with zero substance.

What do inventions of hydrodynamics have to do with the whole evolution thing? Nothing. Why are you bringing it up? To try and impress us by claiming it’s science, whereby you insert your little darwinism to gain credibility?

I honestly wonder if you even understand science or whether you’re just parroting the usual nonsense in hope to impress us.

Yes, you would be tragic if you weren’t so sad.

BLS said...

From the SEP, in case anyone is interested:

"Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain, but have no effects upon any physical events. Behavior is caused by muscles that contract upon receiving neural impulses, and neural impulses are generated by input from other neurons or from sense organs. On the epiphenomenalist view, mental events play no causal role in this process. Huxley (1874), who held the view, compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive. James (1879), who rejected the view, characterized epiphenomenalists' mental events as not affecting the brain activity that produces them “any more than a shadow reacts upon the steps of the traveller whom it accompanies”."

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epiphenomenalism/

Anonymous said...

hrafn,

Please explain to me how whether "brain is reliable" is a rigorous, well-defined scientific question, such that a scientist would actually be interested in answering it, as opposed to a fuzzy-brained, hopelessly-informal, "not even wrong" idea that only an out-of-touch philosopher could love.

You really have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, do you?

How exactly is a scientist going to investigate the reliability of the brain - more correctly the mind - when he first needs to presuppose that his own mind, since he is a human being, must be working correctly in the first place?

Science is too impotent to address these questions. Your scientism is making you look really bad.

Still waiting for you to explain to me how byproduct evolution helps you overcome my criticisms by the way. My guess is that it doesn't. But lets see.

Anonymous said...

Eduardo,

I notice all you do is assert assert assert.

You never try showing why you think the way you think or why you claim what you are claiming, all you do is say that it is so, then you throw a argument of authority/popularity and think you have have stablished something, seriously this is appaling, and profound evidence that reading about science does not make someone any good at thinking XD.


You pretty much nailed it.

He never seems to provide a cogent argument. He continually commit fallacy after another. He does not seem to understand the limits and operations of science but rather believes in this idealized notion of science that has been discredited, especially by the post-structuralists and anti-positivist and on top of that I don't even think he understands the central problem presented by Plantinga. He probably thinks (at least from what he's saying) that some empirical data will show up as a refutation to the argument.

I

Anonymous said...

Therefore when he claims belief is "invisible to natural selection" it is hard not to interpret it as meaning that all cognition is invisible.

You've really lost your mind. Either that or you're grasping on straws to desperately salvage your naturalism.

Anonymous said...

BLS,

I think that "Therefore, God" is not the conclusion, but rather "Therefore, ~Materialist-Naturalism" It's not like Theism is the only alternative, see Nagel.

I agree that bringing God into this in the way you specify is unnecessary and that the EAAN and AfR are refutations of naturalism. But going from Nagel's teleological view of reality to Theism is only one argument away.

BLS said...

hrafn,

Do you have any examples of byproduct selection that involve beliefs? The malaria example is okay, but I don't think it has much to do with the EAAN. The malaria example shows how a genetic DISorder can contribute to reproductive success.

BLS said...

"The malaria example shows how a genetic DISorder can contribute to reproductive success."

Or rather, how it can be correlated to reproductive success.

What evidence do we have that pro-survival/reproductive behaviors are more likely to be correlated with true beliefs rather than false beliefs?

Anonymous said...

How exactly is a scientist going to investigate the reliability of the brain - more correctly the mind - when he first needs to presuppose that his own mind, since he is a human being, must be working correctly in the first place?


I think the above contains the core of the confusion of Plantiga and his allies here.

The human brain is neither perfectly reliable nor wholly unreliable. There is no such thing as "working correctly" as you phrase it above. Brains are evolved mechanisms for helping organisms survive, and thanks to evolution the ones that are around tend to be good at doing that, which means they tend to track the world fairly accurately, within the limits of their imperfectly evolved machinery.

To repeat myself, “A large chunk of science consists in ways to enhance the senses so that the world can be observed with greater accuracy.” Scientists have imperfect brains, but with instruments and cross-checking they can produce a more accurate picture of the world than an ordinary unenhanced mind can.

Is it that hard to understand that a single person can both be subject to various illusions and be able to understand that they are illusory? When I watch a movie, I can enjoy the motion even though I also know that it is illusory, based on still images being flashed before me at 24 fps.

BLS said...

"The human brain is neither perfectly reliable nor wholly unreliable. There is no such thing as "working correctly" as you phrase it above. Brains are evolved mechanisms for helping organisms survive, and thanks to evolution the ones that are around tend to be good at doing that, which means they tend to track the world fairly accurately, within the limits of their imperfectly evolved machinery."

I don't think Plantinga's argument requires those two extremes, but rather a "leaning" or "preponderance" towards accurate truth-tracking mechanisms.

Perhaps we should rephrase it like this:

How is a scientist going to determine whether or not human cognitive faculties are reliable enough to correctly interpret data, without assuming that their own cognitive faculties are reliable enough to produce a true interpretation of the data?

Perhaps we can get a hypothesis going.

If Human Cognitive Faculties are not reliable, then __________.

Anonymous said...

I think the above contains the core of the confusion of Plantiga and his allies here.

You’re the confused one here, not Plantinga. You don’t even understand the argument it seems – based on your response.

The human brain is neither perfectly reliable nor wholly unreliable. There is no such thing as "working correctly" as you phrase it above.

No one is arguing that it’s perfect. So drop it. When the brain works correctly it simply does what it’s designed to do; fire neurons and the like. So when someone gets a traumatic blow on the brain and it seizes to function correctly he may become impaired in one way or another.

So you’re wrong.


Brains are evolved mechanisms for helping organisms survive, and thanks to evolution the ones that are around tend to be good at doing that,

This is part of Plantinga’s argument that all the darwinist naturalist can say is that cognitive faculties (which you falsely identify with the brain – hint: reductionism is false) are for survival. That’s it.


which means they tend to track the world fairly accurately, 



That is wishful thinking since truth is not identical to survival. So again, you’re wrong. This is something you need to prove not merely assert and to be honest, I don’t think it’s possible to bridge the gap for naturalism.


“A large chunk of science consists in ways to enhance the senses so that the world can be observed with greater accuracy.”

This is correct. Which interestingly is the exact oppose claim that eric made in hope to salvage naturalism and science from the argument.

Scientists have imperfect brains, but with instruments and cross-checking they can produce a more accurate picture of the world than an ordinary unenhanced mind can.



This is merely an assumption that cannot be sustained given naturalism. You’re begging the question big time. Sorry.


Is it that hard to understand that a single person can both be subject to various illusions and be able to understand that they are illusory?

If he understands they are illusions then they are no longer illusions. I don’t even see a point in this statement.


When I watch a movie, I can enjoy the motion even though I also know that it is illusory, based on still images being flashed before me at 24 fps.

And that statement is supposed to salvage naturalism from the EAAN how exactly?

In all honesty, most of what you said is either wrong or a red herring.

Not to mention that you’re begging the question in favor of materialism in regards to references to the brain and begging the questioning terms of having a coherent epistemology, which you don’t.

In short, you assume a lot of thing about naturalism that don’t hold and evidently prove nothing.

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