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April 19th, 2006 | College, Covenant, Flat, Identity | 2 comments

An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

This is the last lecture from Alvin Plantiga’s guest lecture series at Covenant College. My notes from the first lecture were posted a few days ago. Gillikan has also posted his notes from this lecture.

    There is a science–religion conflict

    • Science performs a doxastic job of religion (answers the same questions as religion)
      • Who are we
      • Where do we come from
      • Is there hope?
    • Conflict is in naturalism and evolutionary theory (or any other science)
      • You cannot sensibly accept both naturalism and evolution
      • Naturalism is stronger than atheism. Atheists aren’t necessarily naturalists.
      • Exemplary naturalists
    • Sagan, Gould, Armstrong, Darwin (later), Dewey, Russell, Dennett, Atkins, Dawkins

    The argument

    • Cognitive Faculties
      • Eg perception, sympathy, induction
    • Theists expect cognitive faculties to be mostly reliable
      • Aquinas: “In the image of God in virtue of having an intellect…an image that includes an intellect is most able to imitate God…rational creatures attain a representation of that type…He understands, and so do we”
    • Is there a problem of reliability for the naturalist who thinks that our cognitive faculties are the result of a blind process of random mutation?
      • Dawkins: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
      • Plantinga: Dawkins is wrong
      • The ultimate purpose of our cognitive faculties is not true belief, but maximal fitness.
      • P. Churchland:
      • Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe. It simply penalizes maladaptive behavior with death, and rewards adaptive behavior with survival
      • Darwin say a problem here
    • Argument from Conditional Probability: P (A / B)
      • Argument in Brief: Are our cognitive faculties are Reliable (> 75%) given Naturalism and Evolution
      1. P (R / N & E) is low
      2. If 1 is true, then someone who believes N & E has a defeater for R.
      3. If you have a defeater for R, then you have a defeater for any belief produces by your cognitive faculties, then you have a defeater for all your beliefs
      4. IF you have a defeater for all beliefs, you have a defeater for N & E.
      5. Therefore, N & E is self-defeating.
    • Darwin’s Doubt, Developed
      • Behavior & belief are related
      • Two possibilities for this relationship
        • Semantic Epiphenomenalism (SE)
          • Epiphenomenalism: Beliefs don’t cause behavior.
          • Semantic E: Belief is a Longstanding neural event with two properties:
            • NP: Electoral-chemical or neural-physiological properties (number, signals, state, etc)
            • Content: Belief of proposition P
          • Beliefs cause behavior not by virtue of Content property, but NP property.
          • Example from Dremski: Soprano hits high C, glass shatters. Content or meaning of the sound doesn’t matter. Physical properties of the note causes behavior.
          • P (R/N & E & SE) is low
        • Both Content & NP cause behavior (~SE)
          • P (R/N & E & ~SE) is not much higher.
      • Regarding SE: Theorem of total probability
        • P (R / N & E) = [P (R/N & E & SE) * P (SE / N & E)] + [P (R / N & E & ~SE) * P (~SE / N & E)]
        • Example: [.1 * .8] + [.9 * .2] = .26
      • Regarding ~SE, here are some analogies
        • Suppose we invent God thanks to wish-fulfillment. If wish-fulfillment beliefs are likely false, those beliefs have a defeater.
        • Cartesian Evil Genius: if the evil genius causes all my beliefs, those beliefs have a defeater.
    • Returning to N & E, those beliefs have a defeater.
      • It is irrational to believe N & E.
      • If you accept N & E given P (R / N & E) is low, you have a defeater for any belief you may hold.
      • So, you have a defeater for N & E.
      • Therefore, N & E is irrational.
      • Therefore, there is a religion–science conflict: that between Naturalism and Evolution
    • One who is torn between Naturalism
      • If I accept naturalism, I have good reason to be agnostic about naturalism
      • The traditional theist has no reason to disbelieve cognitive faculties produce true belief. If she believes in evolution, then she believes in an intelligent designer.


    • Evolutionists doesn’t care if P is low; “hurray we won the lottery!”
      • Any defeater of this type is susceptible to that objection.
      • Theists don’t object to arguments that God is highly improbable by saying hurray we won the lottery.
    • What about Clarkian occasionalism?
      • Occasionalism can only apply to theists.
      • If you try to defeat naturalism using Occasionalism, you must appeal beyond theists.
    • How do you handle other causes of adaptation (hedonistic, etc).
      • Given N, SE is highly probable.
      • But then your beliefs are improbable
      • As long as you take a materialist position, you are susceptible to this problem, no matter the motivator of adaptation.
    • Can naturalists give arguments that our cognitive faculties are reliable?
      • How would you do that? You can’t, because any argument presupposes such faculties are reliable.
      • “If a man’s honesty were called into question, it would be ridiculous to refer to the man’s word whether he be honest or not. The same absurdity there is in attempting to prove by any kind of reasoning that our reasoning is not fallacious.”—Reid
    • On the average and aggregate, our faculties appear to be reliable.
      • But that doesn’t help. Sociological investigations don’t confirm anything because my cognitive faculties aren’t reliable.
      • Basically, without reliable faculties you fall into solipsism, no matter what “external” confirmation you get.
    • Does the acceptance of your argument depend on the P of theism?
      • Doesn’t seem to be. It is just a defeater for N & E.
      • The P (fine-tuned universe / N & E) is low
      • P (fine-tuned / T) is high

    April 11th, 2006 | College, Covenant, Philosophy, Rhetoric, Science | No comments