Thursday, February 08, 2007

Argument from reason page and link to Nunley's dissertation

This AFR page from has link to Troy Nunley's dissertation at University of Missouri on the Evoutionary Argument Against Naturalism


Anonymous said...

Only a theist would pervert logic to prove that the rational is actually irrational.

Victor Reppert said...

Did you read Nunley's dissertation that quick? And do you really think this is what Plantinga et al are doing? Any reason for thinking this?

Anonymous said...

'The probability of our being reliable cognitive agents given these origins is low or, at best, inscrutable. But it cannot reasonably be thought to be high. Consequently, the naturalist cannot reasonably hold to the belief that they are reliable cognitive agents'

Certainly the chance of any given species developing highly developed thought processes is very low.

Does this mean it is unreasonable for lottery winners to believe they have won the lottery, because the chance of any named person winning the lottery is very low?

Bilbo Bloggins said...

Yes, it is unreasonable to believe you won the lottery before you find out that you have a winning lottery ticket. But once you find out that you indeed have the winning lottery ticket, it is of course reasonable to maintain this belief. In the former instance, even thought it is true that you won, and you may believe that you won, you are not justified in this belief. In fact, the evidence weighs heavily against the belief. In the latter instance, you have justified true belief.

This is a poor analogy to pose when discussing the origin of our cognitive faculties though. We simply don't already *know* it to be the case that we evolved such capacities in a purely naturalistic evolutionary scenario, such as we know that we've won the lottery in instances like the above where it is reasonable to believe we have. So without begging the question and assuming the naturalistic evolution of our cognitive capacities, such a scenario is improbable, and we are rational to favor other explanations that we think make our cognitive capacities more probable.


Anonymous said...

SO if we get a lottery ticket, we shouldn's assume that it was mere chance that we got it, the assumption that we are special people makes it much more likely that we will win lottery tickets.

Until it is proved to us that there was no supernatural intervention in the drawing of the numbers, the theory that we won because we are special is a much better explanation of our win.

Bilbo Bloggins said...


It is a poor analogy because someone has to win the lottery. The probability that someone will win is 1. So your attempt at a reductio ad absurdum doesn't do very well. This just isn't the case with the development of our cognitive faculties. Think of the atheists attempt to nullify the fine-tuning argument with an exhaustive multiverse. With all of those other universes and their varying constants, one was bound to have life-supporting parameters. We just happened to be in the one that does.


Anonymous said...

The probability that God will grant *some* species cognitive reasoning faculties is 1.

Analagous to the lottery.

So ,as the prior probability of it being any named species is low, this is also analagous to the idea that the prior probability of any named person winning the lottery is low.

So the analogy is perfect.

Lottery winners should think they have been favoured by God.

stunster said...


The point is that we don't know if we've won the cognitive lottery.

If EvoNat is true, then it's very unlikely that we've won the lottery, or even that any winning ticket has been drawn since evolution, ex hypothesi, has only been going for x billion years and will continue for many more billion years. We may only be in the early stages of cosmic evolution. Maybe the winning ticket will only be drawn after 10x billion years.

All we have is a lottery ticket. We can't know if it's a winning ticket merely by examining it under a microscope, or waving it around in a laboratory.

Ants also have a ticket. If EvoNat is true, the chances are that our cognitive equipment is as poor relative to some alien species as we're inclined to believe ant cognitive equipment is relative to our own.

JD Walters said...

I'm concerned this line of reasoning is going too far in the 'skeptical threat' direction. Vic Reppert was right to focus instead on the 'best explanation' of our having reliable cognitive faculties, which is that we are made in the image of God, and that since the world is God's creation we can expect it to be orderly and comprehensible.

On these issues generally I highly recommend Nicholas Maxwell's "The Comprehensibility of the Universe". He is an atheist and physicalist philosopher of science, but what is striking is that he almost brings his argument for physical comprehensibility to the point where it would make most sense to invoke God as the best explanation, but then he backs down through a half-hearted statement of the problem of evil and an equally tenuous dismissal of belief in God as a cosmic parent.

Bilbo Bloggins said...

Anonymous wrote: The probability that God will grant *some* species cognitive reasoning faculties is 1.

Bilbo: And how did you infer this? Further, even if it is the case, the corresponding hypothesis of a person's status as "special" (whatever that means) doesn't seem to guarantee that any specific individual will win the lottery, or even make it probable. So again, poor analogy.