Monday, May 23, 2011

Plantinga on the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

HT: Kristofer Rasmussen.


Leonhard said...

I'm a naturalist, and so I am quite a bit biased. However I hope my rational faculties are functioning properly enough to comment on this thread without sounding too much like a dunce. (;3)

I must admit at some level I like the EAAN, it strikes deep down on some tough epistemological questions. There's plenty stuff about it that I don't like though, and on the whole I find it very dubious.

What does R mean? That our mind produces more true beliefs than not? Is this the even case? Aren't many if not most of our beliefs proven to be wrong? I find that's often the experiences college students have, or even researchers. Is it different for philosopher students? ;3

Leonhard said...

Isn't it possible that the shape of our minds was selected for a whole other reason than producing reasoning faculties (logic, maths, etc), but to understand language and develop proper theory of minds? "That guy there is my friend and is good with arrows, but I know he's thinking about me thinking about how his sister is thinking about me. If wonder she's thinking about him thinking about me, thinking about her, and worried that if I think about he thinks about me thinking about her, then I'll kill him" I guess you might call that reasoning, though its only semi-conscious and intuitive. You don't know what steps led you to those conclusions, just that its what you're feeling, or is worried about. Plenty of intuitive beliefs are wrong. You have to learn that there's really no ghosts out in he dark, or under your bed. In many cases you can feel conflicts because you know that there's no ghosts out there, yet somewhere deep down your intuition is telling that the dark room is reeeeeeally dangerous.

Leonhard said...

What we call reasoning is an explicitly conscious language driven symbol manipulation process following very special rules that are never violated. If you follow those rules you go from intuitive thinking, to a deterministic and reliable way of thinking. Only certain conclusions are possible from certain starting assumptions. You are aware of all the steps from starting point, to finish point. If your conclusions are wrong (by didactic argument, experiment, experience or revelation) you can then better update your starting assumptions until those problems go away. Of course later you learn about Baysian Reasoning that allows you to update the probabilities on possible worldview models so you have the one that is most likely to fit the evidence. Is that reasoning? Because if that is reasoning, then its a learned ability, not a genetically inherited ability. It piggy backs on our language abilities, but is a learned trait. That's why we have problems with logical fallacies like poisoning the well and ad hominems, (as well the other hundreds of fallacies). Is R high for politicians? All those fallacies stem from our intuitions. "The argument is wrong because he's republican!", "Didn't you know that it was ACLU that headed that court case, it can't have been right!". If you're trained in those fallacies you spot them literally every day in just about every conversation. You end up spotting yourself making them, and you have to update your habits to include error checking.

Leonhard said...

Heck I don't know if I've made errors in these posts. I must be open to the possibility of error at any point. I can't merely take my beliefs as true as I go along. If I did that then I'd still be a ghost believing crank dreaming about over-unity machines and UFO's. Why update my beliefs if I can just assume that they were produced by reliable faculties? If I can't assume that then how can I know when my faculties are reliable or not reliable? If I can do that, then even if most of my beliefs are wrong, why I can't I use that method to properly update my beliefs so that they do end up being more likely to be true? As long as I'm able to use language, I should be able to use any method you propose to tell beliefs arrived at by poorly working faculties, from beliefs produced by reliable faculties.

Sorry for posting back to back like this. ^^;

GREV said...

Nice to see it appears someone new or someone who has not been posting for awhile comment on a thread.

Let us see if the thread stays on track or gets derailed.

GREV said...

The outline is interesting and takes me back to the critique of naturalism and its inability to account for knowledge.

Especially given Darwin's doubts as expressed in the outline. And the question is asked has all the accumulation of evidence since Darwin's time given us any reason for someone like Darwin to be any more encouraged?

Shackleman said...

Mr. Leonhard,

It appears to me that in your posts, you are reasoning your way toward casting doubt on what we reason reasoning to be.

Me thinks you're caught in your own web. :-)

Anonymous said...

Leonhard, you seem to be a naturalist who doubts all, including (I suppose) naturalism. Thus your doubts are consistent with the EAN, since you already seem to be in the state Plantiga proposes the naturalist should find themselves.

Immunity to an argument via sufficient skepticism?

There are many naturalists who do not doubt their certainty about naturalism being true, and it is those the EAN would address.

Leonhard said...

To Shackleman

I can't see that there's any problems with a rational person taking stock of the ways that his reasoning is flawed. If you havn't done this, then you can't be a rational person. Everyone is without exception prone to confirmation bias, selection bias, cognitive dissonance, and various logical fallacies. Without ways of mitigating these tendencies its very unlikely for your reasoning to be sound. Why should it be the opposite? Isn't it precisely because we know that these things exist that we can combat them? Medical trials can be randomized to remove selection biases, placebo effects and biases introduced when the experimenter is aware of whether a patient is in a control group or experimental group. Peer-review can mitigate errors in ones documents, and research papers often have be submitted multiple times before it is cleaned of visible errors. In each round of mutual analysis the number of errors and fallacies must be growing smaller. Do you disagree with any of this? I don't think you can deny anything that I've said.

My real question was even if our reasoning is biased, and error prone can't we then develop better tools of reasoning? If its possible to find out by trial-and-error that some ways of thinking are very unreliable, and others are better, then why can't we simple shift to the better ones? Logic and didactic conversation over intuition, rhetoric and emotivism; Conceptual Analysis over Didactic Conversation; Bayesian reasoning and Empericism over Conceptual Analysis.

Leonhard said...

To Anonymous

The way the EAAN is touted by its followers, and the way Plantinga seems to presents it makes me doubt that its merely to address that naturalists can have certainty that Naturalism is true. Its presented as a sure fire way of defeating Naturalism, since if Naturalism is true and the Natural Theory of Evolution is true, then no one can have any reasons to believe anything. Not merely that they can't be certain, but that it would be extremely unlikely for any of their beliefs to be true, including that Naturalism and the Natural Theory of Evolution are true. If its true that we can reason, then it must be true that Naturalism is false or NTE is false, or both.

Got any citations or articles that shows that what you're saying is true? I'd really like that, because if you're right I'm under the way wrong impression on the scope of the argument.

Personally I don't know enough about the EAAN to know whether the argument works or not. I'm very dubious of his evolutionary thought experiment of a successful mad man. Someone who runs away from tigers because he wants to be their friend. Someone whom in every response thinks about it in wrong way, but then performs an action in just the right way to survive. This seems like a massively unlikely entity for me. How could that person adapt to new challenges? Maybe he'll leave grain out on the dry ground because he wants a meaty steak. When its starts snowing, he'll dive into it because he wants to get away from it and so on. I think Plantinga's argument might have a leg to stand on if evolution was selecting beliefs, but it isn't. Its only selecting genes that express a capacity for something, perhaps like language (though we're not born with innate grammar rules, some of the newer research seems to show). Or intuitive thinking which we know have many flaws, explainable only through evolution 'creatures in the dark','poisoning the well', etc.

Anonymous said...

What a paper asserts and how it's used are two different things. I think it could be what you call a "sure fire" way of defeating _certainty_ about both 20th century naturalism and 20th century evolutionary theory both being true, without alternatives.

As this reference:

Fitelson and Sober points out, a skeptic of naturalism and evolutionary theory would likely think that other theories are possible. This correlates with their criticism in part 1.3 of the above article, where they show that the paper requires a third possibility for one of its formulas-- in your case, the skeptics' "there may be something else that's true" position :)