Sunday, February 07, 2010

Does Evolution Select for Truth?

Quine thought so. "Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic, but praiseworthy, tendency to die before reproducing their kind."

From a Logical Point of View

55 comments:

Bilbo said...

This seems to be most relevant to Plantinga's EAAN. But I like what you do in your book, when you get to Plantinga's version. As I recall, you shift to the non-obvious truths about the world, that wouldn't be relevant to our ability to survive.

David said...

seductions and inductions are not always linked

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:
There's no way this can be true. If it were so, then right wing republicans would have become extinct a generation ago at the very least!

David said...

As RWR, it's probably because I'm better at seduction and have figured a way to make enough cash to enjoy reproducing.

Anonymous said...

It seems clear that natural selection selects nervous systems which promote survival. It seems equally clear that a evolved complex system like our brain will always look as if it knows some truths, e.g. that animal x is dangerous. But are parts of a nervous system thus evolved literally true? I think not. Candidates for truth are mental states, propositions, meaning of sentences, and the like. Those are in some manner linked or correlated to a nervous system thus selectes, they arise out of nomological, logical or metaphysical necessity out of the nervous system. But this correlation is not in itself visible to natural selection, it is propably constant over time in a universe.
So it seems natural selection selects for truth-look-alikes (brains that behave as if they knew truths) and we need a further explanation to get actual truths out of this. Given truth in the traditional sense Quine was wrong.

Mike Darus said...

Does it seem odd to the naturalist that the arguably most evolved ethical ideas promote compassion, support and encouraging the survival of the weaker and disadvantaged members of the species? Why is it that disabled children have such an emotional pull on us? What draws us to the plight of those with genetic diseases? How do we manage to appreciate relationships with those with mental limitations? We can't seem to live with a strict survival of the fittest mentality. Are we just being foolish? It has to be tough to live consistently as a naturalist.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Mike: it's tricky to draw inferences from natural selection, which picks genetic variants, to individual brains, which are the basis of such altruistic behavior. One doesn't imply anything, in any direct way, about the other.

Those in the mood for speculative stories about how such psychological traits could be selected in evolution, just pick up any standard evolutionary psychology book and there will likely be a large section on altruism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I agree with Bilbo. It's harder to make the case for the selection of truth-sensitive brains when it comes to unobservables like electrons and real numbers.

Blaise said...

"Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic, but praiseworthy, tendency to die before reproducing their kind."

This must be the reason why the birth rates of atheists are so low.

Blaise said...

If evolution does not select for truth, naturalism fails apriori. If evolution does select for truth, naturalism fails aposteriori.

So either way, naturalism fails.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:
Blaise has a point. In the decades since Europe became "post-Christian" and atheism is in fashion, the birth rate there has plummeted far below the replacement rate. Immigrants (from mainly Islamic countries) with very high birth rates are filling the gap. At this rate, Europe as we have known it will have committed suicide before the end of the century.
This is not intended as a racist, anti-immigration rant, but merely as an observation that atheism is self-destructing.

Bilbo said...

Professor Reppert,

I wonder if you think Plantinga's EAAN is in trouble unless he's willing to shift to unobservable knowledge?

Bilbo said...

...er...I mean knowledge of unobservables.

Anonymous said...

"In the decades since Europe became "post-Christian" and atheism is in fashion, the birth rate there has plummeted far below the replacement rate. Immigrants (from mainly Islamic countries) with very high birth rates are filling the gap. At this rate, Europe as we have known it will have committed suicide before the end of the century.
This is not intended as a racist, anti-immigration rant, but merely as an observation that atheism is self-destructing."

But what role the replacement rate has with atheism? Birth rate is low (and below the replacement rate) also within many religious groups in Europe (there are of course some exceptions, but as a general rule). Birth date has much to do with women's education and pension scheme. And women's are better educated in Europe than in USA on average.

Tom said...

There can be a survival advantage of having a true representation of the world. Biology can help us to see the world correctly in two ways.

First it can hardcode some rules into our brains. Babies as young as a few months seem to have understanding of gravity for example.

Second it can make the brains quick to extract the truths, rules, laws from the world around us. We all quickly acquire an intuitive understanding of the world without necessity of physics classes.

Neither of these does necessitate that the rules we obtain will be true to the scientific standards, they just need to be useful. And lies can be as useful or even more useful than the truths.

Many people have innate, irrational fear of snakes or spiders even though they never saw one. The rule "all snakes are dangerous" is false but it's much more useful than the truth "some snakes are dangerous".

Our visual systems can be easily tricked with optical illusions that warp and belie the world we observe. But those very "lying" systems let us make quick and correct decisions in most situations.

Nature doesn't care about electrons if they don't directly affect our existence so it need not be concerned with the truths about them. There is an infinity of truths to be known about any object. Infinitely many of those are totally useless.

The real numbers are not real. The truths about real numbers are as true as the truths about chess or english language.

Blaise Pascal said...

"But what role the replacement rate has with atheism? Birth rate is low (and below the replacement rate) also within many religious groups in Europe (there are of course some exceptions, but as a general rule)."

Thats not true for religious groups that adhere to traditional values and ethics. But its true that many religious groups have been secularized (anglicans, mainstream protestants, even catholicism has a problem with secularization) and their birthrates have been falling for years now, as well as their membership numbers. If the catholic church pressed her people to adhere more to her doctrine, the birthrates of catholics would be skyrocketing.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:
I don't think the issue here is with doctrine - even amongst Catholics. I suspect that the real reason that atheists tend to have less children than religious believers is that for a true atheist, this life is "all there is", and therefore whatever maximizes the comfort and enjoyment of this one and only existence is to be pursued, and whatever detracts from it, to be avoided. Since by that criterion, children are more trouble than their worth (the real return mostly occurs after one's own demise), there is little incentive to have them. But for someone who believes death is not the end, then descendants become something very much worth having.
(A horribly simplified, if not simplistic, argument, but I'm not about to write a thesis in a blog posting.)

Tom said...

What exactly are the real returns from children that come after one's demise?
Are you suggesting that atheists don't love their children or don't care if they do well in the world? I think the problem might be the opposite. Secular, educated parents care so much for their children that they have only one so they can focus all their resources and energies on her.
Where as religious parents the commandment to multiply makes them throw caution to the wind, and they will have more children even though they know that they don't have enough food for all of them. They believe that God will provide, God will raise them and if something goes wrong it's God's will. They did their part by providing the sperm and egg, the rest is up to God.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob that's just bogus reasoning.

Most relevant for your argument, as an atheist who wants to have at most three kids (my first on the way in July), I look at that as one of the few ways I can have a lasting legacy and impact after I die, because my influence will have cultural ripples through my children through future generations. This is pretty common with atheists, and humans that I know.

But for reasons to not have 30 kids, that would be unethical for many reasons. Also, we tend not to buy into weird doctrines about birth control, so tend to have all pregnancies excessively well planned out. Atheists probably also include more working women in their ranks rather than taking on traditional homemaker roles.

But the first thing above pretty much kills your argument. As an atheist it's not like I think the future doesn't exist. Indeed, it will, and if anything I am more pressed to make my mark while I am here, to make my mark in this world, as I have no belief that I will survive to enjoy anything once my neurons die.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I hope I don't have to point out that nobody can take the atheism=bad evolution argument seriously. Once we talk about atheism/theism we aren't talking about heritable traits, but cultural artifacts and beliefs, which are not subject to rules of selection.

I was hoping I didn't have to say that, but it isn't clear who is being facetious versus serious in these blogs sometimes.

The religious Eunuchs would be at the bottom of the barrel evolutionarily if we took this stuff seriously. :P

Tom said...

I wouldn't be so sure that atheism or theism aren't inheritable. There is a very strong correlation in belief in God in identical twins vs. fraternal twins.

I am not saying that a particular religion could be inherited but predisposition towards supernatural, spirituality or logical/mathematical thinking seem like a fair game for the genes.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:
Blue devil has missed my point entirely. I'm not speaking of individuals right now, but of broad social trends. I'm putting on my Hari Seldon hat right now, and referring to how a civilization as a whole responds to a particular input (e.g., atheism). The fact that you personally might want three children is completely irrelevant, just as my own distaste for rap music has no bearing on how american culture as a whole responds to it.

Blaise Pascal said...

I think Bob Propkin is right. Of course, doctrine is not the only factor in the equation, the atheistic outlook plays a role too. Surely, there are more factors.

"I hope I don't have to point out that nobody can take the atheism=bad evolution argument seriously. Once we talk about atheism/theism we aren't talking about heritable traits, but cultural artifacts and beliefs, which are not subject to rules of selection."

I disagree. Culture and belief are very much transmitted from generation to generation. It doesnt matter how it is inherited, whether by genes or by oral or written transmission. In the end it is only the behaviour that counts. If culture and beliefs lead to behaviours with more survival value, the culture will most probably stay. In case of humans the culture plays a much bigger role than in any other animal. There is not much difference in the bodily constitution of humans. Humans dont have any instincts on which alone they could survive. Human survival very much depends on the surival utility of his cultural artifacts and beliefs.

Now, under the assumption that evolution selects for truth, and that atheism is true, shouldnt it be the case that atheistic cultures are more likely to survive than deeply religious cultures, contrary to the observed fact? The conclusion is: either atheism is not true, or evolution does not select for truth. But in the latter case, atheism cannot be true either as is shown by Platinga.

Anonymous said...

Pascal wrote:

"Thats not true for religious groups that adhere to traditional values and ethics. But its true that many religious groups have been secularized (anglicans, mainstream protestants, even catholicism has a problem with secularization) and their birthrates have been falling for years now, as well as their membership numbers"

No, it's true also for many religious groups that adhere to traditional values and ethics. I'm European. And in my own religious group (it is not secularized) the birth rates are also low nowadays. I'm speaking about people who are active in their church. In my country there is only a few religious groups, whose average birth rate (per woman) is more than 2 (in those groups many woman are not educated in university or college; in my own religious group most women have university degree). In most religious groups birth rate is also under than 2 in my home country.

Blaise Pascal said...

"No, it's true also for many religious groups that adhere to traditional values and ethics. "

This depends what you mean by "traditional values and ethics". I mean by this phrase the values and ethics of Catholicism. No other religion is more traditional than that. Well, perhaps orthodox judaism. But in this case its precepts are to the same end.

You can find a very good summary of catholic values here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

There you will read:

"338. For what ends has God instituted Matrimony?

The marital union of man and woman, which is founded and endowed with its own proper laws by the Creator, is by its very nature ordered to the communion and good of the couple and to the generation and education of children. According to the original divine plan this conjugal union is indissoluble, as Jesus Christ affirmed: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9)."

"347. What sins are gravely opposed to the sacrament of Matrimony?

Adultery and polygamy are opposed to the sacrament of matrimony because they contradict the equal dignity of man and woman and the unity and exclusivity of married love. Other sins include the deliberate refusal of one’s procreative potential which deprives conjugal love of the gift of children and divorce which goes against the indissolubility of marriage."
(emphasis is mine)

If a group adheres to this doctrine, it cannot fail to have a sufficiently high enough birthrate.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Blaise: Lamarkianism is wrong. Natural selection operates on population-level genotypes, not ideas such as 'theism' or whatever. Yes, you could go the route of Dawkins and make an argument that "memes" follow similar dynamics to genes, but that's a different topic.

Bob: My response wasn't just some personal statement, but an expression of a common sentiment among nonbelievers. Perhaps you don't know a lot of atheists because your characterization of them is a bit strange.

Atheists aren't some weird hedonistic bunch focused on creature comforts in the present. They want to be connected to culture, tradition, history, and the future in meaningful ways. One of the major ways to do this is via family and by implication, children. Perhaps some try to do it through their graduate students and publications. :O

They have fewer kids, though, for the reasons I stated, which you didn't address. To repeat the reasons atheists tend to not have lots of kids:
1. It is unethical to have a lot of kids for environmental reasons, and because it is harder to take care of them well (partly for reasons below).
2. Atheist females are more likely to be full-time workers.
3. No weird phobias about birth control, so things tend to be extremely well-planned, and prevented.
4. No belief in the need to be 'fruitful and multiply' for its own sake.


Also, I hate to do it but I wonder if atheists are more likely to take the morning after pill or get abortions when contraception fails. That is, birth control fails, they have less of a moral qualm with abortion. On the other hand, this may just be a prejudice, because the less religious nations have much fewer abortions than in the US. But that may be because they don't have the same hangups about contraception as many in the US. Indeed, there was one study, admittedly by a biased researcher, that suggests abortion frequency in a country was correlated with proportion of people that pray, have a strong belief in God, etc..

Hence, the hunch most of us would likely have (that atheists are more likely to have abortions) may well be wrong.

Another study, also by a biased source, concluded that within the US, religious and nonreligious have abortions at the same rate (though Catholics ironically are more likely).

I'm not pushing the results of these surveys too hard, because I haven't looked into the methodology, but I had to bring up this issue as one possible reason for lower birth rates among atheists. My initial intuition was that they would have more, but the research (for what it's worth) suggests it isn't true. My hunch is atheists have a lot fewer unplanned pregnancies, because we are happy to use contraception, so don't need abortions as much.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:
Blue Devil,
I believe we are talking past each other here. I am not speaking of "atheists" per se, that is, as individuals. I am speaking of "civilizations" which are broadly atheistic, as is contemporary Britain and (to a lesser extent) continental Europe, or broadly "religious", such as the Middle East or Latin America.

Tom said...

How come religious became a synonym for Christian. There are other religions that don't have a problem with abortion or embryonic stem cell research for that matter.
Even the Bible says that blood is the essence of life (life of the flesh is in the blood) which doesn't appear until a month after conception.

How do u interpret India/China? However u categorize them as religious or non religious they don't seem to have a problem with growth. And talk about orthodox, their religions are much older than Christianity or even Judaism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes Tom excellent point. I was focusing on Western theistic versus nontheistic. I'm not sure of Hindu views of things like birth control, to the extent that they exist.

Bob: I don't understand your argument then. I think my explanations work on the level of populations of theists versus nontheists (in western countries, to absorb Tom's good point). I'm not sure what you mean by "civilization" and how that would change things.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note also that to the extent that you have an alternate explanation (versus a completely different topic), all of my explanations, plus yours, could be part of the truth. Likely it depends on the "civilization" (and the atheist).

Tom said...

Although dissecting different population growths in different religions/cultures is fun I don't think anybody here argues seriously that it has anything to do with the truth about God/religion. If that were the case then the Chinese and Indians beat Christianity on all fronts but even they are no match for rats, herrings or ants :)

As far as the human population goes I would agree that the deciding factor would be the education and not religion.

Blaise Pascal said...

Blue Devil Knight: To Wikipedia Lamarckism seems alive and well :)

-----

I have said it already, but maybe i wasnt clear enough: its only the behaviour that matters to survival (this is the starting point of Platingas argument), and as long as the behavioural patterns are transmitted in some way, the principles of evolution apply. Remember, Darwin had no clue about genetics, neither did Mendel knew anything about DNA. Its only about inheritance and behaviour, no matter by what mechanism.

But even your point leads to the same conclusion. Under naturalism, mental phenomena are just epiphenomena of physico-biological states. Your mental phenomena are merely functions of your brain. Now to rephrase the argument in your terminology: if evolution selects for truth, then population-level genotypes with brains that "produce" true mental states are more likely to survive than not. It follow, that if atheistic populations don't survive, then there must be something wrong with their brains under the given asumptions. Their atheistic belief is just the epiphenomenon of their disordered brains. (Sorry, I dont want to offensive. I'm just using naturalistic vocabulary.)

Tom said...

Brains hold millions of facts and opinions at any given time many of them are false. Why does it follow that it's the validity of religious opinions that decide of the survival?

From examples given above it looks like the religious beliefs have nothing to do with birth rates as both religious and secular societies suffer from low rates (white Americans and Europe) and on the other hand religious and secular societies suffer from population explosions (India and China).

This suggests that it must be something other than religion that influences the the birth rates.

Also I gave several examples where selecting for false beliefs gives one a survival advantage therefore the whole notion of evolution selecting for truth seems discredited.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tom makes a great point, and generally the argument that atheism a heritable trait is not worth engaging it is confused at so many levels. Maybe if it were morning and I had the energy, but not when it's about time to go home.

Tom said...

In Europe the highest population growth is in (in order)
Turkey (religious)
Iceland (secular)
Ireland (religious)
Switzerland (secular)
Poland (religious) <- one of the lowest rates in the world

Where is the pattern? Actually there is a pattern. Africa has rates triple that of Europe. The poorer less educated the country the higher the birth rate.

Blaise Pascal said...

Tom: "Also I gave several examples where selecting for false beliefs gives one a survival advantage therefore the whole notion of evolution selecting for truth seems discredited."

I agree with that. I'm just speaking under the assumption that evolution select for truth. Thats not really my position. As i have said myself its only the behavior that counts, not the truth values of epiphenomena. (This whole notion of epiphenomena is not my position either. But again, i'm speaking under the assumption of naturalism).

What pertains to India and China: I think we should compare like with like. There are many other factors that contribute to the birth rate. Since we cannot make experiments in this area, we have to select countries with similar conditions. That is, we shouldnt compare developing countries with industrialised countries etc.. The best specimens in this area are the fully developed western countries (+japan), because here there are no external pressures for procreation (in most underdeveloped countries children are your only insurance against illness and old age).

----

Besides, there is something wrong with your statistics. Poland has by no means the lowest birthrate in the world. Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, much less than Poland.

Here is a good website that specifically deals with religion and evolution, there is also nice graph that shows clearly the correlation between religous belief and fertility (within one country):

http://www.wikireligiosus.eu/index.php/Reproductive_advantage

This is a real phenomon and research activity in the area of religion and evolution is growing.

See also the article below that agrees that religious people are more fertily than non-religious:
----

Blue Devil Knight: So you deny that cultural beliefs and practises can be transmitted from generation to generation? This seems very counterintuitive to me, how do you explain these facts then:

-Religions and culture are geographicaly clustered.

-"Earlier this year a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly three-quarters of American adults professed the religion in which they were raised."

http://www.moreintelligentlife.com/story/faith-equals-fertility

Nobel prize winner Hayek seems to agree with me:

"Exactly as biological traits of the body developped if they enhanced procreation, if they augmented what biologists like to call >reproductive advantage<, cultural elements have been selected according to the principle, that naturally those human groups multiplied faster that were sustained by institutions favourable to multiplying."

http://www.wikireligiosus.eu/index.php/Reproductive_advantage
----

Tom said...

Pascal, I didn't do the studies myself I just copied them from wikipedia:
Germany = 1.36
Poland = 1.23

Maybe u have some other source, just show it. I never said That Polands was the lowest rate just one of the lowest. There are a few countries that rank below and the lowest is in Macao (0.91). I picked a few countries for contrast.

So if u don't subscribe to the original assumption, and it looks like not many ppl here do, why argue from that position? To make it look even wronger? R u playing devil's advocate? I don't really understand what ur argument is here. Is it that religious societies r more fertile (the original truth proposition being irrelevant)?

If that's yr position then yr not arguing on topic any more. U say evolution does not select for truth but by the way religious societies have higher fertility rates. What's the connection? Are u just saying stuff?

Second, the list I provided contradicts even this argument. Is it yr argument that African nations r by far the most religious nations on the planet? Are they the most evolutionarily fit?

However I agree with u that culture, ideas can spread in a way genes do and the same laws of evolution can apply. Still irrelevant since we both agree that evolution DOES NOT select for the truth.

Anonymous said...

The birth rate numbers of Poland are right.

"If you asked many people which countries are the most Catholic and traditional in Europe, they would probably answer either Ireland or Poland. And in many respects they would be right.

Anna Jurczak, who has six-month-old twin boys
Women's expectations of men are changing, says Anna Jurczak
According to surveys, around two-thirds of Poles go to church every Sunday and 70% say that family and children are the most important things in their lives.

But while birth rates have been falling steadily across the continent for decades, the fertility rate in Ireland is now 1.98, not too far off the population replacement level of 2.1. In Poland, it's just 1.23, among the bottom five in Europe."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4852924.stm

Blaise Pascal said...

Tom: I dont know how i came under the impression that Germanys birthrate is only the second or third lowest in Europe. I thought i have seen this figure in an economics lecture.

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&language=de&pcode=tsdde220&plugin=1

Polands birthrate was only higher than Germanys in 2008: Germany 1.38; Poland 1.39;

----
"So if u don't subscribe to the original assumption, and it looks like not many ppl here do, why argue from that position? To make it look even wronger?"

Because it bolsters the case for theism. The only escape route, a naturalist has, is to maintain that evolution selects for truth, however dubious that is. But this positions will aposteriori lead to a refutation of his naturalistic belief.

"I don't really understand what ur argument is here."

Propably you should have read then more carefully what i have written:
"If evolution does not select for truth, naturalism fails apriori. If evolution does select for truth, naturalism fails aposteriori."

I argued for the second part.

"Second, the list I provided contradicts even this argument."

Are you serious?! Have you looked into the links that i have provided? Do you really think that this little list trumps the proffessional studies carried out in this area?

Blaise Pascal said...

"A higher number of children among the religious has been detected in all nations participating in the World Value Surveys and extreme cases as the Shakers (all-celibate, declining) or the Amish (highly fertile, expanding exponentially) verified the hypotheses of intra-religious selection. "

http://www.wikireligiosus.eu/index.php/Reproductive_advantage

Tom said...

Pascal, nice table, looks like Poland's numbers r going up. Are you saying that they r getting more religious? From what I heard it's the opposite but I am sure that there r studies that will prove me wrong and as we know no study was ever wrong.

How is the statement "evolution does not select for truth" disprove evolution?

It's as ridiculous as saying "evolution selects for truth, my brain is a product of evolution, my brain tells me that 2+2=4 which is demonstrably true, therefore evolution is true".

Selecting for truth doesn't mean that everything becomes true in the process, nor not selecting for truth means that there is no truth left in the world. Is this really yr argument?

But since yr saying that u believe that evolution DOES NOT select for truth and religious societies seem to have evolutionary advantage then by yr own logic u believe that religious societies r not right/true :)

I leave the untangling of yr own logic to u as a homework :)

Blaise Pascal said...

"How is the statement "evolution does not select for truth" disprove evolution? "

You seem to be confused. I'm arguing against naturalism. The rest of your points have been answered already either implicitly or explicitly. Please, read more carefully and dont jump to unwarranted conclussions.

Tom said...

Well, I read your posts and I am still jumping to the same conclusions.

U say that if evolution selects for truth and atheism is true then evolution will select atheism to increase chances of survival, am I right? But that's not true. "Select for truth" does not mean that truth and only truth shall be selected.

Let's say evolution does select for truth and atheism is true and atheist societies are failing. It does not follow that they r failing because of atheism or that atheism is not true. Atheism is not the only thing that was selected. So atheism could be super true but it could not overcome several other false conditions.

Also, u make a mistake equating high reproduction with survival/advantage/truth. The Chinese were reproducing at an awesome clip and that was what would assure their demise. As a measure of self preservation they curtailed their reproduction rate.

So ur right, I am confused. Please, can u spell it out clearly for me? Thanks.

Blaise Pascal said...

"Also, u make a mistake equating high reproduction with survival/advantage/truth. The Chinese were reproducing at an awesome clip and that was what would assure their demise. As a measure of self preservation they curtailed their reproduction rate."

I have never equated high production with truth. Evolutionary success consists in nothing more than survival.

"But that's not true. "Select for truth" does not mean that truth and only truth shall be selected. "

Agreed. It will mean that surviving populations have more true beliefs than dead populations. As long a population is alive, its in the race. Doesnt matter how big it is.


"Let's say evolution does select for truth and atheism is true and atheist societies are failing. It does not follow that they r failing because of atheism or that atheism is not true. Atheism is not the only thing that was selected. So atheism could be super true but it could not overcome several other false conditions."

Well, it has to be something with the atheistic belief system as distinguished from the metaphysical beliefs of religous people. If you vary the factor religion in a population, you will directly vary the chances of survival of this population (in an envirenment without other pressures to reproduction). I agree there may be other beliefs that are wrong and would decrease somehow the chances of survival under the given assumptions, but since both the religious and areligious are in the same culture, these factors equally affect both. It has to be something with their beliefs by which they are distinguished from one another.

At least we could say that there is something wrong with the atheistic belief system, assuming truth selection and naturalism. But since atheists are not a group with a homogenous belief system, as they proud themselfes, and the only thing that is common to them is disbelief in supernatural powers, including god, whom we are to obey, and an afterlife, in which we get our deserved rewards and punishments, and they are all equally failing on an evolutionary scale, these beliefs are propably the wrong beliefs that somehow cause their extinction by changing their attidude to life or whatever. (Assuming evolution etc...)

Blaise Pascal said...

An interesting quote from St. Paul:

Romans 1,18-32:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;"

It is clear that one of the natural functions of man and women is procreation.

Nature is in such a way ordered that atheistic populations cannot survive in a natural way.

Tom said...

Interesting quote? Yes. Relevant? No.

"I have never equated high production with truth. Evolutionary success consists in nothing more than survival."
But u still seem to equate it with survival. Not true. It's the same as eating. Eating is our means of survival but that does not mean that eating more will lead to better survival. You can eat yourself to death. Reproducing more does not mean u r being more successful or surviving better.

" surviving populations have more true beliefs than dead populations. " Not true. Imagine a population that beliefs r all 100% true plus a belief that everyone should commit a suicide at age 12. Or a real life example the Shakers.

"atheists are not a group with a homogenous belief system, as they proud themselfes, and the only thing that is common to them is disbelief in supernatural powers"
So let's say the atheists r so diverse that the ONLY thing in common they have is the rejection of spiritualism. Are u saying that in that whole population there is no couple that has more than one child? I personally know more than a dozen. That means that atheism does not stop them from having kids at all. The converse is true too. If there r religious people that have fewer than two children as most priests for example or shakers that means that religious beliefs alone cannot account for for whether somebody reproduced adequately or not.

Blaise Pascal said...

Propably we misunterstand each other. What do you think are the implications of the premiss that evolution selects for truth?

Tom said...

U mean how would one test the proposition?

To disprove it one would have to find false ideas that r selected for their evolutionary advantage, which is easily done.

Or r u asking how the world would look like if it were true? I am not sure how it would look like. It's a little absurd to imagine since the statement is clearly false. Maybe anyone who tells a lie or holds false beliefs becomes sterile?

Blaise Pascal said...

"Or r u asking how the world would look like if it were true? I am not sure how it would look like. It's a little absurd to imagine since the statement is clearly false. Maybe anyone who tells a lie or holds false beliefs becomes sterile?"

Ok. Now lets take two populations. Call them A and B. A is becoming sterile and is dying out. B is alive and well, all other things being equal. What population is more likely to hold true beliefs? A or B?

Tom said...

Is the only way a population can become sterile by telling a lie? Then, I would say A has a propensity to lie.

Oh, but yr saying that all things r equal, the only difference is the rate of lying. In that case also A would be the lying one.

Blaise Pascal said...

We agree! This was broadly my whole argument.

To summarize: If evolution selects for truth, then a population that has a propensity to falsehood, will somehow get sterile. Now, empirically speaking, atheists (=A) are getting sterile (contraception, abortion etc..) and are dying out, but religious people (=B) are alive and well. Therefore, if evolution selects for truth, atheist have a propensity to falsehood.

(I dont say "lie", because this implies a deliberate falsehood.)

You might call this a futile mental excersise, but i at least find this interesting.

Tom said...

Oh, I see so yr argument goes like this:
In a make-believe world where evolution selects for truth there r two populations let's call them "the priests" and "the hedonists". The priests mystically seem sterilized and the hedonists r multiplying like bunnies. Some hedonists talk to the priests and join them and their reproduction rates instantly drop to zero. The only explanation that makes sense is that "the priests" hold some dangerous false beliefs.

Sure, in the make believe world this argument makes total sense. But why bring in the REAL world data into this argument unless u think it's NOT make believe but somehow applies to the real world?

Blaise Pascal said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

Get it or forget it.

Good bye.

Tom said...

OK, I get it. You were making a reductio ad absurdum argument to clearly show that evolution does not select for truth:
If evolution selects for truth that leads to the absurd conclusion that the atheists go extinct and the believers rule. (The argument is full of holes but let's roll with it. )
But then why bring in the real world data that contradicts your own argument? Unless u were trying to be really absurd and not make any sense...

Shackleman said...

Tom,

Pardon the interruption, but please, for the love of all that's good in the world, please stop this internet shorthand ridiculousness. It's a distraction and a nuisance.

u for you
r for are
yr for your
yr for you're

It cheapens your message and makes it difficult to read.