I find Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism (it should probably be called the ‘evolutionary argument against correct belief formation’, but I’ll get to that in a second) to be perfectly permissible (with certain revisions). This might come as a shock to some, considering that I am an open agnostic atheist about gods. In fact, I am far more of an apathist in spirit, for positing the existence of gods is a non-explanation for, I think, a non-problem. Plantinga’s argument boils down to little more than an attack against assumptions in epistemology, not against ‘naturalism’: evolution and our traditional theories of knowledge are incompatible.
Archive for the ‘evolution’ Category
With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind , which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? (Charles Darwin)
One must tear them away from the reality to which they have become accustomed to and cause them to see everything anew. … but one has to do everything, one has to create a situation that threatens them. … For knowledge, whatever it is worth, from the most precise mathematics to the darkest suggestions of art, is not to calm the soul but to create a state of vibration and tension in it. (Witold Gombrowicz, Diary)
If evolution can force a group of organisms into a local maximum determined by some path it went down long ago, if life evolved an inherently inefficient mechanism, it would be stuck with it — you can’t start over without scrapping the whole project. This, I think, can be made analogous to scientific theories:
If we assume that science is interested in the overarching goal of attaining interesting truths, but we cannot know when or if we have acquired these interesting truths, then we have to settle for eliminating interesting falsehoods. Imagine we have a graph with different labels for the x, y, and z, coordinates. What do they stand for? I don’t know. I’m not a mathematician. Perhaps we can have verisimilitude, logical content, and something else I can’t be bothered to think of right now. It might not be able to be expressed in three dimensions. More might be needed. It’s not something that bothers me — it’s for creating a mental image of the possible theories available. Something like this.
I don’t think we’re here for anything. We’re just products of evolution. You can say, “Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose,” but I’m anticipating a pretty good lunch. (Dr. James Watson, from Recurial)
… There was never a time in the pre-DNA era when a lot of us biologists sat around the table and said ‘Let us first clearly DEFINE life before we explore it.’ We just went out there, forged ahead and FOUND OUT what it was. It’s no doubt good to have a rough idea of what one is talking about but matters of terminology are best left to philosophers who spend most of their time on such things. Indeed clear definitions often EMERGE from empirical research. We now no longer quibble over questions like is a virus REALLY alive. (Dr. Francis Crick, The Astonishing Francis Crick)