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The Probability your cognitive faculties produce mostly true beliefs given Evolutionary Naturalism

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by ExodusMe, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. ExodusMe

    ExodusMe Rough around the edges

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    Alvin Plantinga's argument against evolutionary naturalism goes something like....
    Evolutionary naturalism is the scientific theory that states humanity is the product of evolution that has occurred over billions of years with the main goal of survival and reproduction. There are several blind mechanisms within evolutionary naturalism that are meant to produce varying biological traits with no aim of their own. Natural selection 'selects' for favorable traits based on survival and reproduction, which enables "evolution". God is not present in this process. There is no direction or guide.

    If evolutionary naturalism (further EM) is true, then our cognitive faculties will have resulted from blind mechanisms like random mutation with the primary goal of the survival of the individual. If this is true, then the probability our cognitive faculties are reliable would be low or inscrutable.

    P(R/N&E) Probability of reliable cognitive faculties given naturalism & evolution = low or inscrutable

    The conclusion is that N&E cannot be rationally accepted as you would have a defeater for your belief that your cognitive faculties are reliable, therefore, you have a defeater for believing N&E.

    This is not an objection to the truth of N&E, but that someone cannot rationally affirm both N&E.

    The response by Quinn & Popper is that the probability of P(R/N&E) would be high considering a species that produces false beliefs would lead to unfavorable behavior. This theory is based on the thought that belief and action are highly correlated and the result would be a natural selection for species with reliable cognitive faculties.

    There are a number of possible ways our beliefs would originate on E&N (taken from Plantinga)
    1) beliefs do not cause behavior (epiphenomenalism: the theory that a person is identified with their physical parts [i.e. you have no mind or soul independent from your body]). This means that your beliefs would be distinct and invisible to E&N as your beliefs would not cause your actions. The probability E&N has selected for true beliefs out of a larger amount of false beliefs would be low (i.e. it is more likely for you to believe one of the host of false beliefs rather than a true belief).
    2) beliefs do indeed cause behavior, but only by virtue of their electro-chemical properties, not by virtue of their content (production of true beliefs low)
    3) beliefs cause behavior by way of content but is maladaptive (production of true beliefs low)
    4) the beliefs of creatures cause their behavior and are also adaptive (The Quinn & Popper response). What is the probability (on this possibility together with N&E) that their cognitive faculties are reliable?

    "Not as high as you might think. Beliefs don't causally produce behavior by themselves; it is beliefs, desires, and other factors that do so together. Then the problem is that there will be any number of different patterns of belief and desire that would issue in the same action; and among those there will be many in which the beliefs are wildly false. Paul is a prehistoric hominid; the exigencies of survival call for him to display tiger avoidance behavior. There will be many behaviors that are appropriate: fleeing, for example, or climbing a steep rock face, or crawling into a hole too small to admit the tiger, or leaping into a handy lake. Pick any such appropriately specific behavior B. Paul engages in B, we think, because, sensible fellow that he is, he has an aversion to being eaten and believes that B is a good means of thwarting the tiger's intentions.
    But clearly this avoidance behavior could result from a thousand other belief-desire combinations: indefinitely many other belief-desire systems fit B equally well. Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it is unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief. Or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a large, friendly, cuddly pussycat and wants to pet it; but he also believes that the best way to pet it is to run away from it. Or perhaps he confuses running towards it with running away from it, believing the action is really running away from it, that it is running towards it; or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a regularly reoccurring illusion, and hoping to keep his weight down, has formed the resolution to run a mile at top speed whenever presented with such an illusion; or perhaps he thinks he is about to take part in a 1600 meter race, wants to win, and believes the appearance of the tiger is the starting signal; or perhaps . . . . Clearly there are any number of belief-cum-desire systems that equally fit a given bit of behavior"


    So if you believe N&E together than you have a defeater for R and, therefore, have a defeater for rationally accepting N&E.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  2. cloudyday2

    cloudyday2 Newbie Supporter

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    I wonder if anybody has created a program to simulate the evolution of "true" beliefs? If the simulation favored decision-making rules that we might consider "true" and punished rules that we might consider "false", then it seems that the we would have an answer that everybody could accept.
     
  3. quatona

    quatona "God"? What do you mean??

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    The highlighted term is a highly questionable representation.
    As far as I understand it, this doesn´t "enable" evolution - this is evolution.
    God is not present in this process. There is no direction or guide.

    Could we possibly get the missing logical steps leading to this conclusion?
    Out of curiosity, I´d also like to learn how you go about calculating such probabilities.

    It seems to me that cognitive faculties that allow us to secure survival actually can be concluded to have some positive correspondence with reality.
     
  4. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    This seems to be similar to CS Lewis' Argument from Reason:

    Naturalism implies everything can be explained by irrational causes. A belief wholely explicable by irrational causes is unreasoned and therefore irrational itself. The only way to accept Naturalism is on the grounds of having reasoned to it, yet by accepting its premises we have rendered all our reasoning faculties to be irrational and unreasoned. There is thus no valid logical reason to accept Naturalism.



    Back to the argument of the thread:
    As to the criticism that evolved cognitive faculties would necessarily correspond to reality, why on earth would it?
    Just because something has a survival advantage does not mean it is true. If a society believes pork poisonous, this may have been a significant advantage in prevalent cysticercosis, but is not actually true.
    We may say that if someone ventures near a cliff, it would be advantageous not to fall off it and it thus approaches the reality to stay away from it and realise 'cliff' or 'height' as concepts. This though assumes that this is an association, that the concepts thus are real, instead of abstractions useful for the evolutionary imperitive not to cease to procreate. We cannot determine their actuality, merely their evolutionary utility.

    Regardless, if we think something in one sense, but we only do so on account of our material makeup, we cannot conclude it a logical conclusion as it is based on the permutations of irrational matter. There is thus no way to determine validity and thus no way to determine correspondance to reality at all. One can only do so if we start with a petitio principii: if we conclude that our thinking is valid, it corresponds to reality as we perceive it, therefore our valid thinking corresponds to reality. Such reasoning is innately flawed and silly.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  5. quatona

    quatona "God"? What do you mean??

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    Don´t add hyperbole to my statement. I didn´t say "necessarily" - I just made the case that a perception of reality that works has a good chance of being accurate.
    Agreed. We are, however, dealing with the claim that it´s untrue.

    ...and this association can be observed to be accurate: Falling off a cliff typically will result in injury or death. We don´t need no God to tell us that, and if God told us the opposite, I´d still go with these observations.
    "Real"?? They are an accurate interpretation of reality, and work reliably for the given purpose of avoiding death.
    I can also determine their individual utility, and the fact that a certain idea proves time and again that it serves the intended purposes is - in epistemological terms - completely sufficient, as far as I am concerned.

    We don´t jump off cliffs, and that seems to be a good idea, no matter whether this behaviour is brought to us by evolution or by divine intelligence infusion.

    Yeah, it´s made of the same cloth as the subjects it deals with. I consider that a pro rather than a con in terms of correlation.
    I don´t consider it a "logical conclusion", I consider "jumping off a cliff is dangerous for your health" an observable fact.
    Ok, so you are postulating some kind of epistemological nihilism. Cliffs might not exist, we might not exist. Good luck with escaping that hole you have dug yourself in.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  6. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Please qualify your statement. Why does it have a good chance of being accurate? How do you determine it "works"?

    We are dealing with its validity though, so what is true for Peter is true for Paul.

    These are all examples of petitio principii. You are assuming reality, assuming sufficiency and based thereon determine acceptability of your notions. We may reason that it is a good idea not to jump off cliffs, not derive it from evolutionary instinct or praedicent experience per se. Similarly our observations are only valid if we can show them to correspond to reality, something which you are assuming but not as such shown to be the case.

    Not at all. I am a theist. This is the hole the Naturalist finds himself in though.
     
  7. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Duplicate.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  8. Petros2015

    Petros2015 Active Member

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    Heh. You could call the simulation program 'Parent'.
     
  9. quatona

    quatona "God"? What do you mean??

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    No no. You made the claim that the chance that it´s accurate is extremely low. I am waiting for the logic behind it.
    Like, when I have the hypothesis that water boils at 100°, and experience confirms it time and again, that´s what I mean by "It works".
    How do you go about it?


    That´s why we prefer intersubjective evidence.


    Yeah sure. And you don´t?

    And you don´t?
    but not as such shown to be the case.[/quote]
    Can you?


    Just adding another petitio prinicipii to the ones we both rely on doesn´t solve the problem of having to work from such principles.
    Let´s see your solution then - one that works without a petitio prinicipii. I´m all ears.

    On another note, I´m neither a theist nor a naturalist.

    I`m pretty pragmatic about these things. I am fine with assuming there to be a reality. When I say reality, I am talking about that which presents itself as our reality - the frame of reference within which I seek for accuracy of my understanding. If this reality is just a dream then I am happy to live that dream. It seems so undeniably real to me, you know - the non-existent me jumping off a non-existent cliff hurts just as much a an existent me jumping of an existing cliff would.
     
  10. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Where did I make this claim of inaccuracy? Please enlighten me. I did say it cannot be shown to be accurate though. You however DID make the claim it is accurate.

    This is not determining that "perception of reality" (in your words) is working, this is only your perception itself.


    I fail to see how adding such a buzz word as intersubjective clarifies or alters the argument here at all.


    Just saying 'Tu quoque' does not invalidate anything I said. My argument has been the inherent flaws in the naturalist position, so my own views here are quite frankly irrelevant. They would be unacceptable to you anyway, as they are based on God - which is of course not a petitio principii but based on faith nonetheless.

    So we are in agreement. Naturalism is inconsistant and experience based on it cannot be shown to be a valid representation of reality.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  11. DogmaHunter

    DogmaHunter Code Monkey

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    Completely false.

    If our cognitive faculties would be unreliable, then we would not survive.
    We wouldn't, for example, recognise fire for what it is and simply walk in and die as a result.

    See, your chances of survival raise exponentially as you become better at recognising dangerous situations, food sources, etc. You don't recognise such things for what they are, if your cognitive faculties are unreliable. You'ld die.

    It seems to me that you are COMPLETELY ignoring the crucial role of Natural Selection in this process. Natural selection would select against those organisms with unreliable cognitive faculties.


    You are correct in one particular sense... That sense being the almost universal tendency in animals of engaging in a type 1 cognitive error: the false positive. This is true especially for creatures that aren't at the top of the food chain and are considered lunch by a lot of predators.

    The age old, but great, example of hearing a noise in the bushes. Is it just the wind? Or is it a dangerous predator sneaking up on me?

    Those who don't wait to find out and "gather more intel", but simply assume that it IS a dangerous predator, will run away. Those are the ones that will survive if the noise WAS a dangerous predator. So this type of false positive increases your chances of survival.

    This is the very basis of superstition in general. To assume patterns / connections where they might not actually exist. To assume intent, to infuse agency. While it might just be the wind after all. No pattern, no intent, no agency.

    Nevertheless, even that tendency to be superstitious doesn't really fall under the idea of our faculties being "unreliable". In the end - all the signs are there and correctly "absorbed" by the senses: there IS a noise and it might mean something.
     
  12. DogmaHunter

    DogmaHunter Code Monkey

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    By it's results.

    People who believe that jumping of cliffs is harmless, generally don't live very long.

    What's the alternative? Assuming reality isn't real?

    The cognitive faculties are derived from evolution. That's what you use to process observations/experience into conclusions.

    Err, an observation necessarily corresponds to reality... after all, the observation is a thing witnessed IN reality, is it not?

    I think you meant to say "explanation" or "conclusion" of those observations, need to correspond to reality.

    News to me.
     
  13. ExodusMe

    ExodusMe Rough around the edges

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    :scratch: Seems like you didn't even read the OP. Read it again please. Especially the final few paragraphs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  14. ExodusMe

    ExodusMe Rough around the edges

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    Plantinga shows that there are any number of belief-desire combinations that a person could produce in order to survive without them being true. I am sure our beliefs do have a correlation to the probability of survival. The problem is that the probability those beliefs would be true (and your cognitive faculties being reliable in this sense) would be low or inscrutable on N&E.

    To create this program in a controlled scientific experiment is one thing, but to have it occur through evolution would be highly improbable.

    Take Plantinga's tiger example. There are a large combination of beliefs and desires that could result in a favorable scenario for the survival of a human and most of them would be false beliefs. His examples are pretty funny.

    Suppose when I see a tiger I think it is a cuddly animal that I want to pet, but I believe I am running towards it, but I am actually running away from it. This would allow me to escape the tiger with a false belief that permitted my survival. The possibilities are endless.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  15. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    See the argument from reason above. Evolutionarily-derived cognitive function cannot derive rational valid conclusions by the logical implication of assuming such cognitive functioning to be merely effects of irrational matter. If we derive conclusions merely because matter and nerve function is aligned a certain way, we have no reason to trust such conclusions as they are not inherently valid, but dependant on evolutionary process or impulse or iterations that may have been completely different with a completely different conclusion thus being drawn, in spite of the same proposition.

    Have you ever heard of Plato's analogy of the Cave? Or heard of hallucinations? Observation merely means receiving sense-data, but there is no reason to simply conclude such data inherently or necessarily corresponds to reality.
     
  16. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    I have my doubts if anyone ever created such a simulation that it would create a religious AI.

    If evolution is acting upon the brain to produce religious thought, we should find a correlation between people being prone to be religious and passing on their genes, which says nothing about the objective truth of the religious claims.

    Cognitive faculties produce somewhat reliable information about the world (reliable enough to improve fitness astronomically), but are not entirely reliable given that they lead directly to incorrect conclusions all the time.

    It's not an either/or proposition. That which is not entirely reliable is not therefore completely unreliable.

    Without constant conscious study and careful thinking our faculties are in fact not very reliable at all. It requires a lot of cross checking, failure, and dead ends, to be effective, much like evolution itself.

    The fact is that brains can be pretty unreliable. Look at Alvin himself, he's got a high functioning one and he can't get out of his own way with this absurd conclusion.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  17. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    All you would have to do is derive the idea of rationality and logic from being able to observe the world and trying to predict events and circumstances in it.

    A brain better suited for this is suited for deriving logic too.

    So, the idea that we can't get to logic from biology built for observation and reactions to an environment we find ourselves in is specious at best.

    The idea that the brain as a biological system arrived at through trial and error in an environment would therefore be bad at sensing, reacting and making predictions in that same environment seems pretty odd.

    Some of our logicians I think don't seem to understand that the basic rules of logic are things we observe about the world around us.

    There is no problem at all with evolution leading to the development of brains with all the basic ability's that you would need to construct logic or rationality.

    The argument is flatly absurd. If evolution can produce a brain capable of sensing, reacting and predicting it's environment, than it can produce us, and it can produce our way of thinking.

    How "reliable" that way of thinking generally is in practice when forming beliefs, I'll leave that to your observation.

    In my experience the systems of thought most capable of producing reliable beliefs rely on trying to reduce the subjective influence of any one given brain over the process and relying on objective evidence accessible to all and repeated demonstration of utility.

    However, most people, meaning most brains, believe all sorts incorrect things.

    How reliable evolution was in producing brains good at getting at true beliefs is indeed in doubt.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  18. quatona

    quatona "God"? What do you mean??

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    Yeah, sure. As soon as you can come up with a way for humans to bypass their perception, we can start talking about this fact being a flaw of a certain idea. Until then, instead of chopping off the branch I´m sitting on you are sawing off the tree we all sit on.





    It invalidates your implicit assertion that this is a problem exclusive to a certain view, and that your view is the solution to it.
    ...whereas you actually pointed out an inherent issue coming with the human condition.
    ...and faith can be shown to be a reliable means of epistemology?


    Not really.
    You´ve got that half-right, at best.
     
  19. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    You misconstrue. For rationality to exist, then 'A therefore B' or 'B following from A' must be a true causal relationship accepted on account of our reasoning. If 'A therefore C' could just as well have been the case or 'A therefore not B' if the genes had fallen differently, then we cannot determine if this is the case. It thus throws all our rational decision making and logical relations into doubt if we materially derive our reason.
    It is not that you can't get logic from a brain built to adapt to environments and so forth, it is that we cannot therefore have faith in our conclusions if that is the case; and the only reason to hold the proposition would be on the grounds of our own reasoning which we have thus fatally undercut. This means that we cannot thus consider it rational as something is only rational if derived from rationality, from definitive logical causality which we can no longer establish as such. If I hit my head and believe myself English, this is irrational, but if I think myself English because my neuronal functioning happens to be arranged in this manner, then this is functionally the same. It would only be rational if we reached the conclusion by logical implication, which solely materially-derived thought process negates.
     
  20. DogmaHunter

    DogmaHunter Code Monkey

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    That smells like a genetic fallacy.
    Reasoning, which is a brain function, has physical underpinnings in the brain. It seems like you are saying that because it has physical underpinnings, it can't be reliable.

    Your assertion makes no sense.

    No.

    Yes. They aren't observations. They are hallucinations (=brainfarts).

    Sure. A hallucination is not that. There's no receiving of data. There's only imagination of data.
     
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