From evolution to belief

How reliable do you think your cognitive facilities are? Your eyes, ears, etc? Your brain,  memory and mental processes? According to philosopher of religion Alvin Plantinga, not very good. He asserts any belief you form using these facilities is as likely to be untrue as it is to be true. “A probability of 0.5” he says – like a magician pulling a rabbit out of hat.

But it gets worse. For some reason he thinks your beliefs are formed randomly – so “If I have one thousand independent beliefs, for example, the probability (under these conditions) that three quarters or more of these beliefs are true will be less than 10–58.” When he considers only 100 independent beliefs “the probability that three-quarters of them are true, given that the probability of any one’s being true is one half, is very low, something like .000001.”

So, you wonder – how the hell do you get by? You are in the middle of the road, a bus is speeding towards you, but the chance of your cognitive facilities leading you to believe you are in danger is minuscule. You are just as likely to belief you are having a pleasant bath – or a gazillion other things.

Guided evolution

That doesn’t sound right, does it? Something is fishy here. Surely natural selection will have weeded out organisms which had such poor cognitive facilities millions of years ago. Well, according to Plantinga, no! Unless evolution was guided by his god! He just thinks that unguided evolution is incapable of producing reliable cognitive facilities. In fact, he claims evolutionary science supports him saying: “The scientific theory of evolution just as such is entirely compatible with the thought that God has guided and orchestrated the course of evolution, planned and directed it, in such a way as to achieve the ends he intends.”

He argues that unguided evolution is “prohibitively improbable.” Not surprising to see that he has a soft spot for Michael Behe‘s irreducible complexity argument against evolutionary science (and for “intelligent design”). Plantinga’s recent book ( Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism) is full of theological pretzel twisting, motivated logic, unsupported logical possibilities, probability assumptions, cherry-picked quotations, and bald statements supporting his claims. But, unhappily for many of this theological supporters, he is also very careful to include qualifications for almost all his claims and arguments. This gives him deniability, wriggle room, but makes it difficult for his supporters to find supporting evidence for his claims.

Here I will deal with just his claim that evolution via inherited variation and natural section is incapable of producing reliable cognitive facilities. Even here he claims he is not arguing: “that unguided evolution could not produce creatures with reliable belief-producing faculties; I very much doubt that it could, but that it couldn’t is neither a premise nor the conclusion of my argument.”

Still, that is exactly what he does argue. He says “it is improbable, given naturalism and evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable.” That his god “could have brought it about that our cognitive faculties evolve by natural selection, and evolve in such a way that it is natural for us to form beliefs about the supernatural in general and God himself in particular.” “that God has created us in such a way that we come to know him; and the function of the cognitive processes, whatever they are, that ordinarily produce belief in God in us is to provide us with true belief.” And “According to John Calvin, God has created us with a “sensus divinitatis,” a natural tendency to form belief in God.”

So you can see where he is going with this. Belief in a god seems to be an indicator that your cognitive system is working well, whereas non-belief shows its not! You atheists have something missing from your brain.

Naive survival argument

Plantinga’s argument centres on a naive interpretation of natural selection:

“We might think that our evolutionary origin guarantees or strongly supports the thought that our basic cognitive faculties are reliable: if they weren’t, how could we have survived and reproduced? But this is clearly an error,  . . . . . Natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, behavior that conduces to survival and reproduction; it has no interest in our having true beliefs.”

And his followers see that as a key premise in his argument.

However, if a particular inheritable variation is selected because it aids survival or increases number of offspring this does not prevent that particular variation contributing to the life of the organism in other ways.  A cat’s paw enables it to move, to pursue prey and avoid predators but this in no way prevent cats from using their paws in grooming.

We can understand how selected variations in our ancestors perception organs, brains, and the rest of their body, would have had survival and reproduction values.  Tool-making abilities, a thickened pre-frontal cortex, language abilities, self-reflection and recall of memories would have contributed greatly to the natural selection of our ancestors.

But once selected, not only did our ancestors become more social, more able to communicate and more able to change their environment with the tools they created. They also were able to use their perception and cognitive faculties in a more advanced way. To formulate more detailed pictures of their environment and to check out the accuracy of those ideas or beliefs. And to pass on this knowledge to their offspring.

It is just overwhelmingly naive not to recognise the wider implications of variations selected by the evolutionary process beyond survival and reproduction. And it is dishonest to cherry-pick, as Plantinga does, quotes from evolutionary scientists and philosophers which stress the role of survival and reproduction in natural selection as if there were no other consequences for the evolution of the selected organisms.

Why is it so hard to see the natural selection of intelligence in our ancestors has lead to huge technological and cultural changes quite above and beyond its value for survival and reproduction? Why should Plantinga accept that unguided evolution can lead to intelligence for its value in survival and reproduction but drag in the concept of guided evolution by his god to explain the resulting cultural, technological and social changes?

Reliability of cognitive facilities – something more than chance.

I find weird Plantinga’s idea that guidance of evolution by his god is necessary for our cognitive faculties to produce reliable results. Even weirder that in the absence of such guidance natural selection would produce cognitive faculties which caused us to adopt beliefs completely randomly. Surely such faulty cognitive faculties would have been selected against? And those organisms whose cognitive faculties produced a sufficiently reliable picture of reality (or belief) to enable survival and reproduction would have been selected for.

Plantinga confuses his argument by steadfastly referring to “belief” and “true belief” whereas the day-to-day life of an organism requires (usually unconscious) perception or knowledge of its environment and reaction to what it perceives. In effect, the organism, and particularly a species like humans, is continually forming a mental image or model of its environment. The accuracy of this model relies on the abilities of the perception organs, the unconscious aggregation of perceptions and memories to form a mental image and the amount of conscious deliberation. We can be sure that this knowledge never amounts to a completely accurate model of reality. All sorts of practical assumptions are made for the sake of efficiency. And animals like us are just not able to perceive bacteria and molecules, let alone atoms or subatomic particles.

So our mental model of reality will always be imperfect. It can never be identified with Plantinga’s “true belief.” But it is good enough for what we are doing – surviving, reproducing, making tools, telling stories, formulating theories, etc. And we quite naturally pay special attention when we need to fill out details. Or we can resort to tools and instruments which aid our perceptions.

If natural selection working on genetic variation has produced animals capable of surviving and reproducing by using their perception organs, intelligence, memory and imagination why should it be impossible (as Plantinga claims) for such animals to form “belief”, or knowledge about reality, which, for all practical purposes, can be considered “true?” Why does he claim guidance by his god is necessary?

Theistic evolution?

When I hear this term “theistic evolution” used I never know what is intended. At one end it could just be that a person who claims to believe in theistic evolution is only saying they accept evolutionary science, while at the same time they are a Christian. Perhaps its just a way of avoiding criticism from their fellow church members. An assurance that their acceptance of evolutionary science does not signal rejection of their faith.

The adjective “theistic” is actually unnecessary – except for social purposes. One could equally say they believed in “theistic gravity,” “theistic chemical reactions,” etc. Sounds silly – but I guess social pressure produces silly conventions and scientifically meaningless terms.

At the other end of the spectrum I think the person is actually claiming a belief similar to Plantinga’s. That evolution is actually impossible without divine interference, specifically guidance from their god. They may imagine that their god actually fiddles with the atoms in an organism’s DNA, or aids selection with a flood, collision of an asteroid or a volcanic eruption or two. Even, as some of these people claim, the divine injection of determinism into quantum indeterminacy

Of course, people who claim such guidance is required for evolution to work just don’t accept the current scientific understanding of the evolutionary process which is very much unguided (except through the natural selection process). If adherents of “theistic evolution” mean this, something like Plantinga’s “evolution” then they don’t accept evolutionary science.

And that’s why I just don’t like the term “theistic evolution” and am always suspicious of people who describe themselves that way.

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14 responses to “From evolution to belief

  1. I know you are a scientist and all, and I know that most modern day scientists are terrible philosophers, but at least understand what type of form Plantinga’s argument actually is:

    You say “How reliable do you think your cognitive facilities are? Your eyes, ears, etc? Your brain, memory and mental processes? According to philosopher of religion Alvin Plantinga, not very good. He asserts any belief you form using these facilities is as likely to be untrue as it is to be true. “A probability of 0.5″ he says – like a magician pulling a rabbit out of hat.”

    Good Lord, It’s plainly obvious you don’t understand, I guess I can make this simple by doing this:

    Atheist uses the Problem of Evil against Theists to give an argument against the existence of God, but the atheist doesn’t actually think God exists

    Plantinga uses Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism to give an argument against naturalism, but Plantinga doesn’t actually think naturalism is true

    Wow……..speechless…. well no offense but you are an abject layman that needs a hand, perhaps I can help.

    I believe you need a bit more instruction in formal logic, this will go over propositional logic and argumentation



  2. Cornell, you are getting pretty giddy there with your circular arguments.

    It doesn’t matter what Plantinga does or doesn’t believe about the existence of his god, goblins or whatever. He in no way justifies extreme claims that there is only a 50% chance of one’s picture of reality being reliable or “less than 10–58” chance of 3/4 of our beliefs being correct if variation and natural selection is unguided.

    Evolutionary science (which understand the processes as unguided) has no trouble understanding how selection for survival and reproduction can produce species which are conscious, thinking, reflective, self-aware and intelligent. No problem at all.

    Plantinga pulls these figures out off a hat, without any justification at all, because he wishes to support his argument that evolutionary processes must have been guided.

    According to Glenn, this is the basis of his whole argument – and it fails. Rubbish in – Rubbish out.

    (Mind you, as I mention – even here Plantinga maintains deniability!

    Do you think Francis Collins describes himself as a theistic evolutionist? If so, does he accept evolutionary science as other evolutionary biologists do (unguided) or does he think his god interferes to guide variation and selection as Plantinga does?


  3. “Do you think Francis Collins describes himself as a theistic evolutionist? If so, does he accept evolutionary science as other evolutionary biologists do (unguided) or does he think his god interferes to guide variation and selection as Plantinga does?”

    Perhaps you can take a look at the link I left you, this way I can safely say that you are advocating the principle of charity towards my posts. I’m sorry, but if I feel you are just hand waving there is no point in continuing.

    “It doesn’t matter what Plantinga does or doesn’t believe about the existence of his god, goblins or whatever. He in no way justifies extreme claims that there is only a 50% chance of one’s picture of reality being reliable or “less than 10–58” chance of 3/4 of our beliefs being correct if variation and natural selection is unguided.”

    What you listed is part of Plantinga’s rebuttal to an objection from reductive materialism given naturalism regarding his Premise 1

    Plantinga’s BRILLIANT argument is as follows:

    P = probability
    N = Naturalism
    R = proposition that are cognitive faculties are reliable
    E = proposition that we and our cognitive faculties have come to be in the way proposed by the contemporary scientific theory of evolution

    1) P (R/N&E) is low
    2) Anyone who accepts (believes) N&E and sees that P (R/N&E) is low has a defeater for R
    3) Anyone who has a defeater for R has a defeater for any other belief she thinks she has, including N&E itself
    4) If one who accepts N&E thereby acquires a defeater for N&E, N&E is self-defeating and can’t rationally be accepted.

    Conclusion: N&E can’t rationally be accepted.

    Now I’ll be away for awhile so I don’t know when I can continue this (probably this weekend) , but it appears you have a problem with Premise 1, yes?


  4. *correction on my first sentence in my reply*

    What you listed is part of Plantinga’s rebuttal to an objection from NON-reductive materialism given naturalism regarding his Premise 1


  5. Cornell, all along I have been asking for justification of Plantinga’s premises. You guys have avoided he issue -partly because in almost every argument Plantinga puts in a deniability clause.

    Now Plantinga claims that unguided evolution cannot lead to reliable perception of reality – (and yet later he claims he is not claiming that!). But he does nothing to justify his claim except to argue that evolution selects for survival and reproduction – not for reliable belief.

    That’s why he gets to a silly position of claiming reliable belief is almost completely impossible and ignores the fact that without reliable belief the organism would just be be selected. He just contradictions evolutionary science to squeeze in his god.

    He has not jus field his premise (1). Either have you (telling as you have had plenty if opportunity, Glenn ran away when we got don to the premise).

    As I said Plantinga’s naive formulation is a perfect example if rubbish in – rubbish out. The ability to count to 4 or use FLAs is a theological substitute for evidence and just doesn’t work.


  6. Cornell, you are the one who raised the issue of Francis Collins -nit me. He is no longer running Biologos so your link is irrelevant.

    It’s surely a simple question for you to answer.

    After all, how could he have done his job in practice if he did not accept evolutionary science – which does not include guidance of goblins, flying spaghetti monsters or your god?

    In practice he acts like my first formal definition – a believer who accepts evolutionary science rather than someone who has a different definition of evolutionary science (like Plantinga).


  7. “Cornell, you are the one who raised the issue of Francis Collins -nit me. He is no longer running Biologos so your link is irrelevant.”

    He resigned because he become director of the National Institutes of Health ROFL.

    “After all, how could he have done his job in practice if he did not accept evolutionary science – which does not include guidance of goblins, flying spaghetti monsters or your god?”

    BEcause goblins and flying speghetti monsters are a bad analogy to God, I’ve already went over this many, many, times with you.

    As a rule, an analogy needs to be analogous to have any potency.

    Goblin = physical being living in our world
    Goblin = a creature
    Goblin = contingent being
    Goblin = was born
    Goblin = mentally limitted
    Goblin = has some power

    God shares NONE of these characteristics. In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find ANY AT ALL!!! So when there is nothing analogous so how can it be an analogy?

    “In practice he acts like my first formal definition – a believer who accepts evolutionary science rather than someone who has a different definition of evolutionary science (like Plantinga).”

    Sure you can say that about Collins, he is a Theist that accepts evolution just like these scientists:

    Simon Conway Morris, from Cambridge

    Ken Miller

    Denis Alexander


  8. Probability thesis (the premise you have a problem with) from Wade’s layout:

    N&E and Semantic Epiphenomenalism

    Why think Pr(R|N&E) is low or inscrutable? Ordinarily one might think that true beliefs help us survive. That certainly is the case if beliefs are causally relevant to behavior (e.g. I believe this plant is poisonous so I won’t eat it). But if the truth of our beliefs has no such causal relevance, then such a factor will be invisible to natural selection. The content of our beliefs could be anything, true or not, and it wouldn’t affect our behavior. Whether the belief’s content is 2 + 2 = 4, 2 + 2 = 67, or 2 + 2 = 4096 would make no difference to how we behave. If that is true, then Pr(R|N&E) is low.

    Enter something called semantic epiphenomenalism (SE). Call the syntax of a belief its neurophysiological (NP) properties; the number of neurons involved in a belief, their rate of firing, etc. Call the semantics of a belief its content, e.g. the belief that p is true for some proposition p. Such a proposition might be, for example, “snow is white.” Semantic epiphenomenalism says that while the syntax of our beliefs is casually relevant to behavior, the semantics of our beliefs are not. Under naturalism, is semantic epiphenomenalism true? It would seem to be. If naturalism is true, then materialism with respect to human beings is true (i.e. we are purely physical beings, having no nonphysical minds or souls). Plantinga writes, “it is extremely hard to envisage a way, given materialism, in which the content of a belief could get causally involved in behavior. According to materialism, a belief is a neural structure of some kind–a structure that somehow possesses content. But how can its content get involved in the causal chain leading to behavior? Had a given such structure had a different content, one thinks, its causal contribution to behavior would be the same. Suppose my belief naturalism is all the rage these days–the neuronal structure that does in fact display that content–had had the same neurophysiological properties but some entirely different content: perhaps nobody believes naturalism nowadays. Would that have made any difference to its role in the causation of behavior? It is hard to see how: there would have been the same electrical impulses traveling down the same neural pathways, issuing in the same muscular contractions. It is therefore exceedingly hard to see how semantic epiphenomenalism can be avoided, given N&E.” If materialism with respect to human beings is true, our beliefs being causally relevant would be as illusory as libertarian free will.

    To help guard against bias towards our own species, think not of us but of some alien creatures where N&E is true with respect to them. Let RA be “the cognitive faculties of the aliens are reliable.” For any given set of NP properties that causes advantageous behavior, if the associated semantic belief were (perhaps per impossibile) “bachelors are married” or “grass is air” or “2 + 2 = 1” or “2 + 2 = 2” or “2 + 2 = 3” the behavior would be the same. It would appear very plausible then that Pr(RA|N&E), or at least Pr(RA|N&E&SE), is low. Though on N&E&SE it would still be possible for the substantial bulk of semantic beliefs to be true, it would seem to be the most serendipitous of coincidences if that were to occur. Similarly, it would be unlikely on N&E&SE that our own cognitive faculties would be reliable.

    One might argue that SE is false. Certainly I agree that it is false, but it seems like it would be true if naturalism were true. It’s hard to see how one’s behavior would be different if all the neurophysiological properties were held constant but the semantic properties varied. Perhaps one thinks that the semantics just is the syntax. I do not find that at all plausible; to me it seems that syntax and semantics are as distinct as an electron’s mass and electric charge. Still, let’s ignore that. It turns out we don’t need SE to justify the Probability Thesis because even without it we get something functionally equivalent to SE.

    N&E and Semantic Pseudo-Epiphenomenalism

    Suppose a mad scientist creates an artificial neurophysiological device (ANPD), a many-tentacled device implanted near Smith’s brainstem that controls both his thoughts and behavior. The mad scientist can remotely control the ANPD’s electrochemical processes to vary Smith’s beliefs and behavior in innumerable and diverse ways. For example, Smith is dehydrated, and the mad scientist, wanting his victim to be in good health, uses the ANPD to force Smith to drink some water while simultaneously making him believe “I am thirsty and this water will quench my thirst.” The second time Smith is dehydrated, the mad scientist uses a different electrochemical setting to make Smith believe “drinking this water will grant me superpowers in the afterlife” while producing the same drinking behavior (and suppose this belief is false). Here, the electrochemical process that produces fitness-enhancing behavior also produces a false belief. The ANPD can even produce “garbage” semantic beliefs that have little to do with the forced behavior, such as making Bill believe that “grass is air” or that “1 + 1 = 3” at the same time it causes Smith to drink the water. The third time Smith is dehydrated the mad scientist does just that; causing Smith to drink the water while also causing him to believe “1 + 1 = 3.” Indeed, the mad scientist can associate just about any belief with the same drinking behavior. Such an artificial neurophysiological device is not only metaphysically possible, but it also seems to be physically possible (given that beliefs and behavior can be brought about by electrochemical means).

    The ANPD scenario shows that false beliefs can be associated with fitness-enhancing behavior, even to the point where the false beliefs are garbage beliefs (beliefs that are wildly unrelated to the external environment, as in dreams). But if the scenario’s artificial neurophysiology is physically possible, then it is at least metaphysically possible for an evolved creature’s natural neurophysiology to have the same “disconnect” between semantics and behavior. So even if SE were false, in a purely physical view of the mind the spirit of semantic epiphenomenalism remains: for any given behavior B, there are innumerably many semantic contents C—even C’s wildly unrelated to the external environment—that could be associated with B. Additionally, it is in this way possible for fitness-enhancing behavior to be associated with garbage semantic beliefs. One could argue that the relation between semantic content and behavior is in this way functionally equivalent to SE in spite of the falsity of SE. Call this view semantic pseudo-epiphenomenalism (SPE). The ANPD scenario suggests that given naturalism, if semantic epiphenomenalism is not true, then semantic pseudo-epiphenomenalism is, with both giving us SE-like behavior. Both semantic epiphenomenalism and semantic pseudo-epiphenomenalism permit a great divorce between beliefs and behavior (think of the third and final case in the ANPD scenario). Upon reflection it’s very easy to envisage a set of moving atoms that create advantageous behavior while producing beliefs unrelated to the external world, and it’s easy to take for granted our rather fortunate truth-conducive relationship between belief and behavior because it is so familiar to us.

    To again avoid bias our own species, think not of us but of alien creatures on some other world where N&E&SPE holds for them. While it’s easy to assume that beliefs and behavior would be linked in a “rational” manner (e.g. a man believes water will quench his thirst so he drinks), there’s nothing on N&E&SE or N&E&SPE alone to believe such a link would occur for the aliens (whose physiology, we may presume, differs from ours), since both SE and SPE easily allow garbage beliefs to be connected with advantageous behavior. Because SPE is functionally equivalent to SE, and given the enormous variety of diverse beliefs that could be associated with a given behavior (“bachelors are married,” “grass is air,” “2 + 2 = 1,” “2 + 2 = 2,” “2 + 2 = 3,” etc.) an evolving race of alien creatures afflicted with SPE has a low probability of evolving reliable cognitive faculties just as if they were afflicted with SE. In sum, naturalism entails that either SE or SPE is true, and since Pr(RA|N&E&SE) and Pr(RA|N&E&SPE) are low or at best inscrutable, it follows that Pr(RA|N&E) is likewise low/inscrutable. But then if Pr(RA|N&E) is low/inscrutable, then Pr(R|N&E) is also low/inscrutable (since, as with the case of the aliens, we are considering the likelihood of R on N&E without further information).

    In response one could put forth the following rebuttal. Even though naturalism unavoidably entails an SE-type problem—whether via semantic epiphenomenalism or semantic pseudo-epiphenomenalism—the fitness-enhancing neurophysiological properties that are most likely to be selected by natural selection (say that a certain neurophysiology is selectable just in case it’s likely to be selected by natural selection) happen to be those that are truth-conducive. The ANPD scenario is contrived and produces certain belief-behavior pairs that are unlikely to obtain in real human physiology. The most selectable and efficient way for neurophysiology to produce advantageous behavior also produces true beliefs. Thus, even though the SE-type situation exists for semantics and behavior, luckily for us the physiological relation between semantics and behavior is such that true beliefs usually obtain.

    All that may be true, but as an objection against the Probability Thesis it falls short. A major problem is that even if a favorable physiological relation between beliefs and behavior obtains for our species, such a favorable relation does not appear to be knowable from N&E alone. To illustrate, consider a planet with aliens whose neurophysiology radically different from ours (though we don’t know much more about it). Given this, the ANPD scenario, and the SE-like situation for beliefs and behavior, for all we know the most selectable and efficient fitness-enhancing alien neurophysiology available to natural selection has a physiological relation between beliefs and behavior that is wildly different from what human naturalists believes about themselves. So there are possible worlds where the most selectable alien neurophysiology is such that the fitness-enhancing neurophysiology produces mostly false beliefs as in the ANPD scenario. Of course, there are also possible worlds where the most selectable alien neurophysiology produces mostly true beliefs. But there’s no way to establish on N&E alone that the truth-conducive neurophysiology is more selectable, in part because the alien neurophysiology is too mysterious and too radically different from our own.

    Moreover, if we temporarily forget our own beneficial belief-behavior relationship to calculate the likelihood of RA on just N&E and thus without any (further?) background knowledge about what sorts of physiological relations between beliefs and behavior obtain in actual N&E worlds, we would have no reason to suppose Pr(RA|N&E) is high regardless of whether we assume semantic epiphenomenalism or semantic pseudo-epiphenomenalism. Indeed, in light of the ANPD scenario the semantic beliefs of the aliens could (at least in the epistemic sense) be just about anything, and thus Pr(RA|N&E) is low or at best inscrutable. Similarly, Pr(R|N&E) is also low/inscrutable.

    One could concede that the probability of R given N&E is low but also claim we know some proposition P (perhaps that the physiological relation between beliefs and behavior happens to be benevolent for our species) such that Pr(R|N&E&P) is high, and we have excellent reason to believe that P is true. Therefore, Pr(R|N&E) being low/inscrutable does not defeat R for the evolutionary naturalist. This however would be an objection against the defeater thesis rather than the probability thesis, so it will not be discussed in this section.

    We can summarize the argument for the Probability Thesis as follows:1.Naturalism entails that either SE or SPE is true, i.e. Pr(SE or SPE|N) = 1.
    2.Pr(RA|N&E&SE) is low or at best inscrutable
    3.Pr(RA|N&E&SPE) is low or at best inscrutable
    4.If (1), (2), and (3), then Pr(RA|N&E) is low/inscrutable.
    5.If Pr(RA|N&E) is low/inscrutable, then Pr(R|N&E) is low/inscrutable.
    6.Therefore, Pr(RA|N&E) is low/inscrutable (follows from 1-4).

    7.Therefore, Pr(R|N&E) is low/inscrutable (follows from 5 and 6).
    The argument is deductively valid; the conclusion follows logically and necessarily from the premises. The premises are plausibly true, and so we have reason to accept the Probability Thesis


  9. ^now you have something to work with, till next time

    You have to at least give me some courtesy here, you should realize by now that I am indeed one who searches for truth and I’m not here to play games with you, and hopefully you will give me the same respect. I believe mutual respect goes far, and I hold dearly to the principle of charity when I’m in a more SERIOUS form of argumentation.



  10. Cornell,

    Don’t worry. I don’t censor things here and don’t suffer from the anger problem Glenn has and am actually interested in this specific debate – from the science angle. That’s why I keep coming back to the complete lack of evidence Plantinga has for his premise. And neither you, Glenn or the Orpheus who attacked me on Glen’s blog are able to overcome that problem.


  11. Cornell – OK, you seem to agree with me. Collins if he has the same position as Ken Miller, will disagree with Plantinga. Those people aren’t exactly expressing support for Plantinga’s guided evolution and attempt to exclude non-believers from science, are they?

    Please take some time to understand that I don’t think your god, goblins, flying spaghetti monsters, erc., are analogies for each other. I use them to simply to point out that reliance on logical possibility alone and ignoring requirements for evidence enable one to postulate any old “explanation”. Each as viable as the other, and equally silly.


  12. Seems, Wade has also disappeared. And you don’t understand what Wade is arguing here, do you? If it was clear to you your own words would have been used, wouldn’t they?

    This sort of rubbish may go down well with the theologically inclined but it is not evidence. That argument ignores the obvious fact that organisms whose perception and modelling of their surroundings is so faulty would be selected against, not for. Obviously, they could just not survive let alone reproduce.

    There is no problem seeing that evolutionary processes can produce organisms whose cognitive systems are relatively reliable. We can see how unguided evolutionary processes as understood in evolutionary science can lead to intelligent, self-aware, conscious animals like us.

    The sort of convoluted theological pretzel twisting you quote is just that – its not evidence. It has no relation to reality at all.


  13. “And you don’t understand what Wade is arguing here, do you?”

    Well, I’m Wade and I do (sorry for not showing up earlier; I wasn’t made aware of this page until recently when searching for my own web content).

    “That argument ignores the obvious fact that organisms whose perception and modelling of their surroundings is so faulty would be selected against, not for.”

    Perhaps the beliefs of an organism interact with the environment in a “rational” manner such that this happens (e.g. one gets dehydrated causing the belief “I must drink water” which then causes one to drink water; as opposed to being dehyrdated causing the belief “2 + 2 = 5” which in turn causes one to drink water). The problem, as the argument argues, is that this probably would not have happened if naturalism is true. The ANPD scenario shows it’s conceivable for even garbage mental states to be associated with advantageous behavior, rather than the link between belief and behavior befitting a rational agent, thereby giving us semantic pseudo-epiphenomenalism (SPE) that is functionally equivalent to semantic epiphenomenalism (SE), where SE says the semantic content of our beliefs is straight up causally irrelevant. So when the moving brain molecules generate both advantageous behavior and belief, it doesn’t really matter whether the beliefs produced by the moving molecules accurately reflect our surroundings or straight up garbage, because either SE or SPE is going to be true. Therefore, given naturalism and evolution alone, it would have to be a very lucky coincidence indeed that the moving molecules of our brain would generate an accurate mental state (one that yields an accurate belief set) instead of one of the far more numerous garbage mental states.

    Perhaps you think mental states could not be causally irrelevant on naturalism, but it has actually been proven that this must be the case on naturalism given a universe with physical laws, time, and physical conditions. For more on that, see here (with section 2.2 containing the proof):


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