Archive for the ‘evolution and knowledge’ Category

Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost

January 10, 2010

Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive…. . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.

Patricia Churchland

But if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for national selection?

December 16, 2009

…Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, points out the flaw in the clue-killer argument in his review of Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell:

 [Dennett] portrays reason in service to natural selection, and as a product of natural selection. But if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for national selection? The power of reason is owed to the independence of reason, and to nothing else… Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power reason even as it destroys it.

Source: Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), p. 139.

I must ‘follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so’

December 16, 2009

Thomas Nagel, the prominent philosopher and atheist, agrees in the last chapter of his book The Last Word. He writes that to be sure my mind is telling me what really, truly is out there in the world, I must ‘follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so’. However, according to evolutionary biology laws of reason would have to make sense to us only because they help us survive, not because they necessarily tell the truth. So, Nagel asks:

[Can we have any] continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge about the nonapparent character of the world? In itself, I believe an evolutionary story [of the human race] tells against such confidence.

 

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, Hodder, 2008, p.137

Just because we can successfully survive and reproduce in no way ensures that our minds as a whole tell us the truth about anything

December 16, 2009

Though some cognitive scientists assume that because our brains and their functions have been ‘designed’ by natural selection we can trust them to tell us the truth, such an assumption is epistemologically dubious. Just because we can successfully survive and reproduce in no way ensures that our minds as a whole tell us the truth about anything-especially when it comes to sophisticated thinking…what a completely naturalistic view of the human mind may safely embrace is that our minds were good for survival in the past.

Justin Barrett, Why would anyone believe in God?

Everything we value — from sugar and sex and money to music and love and religion — we value for reasons

December 16, 2009

Everything we value — from sugar and sex and money to music and love and religion — we value for reasons. Lying behind, and distinct from, our reasons are evolutionary reasons, free-floating rationales that have been endorsed by natural selection.

Daniel Dennett

In other words, all beliefs are held because they have, or had, survival value. Well, not ALL beliefs of course, because, strange to say, Dennett will ensure his beliefs (about beliefs) are safe from this reductionist critique. That is to say if I asked him of his beliefs about evolution are not true but merely enabled our ancestors to survive he would grant immunity for this privileged belief.

If the idea of evolution is another of those ‘evolutionary reasons’ – then why believe it?

No thought is valid if it can be explained fully as the result of irrational causes

November 24, 2009

No thought is valid if it can be explained fully as the result of irrational causes…
A train of thought loses all rational credentials, as soon as it can be shown to be wholly the result of irrational causes.

C.S.Lewis, Miracles, p.27

The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own increased prosperity but toward Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass

November 14, 2009

The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own increased prosperity but toward Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass – a conscience that swings free of both social history and individual luck.

Richard Rorty, in P.E. Johnson, Testing Darwinism, IVP,  1997, p.89

 

 

 

This is partially quoted in http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9602/reviews/reason.html

The futility of running from God

September 7, 2009

…the only creature that can prove anything cannot prove its own insignificance without depriving the proof of any proof-value. Any radical depreciation of man involves an equally radical depreciation of the scientific thinking which supplies the supposed evidence. (T.E. Jessop)

In other words, if you reduce man to a beast, If the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile, then all his theories – including this one – are worthless

R.Abba, nature and Authority of the Bible, p.109

Rejecting God’s revelation and starting with reason, man is left undermining the very possibility of any knowledge at all. Faith in the God of Scripture is the precondition of any knowledge