The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism: Simplified and Refuted

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The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism: Simplified and Refuted

Here is the basic argument Plantinga offers.  C and ~C are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive propositions.

C = The content of our beliefs enters into the causal chain that leads to behavior

~C = The content of our beliefs is epiphenomenal to our behavior

Givin this, what is the probability that our cognitive system is reliable, given Evolutionary Theory and Naturalism:  P(R/N & E)?  Well, first, the following equality holds:

P(R/N & E) = P(R/N & E & C) X P(C/N & E) + P(R/N & E & ~C) X P(~C/N & E) [I hope this formula makes sense to everyone.  If not, ask me to explain it]. 

Therefore, the probability of R given N & E will be the weighted average.  Plantinga conceeds that giving a precise numerical value to each is absurd.  All we can hope for is a general estimation.  The following are rough estimations that Plantinga would agree with 

P(R/N & E & C) = 9/10.  This seems right.  If the content of our noetic structure (jargon for the belief structure) enters into causal relations with our behavior, then R would have a high probability; for it would be correct to say that our mind accurately represents the world.

P(C/N & E) = 1/10.  This will be explained later.  In fact, this is what I will be arguing against.

P(R/N & E & ~C) = 1/10.  This seems right, atleast prima facia.  If the content of our beliefs do not causally influence our behavior, then there would be no reason to think that our minds are reliable.  I will also argue that the probability is off on this one too.

 P(~C/N & E) = 9/10.  I will argue against this too.

So, lets work it out now:

P(R/N & E) = 9/10 X 1/10 + 9/10 X 1/10 = 18/40 =  .45

Therefore, you have less than a 50% chance that your cognitive faculties are reliable.  I will let you mull this over for awhile before I offer my three tiered critique. 

 

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I have no schooling in

I have no schooling in formal logic, but I have recently discovered an article on infidels.org that soundly refutes Plantinga. It can be found here.
It argues that Plantinga's argument applies only to the generically Cartesian view of minds. This view states that a belief can be identified independent of the context in which it was formed. If, however, one holds the generically pragmatist view of the mind - that a belief is formed and can be examined only in the context under which it was formed, then Plantinga's argument is irrelevant.
I have no schooling in formal logic, so if you would lay out your reasoning in English, that would be preferable.

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Insidium Profundis wrote:

Insidium Profundis wrote:
I have no schooling in formal logic, but I have recently discovered an article on infidels.org that soundly refutes Plantinga. It can be found here.
It argues that Plantinga's argument applies only to the generically Cartesian view of minds. This view states that a belief can be identified independent of the context in which it was formed. If, however, one holds the generically pragmatist view of the mind - that a belief is formed and can be examined only in the context under which it was formed, then Plantinga's argument is irrelevant.
I have no schooling in formal logic, so if you would lay out your reasoning in English, that would be preferable.

Thats a very interesting article. In a way, it aligns with my critique...which, as far as I know, is unique to me. Anyway, I will present one line of reasoning against Plantinga's view, as put forward by William Ramsey, in his article Naturalism Defended:

To understand Plantinga's argument, we need to understand a central claim Plantinga makes, and one that the article you posted, seems to be taking aim at: There are many belief-desire pairs that are false, but nevertheless produce a behavior that is adaptive. Here is an example Plantinga gives:

imagine that Paul likes to pet kittens. Hence, he has the desire to pet kittens. Suppose further that Paul beliefs the best way to pet a kitten when seeing a tiger is to run away as fast as he can. In this case, he would have a false belief, but the belief would nevertheless be adaptive.

Ramsey makes the claim, which I agree with, is that in order for this to work, pauls belief would have to work in a wide variety of contexts. Ramsey also makes the claim that if this is true, then Evolutionary theory demands that this false-belief generation have a mechanism. Hence, there would have to be a mechanism within Evolutionary theory, such that it favored false beliefs that were adaptive, over true beliefs that were adaptive. As of yet, Plantinga has proposed no such mechanism. Moreover, Ramsey makes the point that it is not sufficient for Plantinga to say this is possible...every naturalist agrees with this. Plantinga needs to demonstrate that this is probable; which he doesn't.

My critique is alot more blunt. The example is stupid. Moreover, every example will be just as stupid. Simple observations of a tiger, reveal that they will not lead to "kitten petting." Here is the real stake in Plantinga's argument: what about an account of learning? Surely after a few times of running away from a tiger, Paul will learn that this does not lead to the desired outcome; humans have trial by error for a reason. Most beliefs that do not match up with reality but are adaptive...will be corrected upon "testing" whether that be scientific or simply pragmatic. This is obvious, kinda shocking that Plantinga fails to account for this.

 

I will give my next critique later, i'm to tired. It will have to do with semantic epiphenomenalism

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Another critique is also a

Another critique is also a question:  How would one form a belief that is false, but adaptive in the first place?  To show the absurdity of Plantinga's argument, his example will be used again:

How in the world would Paul come to believe that by running away from tigers this will lead to the fulfillement of his desire of petting cats?  Well, we can say that this is not an a priori claim.  Paul cannot come to believe this a priori.  Paul, therefore, would come to his belief through empirical means.  Now, Paul would have to have at least one sucessful case of running away from a tiger and this leading to him petting a cat.  Hence, in order for Paul to infer the causal relation between the tiger and the cat, he would have to have this belief being caused by something.  So, is it probable that Paul will have atleast one case of running away from a tiger and this leading to his petting a cat?  No.  It would be a pure fluke if this happened.  However, even if this happened, Paul wouldn't believe this for long.  For in order for Paul to believe this, his desire for petting cats would have to be satisfied atleast half the time.  I mean, if running away from tigers doesn't satisfy the desire for petting cats, why would Paul continue to believe that his desire will be met by running from tigers?  He wouldn't.  To illustrate this, I will use Egypt as an example:

In Egypt, cats were plentiful.  Assume that tigers lived in Egypt.  Moreover, let us assume that everytime Paul ran away from a tiger he had a 50% chance of petting a cat.  Let us also assume that this happened...shall we say 20 times.  Now, his belief would have to be reinforced.  I said about a half.  Ok, let us cut it down to just 5 times out of 20.  So out of the 20 times he ran away from a cat, all he needs is to pet a cat 5 of those times to continue his belief.  So to estimate this probability, we need to take estimate the probability of Paul petting a cat 5 times in a row when he ran away from a tiger, here is the probability:

1/2 X 1/2 X 1/2 X 1/2 X1/2 = 1/32 =  .03 = 3%.  Thus, Pauls false belief being reinforced is 3%.

Even with a 50% chance of meeting a cat, and even with Paul being put in the situation 20 times but the belief being reinforced far less the 50% of the time, in fact, with it being reinforced only 25% of the time, Pauls false belief only has a 3% chance of being reinforced.

 

What does this tell us?  Two things:  

(1) It is improbable that Pauls false belief would be even formed in the first place.

(2) Even if it he formed his false belief, it is improbable that his belief would persist.  

 Is it possible for Paul to form a false believe and have it persist?  of course.  Is it probable?  Of course not.  The probability that a false common sense sensual belief would even be formed in the first place is improbable.  The probability that it would persist is improbable.  Therefore, the conjunction of the two is even more improbable.  How improbable?  Here is an example:

Suppose Paul has a 1/20 chance of petting a cat when running away from a tiger [this is very generous].  Suppose on any given day, Paul has a 1/5 chance of seeing a tiger and running away from it.  Therefore, in order for Paul to first form the belief that there is a causal relationship between petting cats and running from tigers is:  1/5 X 1/20 =  1/100 = 1%.  The probability of it being reinforced, as noted above, lets say is 1/32.  So, the probability that he forms a false belief and it persists is:  1/3200 = .00031.  Extremely unlikely.

I call this, "Plantinga's plank."  Plantinga's argument is doomed to walk the metaphorical plank. 

 

"In the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out" ~ Rush, from Subdivisions


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Chaoslord2004

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

 What does this tell us? Two things:

(1) It is improbable that Pauls false belief would be even formed in the first place.

Plantiga simply assumes it can happen, i.e. that it is possible. He (and his ilk) tend to 'argue' in this fashion often... if I can show that it's not logically impossible, then I have some sort of right to hold to it. It's the fallacy of arguing to uncertainty.

Quote:
 

(2) Even if it he formed his false belief, it is improbable that his belief would persist.

Right.

Quote:
 

Is it possible for Paul to form a false believe and have it persist? of course. Is it probable? Of course not.

 

Right.

Quote:
 

The probability that a false common sense sensual belief would even be formed in the first place is improbable. The probability that it would persist is improbable. Therefore, the conjunction of the two is even more improbable. How improbable? Here is an example:

 

Suppose Paul has a 1/20 chance of petting a cat when running away from a tiger [this is very generous]. Suppose on any given day, Paul has a 1/5 chance of seeing a tiger and running away from it. Therefore, in order for Paul to first form the belief that there is a causal relationship between petting cats and running from tigers is: 1/5 X 1/20 = 1/100 = 1%. The probability of it being reinforced, as noted above, lets say is 1/32. So, the probability that he forms a false belief and it persists is: 1/3200 = .00031. Extremely unlikely.

I call this, "Plantinga's plank." Plantinga's argument is doomed to walk the metaphorical plank.

 

I don't think he can even get that far... all his argument could ever show was that our accounts of naturalism fail..... he could never demonstrate a coherent model of 'supernaturalism'

 

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todangst wrote: he could

todangst wrote:
he could never demonstrate a coherent model of 'supernaturalism'

This is what Evan Fales argues.  He argues that even if the argument works, supernaturalism doesn't escape the same worry, nor does he think that this is an argument supporting theism.  I agree, all Plantinga has done is show a potential trouble for naturalism.

Overal, what do you think of the argument? 

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Seems perfectly logical to

Seems perfectly logical to me. If he ever wants to pet a kitten again, he has to run away from the tiger. Otherwise he gets eaten and no more kitten pettin for him. So his desire to stay alive is attached to his desire to keep being able to do the things he likes. Which is how it is for most of us, I imagine.

 

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Chaoslord2004

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

todangst wrote:
he could never demonstrate a coherent model of 'supernaturalism'

This is what Evan Fales argues. He argues that even if the argument works, supernaturalism doesn't escape the same worry, nor does he think that this is an argument supporting theism.

Yes.

Quote:

I agree, all Plantinga has done is show a potential trouble for naturalism.

Overal, what do you think of the argument?

Plantinga's? It's garbage. No matter the 'odds' against naturalism, any odds are better than no odds.

Or do you mean your points? Very good. You should finish the argument you alluded to in your first post.

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todangst wrote: You should

todangst wrote:
You should finish the argument you alluded to in your first post.

Ok, my last critique...while not as good as the one I just gave, is linked to it.  Plantinga distinguishes two seperate groups of properties a belief can have:  Syntactic and Semantic...not to be confused with the linguistic mean of the terms.  He is what Plantinga means.  What is the syntactic property of a belief?  Well, to quote Plantinga:

"On the one hand, there are its electrochemical properties: the number of neurons

 involved in the belief, the connections between them, their firing thresholds, the rate and strength at which they

 fire, the way in which these change over time and in response to other neural activity, and so on.  Call these

 syntactical properties of the belief."

According to Plantinga, the semantic properties of a belief are as follows:

"On the other hand, however, if the belief is really a belief, it will be the

 belief that p for some proposition p.  Perhaps it is the belief that there once was a brewery where the Metropolitan

 Opera House now stands.  This proposition, we might say, is the content of the belief in question.  So in

 addition to its syntactical properties, a belief will also have semantical [14] properties--for example, the property

 of being the belief that there once was a brewery where the Metropolitan Opera House now stands.  (Other

semantical properties: being true or false, entailing that there has been at least one brewery, being

 consistent with the proposition that all men are mortal and so on.)"

Now, this distinction seems correct...on the Cartesian model of the mind.  While Plantinga supports the Cartesian model of the mind, this is not taken seriously by pretty much any Philosopher of Mind, nor is it taken seriously by cognitive scientists.  The syntactic properties simply are the semantic properties.  Short of supporting outright dualism, one has to accept this.  The distinction is entirely artifical...it has no basis in reality.  Without the distinction, Plantinga's argument fails.   

 

 

 

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philosophicalrightphilosophic

 

Chaoslord2004 wrote:


What is the syntactic property of a belief? Well, to quote Plantinga:

"On the one hand, there are its electrochemical properties: the number of neurons

involved in the belief, the connections between them, their firing thresholds, the rate and strength at which they fire, the way in which these change over time and in response to other neural activity, and so on. Call these syntactical properties of the belief."


I'd just call that, THE belief itself. The belief is the workings of the neurons. Theists always imagine that the world is given to us twice, that there must be a substratum behind everything. But why? The neurons are the idea.

Quote:


According to Plantinga, the semantic properties of a belief are as follows:

"On the other hand, however, if the belief is really a belief, it will be the belief that p for some proposition p. Perhaps it is the belief that there once was a brewery where the Metropolitan Opera House now stands. This proposition, we might say, is the content of the belief in question.


The 'content' is merely a first person ontology of the neurons in question. Theists love to think dualistically...

Quote:


So in addition to its syntactical properties, a belief will also have semantical [14] properties--for example, the property of being the belief that there once was a brewery where the Metropolitan Opera House now stands. (Other semantical properties: being true or false, entailing that there has been at least one brewery, being consistent with the proposition that all men are mortal and so on.)" Now, this distinction seems correct...on the Cartesian model of the mind


Right. It requires Dualism.

Quote:

. While Plantinga supports the Cartesian model of the mind, this is not taken seriously by pretty much any Philosopher of Mind, nor is it taken seriously by cognitive scientists.



Bingo. No scientist takes dualism seriously, nor have they for decades. The key problem for philosophers is that as they age, they tend to become more and more out of touch with modern science.

Quote:

The syntactic properties simply are the semantic properties.


Yes, I'm glad I post as I read along...

Quote:

Short of supporting outright dualism, one has to accept this. The distinction is entirely artifical...it has no basis in reality. Without the distinction, Plantinga's argument fails.


As with most theist arguments, Plantinga's argument fails for multiple reasons... logical, epistemological, ontological, scientific, etc....

 

by the way, we are in that chat room, but there's tons of people there... 

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The only way Plantinga

The only way Plantinga could reasonably respond, seems to be to deny that Paul's beliefs need to be caused by the enviornment.  By beliefs, I mean beliefs about the empirical world.  However, I find it extremely hard to see HOW Paul could believe such a thing without experiencing it.

 

Also, if anyone can spot holes in my reasoning, let me know.  I want this argument to be air-tight before I formalize it in a paper. 

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Chaoslord2004 wrote: The

Chaoslord2004 wrote:

The only way Plantinga could reasonably respond, seems to be to deny that Paul's beliefs need to be caused by the enviornment. By beliefs, I mean beliefs about the empirical world. However, I find it extremely hard to see HOW Paul could believe such a thing without experiencing it.

 

 

and then he'd need to explain how it could be done magically, seeing as the supernatural must be acausal by definition.

 

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im online now, so if you're

im online now, so if you're in the chatroom, let me know