Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Posted by BK on September 04, 1998 at 23:20:25:

"The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own increated 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, "Untruth and Consequences," The New Republic, July 31, 1995, pp. 32-36.)

Rorty's pronouncements do not always inspire maximum confidence, but here he seems to be on to something (although like [Daniel Dennett, author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea he fails to see the real danger here). He says that two ideas are unDarwinian: that we have a mind oriented towards the Truth and a conscience that puts us in touch with right and wrong. Now Dennett does try to deal with the second from the Darwinian perspective (although what he really tries to explain is not how there could actually be such a thing as right and wrong, good and bad, from that perspective, but how it is that we think there is such a thing.)

But the other part of Rorty's suggestion is where the real intellectual danger in Darwin's dangerous idea lies (at any rate if Rorty's "Truth" is just ordinary everyday truth). Why so? Here I can only hint at the argument. Darwin's dangerous idea is really two ideas put together: philosophical naturalism together with the claim that our cognitive faculties have originated by way of natural selection working on some form of genetic variation. According to this idea, then, the purpose or function of those faculties (if they have one) is to enable or promote survival, or survival and reproduction, more exactly, the maximization of fitness (the probability of survival and reproduction). Furthermore, the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable (i.e., furnish us with a preponderance of true beliefs) on Darwin's dangerous idea is either low or inscrutable (i.e., impossible to estimate). But either gives the devotee of evolutionary naturalism a defeater for the proposition that his cognitive faculties are reliable, a reason for doubting, giving up, rejecting that natural belief. If so, then it also gives him a reason for doubting any beliefs produced by those faculties. This includes, of course, the beliefs involved in science itself. Evolutionary naturalism, therefore, provides one who accepts it with a defeater for scientific beliefs, a reason for doubting that science does in fact get us to the truth, or close to the truth. Darwin himself may perhaps have glimpsed this sinister presence coiled like a worm in the very heart of evolutionary naturalism: "With me," says Darwin, "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?"

Modern science was conceived, and born, and flourished in the matrix of Christian theism. Only liberal doses of self-deception and double-think, I believe, will permit it to flourish in the context of Darwinian naturalism.

Any comments?

(Plantiga on Darwin's Dangerous Idea (full article)

__________________

 

First Response

 

Posted by SGTex on September 05, 1998 at 01:51:02:

 

"Darwin's dangerous idea is really two ideas put together: philosophical naturalismtogether with the claim that our cognitive faculties have originated by way of natural selection working on some form of genetic variation. According to this idea, then, the purpose or function of those faculties (if they have one) is to enable or promote survival, or survival and reproduction, more exactly, the maximization of fitness (the probability of survival and reproduction)."

 

 

SGT: The "purpose or function" is the maximization of fitness. The MEANING and VALUE, however, may be far more involved.

 

"Furthermore,the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable (i.e., furnish us with a preponderance of true beliefs) on Darwin's dangerous idea is either low or inscrutable (i.e., impossible to estimate)."

SGT: I don't see why that would follow. I accord our cognitive faculties a high degree of reliability, not low nor unknown. You're saying a cognitive function would be the less reliable because it's a survival or fitness mechanism? Why?

 

"But either gives the devotee of evolutionary naturalism a defeater for the proposition that his cognitive faculties are reliable, a reason for doubting, giving up, rejecting that natural belief. If so, then it also gives him a reason for doubting any beliefs produced by those faculties. This includes, of course, the beliefs involved in science itself. Evolutionary naturalism, therefore, provides one who accepts it with a defeater for scientific beliefs, a reason for doubting that science does in fact get us to the truth, or close to the truth."

 

 

SGT: I'd need some elaboration on why our sentient faculty would be somehow unreliable just because they are a product of evolution. What "defeater?" The law at the causal heart of every phenomenon is perfect. Like the atom, like a cell, the mind is a manifestation of the perfect law of life. No wonder it keeps coming up with more and more truth; THAT's its purpose, if there is one.

If I could know the thoughts of a gorilla or chimp, it would enrich me. I can't account for Darwin fearing otherwise; just look in their eyes, I tell you. I wish I could know the awareness of a tree, or a star.

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Second Response

 

Posted by SeeJay on September 05, 1998 at 03:03:39:

Biological evolution explains the origin of the brain's and nervous system's physical structure.

However, theorists cannot agree upon the nature of the mind vis-a-vis the brain. There are many theories (epiphenomenalism, reductionism etc) and none have been conclusively disproved nor are any particularly useful in practical psychology. The best we can do is to say that to be conscious requires both a brain and a somewhat separate mind, soul or spirit.

Your comments above equate evolutionism with pure naturalism or reductionism. This is a falsehood. Naturalistic explanations of biological origins only attempt to address part of the brain/mind question. Those who claim otherwise are usually out of their field.

 

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Third Response

 

Posted by Pat on September 05, 1998 at 07:35:34:

 

"The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own increated 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, "Untruth and Consequences," The New Republic, July 31, 1995, pp. 32-36.) (worries about what nature says about humanity snipped)

Modern science was conceived, and born, and flourished in the matrix of Christian theism.

 

 

Pat:

Well, not precisely. The men who founded modern science admitted that they depended on the wisdom and learning of earlier scientists among the Greeks, and the non-Christian Islamic world.

BK:

Only liberal doses of self-deception and double-think, I believe, will permit it to flourish in the context of Darwinian naturalism.

Pat:

Those who are concerned about these issues should realize that theistic evolutionists solved the problem long ago.

____________________

 

Response to Pat

 

 

Posted by Stephen Charchuk on September 05, 1998 at 09:16:25:

 

Those who are concerned about these issues should realize that theistic evolutionists solved the problem long ago.

 

 

Isn't this an oxymoron?

 

-------------[note: what follows in an interesting exchange between the two regarding theistic evolution. It is condensed as much as possible and so dates are left out and only the conversation itself is included]--------------

from Pat:

 

To a fundamentalist, yes. To everyone else, no.

------------------------------------

 

from Stephen Charchuk:

 

What is a theistic evolutionist anyway? It would be an oxymoron to everyone since evolution is neither atheistic, nor theistic.

-----------------------------

 

from Pat:

 

Yes, in a way. It refers to those who are theists, but also accept the evidence for evolution. I don't know any who think that religion works as a scientific theory.

----------------------------

 

from Stephen Charchuk:

 

Yes, in a way. It refers to those who are theists, but also accept the evidence for evolution.

 

That would still make it an oxymoron.

 

I don't know any who think that religion works as a scientific theory.

Creation scientists?

-----------------------------

 

from Pat:

 

That would still make it an oxymoron.

Pat: Nope. They are entirely consistant.

[Pat two posts ago] > I don't know any who think that religion works as a scientific theory.

 

Creation scientists?

 

Pat: Now *that's* an oxymoron.

--------------------------

 

from Stephen :

 

Nope. They are entirely consistant.

 

So, you are now saying that your god is a primate like creature, since we were "created in his image" and if one is a "Theistic Evolutionist" one would have to accept this. It is an oxymoron.

 

Now *that's* an oxymoron.

 

Exactly, which also makes the above an oxymoron as well, since evolutionism is science and theistic creationism isn't.

----------------------------

 

from Pat:

 

So, you are now saying that your god is a primate like creature, since we were "created in his image" and if one is a "Theistic Evolutionist" one would have to accept this. It is an oxymoron.

 

Pat: Fundy literalist interpretation only. God is like man, as He mentions in Genesis, in his knowledge of Good and Evil, and in his consciousness. God could not resemble every single man on earth, could He? But we can resemble God in our consciousness.

----------------------

 

From Stephen:

 

Fundy literalist interpretation only.

 

That is what is taught.

 

God is like man,

 

Isn't that supposed to be the other way around?

 

as He mentions in Genesis, in his knowledge of Good and Evil, and in his consciousness. God

 

No mention of this here.

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

 

God could not resemble every single man on earth, could He?

 

Apparently so, by most Christian belief. After all, he/she/it is god and can do whatever they please, or so goes the belief system.

 

But we can resemble God in our consciousness.

 

All-knowing and all-powerful? You claiming godhood?

-------------------------

 

from Pat

 

Fundy literalist interpretation only.

Steve: That is what is taught.

 

Pat: By fundies. Not by most Christians. If you want to get anywhere, you'll first have to argue against something we actually believe.

 

God is like man,

Steve: Isn't that supposed to be the other way around?

 

Pat: We are similar in some respects.

as He mentions in Genesis, in his knowledge of Good and Evil, and in his consciousness. God

 

Steve: No mention of this here.

 

Pat: But it is nevertheless true.

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

As you have learned, this refers to God's consciousness, not personal appearance.

God could not resemble every single man on earth, could He?

 

Steve: Apparently so, by most Christian belief.

 

Pat:

That's the problem; you've been misinformed about what Christians believe. But then it's true that most folks are down on what they aren't up on.

Steve: After all, he/she/it is god and can do whatever they please, or so goes the belief system.

Pat: God's omnipotence does not compel Him to do all things.

But we can resemble God in our consciousness.

 

Steve: All-knowing and all-powerful? You claiming godhood?

 

Pat: For Him. But then it's irrelevant what you or I believe.

------------------------

 

from Stephen

 

By fundies. Not by most Christians. If you want to get anywhere, you'll first have to argue against something we actually believe.

 

Tell that to the Southern Baptists and their 15 million members.

 

We are similar in some respects.

 

Isn't that Blasphemy, or heresy?

But it is nevertheless true.

And how is it true?

As you have learned, this refers to God's consciousness, not personal appearance.

Doesn't say anything about consciousness.

That's the problem; you've been misinformed

Wrong, as I had said to Helen I grew up surround by it, that I wasn't exposed to anything else. The Roman Catholic denomination is the largest part of Christianity.

 

about what Christians believe. But then it's true that most folks are down on what they aren't up on.

 

Steve: People who live in glass houses...

 

God's omnipotence does not compel Him to do all things.

 

Than he/she/it is not omnipotent.

For Him. But then it's irrelevant what you or I believe.

No, you were claiming it for yourself. If it were truly irrelevant than you wouldn't be here having this debate.

------------------------------

 

from Pat

 

By fundies. Not by most Christians. If you want to get anywhere, you'll first have to argue against something we actually believe.

Steve: Tell that to the Southern Baptists and their 15 million members.

 

Pat: I'm a Roman Catholic. You're not impressing me with those numbers. And BTW, did I ever tell you that I learned about the paleontology of North Texas from a Southern Baptist. Maybe they aren't all what you suppose, either.
We are similar in some respects.

 

Steve: Isn't that Blasphemy, or heresy?

 

Pat: God said so. It's impossible for Him to blaspheme. And I doubt if He's a heretic.

But it is nevertheless true.

Steve: And how is it true?

Pat: It is not false.

As you have learned, this refers to God's consciousness, not personal appearance.

 

Steve: Doesn't say anything about consciousness.

 

Pat: It's the fundy coming out again. Note that God refers to man as becoming like Him only in reference to his understanding of good and evil.

 

That's the problem; you've been misinformed

Steve: Wrong, as I had said to Helen I grew up surround by it, that I wasn't exposed to anything else. The Roman Catholic denomination is the largest part of Christianity.

 

Pat: You seem to be completely unaware of what it is Roman Catholics and other orthodox sects believe.

about what Christians believe. But then it's true that most folks are down on what they aren't up on.

 

Steve: People who live in glass houses...

 

Pat:

I'm not down on atheists or agnostics. I think they are wrong, but I have no hostility toward any of them.

 

God's omnipotence does not compel Him to do all things.

Steve: Than he/she/it is not omnipotence.

 

Pat: Logical contradiction there. If Omnipotence requires one to do all things, it is not omnipotence.

 

For Him. But then it's irrelevant what you or I believe.

Steve: No, you were claiming it for yourself. If it were truly irrelevant than you wouldn't be here having this debate.

 

Pat: Claiming what for myself?

-------------------------

 

from Stephen

 

I'm a Roman Catholic. You're not impressing me with those numbers.

 

I was raised RC as well, so I know what they are about as well.

And BTW, did I ever tell you that I learned about the paleontology of North Texas from a Southern Baptist. Maybe they aren't all what you suppose, either.

ach group has its "malcontents", if they get enough other people with the same views and beliefs they usually break off and form their own sect. ;-)

God said so. It's impossible for Him to blaspheme. And I doubt if He's a heretic.

Many Christian sects are of the opinion that we are inferior and not worthy of such.

It is not false.

How is it not false?

It's the fundy coming out again.

The noisiest wheel gets the oil.

Note that God refers to man as becoming like Him only in reference to his understanding of good and evil.

Wrong, that came later AFTER they both ate the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This means that they had no concept of either until then. They were "created" without these concepts.

 

You seem to be completely unaware of what it is Roman Catholics and other orthodox sects believe.

 

Or so you would like to think so.

I'm not down on atheists or agnostics. I think they are wrong, but I have no hostility toward any of them.

And I'm not really hostile towards theists either. BTW, agnostics can't be wrong, though they can't be right either. ;-)

Logical contradiction there. If Omnipotence requires one to do all things, it is not omnipotence.

Exactly.

Claiming what for myself?

Godhood.

--------------------------

 

from Pat

 

I'm a Roman Catholic. You're not impressing me with those numbers.

I was raised RC as well, so I know what they are about as well.

 

Pat: So why did you suppose a few million Southern Baptists (many of which are theistic evolutionists) would mean much?

 

And BTW, did I ever tell you that I learned about the paleontology of North Texas from a Southern Baptist. Maybe they aren't all what you suppose, either.

Steve: Each group has its "malcontents", if they get enough other people with the same views and beliefs they usually break off and form their own sect. ;-)

 

Pat: And if there are enough fundy atheists someday, will you form your own?

 

God said so. It's impossible for Him to blaspheme. And I doubt if He's a heretic. Many Christian sects are of the opinion that we are inferior and not worthy of such.

 

Pat: Poor guys. God is just and He wants us all to be with Him.

 

It is not false.

Steve: How is it not false?

 

Pat: It's true.

It's the fundy coming out again.

 

Steve: The noisiest wheel gets the oil.

 

Pat: Or gets replaced.

Note that God refers to man as becoming like Him only in reference to his understanding of good and evil.

 

Steve: Wrong, that came later AFTER they both ate the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This means that they had no concept of either until then. They were "created" without these concepts.

 

Pat:

Yes, there *were* primates before there were humans. Exactly where and when that knowledge and consciousness happened, we don't know. But the Bible records it.

You seem to be completely unaware of what it is Roman Catholics and other orthodox sects believe.

 

Steve: Or so you would like to think so.

 

Pat: Since you persist in supposing that Christians are obligated to believe only what fundies believe, it's pretty hard to avoid the conclusion.

 

I'm not down on atheists or agnostics. I think they are wrong, but I have no hostility toward any of them.

Steve:

And I'm not really hostile towards theists either. BTW, agnostics can't be wrong, though they can't be right either. ;-)

 

Pat: It just seems you're a little defensive about anyone who believes.

 

Logical contradiction there. If Omnipotence requires one to do all things, it is not omnipotence.

Exactly.

 

Pat: Hence God, as an omnipotent being, is not required to do all things.

Claiming what for myself?

 

Steve: Godhood.

 

Pat: Nope. You got mixed up somewhere there.

---------------------------

 

from Stephen

 

So why did you suppose a few million Southern Baptists (many of which are theistic evolutionists) would mean much?

 

15 million is somewhat more than a few, it is half the population of my country of Canada. If they are evolutionists, theist or not, than they are going against their main tenets.

 

And if there are enough fundy atheists someday, will you form your own?

 

You like to misuse oxymorons, don't you?

Fundamentalist:

1. The interpretation of every word in the Bible as literal truth.

Atheism:

2. A lack of belief in the existence of God or gods

Seems that the two don't match up.

And, BTW, I'm an agnostic.

Poor guys. God is just and He wants us all to be with Him.

Than I take it that you don't believe in Hell and ever lasting torment, or do you follow the same contradiction as the rest of Christianity does about a god which is suppose to be al-loving, and forgiving yet is very vengeful?

It's true.

Your response, like your argument is irrelevant.

Or gets replaced.

Sadly if that were only true.

Yes, there *were* primates before there were humans. Exactly where and when that knowledge and consciousness happened, we don't know. But the Bible records it.

Where goes it record it? And in which account? There are two in genesis you know.

Since you persist in supposing that Christians are obligated to believe only what fundies believe, it's pretty hard to avoid the conclusion.

Either you believe in the bible or you don't, simple.

See above for definition of fundamentalist.It just seems you're a little defensive about anyone who believes.

Believes what? If one wants to believe in something which ALL available evidence says is incorrect that is their choose, but they shouldn't be surprised when others point this out to them. But, I know that there are those of religious faith who will see ANY opposing view or opinion as a personal attack against them and their faith and will act as such.

Hence God, as an omnipotent being, is not required to do all things.

Irrelevant, being omnipotent means that they are all things, and thus can not not do, or be, all things. It is the same with being all-knowing.

Nope. You got mixed up somewhere there.

To claim to be the same as god is to be god.

----------------------

 

from Pat

 

So why did you suppose a few million Southern Baptists (many of which are theistic evolutionists) would mean much?

Stephen: 15 million is somewhat more than a few, it is half the population of my country of Canada.

 

Pat: I will ignore that straight line in the interest of good relations with Canada. Besides, Deb would probably put out a contract on me.

Stephen: If they are evolutionists, theist or not, than they are going against their main tenets.

Pat: Against *your* main tenets. Fact is, the SBC has not made evolution or creationism a tenet of faith.

And if there are enough fundy atheists someday, will you form your own?

 

Steven: You like to misuse oxymorons, don't you?

 

Pat:

What else would you call an atheist who recognizes only the fundamentalist version of Christianity?

Fundamentalist:

 

1. The interpretation of every word in the Bible as literal truth

Atheism:

2. A lack of belief in the existence of God or gods

 

Fundy atheist:

Disbeliever who thinks that Christianity requires a fundamentalist dogma

Stephen: Seems that the two don't match up.

Pat: I used to think so; you've convinced me otherwise.

Stephen: And, BTW, I'm an agnostic.

Pat: Ok, fundy agnostic then.

Poor guys. God is just and He wants us all to be with Him.

 

Stephen: Than I take it that you don't believe in Hell and ever lasting torment, or do you follow the same contradiction as the rest of Christianity does about a god which is suppose to be al-loving, and forgiving yet is very vengeful?

 

Pat: I think that Hell exists, but it isn't quite what most people think it is. God doesn't toss you into Hell; you find it on your own.

Yes, there *were* primates before there were humans. Exactly where and when that knowledge and consciousness happened, we don't know. But the Bible records it.

 

Stephen:

Where goes it record it? And in which account? There are two in genesis you know.

 

Pat:

A problem only for a fundy.

 

Since you persist in supposing that Christians are obligated to believe only what fundies believe, it's pretty hard to avoid the conclusion.

Stephen: Either you believe in the bible or you don't, simple.

 

Pat: I believe in all of it. It's just not always what you fundies think it is.

Stephen: See above for definition of fundamentalist.

Pat: And for a fundy agnostic.

It just seems you're a little defensive about anyone who believes.

 

Stephen: Believes what? If one wants to believe in something which ALL available evidence says is incorrect that is their choose, but they shouldn't be surprised when others point this out to them. But, I know that there are those of religious faith who will see ANY opposing view or opinion as a personal attack against them and their faith and will act as such.

 

Pat: Oh, there are a lot of them. More of them than there are of agnostics who are hostile to religion.

Hence God, as an omnipotent being, is not required to do all things.

 

Irrelevant, being omnipotent means that they are all things, and thus can not not do, or be, all things.

 

Pat: Actually, it means "all-competent". Able to do anything.

Steve: It is the same with being all-knowing.

 

Nope. You got mixed up somewhere there.

Steve: To claim to be the same as god is to be god.

 

Pat: Yep, but that's not what I said.

-------------------

 

from Stephen

 

I will ignore that straight line in the interest of good relations with Canada. Besides, Deb would probably put out a contract on me.

 

Damn straight she will. ;-)

 

Against *your* main tenets. Fact is, the SBC has not made evolution or creationism a tenet of faith.

 

I don't have tenets. But they have made it an issue which they fight against. They have some tenets which are unconstitutional like their women have to submit to the authority of their husbands and stay in the home.

What else would you call an atheist who recognizes only the fundamentalist version of Christianity?

A very observant person.

All versions of a religion are fundamentalist or they are not real believers, just giving lip service. Either one believes in the entire thing or they don't, this is one of the few things which there is no real middle ground.

Disbeliever who thinks that Christianity requires a fundamentalist dogma

See above.

I used to think so; you've convinced me otherwise.

Than I feel sorry for you.

Ok, fundy agnostic then.

There is no such thing.

I think that Hell exists, but it isn't quite what most people think it is.

What is it then?

God doesn't toss you into Hell; you find it on your own.

How convenient.

A problem only for a fundy.

See above.

I believe in all of it. It's just not always what you fundies think it is.

You and 1500 other totally different sects who think that they know exactly what it is saying as well. You know no more than any of all of the others. And trying to place such labels as fundamentalists on others shows that you don't even know the meaning of the term.

And for a fundy agnostic.

Wrong, there is no such thing. Unlike those who are under religious dogma an agnostic doesn't have such a system to bind them. We have no prayers to some non-existent mythical being, no holy book to worship and to tell us how to think, and none of the other traps.

Oh, there are a lot of them. More of them than there are of agnostics who are hostile to religion.

Here is where you are wrong yet again. Agnostics are neither friend, nor hostile towards religion.
We think that both sides are wrong because neither can truly know. To claim so is to delude one's self.

 

Actually, it means "all-competent". Able to do anything.

 

To do and be.

Yep, but that's not what I said.

And thus your claim of godhood. If you had said something like this even a century ago you would have been burned as a heretic.

 

Fourth Response

 

Posted by True Seeker on September 05, 1998 at 20:40:39:

 

According to this idea, then, the purpose or function of those faculties (if they have one) is to enable or promote survival, or survival and reproduction, more exactly, the maximization of fitness (the probability of survival and reproduction). Furthermore, the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable (i.e., furnish us with a preponderance of true beliefs) on Darwin's dangerous idea is either low or inscrutable (i.e., impossible to estimate).

 

I don't know how they come up with such rank assertions. It should be rather obvious that having true beliefs about one's environment aids survival better than having false ones. It's quite conceivable for a simpler primate to hold the following beliefs:

Red fruit are good to eat.

Green fruit are bad to eat.

If true, these beliefs help our primate eat a proper meal. Having untrue beliefs about what is good or bad to eat would be detrimental. So, having true beliefs is beneficially from an evolutionary perspective.
Of course, I would disagree that we are *specially oriented* toward truth. Capable of it, yes, but for every gem of truth there's been a ton of dross in the history of human ideas. I'd count Plantinga's thesis with the dross myself.

 

 

 

 
 
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