Animal minds

Joe Carter on Monkey Brains

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Over at First Things Joe Carter considers whether naturalism can ever account for valid belief. “To have trustworthy convictions, we have to have properly functioning noetic equipment (i.e., a brain, spinal cord, sensory apparatus, etc., that recognize reality). But can a strictly materialistic, non-teleological, evolutionary process produce such reliable equipment? The philosopher Alvin Plantinga, one of the greatest thinkers of our era, thinks the answer is ‘no.'”

6 Replies to “Joe Carter on Monkey Brains

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    Borne says:

    Of course the answer is no.
    It always astounds me that materialists are still trying to refute this fact.
    They have never succeeded and never can.
    It cannot be done, for refuting it requires one to assume it.

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    bevets says:

    Suppose we oversimplify a bit and say that my behavior is a causal product just of my beliefs and desires. Then the problem is that clearly 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 be a result of 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 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 the confuses running toward it with running away from it, believing of the action that 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 sixteen-hundred-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 where the beliefs are mostly false. Indeed, even if we fix desire, there will still be any number of systems of belief that will produce a given bit of behavior: perhaps Paul does not want to be eaten, but (a) thinks the best way to avoid being eaten it to run toward the tiger, and (b) mistakenly believes that he is running toward it when in fact he is running away. ~ Alvin Plantinga

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    bornagain77 says:

    off topic: Dr. Caroline Crocker has a new e-mail newsletter available by free subscription that many UD readers may want to join. Here is the description:

    “Our position is that good science is based on evidence, not mere consensus.”

    Welcome to the American Institute for Technology and Science Education (AITSE). We are a consortium of scientists, engineers, physicians, and other professionals dedicated to sound science education. We focus on integrity in science and presenting fact-based science; encouraging impartial evaluation of data, assisting with balanced and innovative teaching to promote good science based on evidence, not mere consensus.
    http://www.americaninstitutete.....ation.com/

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    Aleta says:

    My answer is “sure”, although of course the answer depends on what one means by “valid belief.” If it works – the rock is hard so I shouldn’t smash my finger with it, because that hurts, that seems like a pretty valid truth to me.

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    Aleta says:

    I meant “seems like a pretty valid belief to me.”

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