Intelligent Design

Back to Basics on Whether Truth is Adaptive

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The title of my last post was Reality is the Wall You Smack into When You’re Wrong.  In response to that title Seversky pushed back:

Can we assume from this [title] that you agree with me that the argument that our minds were shaped for survival but not for truth is a false dichotomy? In other words, if we form false beliefs about reality then, sooner or later, we will run smack into it so natural selection will favor the formation of true beliefs?

I was more than a little surprised at Sev’s response, because since Darwin himself, the standard Darwinian line has been exactly the opposite of that which he asserted.  Natural selection selects for fitness, not for truth.  In an 1881 letter to William Graham Darwin wrote:

But then with me 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?

To be sure, the doubt Darwin was expressing was not in his own theory; it was in a creator.  It never seemed to occur to him that he was sawing off the branch on which his own theory was sitting.  Nevertheless, he understood the epistemological conundrum his theory creates (if only selectively).

Nothing has changed in 133 years.  As Wells outlines in Zombie Science, Darwinsists Ajit Varki and Danny Brower absolutely insist that natural selection sometimes favors false thinking.  They say that the modern human mind evolved when early humans overcame their awareness of mortality by acquiring “a massive capacity for denial.” Varki and Brower argue that all non-humans are aware of their own mortality and thus are inhibited from embarking on enterprises—such as scientific discoveries and technological innovations—that transcend the life of a single individual. By evolving a capacity for denying mortality, subhuman creatures became humans and modern culture emerged. But “reality denial” quickly extended to other aspects of reality and produced religion.

Examples of Darwinists asserting that truth is not necessarily adaptive can be multiplied.

Steven Pinker: “our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.”

Eric Baum: “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.”

Donald Hoffman:  “Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive.  They guide adaptive behaviours. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know.And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be. If you had to spend all that time figuring it out, the tiger would eat you.  According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness.  Never.”

At this point Goodusername jumps in with this:

Darwinism likely means our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth, but it’s not as if there’s no link between survival and having a brain that is capable of learning about its environment.

Of course.  Notice how both Pinker and Baum try to have it both ways.  Sometimes truth is adaptive; sometimes it is not.  Sometimes you are more likely to survive if you believe a falsehood.  This implies that at other times you are more likely to survive if you believe the truth.

So dear Goodusername, we can sum the Darwinian narrative up as follows:  believing the truth is adaptive.  Except when it is not.  Then believing a falsehood is adaptive.

That is the beauty of Darwinism.  It explains absolutely everything – and its polar opposite – with equal alacrity.  You believed the truth and survived.  Then truth was adaptive.  You believed a falsehood and survived.  Then the falsehood was adaptive.  You committed rape? Well rape was adaptive in the distant past, and you are just acting according to your hard wiring.  You acted with selfless devotion and sacrifice toward a woman?  Well, altruism was adaptive in the distant past, and you are just acting according to your hard wiring.

Of course, a skeptic might object that a theory that explains everything and its opposite equally well explains nothing.  But if one were of a skeptical bent one wouldn’t be a Darwinist in the first place, so this objection rarely bothers Darwinian true believers.

62 Replies to “Back to Basics on Whether Truth is Adaptive

  1. 1
    groovamos says:

    Bravo Barry

    Newton invented calculus, because it is true. Truth was extremely beneficial for Newton’s status and hence survival.

    So where in the history of homo sapiens did the selective advantage of the truth as manifested in mathematics come into play? If it happened due to selection then we should see in all of Newton’s ancestors a propensity for mathematical ability, since it arose due to selective advantage and was passed down to him.

  2. 2
    Origenes says:

    There are far more false beliefs that are compatible with a certain behavior, than there are true beliefs. This poses a serious problem for Darwinism. Under Darwinism, the odds for true or false are not 50-50, far from it.

    As Plantinga writes in ‘Warrant and Proper Function’, p.225:

    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.

    [my emphasis]

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    groovamos,

    So where in the history of homo sapiens did the selective advantage of the truth as manifested in mathematics come into play?

    That’s a very broad question, but would you not agree that our understanding of mathematics enables us to control our environment and defend ourselves against agressors to a degree that is unique among life forms on Earth?

    Chimpanzees don’t have anything like our modern medicine, technology, or weapons, and may be on the path to extinction. Humans are more or less in control of their own destiny, on the other hand.

  4. 4
    groovamos says:

    daveS: That’s a very broad question, but would you not agree that our understanding of mathematics enables us to control our environment and defend ourselves against agressors to a degree that is unique among life forms on Earth?

    I can turn that question into a politically dangerous proposition that is most likely false. I have a marvelous book, The Concise Dictionary of Mathematics, in the back of which are 59 photographs, portraits, and photos of busts, of the most famous mathematicians of history. These people are all European, American, Jewish, and Slavic. In the crude vernacular of our current political milieu, they are all ‘white’, so-called. Even worse, 57 of them are men.

    So if mathematics is to benefit the survival of the human race, you could argue that the truth of mathematics evolved to advantage the survival of lightly colored people, and especially men. So a possible employment of Darwinism is promoting the ‘survival of the fittest’ in racial terms.

    So lets consider that the proposition is false, and one way to do that from a Darwinian point of view is to say that mathematics benefits the whole of the human race, due to the efforts of a tiny minority of individuals. Then there should be broad appreciation on the political left for this tiny minority of people, for any survival advantage to the race due to the efforts of this minority with noticeable racial similarity. But this is not the case obviously.

    In fact the opposite could be true. The rise of mathematics which made possible modern science, engineering, the university model, and the modern industrial economy, has created a culture where lightly colored men and Asian men dominate the mathematically exhaustive fields of study. In fact there is a race of people in which many say that to excel in math and science is “acting white”, yet the success of the dominant culture is scornfully labeled “white privilege” and the successful people are exposed to increasing hostility, and depending on how the culture progresses, possible exposure to danger. In this way a Darwinian view of truth in mathematics could be used to prove a threat to survival.

    So there you have it – Darwinism employed to prove the survival advantage of mathematical truth, and at the same time the threat to survival of those persons with the knowledge.

  5. 5
    daveS says:

    groovamos,

    So if mathematics is to benefit the survival of the human race, you could argue that the truth of mathematics evolved to advantage the survival of lightly colored people, and especially men. So a possible employment of Darwinism is promoting the ‘survival of the fittest’ in racial terms.

    Well, I don’t think the truth of mathematics “evolved”—rather, it was/is all there to be discovered, and white men were privileged to make many of those discoveries up to this point.

    So lets consider that the proposition is false, and one way to do that from a Darwinian point of view is to say that mathematics benefits the whole of the human race, due to the efforts of a tiny minority of individuals. Then there should be broad appreciation on the political left for this tiny minority of people, for any survival advantage to the race due to the efforts of this minority with noticeable racial similarity. But this is not the case obviously.

    Yikes—no comment on this.

    In fact the opposite could be true. The rise of mathematics which made possible modern science, engineering, the university model, and the modern industrial economy, has created a culture where lightly colored men and Asian men dominate the mathematically exhaustive fields of study. In fact there is a race of people in which many say that to excel in math and science is “acting white”, yet the success of the dominant culture is scornfully labeled “white privilege” and the successful people are exposed to increasing hostility, and depending on how the culture progresses, possible exposure to danger. In this way a Darwinian view of truth in mathematics could be used to prove a threat to survival.

    It is true that from time to time, being at “elite” or an “intellectual” can be a liability (e.g., the Cultural Revolution) of course. Things are complicated.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    Dreiundzwanzig

    That’s how many pairs of chromosomes are in the nucleus of most human cells.

    That’s also the number of times the word ‘truth’ appears just in the 4th book of the NT.

    It also appears 70 times in the rest of the NT and 46 times in the OT.

    Here are some NT appearances of the word ‘truth’:

    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

    […] grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

    But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24n

    You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. John 5:33

    So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”. John 8:31-32

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. […] John 14:6

    even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. [..] John 14:17

    “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. John 15:26

    When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, […] John 16:13

    For I have given them the words that You gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent me. John 17:8

    Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

    And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:19

    Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. John 18:37-38

    He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. John 19:35

  7. 7
    Belfast says:

    Wonderland, wonderful.
    Now, What is truth?

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    Belfast @7:
    Pontius Pilate asked exactly the same question, not realizing that the answer was right before him, simply because he didn’t want to know the answer to such a fundamental question.

    Do you really want to know the answer to the question?

    Truth is the ultimate reality, clearly defined in the first few verses of the first chapter of the fourth book of the NT.

  9. 9

    Excellent post. Thank you.

    Belfast @ 7: John 14:6

  10. 10

    daveS @ 5: “…white men were privileged to make many of those discoveries up to this point.”

    Ah, yes, the “privileged” white man. That explains everything.

  11. 11
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    Examples of Darwinists asserting that truth is not necessarily adaptive can be multiplied.

    But… do their claims have anything to do with them being Darwinists? If not, then specifying “Darwinist” is being oddly specific.

    The relationship between “truth” and “survival” (or “fitness”) can be an interesting one, with many varying opinions, but I have no idea why anyone would bring “Darwinism” into it. What relevance does it serve here?

    When you say “Darwinism says there is a link between fitness and truth. Except when there is not”, the phrasing seems obviously meant to mock Darwinists, but that implies that Darwinists somehow believe differently about the matter, but how? Would it be any less accurate to say “ID proponents say there is a link between fitness and truth. Except when there is not”?

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN @ 11:

    It does not appear to me that you are asking your questions in good faith, because the answers are so obvious. Please allow me to give you some advice: The ability to keep on typing and string words together is NOT the same as the ability to say something coherent, useful or interesting. There is a line. You’ve crossed it.

  13. 13
    goodusername says:

    It does not appear to me that you are asking your questions in good faith, because the answers are so obvious. Please allow me to give you some advice: The ability to keep on typing and string words together is NOT the same as the ability to say something coherent, useful or interesting. There is a line. You’ve crossed it.

    k

    If anyone else would like to explain it, feel free.

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    By “truth”, in these discussions, I mean the correspondence theory which broadly holds that there is an objective reality out there and our descriptions/explanations/narratives/theories are true to the extent that they are observed to correspond to what they purport to describe of that reality.

    Suppose that Moog notices that prey animals are more likely to be killed by the tiger near the watering-hole at a certain time of day. Suppose he explains this as the tiger lying in wait by the watering-hole at the time of day when the prey animals tend to congregate to drink. On the basis of this insight Moog decides to drink there at a different time of day, perhaps when the day is hottest and most animals are lying up in the shade.

    Oog, on the other hand, also notices that the tiger is around when the other animals go to drink but, operating on the assumption that the tiger is there for a game of hide-and-seek, he also goes there at that time of day.

    Who is more likely to survive over time?

    You can point out that there are many false narratives or beliefs that incidentally that don’t hinder or even aid survival and I will agree. But you are missing the point. You are missing out the dimension of time. It’s just like pointing out that many more genetic mutations are detrimental rather than beneficial. That’s not in dispute. But again, over an extended period of time, which are more likely to be filtered out by natural selection and which are going to be left?

    In a complex environment which offers useful resources but also contains many dangers, the better your understanding of those benefits and dangers, the more accurate your accounts of where to find the resources and how to avoid the dangers, the better are your chances of survival. Over time, truth-tracking and fitness-tracking will align.

  15. 15
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sev.

    But you are missing the point

    No, it is you who are missing the point. You still do appear to understand that natural selection does not care what you believe. It cares only how you behave.

    Do you seriously believe you understand the Darwinian theory better than Darwin, Varki, Brower, Pinker, Baum and Hoffman?

    When I say “sometimes truth is not adaptive,” I am not spouting an ID talking point. That comes from several prominent Darwinians (including Darwin). It is truly astounding that you believe you understand the implications of the theory better than they do.

    Sev, you seriously have not demonstrated that you understand the first thing about why they would say that. I suggest you go back and think harder, and when (maybe I should say “if”) you come to understand why they are saying that, then come back and we will talk.

    BTW, I suggest you start with Varki and Brower because I lay it out very plainly in the OP. Do you understand why they say in that particular instance error was adaptive?

  16. 16
    goodusername says:

    Seversky,

    You can point out that there are many false narratives or beliefs that incidentally that don’t hinder or even aid survival and I will agree.

    Is that what he’s trying to do? That’s one of the things I can’t figure out.

    At times he seems to be trying to convince us that there may be times that false beliefs can lead to survival (as in the “Oog” example), but at other times he seems to be mocking those Darwinists who believe that: “Darwinism says there is a link between fitness and truth. Except when there is not.”

    The point of the Oog example also eludes me. Both of us have attempted to point out that Oog doesn’t have long to live (to say the least: he’s unlikely to survive the day, let alone live to find a mate, let alone breed, let alone raise offspring, etc). But… does that really need pointing out? Surely Barry already realizes that. And surely Barry doesn’t actually think that Darwinists believe that Oog will be a successful breeder. But if we can all agree that Oog’s days are numbered, then what’s the point of the example?

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN,

    I will ask you the same questions I asked Sev:

    Do you seriously believe you understand the Darwinian theory better than Darwin, Varki, Brower, Pinker, Baum and Hoffman?

    When I say “sometimes truth is not adaptive,” I am not spouting an ID talking point. That comes from several prominent Darwinians (including Darwin). It is truly astounding that you believe you understand the implications of the theory better than they do.

    GUN, you seriously have not demonstrated that you understand the first thing about why they would say that. I suggest you go back and think harder, and when (maybe I should say “if”) you come to understand why they are saying that, then come back and we will talk.

    BTW, I suggest you start with Varki and Brower because I lay it out very plainly in the OP. Do you understand why they say in that particular instance error was adaptive?

  18. 18
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    I will ask you the same questions I asked Sev:

    It would help to understand what you’re saying if you would answer some of our questions.

    Do you seriously believe you understand the Darwinian theory better than Darwin, Varki, Brower, Pinker, Baum and Hoffman?

    I doubt that. Have I said anything that you think they’d disagree with?

    When I say “sometimes truth is not adaptive,” I am not spouting an ID talking point.

    Yes, obviously. But are you agreeing with that statement, or arguing against it?

    It is truly astounding that you believe you understand the implications of the theory better than they do.

    Following up your previous sentences with this one seems to imply that you believe that Darwinism has implications on the relationship between fitness and truth. I’m not sure if that’s what you meant to imply. That is not what Pinker, et al, are saying, rather, they are talking about the evolutionary implications of the truth not always being conducive to survival (or even harmful). In other words, they are saying that the relationship between fitness and truth has implications on our evolution – not that our evolution has implications on the relationship between fitness and truth (which wouldn’t make any sense).

    I haven’t been talking about any implications of Darwinism (at least in this thread). I’ve merely been talking about the relationship between fitness (survival) and truth, which can be an interesting discussion. Now, depending on what the relationship between fitness and truth is, there are obviously evolutionary implications on the brain, which can also be an interesting discussion. Do you realize that they are two separate subjects?

    I have no idea why Darwinists and ID proponents would disagree on the relationship between fitness and truth, but it hardly makes sense to me to start talking about the implications of that relationship when I can’t even tell if we agree on what that relationship is.

    Perhaps you misread my post at #11 to mean that I was saying that I don’t see any difference in the implications of the relationship between fitness and truth between Darwinists and ID proponents? “Obviously” there are different implications. But that isn’t what I was talking about. What I said was:

    “The relationship between “truth” and “survival” (or “fitness”) can be an interesting one, with many varying opinions, but I have no idea why anyone would bring “Darwinism” into it. What relevance does it serve here?”

    For instance, do Darwinists have a different position on whether Oog can survive than ID proponents? If so, why? It’s not at all “obvious” to me why Darwinists would have a different position than anyone else on the subject.

    BTW, I suggest you start with Varki and Brower because I lay it out very plainly in the OP. Do you understand why they say in that particular instance error was adaptive?

    I believe I understand Varki and Brower’s arguments, although from the discussions and reviews I’ve seen on their book, not many find it convincing, to say the least (including me). But I am inclined to believe Pinker (from what I can remember).

    What do you think any of them would say if asked if Oog has a chance of successfully breeding? From what I’ve seen I would bet quite a bit that they’d all answer “NO” (at least, after they’re done laughing).

  19. 19
    Barry Arrington says:

    GUN,

    It seems to me that you did not understand the Oog example. Here it is again:

    Example: Oog the caveman thinks Saber Toothed tigers are fun to play with. But he also thinks the best way to play with tigers is to run and hide. Both ideas are contrary to reality. But in combination they result in his survival. Oog is fit under Darwinism’s definition of fit.

    Oog survived in the example. And because he survived he has every chance of successfully breeding.

    The point, again, is an organism’s beliefs are invisible to natural selection. Only its behavior counts. Oog believes two errors: (1) it is fun to play with tigers; (2) hide and go seek is the best game to play with tigers. The combination of his errors caused him to hide, which in turn caused him to survive and pass on his genes. The two false beliefs were invisible to natural selection. The behavior, (i.e., hiding) was not. The behavior was adaptive. The false beliefs led to adaptive behavior.

  20. 20
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    It seems to me that you did not understand the Oog example. Here it is again:

    You mean that example that I said, several times, that I didn’t understand?

    Oog survived in the example. And because he survived he has every chance of successfully breeding.

    ?? You and I both know that that’s utterly impossible, so why on earth would you claim such a thing?

    What part of the explanation for why someone with a brain as deranged as Oog’s wouldn’t survive long after the tiger encounter (an explanation that I only gave to play along, only in the hope that the actual point of the example would be forthcoming, as I was sure it wasn’t actually necessary) don’t you find convincing?

    Do you also think someone with severe dementia would long survive and successfully rear offspring? Did we also need to point out that humans don’t have the life span and reproductive cycle of a fruit fly?

    As I don’t believe for a second that you believe Oog successfully breeds, I guess I’ll just be left to wonder what your point was.

    Indeed, beliefs are invisible to natural selection, and are not passed on biologically to the next generation. Behavior is also not biologically inherited (except perhaps for some basic instincts). Selection, however, is based on behavior. But since neither beliefs nor behavior is heritable, what’s actually being selected are the particles of information used to form the brain which plays a part in our beliefs and actions.

    If Oog does – miracles of all miracles – manage to breed, God help his offspring (assuming that Oog’s issue isn’t environmental, such as severe brain trauma).

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    OK GUN, you can go on with your delusion that you understand the theory better than several prominent Darwinian theorists. I have done my best to educate you. You have proven impervious to my attempts. Yes, it is better that we both move along.

  22. 22
    Pindi says:

    I can understand why you want to move along Barry. You have made yourself look silly.

  23. 23
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername: But since neither beliefs nor behavior is heritable, what’s actually being selected are the particles of information used to form the brain which plays a part in our beliefs and actions.

    I do not understand. Elaborate please.

  24. 24
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername @20

    Two questions wrt your statement, which I quoted in #23.

    (1) Natural selection filters behavior, not beliefs. If behavior is selected, then (indirectly) beliefs and the brain particles that produce them are being selected. Agree?
    (2) I suppose that there is a material mechanistic relation between the brain particles you referred to and adjacent beliefs and behavior. If you are correct and these brain particles are heritable, then so are the beliefs and behavior that are connected to them. Agree?

  25. 25
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    1)No – Natural selection doesn’t filter behavior, or select behavior – it’s filtering and selecting based on behavior. Also, beliefs aren’t selected, but beliefs influence behavior.

    2)No – The brain particles aren’t hereditary: The particles that form the brain are hereditary. Beliefs and knowledge are not (for the most part). There’s a reason parents have to teach their children stuff that they learned every generation, and go to school. What you’re describing would be like getting a scar on your cheek and expecting your children to be born with the scar.
    To think my children would be born biologically inheriting all my beliefs would be Lamarckism on steroids (and PCP, and crack).

  26. 26
    Barry Arrington says:

    Pindi, do you also disagree with prominent Darwinist Eric Baum when he says “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.”

    Sev and GUN do.

  27. 27
    goodusername says:

    Pindi, do you also disagree with prominent Darwinist Eric Baum when he says “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.”

    Sev and GUN do.

    Pindi,

    And, if you do agree with Baum, that obviously means that you believe that Oog will live to grow up, find a mate, raise children, etc cause, you know, he survived that tiger encounter that one time. obviously. 😉

  28. 28
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername @25

    1) No – Natural selection doesn’t filter behavior, or select behavior – it’s filtering and selecting based on behavior. Also, beliefs aren’t selected, but beliefs influence behavior.

    I take it that you mean to say that behavior and beliefs are not hereditary. According to you there is no evolutionary explanation for these things.

    2) No – The brain particles aren’t hereditary: The particles that form the brain are hereditary.

    Whatever… I will rephrase my question:
    I suppose that there is a material mechanistic relation between ”the particles that form the brain” and adjacent beliefs and behavior. If you are correct and these particles are heritable, then so are the beliefs and behavior that are mechanistically connected to them. Agree?

  29. 29
    Starbuck says:

    The early human who looked for insect swarms, followed animal tracks , followed birds, and silently listened for running water was able to quench his thirst. The early human who prayed to snake gods for water, died.

  30. 30
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername tells us that behavior and beliefs are not heritable. It seems that he wants evolution to bypass Plantinga’s EAAN and directly produce a responsible free rational mind. An intelligent mind that is free to choose his/her beliefs and behaviors. The problem for Goodusername is that, under naturalism, a responsible free rational mind is not available as an explanation.
    Given naturalism, free minds are excluded; only mechanistic explanations for behavior and beliefs are allowed. All naturalism has to offer Goodusername is random behavior, random beliefs and natural selection.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    Starbuck,

    Are you bucking (pun intended) all the experts too? It is truly astounding that a bunch of internet trolls believe they understand the theory better than the experts.

    Guys, get a grip. What I have been saying is not the least bit controversial.

    OK, let’s do it this way. Can one of you cite a paper than says truth is always adaptive and error is never adaptive?

    I’ll wait.

  32. 32
    critical rationalist says:

    Knowledge is independent of a knowing subject. It plays a causal role in being retained in a storage medium As such, someone’s brain can contain a truth even if they are not aware of the problem it solves, or why it solves it.

    IOW, your whole argument hinges on a very specific idea about truth. Specificity, the true belief theory of knowledge.

    You do realize this, don’t you?

    It seems you’re either ignorant of the philosophical assumptions your argument entails, or your deliberately omitted them because your preaching to the choir. Either way, it’s a parochial argument, in that it is limited in scope.

  33. 33
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR, do you also disagree with prominent Darwinist Eric Baum when he says “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.”

    Do you disagree that Baum’s assertion is not the least bit controversial?

    Can you cite a single paper that disagrees with him?

    I’ll wait.

  34. 34
    Mung says:

    >Knowledge is independent of a knowing subject.

    God help us.

  35. 35
    Pindi says:

    Barry, what I am disagreeing with is that a caveman that was so poorly adapted to his environment that be believes sabre tooth tigers are fun to play with is going to survive long enough to breed in comparison to a caveman who recognises the truth about sabre tooth tigers. Surely that is obvious. I can’t believe you are denying it with a straight face.

  36. 36
    Barry Arrington says:

    Pindi,

    And I can’t believe that for someone who comments so often in these pages, you don’t have seem to have the faintest clue what adaptation or fitness mean in the context of evolutionary theory.

    If the organism survives, it was, by definition, fit. In the Oog example, he survived because he hid from the Tiger. And since Oog survived, he was, by definition, fit. The point of the example is that it was his behavior (hiding) not not his belief (Tigers like to play) that caused him to survive. Therefore, he survived because his behavior was adaptive even though his beliefs were false.

    Sheesh. This is basic stuff. I am truly astounded that you don’t seem to understand it. I expected you would push back at me. But pushing back at Varki, Brower, Pinker, Baum and Hoffman — fellow Darwinists all — is really too much.

  37. 37
    Origenes says:

    Pindi @35

    You don’t seem to understand the argument.
    Maybe this helps:

    Origenes: … there are far more false beliefs that lead to a specific appropriate action then that single true belief that leads to the same appropriate action.

    Goodusername: I’m not saying that one needs the single true belief – I’m saying that beliefs that correlate more closely with reality are more likely to result in more appropriate actions than other beliefs.

    Origenes: I am not convinced. Let’s look at your claim more closely. Plantinga provided the following example: Paul “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.” Let’s call this belief A and let’s assume that it is does not correlate closely to reality at all. Now consider a belief B that goes like this: ‘Paul thinks the tiger wants to eat him and he believes that this is fitting end of his life because he (Paul) is a bad person who deserves to be eaten by a tiger.’ Now let’s assume that belief B correlates closely to reality.
    Which belief is more likely to result in appropriate adaptive behavior? A or B?

  38. 38
    Barry Arrington says:

    Pindi, Starbuck, CR, Sev,

    Still waiting for that paper that says believing the truth is always adaptive and believing a falsehood never is.

    Tick Tock. Come on boys. We don’t have all day.

  39. 39
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    I take it that you mean to say that behavior and beliefs are not hereditary. According to you there is no evolutionary explanation for these things.

    I wouldn’t disagree with that. How the brain works – particularly details of how ideas are formed, what determines intelligence, how memories are stored, etc etc – are almost entirely mysterious.

    Whatever… I will rephrase my question:
    I suppose that there is a material mechanistic relation between ”the particles that form the brain” and adjacent beliefs and behavior.

    There’s likely a genetic component to some desires – a desire to live, for companionship, food, etc. These, of course, have an influence on behavior, and perhaps on beliefs to some extent. So I would agree that a relation exists.

    If you are correct and these particles are heritable, then so are the beliefs and behavior that are mechanistically connected to them. Agree?

    No, that’d be like saying that since the heritable particles form the brain and prepare it to store memories, that all the memories will then be inherited. Again, if that were true then each generation wouldn’t have to relearn what the previously already learned. Children aren’t born knowing the books that their parents read (and their parents, etc) without needing to read them themselves. Children aren’t even born knowing the alphabet.

  40. 40
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    OK, let’s do it this way. Can one of you cite a paper than says truth is always adaptive and error is never adaptive? I’ll wait.

    You can wait, but no one is arguing such a thing.

    If the organism survives, it was, by definition, fit. In the Oog example, he survived because he hid from the Tiger. And since Oog survived, he was, by definition, fit. The point of the example is that it was his behavior (hiding) not not his belief (Tigers like to play) that caused him to survive. Therefore, he survived because his behavior was adaptive even though his beliefs were false.

    Ok, by an incredible – even comical – stroke of luck, Oog didn’t die during those 30 seconds or so of the tiger encounter. So what? Unless you’re saying that Oog grew up, found a mate, reproduced, and reared his offspring, all during that period, what’s the point? We both know – and all the Darwinists you name all know – that he likely dies minutes later from thinking he can fly off a cliff, or thinking bears like to cuddle, or that rocks make a good snack, or that snakes like to play, or a million other ways to die.

    Oog’s false belief potentially protects him from a single danger – tigers. Life is full of dangers. And given what he believes about tigers, what chance do you give him against all the other dangers out there? You might hit the lottery once, but one isn’t going to do it multiple times a day, every day, for years on end. And if – miracle of miracles – he rears children, his children aren’t even protected from that single danger, as his belief about tigers isn’t heritable.

    Are you taking Baum’s statement to an extreme absurdity in an attempt to mock him, or are you seriously suggesting that agreeing with Baum equates to believing that Oog successfully rears offspring?

  41. 41
    Barry Arrington says:

    Dear readers,

    Notice GUN’s latest tack. Having been soundly thrashed in the underlying argument, he then goes on a rant mocking claims I never made, much less defended. Typical Darwinian tactic: If you are losing, change the subject. Sad.

  42. 42
    goodusername says:

    mocking claims I never made, much less defended

    such as?

  43. 43
  44. 44
    Pindi says:

    Barry @38. such a boring tactic. Demand something that supports a claim your opponent never made and then declare victory.

    Your are the person changing the topic. The topic is whether a caveman who believes sabre tooth tigers are fun to play with is well adapted to his environment. You seem to think surviving one instance of playing hide and seek with a sabre tooth is the definition of survival in an evolutionary sense. Survival in an evolutionary sense means surviving long enough to reproduce. You think a caveman who likes playing with sabre tooth tigers is ever going to get old enough to breed?

  45. 45
    Starbuck says:

    Allow me to finish the story. Oog the caveman thinks it’s fun to run and hide from Sabretooth tigers. Meanwhile her cousin Shooog has figured out how to trap and kill them, strip them of their furs, and cook and eat their meat. Winter comes. Oog is so skinny from all that running and hiding, and dies from either starvation or freezing to death. Meanwhile, Shooog is fat and warm from all that sabretooth meat and furs and has a comfortable winter. Some strapping young caveman joins her tribe and they have children. Moral of the story, your false beliefs may get you lucky, but your luck will run out, make your own luck by making sure your map of reality matches reality as much as possible.

  46. 46
    goodusername says:

    Winter comes

    Oog doesn’t live nearly that long.

  47. 47
    Pindi says:

    Also, playing hide and seek with a large predatory cat is not like playing hide and seek with your grandchildren, Barry. You think the sabre tooth can’t detect poor wee oog hiding behind his bush? Hint, large predatory cats have a good sense of smell. It is so ridiculous that you think oog would survive long enough to reach adulthood and breed.

  48. 48
    Barry Arrington says:

    OK boys, the claim I made is same one Braun made. Under Darwinian theory, sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.

    None of you have refuted that claim. Instead, you have latched onto an example as if that example is the claim. If you don’t like the example, come up with your own. At the end of the day, you have not touched the claim itself.

    You are boring me now. Move along.

  49. 49
    Starbuck says:

    Some strapping young caveman tried to join Oog’s tribe but he was too busy being an idiot.

  50. 50
    Starbuck says:

    And how much of this is true of you Barry? You two-bit piece of shit bankruptcy lawyer with awful reviews on BBB? How much better could your career be if your map of reality matched reality? Ya fucking wanker.

  51. 51
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    None of you have refuted that claim.

    Why would I? As I said, the claim is probably true.

    Instead, you have latched onto an example as if that example is the claim. If you don’t like the example, come up with your own.

    WE are the ones that have been trying to explain that to you. I’ve been saying that finding the Oog example as silly is not the same as disagreeing with Baum.

    And I *did* come up with another example (and one that is more in line with what the Darwinists you list are talking about: the paranoia regarding the rustling in the bushes.)

    So despite saying that I agreed with Baum – and coming up with my own example – you still claimed (#26) that I disagreed with Baum. Why would you say that unless you were the one latching onto the Oog example as if it was the same as Baum’s claim?

    At the end of the day, you have not touched the claim itself.

    Hallelujah! That’s been my point all along.

    If you accept that, we are in full agreement.

    You are boring me now. Move along.

    It might help if you actually followed the conversation.

  52. 52
    goodusername says:

    It might be worth quoting from an earlier post of mine:

    I don’t think the example of Oog is a good one, as Oog is obviously doomed as soon as his luck runs out. If I traveled back in time and saw Oog playing hide and seek with tigers, I would assume that Oog is suffering from advanced syphilis or some kind of massive head injury, and also that this affliction must be very recent as he’s obviously not long for this world. He’s obviously someone in need of a caregiver.

    A better example would be the classic example of the caveman hearing rustling in nearby bushes. The odds may be 1/1000 or 1/100 of it being a panther, but at the time where the caveman hears the rustling it might be better for him to think the odds are closer to 50/50, even though that’s likely a distorted view of reality. In this case there might be such a thing as a healthy dose of paranoia.

    Notice that I wasn’t disagreeing with your central claim. It was ONLY the example that I had a problem – and then came up with my own.

  53. 53
    rvb8 says:

    Barry,

    this Ooog chap seems to have a parlous grip on his environment and its ihabitants.

    Is he an adult? Did he grow up with other Ooog like minded individuals, it seems unlikely that his parents should have survived long enough to, do the dirty. It is a poor and vague example that can be used to prove anything.

    I have admitted my wrongness, and mistakes here before, and been stung by the admission.

  54. 54
    Origenes says:

    (1) Whenever Oog’s spots a sable tiger he runs and hides, for some bizarre reason. Oog’s behavior is fit and adaptive.

    (2) Oog’s belief about sable tigers tells us nothing about Oog’s other beliefs. Each belief that Oog holds has its own individual evolutionary history. Oog’s beliefs as a whole is without internal logical coherence.

  55. 55
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername, Pindi, Rvb8

    Goodusername: Ok, by an incredible – even comical – stroke of luck, Oog didn’t die during those 30 seconds or so of the tiger encounter. So what? Unless you’re saying that Oog grew up, found a mate, reproduced, and reared his offspring, all during that period, what’s the point? We both know – and all the Darwinists you name all know – that he likely dies minutes later from thinking he can fly off a cliff, or thinking bears like to cuddle, or that rocks make a good snack, or that snakes like to play, or a million other ways to die.

    I tend to agree, but this is how evolution works: random stuff and natural selection filtering it. In the case of an evolutionary explanation for beliefs, what we have is random belief-behavior-systems and natural selection as a filter. If you don’t think that this is a credible explanation you have a problem with evolutionary theory, not with Barry or me.

    Goodusername: Oog’s false belief potentially protects him from a single danger – tigers. Life is full of dangers. And given what he believes about tigers, what chance do you give him against all the other dangers out there? You might hit the lottery once, but one isn’t going to do it multiple times a day, every day, for years on end.

    It does not seem credible, right? But, again, that’s how evolutionary explanations work — countless random trials (mutations) and next weeding out what is non-adaptive. If you don’t like it, join the club.

    Pindi: It is so ridiculous that you think oog would survive long enough to reach adulthood and breed.

    Oog hides from sable tigers which is adaptive behavior. The truth value of Oog’s belief, which informs his behavior towards sable tigers, …:
    (1) is irrelevant for survival.
    (2) tell us nothing about Oog’s other beliefs.

    Rvb8: this Ooog chap seems to have a parlous grip on his environment and its ihabitants.

    We have no way of knowing, because Oog’s belief about sable tigers tells us nothing about other beliefs Oog may hold. Each belief that Oog holds has its own individual evolutionary history. Oog’s beliefs taken as a whole is a heterogeneous mixture, since, given naturalism, one cannot assume an overarching responsible free rational person who shapes Oog’s belief-system into a logically coherent whole.

  56. 56
    Barry Arrington says:

    Having been soundly thrashed in the debate, at 51 and 52 GUN pretends to have agreed withe me all along. Shameless.

    Seriously GUN? All of this thrashing about over an example? Next time we can avoid all of if you will write something like:

    “Barry, you are correct. Don’t like that example though.”

  57. 57
    Eugene S says:

    “one cannot assume an overarching responsible free rational person who shapes Oog’s belief-system into a logically coherent whole”

    Well, in all honesty, evolutionism maintains an organism is an agent in the sense that it can control its own state, which is fine. This can theoretically apply to the shaping of belief systems if interpreted as an act of rational agency. However, naturalism offers no empirically warranted mechanism for the emergence of autonomous agency, including rationality. Biological organisms must have had this agency built in from the start: in the case of any organism, the ability of non-conscious decision making; in the case of man, additionally, consciousness, abstract thought, self-awareness, wisdom. Inanimate nature does not have agency simply because it cannot make decisions, choose between physically/chemically degenerate states, set goals, respond to incentives or act “in order to”.

  58. 58
    Origenes says:

    Eugene S @57

    EugeneS: … evolutionism maintains an organism is an agent in the sense that it can control its own state …
    However, naturalism offers no empirically warranted mechanism for the emergence of autonomous agency, including rationality.

    On top of that there are solid arguments which show that naturalism, in principle, cannot ground responsibility, freedom and rationality.
    Therefore, naturalism has no right to invoke a responsible free rational agent as part of an explanation.

  59. 59
    goodusername says:

    Barry
     

     Having been soundly thrashed in the debate, at 51 and 52 GUN pretends to have agreed withe me all along. Shameless.

     
    Should I put together a post quoting all the times where I said that I agreed with your central claim, Baum, or Pinker?
     

     Seriously GUN? All of this thrashing about over an example?

    That was some of the thrashing, but most of the thrashing was you saying I was wrong and me trying to get you to explain where you disagreed with me.

     

    Next time we can avoid all of if you will write something like:

    “Barry, you are correct. Don’t like that example though.”

    I did. I quoted it in #52. I agreed that “a distorted view of reality” could in certain cases help survival – and even gave an alternative example.

    That was from #36 of the previous thread. You seemed to have a problem with that post for reasons that I still don’t know, and gave a quote from a Darwinist that pretty much just paraphrased what I had just said. Just in case I wasn’t clear enough I stated in my next post: “I would say that there are falsehoods that may be adaptive.” (original emphasis) And I stated my puzzlement as to what you were disagreeing with.

    I could put together another post of all the times I said I was confused or puzzled as to what you were disagreeing with or asked you to state what it was you were disagreeing with.

    Each and every time you refused to answer. You refused to answer any other questions as well. The closest you got to ever addressing any question was to mock me for asking it.

    One way to avoid a lot of wasted time and misunderstandings is to answer basic questions.  Careful reading also helps.

  60. 60
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

     In the case of an evolutionary explanation for beliefs, what we have is random belief-behavior-systems and natural selection as a filter. If you don’t think that this is a credible explanation you have a problem with evolutionary theory, not with Barry or me.

     
    I would indeed have a problem with such a theory where every belief is stored as hereditary information.  My first problem (of many) would be – good luck fitting all of that in the human genome.
     

    It does not seem credible, right? But, again, that’s how evolutionary explanations work — countless random trials (mutations) and next weeding out what is non-adaptive. If you don’t like it, join the club.

     
    It works by mutations and weeding out of hereditary information.
     

    Each belief that Oog holds has its own individual evolutionary history.

     
    This is where you keep messing up.  Beliefs don’t have an evolutionary history, because beliefs aren’t inherited. Every generation has to relearn the stuff the previous generation already learned.

    Much of our desires is probably a result of our dna: We have desires to survive, find companionship, etc. But our way of life is far too complex for pre-coded genes to help with the details of how to fulfill such desires – and that’s where our intelligence and learning comes in. DNA also probably also plays a part in our intelligence, but it doesn’t give us our beliefs.

  61. 61
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername: I would indeed have a problem with such a theory where every belief is stored as hereditary information. My first problem (of many) would be – good luck fitting all of that in the human genome.

    Is storage your concern? In that case I have a question for you: how do we fit in the genome (which consists mostly of junk-dna) all the information wrt to building a brain — the most complex item of the universe? Anyway, this is an inappropriate argument coming from an evolutionist.
    Given naturalism, beliefs are not mental phenomena without a material basis. Given naturalism, a belief-behavior-system either is a particular adaptive neurological structure or is an emergent property from such a neurological structure. Adaptive neurological structures are obviously heritable and by implication so are belief-behavior-systems.

    Goodusername: Beliefs don’t have an evolutionary history, because beliefs aren’t inherited. Every generation has to relearn the stuff the previous generation already learned.

    Even if I grant you this idea, the problem remains and we still have no reason to trust our beliefs. In the end, if we have to trace the origin of beliefs through social transmittance by many generations, we do not find a responsible free rational mind at the source, but instead we find monkeys and lower animals …

    But then with me 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?

    Individual or social inheritance, natural selection works very much the same — see Dawkins on ‘memes’, which evolve by natural selection.

  62. 62
    mike1962 says:

    Starbuck @50

    Haven’t seen anyone that triggered around here for awhile.

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