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But does it matter anymore whether science makes sense?

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Isn’t “making sense” a human construct? From Kenneth Francis at New English Review:

About seven years ago, during a talk on Hawking at a university, I raised my hand and criticised comments he made in his then latest book, The Grand Design, which he co-wrote with Star Trek screenwriter Leonard Mlodinow.

My question was, “why did Hawking write such a nonsensical idea that the universe created itself because of gravity?” (In order for the universe to create itself it would have to have existed before it exists, and gravity is part of the universe). I also asked why did Hawking write “philosophy is dead” at the beginning of his book (a self-refuting statement, as it’s philosophical), while constantly philosophising throughout the entire book?

There was an awkward silence in the lecture hall and the speaker looked at me in what seemed like a confused expression. He said, “Did he really say that?” (He hadn’t read the entire book). I told him the page numbers where he could find the quotes. I wasn’t criticising Hawking the man (a man enduring a severe neurone disease that has paralysed him for decades), but Hawking the scientist.

But, as the speaker looked at me with what seemed like an expression of disbelief, to my rescue came a distinguished astrophysicist on the panel, who stood up and said, “Kenneth is right; Hawking did write those things” More.

But who cares? What with string theory, cosmic inflation theory, and the multiverse,  the real story is that it doesn’t matter whether what Hawking or any other cosmologist writes even makes any sense. They are science celebs.  Period. As long as their output supports metaphysical naturalism (nature is all there is), whatever they choose to say is fine.

See also: Multiverse cosmology at your fingertips

27 Replies to “But does it matter anymore whether science makes sense?

  1. 1
    asauber says:

    Science Celebs misinforming already dumbed-down bags of meat: let’s see what happens.

    Andrew

  2. 2
    News says:

    asauber at 1: People should start by considering that being human matters. Our brains are shaped for truth, not fitness.

  3. 3
    ronvanwegen says:

    “In order for the universe to create itself it would have to have existed before it exists…”

    “To be OR not to be, that is the question”, William Shakespeare.

    “To be AND not to be, that is the answer!” Stephen Hawking.

  4. 4
    J-Mac says:

    But does it matter anymore whether science makes sense?

    Did it ever?

    “Even the dumbest idea will find its followers”.

    As a matter fact…

    “The more ludicrous the idea, the more likely it is to draw attention .”

  5. 5

    Empirical science always makes sense. Anything beyond that is philosophy, which is fine so long as people are honest about it. A/mats are generally not honest about it.

  6. 6
    J-Mac says:

    Truth Will Set You,

    Empirical science always makes sense.

    It does’t apply to quantum mechanics much…

    Backward causation for example…

  7. 7
  8. 8
    LocalMinimum says:

    es58:

    “You really have to understand evolution as a process to understand biology”

    It pains me to see a physicist restating this bunk so nakedly.

    But isn’t “understanding evolution as a process” precisely what he’s reaching for? Implying that no one understands biology might be true in some general sense, but it seems at least a little unfair to those who’ve worked hard to grasp on to some pretty sizeable chunks of it (though surely through the boring old implicit systems/functionality approach).

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    Before they knew any better, when people saw the Sun rise in the east, cross the sky and set in the west, it “made sense” to think that the Sun goes around the Earth. But what made sense then isn’t – and wasn’t – true.

    The weird phenomena of quantum theory don’t “make sense” at all, yet they are observed so reliably and measured with such accuracy that there’s no doubt they actually happen.

    If scientists occasionally come up with some wacky ideas, surely we can forgive them that, given the really good groundbreaking theories that they also create.

    Our brains are shaped for truth, not fitness.

    There’s a difference?

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    Seversky:

    News: Our brains are shaped for truth, not fitness.

    There’s a difference?

    Yes, there is an obvious difference:

    Suppose Paul is a prehistoric hominid; a hungry tiger approaches. Fleeing is perhaps the most appropriate behavior: I pointed out that this behavior could be produced by a large number of different belief-desire pairs. To quote myself:

    “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 he thinks the tiger is a regularly recurring 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 1600 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.”

    Accordingly, there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of these combinations, the beliefs are false.

    It is easy to see, for just one of Paul’s actions, that there are many different belief-desire combinations that yield it; it is less easy to see how it could be that most of all of his beliefs could be false but nonetheless adaptive or fitness enhancing. Could Paul’s beliefs really be mainly false, but still lead to adaptive action?
    Yes indeed; perhaps the simplest way to see how is by thinking of systematic ways in which his beliefs could be false but still adaptive. Perhaps Paul is a sort of early Leibnizian and thinks everything is conscious (and suppose that is false); furthermore, his ways of referring to things all involve definite descriptions that entail consciousness, so that all of his beliefs are of the form That so-and-so conscious being is such-and-such. Perhaps he is an animist and thinks everything is alive. Perhaps he thinks all the plants and animals in his vicinity are witches, and his ways of referring to them all involve definite descriptions entailing witchhood. But this would be entirely compatible with his belief’s being adaptive; so it is clear, I think, that there would be many ways in which Paul’s beliefs could be for the most part false, but adaptive nonetheless.
    [Plantinga]

  11. 11
    goodusername says:

    Clearly there are any number of belief-cum-desire systems that equally fit a given bit of behavior.

    Yes, there are many such systems, but the odds that Paul would just happen to stumble upon one of those “belief-cum-desire systems” at random (which is what would have to occur with a brain like Paul’s) are astronomical. And this isn’t something that would need to occur just once (the tiger encounter) but moment by moment, throughout the day, every day, throughout his life. He’s going to have to avoid multiple kinds of dangers every day (always just happening to do the right thing for reasons that have nothing to do with reality), find food every day, find a mate, raise his young, etc etc, all in a world with countless different encounters and different obstacles, and all with a brain with little or no ability to discern reality.

    This is having us envision a real-life Mr. Magoo, who despite having no idea what’s going on around him always somehow manages to do the correct thing. Obviously, that’s ludicrous.

    And somehow this luck would have to be heritable.

    A vastly better chance of survival (actually, the only chance of survival) is to have a brain that’s actually going to use the information it’s receiving from the body’s senses to form a realistic picture of reality – or, at least realistic enough that with the use of intelligence one can formulate a reasonable strategy to avoid danger, and find food, a mate, etc that has a better chance than dumb luck. It simply doesn’t work to completely decouple “fitness” and “truth”.

  12. 12
    Origenes says:

    goodusername @11

    goodusername: Yes, there are many such systems, but the odds that Paul would just happen to stumble upon one of those “belief-cum-desire systems” at random (which is what would have to occur with a brain like Paul’s) are astronomical.

    Maybe so, but according to blind watchmaker evolution, this is exactly what happened. Again, natural selection doesn’t select for truth only adaptive behavior. Plantinga puts it like this:

    … evolution is interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave. It selects for certain kinds of behavior, those that enhance fitness, which is a measure of the chances that one’s genes are widely represented in the next and subsequent generations.

    Similarly Patricia Churchland wrote:

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

    goodusername: This is having us envision a real-life Mr. Magoo, who despite having no idea what’s going on around him always somehow manages to do the correct thing. Obviously, that’s ludicrous.

    I agree. And that’s a problem for evolutionary theory.

    goodusername: A vastly better chance of survival (actually, the only chance of survival) is to have a brain that’s actually going to use the information it’s receiving from the body’s senses to form a realistic picture of reality – or, at least realistic enough that with the use of intelligence one can formulate a reasonable strategy to avoid danger, and find food, a mate, etc that has a better chance than dumb luck.

    Again I agree. However evolutionary theory lacks the mechanism to get us there. Due to its focus on behavior, the veraciousness of our beliefs is invisible to natural selection.

    goodusername: It simply doesn’t work to completely decouple “fitness” and “truth”.

    I can only agree. Yet this complete decoupling seems to be an inescapable consequence of evolutionary theory.

  13. 13
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    Maybe so, but according to blind watchmaker evolution, this is exactly what happened.

    No, there’s nothing about blind watchmaker evolution that would lead to the bizarre conclusion that behaviors and beliefs are chosen at random and has nothing to do with intelligence.

    Again, natural selection doesn’t select for truth only adaptive behavior. Plantinga puts it like this:

    True, selection is based directly on behavior. But what leads to behavior? Beliefs. What leads to one’s beliefs? Intelligence (aided by our senses). Thus this is what evolution is (indirectly) selecting.

    I agree. And that’s a problem for evolutionary theory.

    The evolutionary focus on behavior is only an issue if behavior has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence. (Surely that’s not what you’re claiming, right?)

    Again I agree. However evolutionary theory lacks the mechanism to get us there. Due to its focus on behavior, the veraciousness of our beliefs is invisible to natural selection.

    “the veraciousness of our beliefs is invisible to natural selection”? Wow, I guess that is what you’re claiming.

    It’s like saying that since it’s possible to write down the right answer to a math problem by guessing and pure luck, that understanding the math problem confers no greater chance at writing down the right answer.

    In fact, without intelligence there’s no reason to have sight, hearing, etc, since it’s intelligence that uses the senses to acquire knowledge of the world to decide on behavior.
    Thus what you’re claiming would mean that someone with essentially zero intelligence and is deaf and blind would be at no disadvantage to surviving in the wild than anyone else.

    If you can’t see the absurdity of this I don’t know what to tell you.

    Do you realize that Mr. Magoo is meant as a comedy? The reason it’s comical is because someone who is that incapable of understanding his world couldn’t possibly survive the way Magoo does. Somehow even though he doesn’t know what’s going around him, he still manages to do the right thing, every time – the odds are too great against that.
    The number of wrong moves is astronomical compared to the number of right moves, and thus one needs intelligence and senses to choose the right behaviors. I.e, only in cartoons are the veraciousness of our beliefs invisible to natural selection.

    I can only agree. Yet this complete decoupling seems to be an inescapable consequence of evolutionary theory.

    The decoupling only occurs in cartoons.

    None of this even addresses an even bigger issue – beliefs aren’t heritable. By some comical astronomical stroke of luck Paul may have decided to run from tigers (for no reason that has anything to do with reality), but his offspring are just as likely to decide that tigers like hugs.

  14. 14
    Origenes says:

    goodusername: True, selection is based directly on behavior. But what leads to behavior? Beliefs. What leads to one’s beliefs? Intelligence (aided by our senses). Thus this is what evolution is (indirectly) selecting.

    How does that work? Explain how ‘intelligence’ is being selected.

    Three remarks:
    1) As pointed out before, natural selection does not make a distinction between intelligent or unintelligent beliefs. It only selects behavior. IOWs one may argue that NS selects for ‘intelligent behavior’, if there is such a thing, but NS does not select for ‘intelligent beliefs’, let alone for intelligence an sich.
    2) Are you saying that false beliefs are produced by the less intelligent? I would argue that intelligent ppl are especially capable of forming false beliefs.
    3) Beliefs are also influenced by desires, fears and so forth.

  15. 15
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave. It selects for certain kinds of behavior, those that enhance fitness, which is a measure of the chances that one’s genes are widely represented in the next and subsequent generations.

    Knowelge is information that plays a causal role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium. This includes the knowledge in brains, books and even genomes. It is independent of knowing subjects because It solves problems, whether you believe it does or not.

    There are two kinds of knowege: explanatory and non-explanatory. The latter can only created by people because only people are universal explainers. That is, only people can conceive of problems and conjecture explantory theories about how the world works, explicitly designed to solve problems. Evolution and people can create non-explantory knowlege, which can be described as useful rules of thumb. The actions of the man when faced with the tiger are examples of non-explantory knowledge. However, useful rules of thumb have explanations.

    I’d also point out that most of human history fit the description of “Paul”. People wanted to make progress, but on the timescale of individual lifespans, they almost never made any. With the exception of things like fire, the world never improved. These were people with virtually the same brains and eyes as us. Occasionally, they reconized patters in what they experienced, but when they tried to understand what was actually behind them they failed almost completely. Their lives were dominated by useful rules of thumb and myths that bore no resemblance to the truth. They wanted to make progress, but didn’t know how.

    So, exactly what changed? Did we start making process because “That’s just some authoritative designer must have wanted?” How did out mind become designed for truth?

  16. 16
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    How does that work? Explain how ‘intelligence’ is being selected.

    What part of my explanation don’t you understand?

    As pointed out before, natural selection does not make a distinction between intelligent or unintelligent beliefs.

    Obviously, one might do the right thing for the wrong reasons. But unless you’re going to assert that there’s nothing unrealistic about the Mr. Magoo cartoons, higher intelligence does indeed aid in making appropriate actions. Again, if that wasn’t the case, there would be no point to have senses. One can do a random action with or without sight.

    It only selects behavior.

    Yes, and how do you decide what action to take? Is your intelligence involved in any way? Do you think at all when encountering an obstacle or danger?

    If you were to notice that you are approaching a tiger, would you put any thought into what to do?

    Or, since thinking about it is not more likely to produce a proper action than choosing an action at random, are you just as likely to just keep walking forward, or to dance, or sing a song, or any number of other possible actions?

    I don’t believe that, and neither do you, because if you did believe what you’re saying you wouldn’t still be alive to have this conversation.

  17. 17
    Origenes says:

    goodusername: Obviously, one might do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    Indeed. And because NS only selects for the ‘right thing’ and not for the ‘right reason’ the theory cannot ground trust in our beliefs and cognitive faculties and is self-defeating.

    goodusername: Do you realize that Mr. Magoo is meant as a comedy? The reason it’s comical is because someone who is that incapable of understanding his world couldn’t possibly survive the way Magoo does. Somehow even though he doesn’t know what’s going around him, he still manages to do the right thing, every time – the odds are too great against that.
    The number of wrong moves is astronomical compared to the number of right moves …

    Similarly there are many different belief-desire combinations that could cause Paul’s fleeing behavior. And of course most of them are false but nonetheless adaptive or fitness enhancing. So, if evolution is true and NS only selects for behavior then wrt beliefs we are all Mr.Magoos. If evolution is true then it is unlikely that most of our beliefs are true, and unlikely that our cognitive faculties are for the most part reliable.

    goodusername: But unless you’re going to assert that there’s nothing unrealistic about the Mr. Magoo cartoons …

    Mr. Magoo cartoons are about as unrealistic as evolutionary theory.

    goodusername: … higher intelligence does indeed aid in making appropriate actions. Again, if that wasn’t the case, there would be no point to have senses.

    Elaborate please. Show how the right beliefs are selected.

  18. 18
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    And because NS only selects for the ‘right thing’ and not for the ‘right reason’ the theory cannot ground trust in our beliefs and cognitive faculties and is self-defeating.

    So, pray tell, how do intelligent agents go about selecting the right beliefs?

    As intelligent agents, can we merely choose that some set of bits on a USB drive represents a true cure for cancer? No, we cannot. Nor would our belief that it did, somehow cause those bits to cure cancer when turned into a genetic patch for our immune system.

    Cancer will only be cured when the required knowledge is actually present there. So, it’s unclear what choice we have in the matter. Knowledge itself plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage mechanism. It solves problems, whether the belief they do or not.

    Or perhaps you mean that our brains were “designed” so we can some mechanically derive the correct beliefs from past observations? But we use unseen theories about how the world works, in reality, to explain the seen. And, I think you have to admit, those explanations do not resemble the seen. The evidence for GR wasn’t a picture of space-time, it was a dot there, rather than somewhere else, on a screen. Nor do we find equations cared on mountains. So, the contents of our theories do not come from observations. They are educated guesses that start out unjustified by anything. Theories are tested by observations, not derived from them. And those observations are themselves theory laden, etc.

    Furthermore, when Newton’s laws of motion were superseded by GR, it suggested something completely different was going on, in reality. Yet, we didn’t have to go around redesigning bridges and buildings, right?. And we can still use it to launch current day space craft. IOW, all theories are incomplete and contain errors, to some degree.

    So, it seems to me that the whole idea that our brains are “shaped for truth” or our beliefs when successful are “grounded” in something doesn’t make sense when one attempts to take it seriously as an explanation for our ability to make progress. In fact, I would suggest believing that we use induction, despite the fact that no one has explained how it actually works in practice, is a counter example of our “brains being shaped for truth.”

    Our brains become closer to truth by variation controlled by criticism of some kind. Which is a form of the same universal theory behind Neo-darwinsism.

  19. 19
    Seversky says:

    Origenes @ 10

    Seversky:

    News: Our brains are shaped for truth, not fitness.

    There’s a difference?

    Yes, there is an obvious difference:

    You quote from Plantinga. Allow me to quote a previous post I made in response to a passage from Nancy Pearcey’s book Finding Truthwhich states much the same argument:

    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Fairly obviously, the fundamental flaw with that argument lies in the assumption that survival-tracking and truth-tracking are necessarily two different things. But a few moments reflection should reveal the problem.

    To use an previous illustration, suppose two early humans were confronted by a hungry tiger intent on eating them. One human thinks that this is just a big, friendly kitty who wants to play. The other thinks the tiger’s approach is decidedly suspicious and chooses to run for it. Who is more likely to survive?

    Yes, we can all think of fictional stories or ‘movies in our heads’ which do not initially put us in conflict with reality. The problem is that sooner or later they might. A child running around in his costume and cape playing at being Superman might actually believe at the time that he is a superhero. That’s not a problem – unless he tries to jump off a tall building thinking he can fly.

    The problem is that stories or beliefs that are untrue in the sense that they do not correspond with reality will ultimately come into conflict with that reality, sometimes with fatal consequences for the believers. The good side is that, over time, evolution will tend to filter out the false beliefs, leaving us with the true – or at least the truer – ones.

    If we assume “truth” to refer to the correspondence between our descriptions, inferences and explanations of what we observe of an assumed objective but often dangerous reality then it is reasonable to believe that the closer our explanations correspond to what they purport to describe – in other words, the ‘truer’ they are – the greater our chances of escaping harm. That which improves the chances of survival is, by definition, an increase in fitness.

    No one is denying that it is possible to have false beliefs which can also, in some circumstances, improve the chances of survival but, sooner or later, they will come into conflict with reality with potentially detrimental effects for the unfortunate individual. This is less likely to happen for truer beliefs. Over time, the effect of selection will be to winnow out the less true beliefs leaving the truer. Moreover, not only will the truer beliefs tend to survive but so will the thought processes of the individuals who formed them. In other words, the processes or methodologies which promote truth-seeking will be favored and those capabilities may subsequently be applied to more abstract or metaphysical considerations of truth. In that way, evolution shapes our brains for truth as well as fitness.

  20. 20
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    Indeed. And because NS only selects for the ‘right thing’ and not for the ‘right reason’ the theory cannot ground trust in our beliefs and cognitive faculties and is self-defeating.

    Similarly there are many different belief-desire combinations that could cause Paul’s fleeing behavior. And of course most of them are false but nonetheless adaptive or fitness enhancing. So, if evolution is true and NS only selects for behavior then wrt beliefs we are all Mr.Magoos. If evolution is true then it is unlikely that most of our beliefs are true, and unlikely that our cognitive faculties are for the most part reliable.

    Only If there’s no statistical correlation between a belief’s closeness to reality and performing an appropriate action.

    Until now I never thought I’d meet someone that would assert such a thing.

    Mr. Magoo cartoons are about as unrealistic as evolutionary theory.

    The humor of the cartoon is that they’re having us envision a scenario where someone goes through life continuously somehow – despite not having any understanding of reality – always doing the right thing. I never thought I’d meet someone that thought that was realistic.

    The Mr. Magoo cartoons aren’t poking fun at evolution. It’s your claims it’s poking fun at.

    Then again, you indicate that the Mr. Magoo cartoons are unrealistic – that’s a bit of a relief – but also puzzling. At this point I have no idea why you would think that. Can you explain?

    Elaborate please. Show how the right beliefs are selected.

    Beliefs aren’t selected, and aren’t heritable. And I wouldn’t say “right beliefs”, I’d say beliefs that are closer to reality are more likely to result in proper actions than other beliefs. There are aspects that form beliefs that are heritable, such as mental abilities, vision, hearing, etc.

    I wonder why you think blind people tend to use canes? Why do many severely mentally impaired people need caregivers when roaming neighborhoods? Why do cars have headlights?

    We have vision, hearing, etc to help give us a better picture of reality, which, contrary to your assertions, helps us make more appropriate actions. That’s the whole point of senses. Certain mental impairments (severely low iq, schizophrenia, taking pcp) are similar to having impaired vision – in both cases it is dangerous for the individual because it distorts their beliefs about reality.

    A world of Mr. Magoos wouldn’t be comical. It would result in everyone’s death – often in horrific ways – very quickly.

  21. 21
    Origenes says:

    Seversky @19

    Seversky: Fairly obviously, the fundamental flaw with that argument lies in the assumption that survival-tracking and truth-tracking are necessarily two different things. But a few moments reflection should reveal the problem.

    To use an previous illustration, suppose two early humans were confronted by a hungry tiger intent on eating them. One human thinks that this is just a big, friendly kitty who wants to play. The other thinks the tiger’s approach is decidedly suspicious and chooses to run for it. Who is more likely to survive?

    Obviously the latter, but it’s an inappropriate example. Part of Plantinga’s argument is that natural selection filters behavior.
    Again Plantinga:

    Suppose Paul is a prehistoric hominid; a hungry tiger approaches. Fleeing is perhaps the most appropriate behavior: I pointed out that this behavior could be produced by a large number of different belief-desire pairs. To quote myself:
    “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 he thinks the tiger is a regularly recurring 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 1600 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.”
    Accordingly, there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of these combinations, the beliefs are false.

    Seversky: Yes, we can all think of fictional stories or ‘movies in our heads’ which do not initially put us in conflict with reality. The problem is that sooner or later they might. A child running around in his costume and cape playing at being Superman might actually believe at the time that he is a superhero. That’s not a problem – unless he tries to jump off a tall building thinking he can fly.

    The problem is that stories or beliefs that are untrue in the sense that they do not correspond with reality will ultimately come into conflict with that reality, sometimes with fatal consequences for the believers. The good side is that, over time, evolution will tend to filter out the false beliefs, leaving us with the true – or at least the truer – ones.

    I don’t think so. Only beliefs that are incompatible with adaptive behavior — like “I can fly”— are (indirectly) filtered out by NS. But, as Plantinga points out, there is a sheer endless amount of false beliefs that are compatible with adaptive behavior. All those beliefs are invisible to natural selection, so we are left with the problem that evolutionary theory cannot ground trust in our beliefs and cognitive faculties and is therefore self-defeating.

  22. 22
    Origenes says:

    goodusername @20

    goodusername:
    Only If there’s no statistical correlation between a belief’s closeness to reality and performing an appropriate action.

    The only statistical correlation I can think of is that 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: Until now I never thought I’d meet someone that would assert such a thing.

    Origenes: Mr. Magoo cartoons are about as unrealistic as evolutionary theory.

    The humor of the cartoon is that they’re having us envision a scenario where someone goes through life continuously somehow – despite not having any understanding of reality – always doing the right thing. I never thought I’d meet someone that thought that was realistic.

    I do not think that Mr. Magoo cartoons are realistic nor do I hold that evolutionary theory describes reality.

    goodusername:The Mr. Magoo cartoons aren’t poking fun at evolution. It’s your claims it’s poking fun at.

    Which of my claims is it poking fun at? Perhaps my claim that evolutionary theory cannot ground reason?

    goodusername: Then again, you indicate that the Mr. Magoo cartoons are unrealistic – that’s a bit of a relief – but also puzzling. At this point I have no idea why you would think that. Can you explain?

    Why is it that you want to discuss Mr. Magoo cartoons with me?

    goodusername: Beliefs aren’t selected, and aren’t heritable.

    So there is no evolutionary explanation for beliefs?

    goodusername: We have vision, hearing, etc to help give us a better picture of reality, which, contrary to your assertions, helps us make more appropriate actions.

    Citation please, ‘contrary’ to which specific assertion? Natural selection filters behavior (‘actions’) we are in agreement about this. Surely sensory input informs behavior. What is your point?
    Note that beliefs are about what is unseen; e.g. we do not see the motives of other creatures, that’s why have to form beliefs about them.

    goodusername: A world of Mr. Magoos wouldn’t be comical. It would result in everyone’s death – often in horrific ways – very quickly.

    Well, this is not what we see, so evolutionary theory is false.

  23. 23
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    The only statistical correlation I can think of is that 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.

    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.

    Which of my claims is it poking fun at? Perhaps my claim that evolutionary theory cannot ground reason?

    What do you think the joke is with the Magoo cartoons? Magoo has no idea what’s going on around him but it doesn’t matter. That’s also your claim – that it doesn’t matter. Yet, you also claim that the Magoo cartoons aren’t realistic. Again, why?

    Why is it that you want to discuss Mr. Magoo cartoons with me?

    It looks like a good illustration of your claims regarding the veraciousness of our beliefs being invisible to natural selection. It’s what such a world would look like.

    Citation please, ‘contrary’ to which specific assertion?

    “the veraciousness of our beliefs is invisible to natural selection” and the decoupling of fitness and truth in #12

    Natural selection filters behavior (‘actions’) we are in agreement about this. Surely sensory input informs behavior. What is your point?

    How do senses inform behavior? It’s intelligence that interprets the data from our senses and which then uses the information to try to come up with an appropriate action.

    But if there’s no coupling of fitness and truth than what would be the point in informing behavior? Such information would be irrelevant.

    If you agree that “informed” hehavior is more likely to be appropriate than “uninformed” behavior than you’re admitting that there’s a coupling of fitness and truth.

    Well, this is not what we see, so evolutionary theory is false.

    No, the fact that it’s not what we see so means that one cannot decouple fitness and truth – it means that the veraciousness of our beliefs are not invisible to natural selection. If you agree that Magoo would die in the real world than you admit that your claims are false.

  24. 24
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    I don’t think so. Only beliefs that are incompatible with adaptive behavior — like “I can fly”— are (indirectly) filtered out by NS. But, as Plantinga points out, there is a sheer endless amount of false beliefs that are compatible with adaptive behavior. All those beliefs are invisible to natural selection, so we are left with the problem that evolutionary theory cannot ground trust in our beliefs and cognitive faculties and is therefore self-defeating.

    You vastly underestimate the significance of what you just said.

    The problem is you’re treating “I can fly” as if it were a single genetic variant. They obviously aren’t and can’t be treated as such.

    If each behavior or belief were a genetic variant, our genomes would be larger than the observable universe.

    Indeed NS is filtering here, but what is it filtering? It’s not behaviors. It’s not beliefs. It’s the heritable mental characteristics that would lead to such a belief.

    Any of Plantiga’s Pauls that have such little grasp of reality that they would believe that tigers want to play hide and seek or whatever are also likely to believe they can fly at some point, and therefore they have all likely just been filtered.

    There’s incredible collateral damage from what you just said.

    The admittance that those that believe that they can fly would be selected against may seem like a single insignificant concession, but you just utterly massacred all Pauls and Magoos.

  25. 25
    Origenes says:

    goodusername @23, 24

    goodusername:

    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.

    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.

    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?

    goodusername: Magoo has no idea what’s going on around him but it doesn’t matter. That’s also your claim – that it doesn’t matter.

    That’s not my claim at all. My claim is that it doesn’t matter to natural selection (NS). It only matters to NS that you flee for a tiger (behavior), it doesn’t matter to NS why you do it (belief).

    goodusername: How do senses inform behavior? It’s intelligence that interprets the data from our senses and which then uses the information to try to come up with an appropriate action.

    How does that work for bacteria? BTW let’s use the term ‘adaptive behavior’ — adaptive and appropriate are not synonyms.

    goodusername: But if there’s no coupling of fitness and truth than what would be the point in informing behavior? Such information would be irrelevant.

    Again, how does that work for bacteria? Are you saying that they are concerned with truth?

    goodusername: … one cannot decouple fitness and truth.

    Yet that is exactly what natural selection does.

    goodusername:

    Origenes:
    Only beliefs that are incompatible with adaptive behavior — like “I can fly”— are (indirectly) filtered out by NS. But, as Plantinga points out, there is a sheer endless amount of false beliefs that are compatible with adaptive behavior. All those beliefs are invisible to natural selection, so we are left with the problem that evolutionary theory cannot ground trust in our beliefs and cognitive faculties and is therefore self-defeating.

    You vastly underestimate the significance of what you just said.
    The problem is you’re treating “I can fly” as if it were a single genetic variant. They obviously aren’t and can’t be treated as such.
    If each behavior or belief were a genetic variant, our genomes would be larger than the observable universe.

    Evolutionary theory has lots of problems. The question “where is the information stored” comes up at many occasions. For instance, where is the information stored for the body plan? Not in a genome that holds only information for proteins and consists for a large part of ‘Junk-DNA’.
    I have no idea how the evolutionist envisions beliefs to be stored and frankly I don’t care. Not my problem. What I did not suggest is that it is a genetic variant.
    This particular belief-storage-problem piles up on the problems that evolutionary theory already has. Again, not my problem.

  26. 26
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    That’s not my claim at all. My claim is that it doesn’t matter to natural selection (NS).

    When I say “it doesn’t matter,” that is what I meant – that it doesn’t matter for survival, that it is invisible to NS.
    I don’t think it is invisible to NS and that Magoo would die.

    How does that work for bacteria? BTW let’s use the term ‘adaptive behavior’ — adaptive and appropriate are not synonyms.

    If we are talking about creatures with behaviors and beliefs no more complex than that of a bacteria, than your argument could work – as their behaviors are completely (or nearly completely) instinctual and heritable. (Actually, even then it would be strange as I doubt it makes sense to say that bacteria have beliefs.)

    Evolutionary theory has lots of problems. The question “where is the information stored” comes up at many occasions.

    The type of information we’re discussing is stored in brains – memories, knowledge, non-heritable information.

  27. 27
    Origenes says:

    goodusername @26

    goodusername: I don’t think it is invisible to NS …

    Show how false beliefs which cause adaptive behavior are not invisible to NS.

    goodusername: If we are talking about creatures with behaviors and beliefs no more complex than that of a bacteria, than your argument could work – as their behaviors are completely (or nearly completely) instinctual and heritable.

    You claim is that sensory data can only serve a function when there is intelligence. Again: how does that work in the case of bacteria?

    goodusername: The type of information we’re discussing is stored in brains – memories, knowledge, non-heritable information.

    If non-heritable, what is the evolutionary explanation for beliefs?

    “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?”
    [Darwin]

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