Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Darwinian philosopher denies existence of mind gets snarled in it

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In a long and informative review of a new book by Darwinian philosopher Alexander Rosenberg, How History Gets Things Wrong. The Neuroscience of our Addiction to Stories—who denies that the mind really exists (eliminativism)—we read:

Rosenberg writes that there are compelling reasons to question the Theory of Mind. His discussion of those reasons is prefaced by the statement that the Theory’s “Darwinian pedigree is no reason to accept it as true, or even mostly true. The process of natural selection does not as a rule produce true beliefs, just ones that foster survival” (82).[7] The statement that natural selection does not as a rule produce true beliefs, cannot, of course, be confined to the Theory of Mind—it isn’t only Theory of Mind related beliefs that cannot be held to be true due to their Darwinian pedigree. It holds across the board, so for all beliefs. If it is to be consistent, Rosenberg’s view must be that natural selection in general selects not for truth but for survival.

What is frustrating is that Rosenberg’s book nowhere discusses the implications of this view for Darwinism itself, nor for science more generally. For the implications are monumental and disastrous. For if the mental faculties or mechanisms that produce belief in us are selected for not because they yield mostly true beliefs but because they foster survival, then this also regards science: whatever we wind up believing through science, whatever scientific theory we accept through scientific investigation, the fact that we believe it has to do with survival, not truth. But this means that given Rosenberg’s view on natural selection, we have no reason to think that our scientific theories are true, in fact we have a standing defeater for each and every scientific theory, evolutionary theory and the theory of natural selection included.

In the wake of Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism, this problem has received quite a bit of attention.[8] But Rosenberg doesn’t engage with the literature, and has nothing of any interest to say on a problem that should exercise him greatly, given his over allegiance to scientism, roughly the claim that only science can give us knowledge.

René van Woudenberg, “Self-Defeat, Inconsistency, and the Debunking of Science, ” at Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective

If Rosenberg were right, science could not give us knowledge. If there is no mind, there is no knowledge because there is nothing that knows.

6 Replies to “Darwinian philosopher denies existence of mind gets snarled in it

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Well, survival is certainly the only valid basis for morality. Civilizations that allow psychopaths to rule without constraint die fast, because the purpose of psychopaths is to kill everyone. As we’re seeing right now in 90% of the world.

    The same standard should apply to science. Quantum crap may be “true” in an abstract propositional way, but using quantum crap as the basis of technology leads to nuclear bombs and CERN generating black holes. All useful tech was in fact developed by pre-quantum thinking, and can be understood completely with classical physics.

    Same for economics. Basing an economy on share value and debt may be abstractly “true” and provable, but it leads to total destruction of real skills and industry, so it should be forbidden.

    Experience survives. Theory kills.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    If, by “truth”, you mean explanations of what we observe that correspond to those observations with reasonable accuracy, then truth and survival will tend to align. If you look at a tiger and think it is just a large kitty-cat, you are less likely to survive than if you think it is a very dangerous predator. That is not to say that false beliefs cannot confer a survival advantage, religion being a prime example. Most of their factual claims do not stand up to testing but their capacity to strengthen the bonds that hold societies together and make them more resilient when coping with stresses and challenges, outweigh any other failings in terms of survival.

  3. 3
    groovamos says:

    false beliefs cannot confer a survival advantage, religion being a prime example.

    Belief in a method that is an infallible and universal test for what may or may not exist is a false belief. It is a belief that is unfalsifiable, therefore is unscientific. Therfore any particular religious belief cannot be scientifically disproven unless it is falsifiable. Most religious beliefs are not falsifiable so they are not science so all I have done is prove religion is not science. Therefore reductionist science has nothing to say about religion. However, non-reductionist science can document religious themes which arise in consciousness research employing non-ordinary conscious states but like most materialists the contributor obviously has no interest in such nonreductionist scientific studies.

  4. 4
    AaronS1978 says:

    Knowing quantum mechanics helps us survive how?

    Btw natural selection explains anything
    This is a weakness because it can hide the truth
    Like the function of the appendix

  5. 5
    AaronS1978 says:

    Furthermore if this version of reductionistic thinking that Alex Rosenberg presents is actually even remotely true, it would imply that every single thing we have ever encountered has been pre-programmed into our brain through some level of interaction which is the only way it could ever be programmed in there

    Our ancestors had to survive every encounter correctly and only those Ancestors must survive

    This is why it’s condemning, because your perception is based off of millions years of possibly bad survival, luck (luck doesn’t have to align with truth, luck can play a bigger part in survival, for example the dinosaurs), and Situational awareness

    None of these have to align with the truth, deeper truths, or invisible truths.
    And if you can’t interact with it you can’t know it

  6. 6
    chuckdarwin says:

    “The process of natural selection does not as a rule produce true beliefs, just ones that foster survival.”
    Natural selection doesn’t “produce beliefs,” true or otherwise. Natural selection, per its simplest definition, selects for favorable phenotypes. Full stop. A slightly more sophisticated description is found in Wikipedia which provides the most common biology textbook definition of natural selection: “Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype.” Nothing about “beliefs” or “truth.”

    This van Woudenberg guy is just parroting Plantinga’s “true beliefs” nonsense and his ridiculous EAAN notion that tries to make natural selection into something it is not.

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