Ashamed of Their Ancestry
A while back, I was reading the idthefuture site, where I was referred to an article at an apologetics site on materialism. Joe Carter, in the article, "The Mystical Monkey Mind: Four Common Errors of Naturalistic Epistemology," presented a quote from Darwin which I saw pop up again the other day:
“With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has always been developed from the mind of 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?”
It appears, at first glance, a serious problem: if our minds are "just" monkey brains, why do we trust them? But, as is attributed to Solomon as being said, "The first to present his case seems right, until another comes along to examine him." (Prov 18:17, NIV) Let us examine the argument posed by Joe, Paul Manata, and others.
First, should Darwin's opinion on the matter, without presenting any particular argument for support, hold any weight? Not really. After all, this seems quite self-refuting -- if the man who pieced together the case that we descended from great apes then concluded our minds untrustworthy for that reason, then his "case" is obviously imperiled. In fact, we might make a simple conclusion from this statement: it is self-refuting. Just like making the statement, "I always lie," there is no way to escape the circular destruction of this logic. If your mind's convictions are not trustworthy, how do you even convince yourself of, or trust in, the validity of that conviction?
Danny doesn’t understand what a dilemma is. Darwin’s argument is self-refuting in the sense that it poses a dilemma:
We rely on our minds to construct a philosophy of mind. But what if our philosophy of mind undermines rationality?
If our minds are reliable, then a philosophy of mind that undermines rationality is a self-refuting philosophy.
So the problem would not be with my mind, but with my philosophy of mind.
If, however, you’re going to stick with a philosophy of mind that undermines rationality, then that does, indeed, pose an intractable dilemma.
The fact that you are rational doesn’t prove that your philosophy of mind is equally rational.
The fact that Darwin was rational doesn’t prove that Darwinism is rational. Evolutionary epistemology could well be self-refuting.
“Also, this argument to reject the soundness of the human mind may be a variant of the genetic fallacy -- based on a categorical rejection of an argument or idea simply based on where it originated, rather than on sound reasoning.”
The genetic fallacy is not always a fallacy. If someone is psychotic, or if someone is high on acid, then we do discount his observation about pink rats running amok in the cellar.
Conversely, there can be a valid argument from authority if the expert witness is truly an expert in his field, and is speaking within his area of expertise.
“What intrinsic feature of monkeys, (apes, actually) or any other higher mammal makes their minds innately untrustworthy? In fact, we can take this a step further, given that Darwin's conclusion about the origins of man are correct, and claim that this actually substantiates the trustworthiness of our minds!”
That’s something of a red herring. The real issue is whether an unreliable process can yield a reliable result.
If natural selection was never designed to select for rationality, then why should we assume that a brain which is the incidental byproduct of natural selection enjoy a reliable purchase on the truth?
“I would argue that there are good reasons to trust ape minds -- they have survived the perils of nature for millions of years, and along the way, learned that they could trust the natural world around them to provide constancy. Those minds that were the brightest, that developed innovative methods for catching fish or making spears, were most likely to exist in a social structure in which this knowledge could be shared and propogate throughout their progeny.”
The problem with this argument is the absence of any connection between rationality and survivability.
Coach roaches survive just fine without higher cortical functions.
So what makes Morgan think that intelligence confers a survival advantage when so many species lack higher consciousness?
Of course, a Christian would attribute their survival to the rationality of the Creator.
“Because human beings are part of the natural universe, and are products of that universe, they will always be limited in their perspective on certain features of the universe. That warrants skepticism. It does not, however, warrant throwing out those things we have learned from nature, secrets that we have wrested away from the blind, mute, and uncaring universe.”
Danny is now begging the question by assuming that we’re rational. But is this confidence justified by his evolutionary worldview?
“Why should we abandon trust in the regularity and uniformity of nature, when it has brought us this far? Why should we relegate the method of testing and applying knowledge tentatively, until it proves itself (via the scientific method, or in pragmatic real life experience) enough for us to "trust" it, to the trash can? That method is what led to tools, and to skyscrapers. Its success is as apparent as our own existence, and with tangiable results that "trust" alone has never given us.”
All he’s done here is to assume that secularism is true.
How would a world characterized by divine creation, providence, and miraculous intervention be any less livable?
“Why trust a monkey mind? If we want to survive, we must trust our minds. If we do not want to be self-refuting, we must trust our minds.”
A man who’s high on acid has to trust his mind. It’s still the only mind he’s got, even if it’s delusional in its altered state of consciousness.
It would still be “self-refuting” for a man who’s too stoned to think straight to doubt his mental faculties.
Unfortunately, his self-refuting argument won’t cushion the fall as he leaps from a skyscraper.
“That said, need we trust its convictions as if they are representative of the permanance and inviolate laws of nature? Of course not. Don't trust it absolutely. Test its convictions against the sounding board of Nature.”
Poor little Danny never gets the point of the argument. If the rationality of an evolutionary brain is the very point at issue, then “testing its convictions against the sounding board of nature” is a futile exercise since we can only know if we pass or fail the test by assuming that our mind is reliable is a reliable instrument to tally the score. How can an incorrect mind correct a test?
A psychotic doesn’t know until he hits the pavement that he flunked the test, at which point it’s a little late in the game to cram for the next exam.
“I would flip the table on our special creationist friends and ask, if instead of the uniformity of nature, and the laws of physics, our minds were the products of some divine fiat or "poof" mechanism, why should we trust that?”
Ah, back to “poof.” Danny is Babinski’s loyal little parakeet. Babinski teaches Danny to say “poof” on cue, and so he does, time and again, as if his mastery of baby -talk were a substitute for rational discourse.
Let’s see: why would we trust a mind that’s the artifact of rational designer? Gee, I’m stumped.
“While we can know our universe to at least a limited extent, and recognize that its symmetry, its uniformity, and its material properties give rise to minds…”
Do material properties “give rise” to minds? Perhaps Danny can show us a slide set of material properties “giving rise” to mental properties.
What are we looking for? Swirls of smoke spelling the alphabet?
“We know nothing of ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’. We know nothing of what those substances are, how they contribute to mind, and what properties they would confer to mind.”
Danny’s like a man who can’t find his glasses because he’s wearing them. Wherever did he put them? He’s turned his apartment upside down, but he can’t find his glasses anywhere. He must have lost them on the bus. Or was it the locker room? Maybe the café? He does everything but look in the mirror.
Danny is a self-admitted know-nothing because he only studies one side of the argument. If he did some serious reading in philosophy of mind, he’d at least be conversant with the range of positions and their respective supporting arguments.
Although Danny is training to be a scientist, he lacks intellectual curiosity. Danny won’t debate the likes of me because I don’t “play by the rules.”
And it’s true that I won’t play poker with a card sharp.
Danny has been taught the rules, and he does what he’s told. One must never question the rules. The rules are immutable and indubitable.
The game may be out of touch with reality, but what matters is to play by the rules.
A tornado may rip away the roof of the casino, but the game goes on. The walls may be gone, but the game goes on.
The city may be leveled, but you must never take your eyes off the table.
That’s because there is no reality outside the game. The rules dictate what’s real. The rules erect their own walls to shield secular prejudice from falsification.