Monday, December 31, 2007

Jackpot, Baby!

Surfing the web. Found a question re: Plantinga’s EAAN on the Rational Responders site. Question asked by responder Insidium Profundis:


"The evolutionary argument against naturalism states:

Since the probability of natural selection having favored minds that would possess true metaphysical beliefs (such as naturalism) is inscrutable or very low, then believing in evolution and naturalism is self-defeating.

(I probably have not done full justice to these arguments, but you get the idea)"


(As an aside, why did he state that he "probably" hasn't done full justice to the argument? I think it's a safe bet that if you take an argument that is developed in hundreds of pages, boil it down to a sentence, you haven't "done it justice." Anywho...)

Question answered by responder todangst:


"Even if we take this as true, the fact that the probability is low would not mean that it is impossible.

So as long as evolution remains the best viable theory, this argument fails.

And then we can move on to attacking his claim that the odds are 'low'.... which you can bet is equally misguided and flawed as his other arguments."


Translation: Oh yeah Plantinga, well I believe we hit the evolutionary jackpot, baby! Waitress, bring me another double Jack & Coke.

This approach was used here once before, I'll copy and paste the answer I gave in the meta:


I Started Off: We're not talking about epistemic rights, Mr. X. Anyway, the fact that you continute to believe in the reliability of your cognitive faculties R does not entail that R is the case.

Of course proper function would demand continued belief in R, but this is not because this portion of your cognitive faculties are aimed at truth, but, rather, at the avoidance of cognitive disaster. A person S may be in a situation - say, lost in a snow storm on top of a mountain - and S may see a ridge that S thinks could be leaped to. Based on perception, this belief is basic to S. But, S would not have thought this if S were not in this survival situation. So S maintains this belief that the chasm is able to be jumped. Proper function requires this belief to be maintained. The optimistic overrider has kicked in. But the faculties governing this have some other virtue in mind - survival rather than true belief. In normal, reflective situations, S would not form said belief.

Or, suppose S ingests agent XX, a hallucinate drug, producing hallucinations in 90% of those who take XX. Proper function would require assuming R so as to avoid cognitive disaster. So, S has powerful inclinations to continue on in belief in R, even though S has come to believe that P(R / XX) is low or inscrutable, and S may take it in a basic way, but of course these powerful inclinations don't count as evidence for R. S would have this inclination whether she was in or out of the lucky 10%.

An Atheist Said: "Let’s say this is the case, i.e., that our moral and religious beliefs are completely determined by our genetic makeup, and by when and where we are born. It still doesn’t follow that what I believe is false. I may be lucky and just happened to get it right."

My Response: My argument isn't that your beliefs *are* false (though there's a good probability that they are;-). My argument, rather, is that R is defeated. There is no reason, according to what you admit, to believe R.

Now, you may say that we "got lucky" and attained R via evolution. You hit the evolutionary jackpot. The problem here is that this can be used to defeat a paradigm case of defeat. If the defeater defeats a paradigm case of defeat, the defeater isn't really a defeater.

The lotto belief doesn't seem to work. Suppose that your friend F ingests XX, but you notice R holds for him for the 5 years you've known him. You then find out that F ingested XX 5 years ago. You then find out that XX causes hallucinations in 90% of the cases. You could then say that he "won the XX lottery." But apply this to yourself. With F, you were an objective observer, but XX specified to yourself, there is no objective observer. Say you believe you ingest XX, and you also believe that it causes hallucinations in 90% of the cases, it would thus appear that "I won the XX lottery" is not a defeater-defeater or a defeater-deflector for you.

To say that R is reliable begs the question (see reply to Bergmann). I don't think it can be conditionalized upon, and seems to fall under T. Reid's objection that "If a man's testimony were called into question, it would be ridiculous to refer to the man's own word as to whether he was honest or not."

Why could not the lotto comeback be used to defeat any defeater for a low or inscrutable probability of X? Say S believes that the existence of evil E makes the existence God G low or inscrutable, then S believes in G&E. So P(G/E) is low or inscrutable, but S replies, "well, I guess we won the divinity lottery." Do you seriously consider that a defeater-defeater? If not here, why there?


So, we can see that the 'lil responder hasn't even come close to interacting (and, even "getting") the argument from Plantinga. Also, it's not that evolution is true or false, it's that the conjunction of evolution and naturalism are what provide the defeater. Also, it's not that the probability is simply low, it's at best inscrutable.

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