Monday, June 08, 2009

A brief critique of Plantinga's EAAN from Clayton Littlejohn

I found this in the combox of a very old post of mine, from 2005. I would like to see some discussion of it, pro and con. I am linking back to the initial post.

CL: In some discussions (I believe Plantinga's, but I don't have a text at hand), it is said that the probability that we would have reliable faculties given evolutionary theory and naturalism is either low or inscrutible. The argument for this is that selection pressures don't favor such faculties.

I think this overlooks something important--selection pressures operate on populations where organisms have various traits already. So while selection pressures might not favor certain things across the board (except perhaps things that confer survival value), selection pressure might favor reliability for certain creatures with certain features under specified conditions. We might argue that the probability of organism having reliable faculties (R) is low given evolution (E) and naturalism (N) but as we fill in further details of that organism, their continued survival may in fact show the conditional probability of R and this extra information on E and N is quite high.

So while we might be able to conceive of creatures who can survive without reliable ways of informing themselves about their surroundings, that is very very different from imagining how we might fluorish given our equipment, needs, and surroundings without reliable faculties.

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3 Comments:

At 6/08/2009 08:34:00 PM , Blogger Crude said...

One problem I see here is that, if we imagine evolution as having greater and greater likelihood of producing creatures with more and more particular traits... it starts to look a lot less like naturalism. Which strikes me as a typically understated part of Plantinga's argument.

It's worth keeping in mind that Plantinga's EAAN isn't at all an argument against evolution, but an argument against the conjunction of naturalism and evolution. Evolution as a biological process that will reliably result in the introduction of sentient creatures with reliable beliefs is not something Plantinga needs to deny - because such an evolutionary process is far closer to the kind envisioned by Denton, or Behe, or similar.

So if I have Plantinga right, it's a two-horn dilemma for the naturalist. Envisioning evolution as a process which is very likely to result in organisms which have reliable faculties means envisioning a process that looks less and less naturalistic. But responding that evolution isn't innately geared towards producing beings who can grasp truth or who have reliable faculties plays into Plantinga's views on doubting we actually possess those faculties. "Well, we just got lucky!" comes close to a kind of luck-fideism.

 
At 6/08/2009 09:03:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

At this thread we hashed through these dubious arguments. I agree with what I said back then, especially my first couple of comments (the less speculative comments).

OK victor I'm just recycling now, and feeding trolls (e.g., Ilion, not you Crude in this thread you actually make relevant and thoughtful point so you cannot be Ilion).

I'm gonna take a break from the Christian blogs for a while. Good work as always, Victor. I'll come back in a few months to see what action has transpired. I need to work on my own stuff on consciousness which has been on the back burner for a couple of months.

 
At 6/09/2009 07:40:00 AM , Blogger Hiero5ant said...

But what if someone actually posts a testable theory of intelligent mind design and you miss it?

 

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