Monday, May 26, 2014

Stephen Law on EAAN

My prior 4 posts all had to do with Alvin Plantinga, who has developed the “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism“ (EAAN) - that seeks to refute a solely naturalistic worldview by showing it to be incoherent.

There’s a refutation of EAAN by Stephen Law at Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism Refuted. He does us a favor by summarizing it thus:

Let Naturalism (N) be the view that there’s no such person as God or anything at all like God, and Evolution (E) be the view that our cognitive faculties have come to be by way of the processes postulated by contemporary evolutionary theory. Then, argues Plantinga, the combination N&E is incoherent or self-defeating. This, he maintains, is because if N&E is true, then the probability that R – that we have reliable cognitive faculties (that is to say, faculties that produce a preponderance of true over false beliefs in nearby possible worlds) – is low. But, concludes Plantinga, anyone who sees that P(R/N&E) is low then has an undefeatable defeater both for R and for any belief produced by their cognitive faculties, including their belief that N&E.

In my last post, I posited that an argument against evolution due to it’s inability (if what Plantinga believes actually obtains) to produce true beliefs was not relevant because all that is needed is an organism’s ability to develop truer beliefs within its own lifetime, and the culture to pass down the truer beliefs via the features of culture. Now, I don’t know if this is what actually happens, as I am not an expert in the relevant fields, but I don’t see the EAAN as constructed being that convincing anyway, regardless of whether my conjectural account of truer beliefs is pertinent or not.

Now Stephen Law is willing to address EAAN as written, without resorting to conjectures such as mine. In a nutshell, he takes Plantinga’s claim that evolution cannot deliver true beliefs and develops an argument that the neurophysical structures that result from evolution can tend to contain true beliefs, thus eliminating Plantinga's central complaint. It’s all very technical propositional logic, but it’s interesting. Keep in mind that EAAN, Law's refutation, and my unfounded musings are all conjectural - but I think it indicative of the obscure paths we're will to take to make a point.

I still like my wholly unwarranted presumption that an organism’s ability to develop truer beliefs within its own lifetime, combined with the ability to establish a culture to pass down the truer beliefs, is all that's required to develop extremely accurate beliefs. So I guess I’ll have to nose around and see whether anyone has traveled down this path.

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