Saturday, April 06, 2013

Alvin Plantinga Explains Why Naturalistic Evolution Is a Self-Defeating Proposition

Alvin Plantinga is a philosopher who is widely admired in the Intelligent Design Creationist community. They believe that his arguments offer strong support for theism and, more importantly, point out the logical inconsistencies of science and atheism. Yesterday (April 5, 2013) the main Intelligent Design Creationist website posted a short video of Alvin Plantinga giving a lecture where he shows that naturalistic evolution is logically inconsistent [In Two Minutes or Less: Plantinga on Naturalistic Evolution as a Self-Defeating Proposition]. They must think it's very important. They refer to the video as something that should "win a prize for elegant brevity." We should pay attention if we hope to counter these arguments.

Watch and learn. This is a philosopher who other philosophers seem to respect. It's the very best that the other side has to offer in the field of epistemology and philosophy of science.


Here's more stuff that I've written about Alvin Plantinga and his views. It's part of a larger discussion about the credibility of the entire field of philosophy of science.

What Do Philosophers Really Think About Arguments for the Existence of God(s)?
Boudry vs Plantinga
The Flying Spaghetti Monster Steals Meatballs (What's the Purpose of Philosophy?)
A Sophisticated Theologian Explains Why You Should Believe in God
Is Evolution Guided or Unguided?
Fideism


83 comments :

  1. Same old same old. *yawn*
    Among others, our esteemed mutual friend from Down Under has addressed this:
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/05/24/the-evolution-of-common-sense/

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    1. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/05/24/the-evolution-of-common-sense/

      This is from philosopher Steven Wilkins. It is not particularly strong. Plantinga's argument has at least a half-dozen logical fallacies and factual falsehoods which Wilkins does not mention-- I should write up a blog post totting them all up.

      I found it interesting that he invoked the Umwelt theory of early 20th century German ethologist Jacob von Uexkull. von Uexkull was a fanatical anti-Darwinist, and a fan of William Jennings Bryan. Umwelt was a holistic theory, that is, anti-reductionist.

      Anti-reductionists were usually anti-Darwinist and largely associated with fascism, because fascism was a right-wing complaint against the depersonalizing, "mechanistic", "reductionist" modern world, modern science and liberal emancipation, which turned man into a machine. Holism/anti-reductionism had political implications because fascists that the nation or race was an organism, which could not be reduced to its parts. Individual freedom was reductionist, fascism was anti-reductionist. Later, von Uexkuell hoped for funding from the Nazi government for his research.

      Von Uexkull wrote a book called God or Gorilla, I think 1925, about the conflict between God [creationism] and Gorilla [Darwinism]. This title was also borrowed by an American creationist author.

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    2. John Wilkins only wishes he were Steven so he could get onto the list of Steves who accept evolution. But I think he did miss the biggest fallacy in the argument, which is that it could equally well be applied to a divinely created brain.

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  2. How recent is that recording? And is anyone aware of Plantinga acknowledging and responding to the many objections made against his argument, such as the ones you cite by Boudry?

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    1. Very recent (LINK), but of course it's the same weary old stuff rehashed for ever and ever.

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  3. Plantinga not Plangina. :-)

    I always just wish people like Plantinga would just attend a damn evolution meeting or two, and attend a few advanced classes. It's like the guy has never thought about ecology, whether or not animals have some accurate abilities of perception and inference, etc.

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    1. Hi Nick,

      I always just wish people like you would just read Plantinga's full argument before assuming you knew what it was. He's not criticizing evolution. He's not arguing that animals don't have accurate abilities of perception and inferences. He's arguing that the conjunction of Evolution and Naturalism is self-defeating. His aim is not to refute evolution His aim is to refute Naturalism.

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    2. Hi Bilbo

      His proposition can be turned against any worldview, including his own. God could have created human beings with perception and cognitive faculties that would make them falsely believe god exists.

      Or, god could have used evolution to make them falsely believe in evolution.

      Or, space-aliens intentionally created human beings with a false belief in god, evolution, and space aliens.

      I was born and raised by my mother to falsely believe I was born and raised by my mother.

      Etc. etc. etc.

      How is this kind of "philosophy" impressive to anyone?

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    3. Hi Rumraket,

      What Plantinga has succeeded in doing is showing that any theory of mind where conscious beliefs do not affect behavior -- such as the one that Jerry Coyne espouses -- results in our conscious beliefs being unreliable. Instead of the truncated video that ENV posted, I suggest watching a slightly longer version.

      Does Theism prove that the majority of our conscious beliefs would be true? No, but it allows for the possibility that they are, whereas Naturalism does not.

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    4. Bilbo says,

      His [Plantinga's] aim is not to refute evolution His aim is to refute Naturalism.

      Strictly speaking, that's not true. His aim is to promote theism as a better alternative. Plantinga is a Christian apologist. He claims that we can't rely on philosophy, logic, or common sense if there's no god(s) because there's no guarantee that evolution, by itself, will have produced brains that we can rely on.

      If god(s) made brains, on the other hand, those brains must be reliable because the gods want us to be like them. As proof of the reliability of god-brains, all you have to do is look at all the "truths" that those brains deduced among a bunch of Middle-Eastern sheep farmers back in 1000 BC.

      Wikipedia has a good summary of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

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    5. Does Theism prove that the majority of our conscious beliefs would be true? No, but it allows for the possibility that they are, whereas Naturalism does not.

      How does Planting show it is impossible for beliefs to be true under Naturalism?

      Anyway, I think you're misdirecting your argument. If Plantinga is only arguing against Naturalism (and by that, I assume you are referring to Ontological or Metaphysical Naturalism, and not the Methodological kind), then I don't see why anyone should care outside of the philosophy department and its enthusiasts. The issue, then, has nothing to do with science, or evolution, or anything pertaining at all to our everyday life. Just why do you think the IDiots are creaming their pants over Plantinga?

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    6. Hi Larry,

      If you watch the 11 minute video that I linked to, you'll see that Plantinga is not arguing against the reliability of brains to produce adaptable behavior. He's arguing that Evolution + Naturalism cannot produce reliable conscious beliefs, since consicous beliefs (accordng to people such as Coyne) do not affect behavior.

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    7. Hi Lutesuite,

      It is possible for Naturalism + Evolution to produce conscious beliefs that are mostly reliable, but it's highly unlikely for that to happen, if conscious beliefs do not affect behavior, which is what Evolution selects for. Whereas a God who wanted us to be created in His image would insure that we would have mostly true conscious beliefs.

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    8. Hi Lutesuite,

      I forgot to answer your second question: Plantinga's point is relevant to science, because we assume that most of our conscious beliefs are true when we do science (we assume that the microscope shows us what tiny things look like; we assume that the bacteria we were studying a minute ago are the same bacteria we are studying this moment; etc....). In order to do science, then, we are really assuming that Evolution + Naturalism is not true.

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    9. It is possible for Naturalism + Evolution to produce conscious beliefs that are mostly reliable, but it's highly unlikely for that to happen, if conscious beliefs do not affect behavior, which is what Evolution selects for. Whereas a God who wanted us to be created in His image would insure that we would have mostly true conscious beliefs.

      Ah, so the argument depends on calculating the probability that reliable minds could arise thru evolution, that God would have decided to have created them, and that the former figure is less than the latter. So could you please give a reference that shows the math Plantinga used to calculate these figures? I"m particularly interested in how he determines the likelihood of God's decisions....

      Plantinga's point is relevant to science, because we assume that most of our conscious beliefs are true when we do science (we assume that the microscope shows us what tiny things look like; we assume that the bacteria we were studying a minute ago are the same bacteria we are studying this moment; etc....). In order to do science, then, we are really assuming that Evolution + Naturalism is not true.

      Even conceding the logic of that argument (and it appears quite dodgy to me), that only applies if science is concerned with determining some strict metaphysical form of "truth". It isn't, so Plantinga's claims remain irrelevant.

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    10. Bilbo, Plantinga's description of "beliefs" being somehow the product of neurologies that aren't in relation to their behaviors (and the behavior's adaptability), I submit is false.

      He invents the curious case of a neurology causing "false belief but adaptive behavior" and asks what is the probability that a neurology causing adaptive behavior, that the belief caused by it is true? And then says it's got to be close to 50:50 just on the face of it.

      I outright reject that. Our beliefs inform our actions of the world, so if most of our beliefs were mostly false, or false to a very high extend, I'd think we were much more likely to go extinct by making the incorrect choices. He's making a sort of curious disconnect between belief and behavior, as if there is no relation between what actions you take and what you believe. As if our behavior is done on a sort of automaton-level and that none of our beliefs stand in relation to the world, only that the behaviors do.

      I submit that it is obvious that it's more often the other way around. That people usually believe things because of experiences they have, and these experiences are usually experiences of the external environment, which is the very environment that is responsible for producing adaptive behavioral neurologies.

      So their beliefs do in fact inform their actions, and so their beliefs for the most part have to stand in some kind of relation to the facts of their environment. So for the most part, their beliefs have to be approximately close enough to the facts of the world.

      This means Plantinga's argument, at best, amounts to the possibility inaccurate beliefs(formed from you having had inaccurate experiences), but that they either have be few in number, or for the most part only slightly inaccurate.

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    11. Bilbo said:

      "Whereas a God who wanted us to be created in His image would insure that we would have mostly true conscious beliefs."

      Are all the stories in the bible "mostly true conscious beliefs"? How about in the koran?

      If "God" created all humans in "His image" to "insure that we would have mostly true conscious beliefs", then why doesn't every extant human have the same "conscious beliefs" and why don't extant humans have the same beliefs as prehistoric humans did?

      Were adam and eve's "conscious beliefs" that it was okay to eat fruit from a forbidden tree "mostly true"? Is it "mostly true" that the adam and eve of the bible ever existed?

      The bible ("God's word") says that it's okay or even commanded by "God" to rape, pillage, burn, enslave, cast out, and kill. Are those conscious beliefs and actions mostly true to 'God's image'?

      Is telling children that they will burn in hell forever if they don't worship "God" and behave according to the bible based on the "mostly true conscious beliefs" of the parents and other people telling them that?

      If "God" only wanted to "insure that we would have mostly true conscious beliefs", that means that not all of our conscious beliefs are true, so which beliefs are true and which are not?

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    12. Bilbo: It is possible for Naturalism + Evolution to produce conscious beliefs that are mostly reliable, but it's highly unlikely for that to happen, if conscious beliefs do not affect behavior, which is what Evolution selects for.

      I must admit I am confused. What exactly, according to that convoluted statement, is evolution supposed to select for? And why the hell should biological evolution produce human beliefs in the first place? Are beliefs innate and biologically heritable?

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    13. "It is possible for Naturalism + Evolution to produce conscious beliefs that are mostly reliable, but it's highly unlikely for that to happen, if conscious beliefs do not affect behavior, which is what Evolution selects for."
      So what would consciousness be if it did not affect behaviour? If I had the belief that there's milk in the fridge, and I went to the fridge to get some milk, how is that not my conscious belief about the world affecting behaviour? It seems fairly obvious that conscious beliefs *do* affect behaviour, so wouldn't this position simply be based on a false premise?

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    14. Kel: ... so wouldn't this position simply be based on a false premise?

      What Plantinga acually claims is that evolution promotes advantageous behaviours but not the beliefs that lead to them, so it can't produce "true beliefs". Which is a ridiculous strawman, as far as I can see. A particular situational behaviour (like getting milk from the fridge) is not the product of evolution; nor is the information structure ("belief") that causes that behaviour. What evolution seems to have favoured in our case was a powerful information-processing unit. The whole point of having such a unit is that learning, information storage, communication and cultural transmission become flexible and independent of genetic inheritance. The evolution of beliefs is cultural, not biological.

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    15. "... since conscious beliefs (according to people such as Coyne) do not affect behavior. "

      I am guessing you are referring to Dr. Coyne's belief that free will does not exist, in the sense that faced with the same decision and given the same information and the same circumstances a person will always make the same decision, based on the physics of how brains work. If so, and while I don't completely agree with Dr. Coyne on that (if I were Evolution I would include a small random factor in the decision algorithms of the brain and nervous system), that is not the same as saying that beliefs don't correlate with behavior. (The same reductionist neurological properties which produce behavior choices could produce beliefs which go with those behaviors.) So I think you are putting words in Dr. Coyne's mouth which he would not agree with.

      I do agree with Dr, Coyne that consciousness is not where most of the actual work of the brain gets done (similar to how much of the work of a large company gets done by its CEO). One example of this from my own experience was the time I was pitching in the company softball league and a batter hit a hard line drive directly at my stomach. I could see the blur of the ball coming at me. My only conscious thought was, "This is going to hurt, a lot!" Then from the left edge of my field of vision I saw a softball glove moving in front of my stomach and catching the ball, with a loud whack. It was my left arm that moved the glove but I never consciously formed the intention to do so and it came as a pleasant surprise.

      I think Plantinga and Nagel could both benefit from a beginning course in computer science, where they would learn that decision algorithms are quite easy to program, and that thanks to Turing we know that all computer algorithms can be reduced to collections of NAND circuits which are easy to construct individually, and finally that genetic algorithms (based on the methods of natural selection) have been highly successful at evolving ways to solve difficult problems. This might dispel some of the fog of incredulity which seems to be the basis of their arguments.

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    16. Bilbo: First, I would like you to explain what is the difference between a "conscious belief" as opposed to just a "belief."

      If babies believe that a fall will hurt them (and they appear to do so), do you believe that NS should produce human infants that want to crawl out windows, believing falls to be good for them? Is that what you think NS does?

      Or do you think that such a belief doesn't count because it is not "conscious"?

      Why should NS produce one result for "beliefs" and an opposite result for "conscious beliefs"? What is it about consciousness, as a property of a belief, that REVERSES the effect of NS?

      And lastly, you have disproven the existence of your God:

      Bilbo: It is possible for Naturalism + Evolution to produce conscious beliefs that are mostly reliable, but it's highly unlikely for that to happen, if conscious beliefs do not affect behavior, which is what Evolution selects for. Whereas a God who wanted us to be created in His image would insure that we would have mostly true conscious beliefs.

      If it is prediction of your model that your God should "insure that we would have mostly true conscious beliefs", then your model is disproven and you disproved the existence of your God.

      Most human beings do not believe as the minority of Christians believe, that a genocidal Middle Eastern war deity fathered a zombie rabbi. Most human being oppose the belief that a genocidal Middle Eastern war deity fathered a zombie rabbi, so if that belief is true, then your God designed our brains in such a way as to make them horribly, absurdly unreliable.

      Not to mention tricking us with all the transitional fossils and the 98.7% DNA identity between human and chimp.

      The Bible clearly describes your God as a deceiver, and Christians believe that the Devil deceives people, so your belief in spooks of all sorts means that you cannot trust your own mental faculties.

      Thus your immaterialism has "a defeater" and is self-refuting. Belief in immaterialism cannot be rationally affirmed, as Plantinga would say.


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  4. Plantinga isn't respected for philosophy of science. He's respected for a bunch of earlier papers in epistemology and metaphysics. His later papers, well, they've jumped the shark so to speak. Ditto for Nagel.

    Philosophers of science recognize these guys are full of bunk. So I don't see how Plantinga really speaks to the credibility of phil of science.

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    1. Philosophers of science recognize these guys are full of bunk. So I don't see how Plantinga really speaks to the credibility of phil of science.

      Can you point me to some publications where philosophers actually say that Plantinga is doing bad philosophy that brings discredit to the entire field of philosophy of science?

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    2. Fitelson and Sobers paper in 1993 on the EAAN is a pretty strong condemnation of the argument. While it doesn't use the words "discredit to the entire field of philosophy of science" most philosophers don't recognize the EAAN as part of philosophy of science. It's a poorly written, flawed piece of epistemology that attempts to use evolutionary premises, and a mess of question begging premises about God. That's the general philosophical attitude towards the EAAN. And the Fitelson/Sober paper does it relatively politely since it's in a publication.

      For another example, see this post on the blog for the Rotman Institute for Philosophy of Science at UWO:

      http://www.rotman.uwo.ca/2012/the-evolutionary-argument-against-naturalism-theistic-explanation-and-the-sep/#sthash.FenI9dDX.dpbs

      Brian Leiter actually walked out of a Plantinga/Dennett debate because Plantinga wasn't responding to any of the criticisms by Dennett, and was trying to avoid engaging with the known problems: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2009/02/the-plantingadennett-session-at-the-central-division-apa.html

      Many philosophers, atheist or theistic find his recent efforts extremely pernicious, and think it reflects badly on philosophy, though they likely won't use the words as you've put them.

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  5. For your enjoyment:
    http://www.philosophicallexicon.com/
    Especially look up "alvinize" and "Planting"

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    1. W

      wang, n. (not in pole usage) The organ of ramification.

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  6. As I've said before, organisms whose sensory and perceptual apparatus provides them with unreliable beliefs about the world disproportionately end up as lunch for critters whose s&p apparatus yields more reliable beliefs.

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    1. But you haven't defined "reliable". This kind of thing is important to philosophers. Or should be.

      Plantinga's argument is that NS selects for behavior, and indirectly for ludicrous beliefs that produce self-preservational behavior.

      He says that the same behavior (see tiger, run away) can be produced by an infinite number of ludicrous beliefs (e.g. the tiger and I are in a race, the winner gets a prize, so I will start running now.)

      For some reason, he seems to think, if I understand it right, that NS is more likely to select for ludicrous beliefs as long as they produce self-preservation. Why ludicrous beliefs should be more probable to be selected for, I don't know.

      Let's be clear about his argument. The more clearly you understand his argument, the more fallacies you can find.

      We should endeavor to tot up all the fallacies in this argument. There are so many it might take a while.

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    2. One of the chief failings, it appears to me, is that he does not support the premise that a mind created by God would be any more likely to be reliable than one that arose thru evolution. In fact, if one assumes the existence of God then it is a given that human faculties are unreliable, since some of the finest minds God has ever created have come to the conclusion that God does not exist.

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    3. That's because there's also the other guy who leads humanity astray. Some of the finest minds (like Plantinga's) are indeed infallible, but others (like yours) have been seduced by the forces of evil.

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    4. Which, I understand, is what he actually believes. Comes down to the same thing, thought, doesn't it? Theism means there could be the devil or other malevolent supernatural beings interfering with out sensory apparatus and causing it to be faulty.

      Really, I can't believe that in the 21st century someone can believe in the devil and still be considered a serious academic. Sad.

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    5. Even better than that, he apparently accepts "Satan and his minions" as the probable reason why there was "natural evil", such as parasites and predators, even before the emergence of man and his free will (which includes the freedom to err and do bad or stupid things).

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  7. I assume the first thing that philosophers would say is: so you think that if you don't believe in evolution, your faculties are infallible? Guaranteed infallible, by the divine sources of your belief?

    I don't know about Plantinga, but my faculties are certainly fallible.

    However, and this should be the second thing philosophers come up with, by arguing with each other and by laying out the argument logical step by logical step, we can make our arguments much less fallible. That's how the great philosophers got to be considered "great", by successfully passing through that filter.

    So Plantinga's argument may be characterized by this sophisticated technical term: it's silly.

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  8. If I have a defeater for any belief that is formed on the basis of my cognitive faculties then I would have no basis on which to believe any of Plantinga's claims, or any claim what so ever.

    Then I would be a real philosopher.

    Does that job come with a decoder ring and a weekly secret message ?

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  9. The investigation of the natural world should not be wrapped up in problems of deeper presumptions/philosophy about investigation.
    Its not that complicated to investigate nature.
    Figuring out stuff is complicated but no a methodology for investigation.

    Evolutionary biology simply found acceptance without the scientific method being employed or demanded.
    They just so wanted another explanation other then Genesis. It was that intellectually lame.

    Creationists simply need to strike at the methodology cheating of evolutionism.
    Then later attack the secondary evidence introduced to back it all up.
    No philosophy needs to be invoked.
    Just raw cross examination of method behind presented evidence.
    I think 15 years should end the matter.

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    1. "I think 15 years should end the matter."

      Creationists have already had 10 times longer than that and have not produced anything convincing. I give you 6 months before you realise that your approach is no better than any of those used by much more intelligent creationists.

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    2. Happy 9th Paul Nelson Day!

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/04/07/happy-9th-paul-nelson-day/

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  10. This very brief video merely states the outline of Plantinga's argument. It does not present his argument for the first and crucial premise.

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    1. Which is why the IDiots fawning praise for its "elegant brevity" is so laughable. He doesn't present any argument. All he says is "Evolution and naturalism are incompatible", and somehow manages to spend 2 minutes doing so.

      As you may have noticed, most of us are already familiar w/ the full argument, such as it is.

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    2. There's a good reason for that omission, no one would enjoy watching Plantinga pull his first premise out of his backside.

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  11. I've noticed that none of you are familiar with Plantinga's full argument. Or if you are, then you are misstating it on purpose. I suggest watching a slightly longer version of his argument, instead of the truncated video that the IDiot (certainly an accurate description in this case) posted at ENV.

    It is clear that Plantinga's argument refutes any theory of mind that does not allow conscious beliefs to affect behavior -- such as the theory that Jerry Coyne so loves.

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  12. I must be missing something, but it seems to me there is a very simple and obvious mechanism by which naturalism could account for minds that are reliable: The course of evolution could have been such that reliable minds were one of its results.

    What am I missing?

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    1. If by "reliable minds" you mean physical neurological entities that produce adaptable behavior, then Plantinga would have no argument with you. If by "reliable minds" you mean physical neurological entities that produce conscious beliefs which then affect behavior, then Plantinga would argue that this is no consistent with Materialism, which is the usual philosophical position of Naturalists, such as Coyne.

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    2. By the way, Thomas Nagel, who is a Naturalist (and an atheist), agrees with Plantinga's assessment of this problem for Naturalism, and his recent book, Mind and Cosmos, is a first attempt at suggesting what a Naturalistic account of evolution and minds would look like. His attempt is very reminiscent of Aristote's.

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    3. You keep referring to Coyne's model of the mind, so perhaps you could link to a description of this.

      I don't really see why conscious beilefs could not be correlated with particular forms of behaviour. The question of causation seems irrelevant to the discussion.

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    4. Nagel's book has received almost universally wretched reviews, except from creationists. I'll pass.

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    5. I read a couple of notes by Nagel. My conclusion is that the guy is an imbecile.

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  13. Does this issue really matter? I personally think that problem for evolution is not "the survival of the fittest, but the arrival of the fittest". In other words, how valuable is talking about what evolution could and couldn't accomplish if the real foundation of it has not been resolved--the origin of life. Your discussion is futile if this essential issue can't be resolved.

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    1. Dominic,

      The origin of life is not a problem for evolutionary theory whatsoever. Whether we were able to know how life started or not does not matter. Evolution is a fact. Our common ancestry with the rest of the apes is a fact. Our common ancestry with a huge bunch of other life forms is a fact. I don't need to know how life started to know that we share such ancestry with the apes and other life forms. Do you understand what I am saying?

      What you are saying is akin to demand knowledge of how the universe started before we can accept gravitation.

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    2. Negastive.
      Yes, yes and one more time yes!!!
      I will give you an example you can't refute. Why was toilet paper developed? Because there was shit. The same applies to the theory of evolution. It can only have any use whatsoever if life came into existence on its own. If that can't happen, the rest of the theory is as good as toilet paper without shit. It is just as useful. But you and other so called intellectuals choose to believe this shit. Well, it's not my problem but it is definitively yours...

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    3. Dominic, your analogy about evolution being worthless without having solved the origin of life is weirdly nonsensical.

      It's like saying trying to retrace my immediate ancestry (or resolving family relationships, making paternity tests and so on) is a worthless endeavour because I don't know the origin the first human being.

      Or like saying it's useless to reconstruct the actions of a killer if we don't know the circumstances of his birth?

      Why are you even in this thread? What's the worth of this useless trolling anyway? Clearly, you're really pissed off about this thread, since your posts contain all manner of swearing, insults and references to human excrement. What's got you so worked up?

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    4. Dominic said:

      "Does this issue really matter? I personally think that problem for evolution is not "the survival of the fittest, but the arrival of the fittest". In other words, how valuable is talking about what evolution could and couldn't accomplish if the real foundation of it has not been resolved--the origin of life. Your discussion is futile if this essential issue can't be resolved."

      Negative Entropy and Rumraket gave you good answers but I want to add something else. Let's apply what you said to a so-called 'God' or 'Gods', and whatever other labels people assign to them, such as designer, creator, father, mother, deity, supreme being, spirit, yhwh, allah, Deva, etc., etc., etc.

      So, how, when, where, and why did 'God' arrive? How valuable is talking about what 'God' (and/or all the other labels) could and couldn't accomplish if the real foundation of it has not been resolved--the origin and existence of 'God'? Your beliefs, assertions, and discussions about 'God' and those of any other 'God' believers/pushers in any venue is futile if this essential issue can't be resolved.

      Shouldn't you and all other 'God' believers/pushers first prove how, when, where, and why 'God' originated and whether he/she/they/it exists before you believe, discuss, and assert things about what 'God' did do, can do, does, and/or will do?

      You 'God' believers/pushers expect science to prove, beyond ANY doubt, right now, that every single atom in the universe and every process and event in the universe and everything before and outside the universe (if there is a before and outside) all came about by strictly natural, non-teleological, non-intelligently-designed, non-divinely-created means, and to prove that YOUR chosen, so-called 'God' didn't-do-it, but you NEVER apply anywhere near the same standard of expectations and proof from your religious beliefs and assertions.

      What, exactly, exempts your or anyone else's religious beliefs and assertions from the same level of scrutiny and proof that you expect from and of science, and particularly evolution and evolutionary theory?

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    5. Attention Dominic,

      I would like to try to answer some of the question posed by "The whole truth" and others, if you are not going to. Would you mind? Please let me know.

      Thanks, Kevin Bryan

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    6. Kevin, feel free to answer my questions, although I'd like to see Dominic answer them too.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    8. Dominic,

      That was not an example, but an attempt at a metaphor. A bad one at that. It does not refute what I told you. Let me repeat:

      The origin of life is not a problem for evolutionary theory whatsoever. Whether we were able to know how life started or not does not matter. Evolution is a fact. Our common ancestry with the rest of the apes is a fact. Our common ancestry with a huge bunch of other life forms is a fact. I don't need to know how life started to know that we share such ancestry with the apes and other life forms. Do you understand what I am saying?

      What you are saying is akin to demand knowledge of how the universe started before we can accept gravitation.

      Now, if you want to contest this, you have to be able to explain in no obscure terms why you think that "It [evolution] can only have any use whatsoever if life came into existence on its own."

      I find the statement quite stupid. Nonsense comparable to "gravitation can only have use if the universe came into existence on its own."

      I suspect that you don't care about understanding or making yourself clear. We will see.

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    9. @Negative Entropy

      This is one of my favourite stories. I could not find the short version I like, so I just Googled it and found this. I hope you and alike will enjoy it.

      "Who made it?

      Sir Isaac Newton had a friend who, like himself, was a great scientist; but he was an infidel, while Newton was a devout Christian. They often discussed their views concerning God, as their mutual interest in science drew them much together. Newton had a skillful mechanic make him a replica of our solar system in miniature. In the center was a large gilded ball representing the sun, and revolving in proper order around this were small balls fixed on the ends of arms of varying lengths, representing Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These bails were so geared together by cogs and belts as to move in perfect harmony when turned by a crank.

      One day, as Newton sat reading in his study with his mechanism on a large table near him, his infidel friend stepped in. Scientist that he was, he recognized at a glance what was before him. Stepping up to it, he slowly turned the crank, and with undisguised admiration watched the heavenly bodies all move with their relative speeds in their orbits. Standing off a few feet he exclaimed,

      "My! What an exquisite thing this is! Who made it?"

      Without looking up from his book, Newton answered, "Nobody!"

      Quickly turning to Newton, the infidel said, "Evidently you did not understand my question. I asked who made this?"

      Looking up now, Newton solemnly assured him that nobody made it, but that the aggregation of matter so much admired had just happened to assume the form it was in. But the astonished infidel replied with some heat, "You must think I am a fool! Of course somebody made it, and he is a genius, and I'd like to know who he is."

      Laying his book aside, Newton arose and laid a hand on his friend's shoulder. "This thing is but a puny imitation of a much larger system whose laws you know, and I am not able to convince you that this mere toy is without a design and maker; yet you profess to believe that the great original from which the design is taken has come into being without either designer or maker! Now tell me by what sort of reasoning do you reach such an incongruous conclusion?"

      P.S. Have you found the cause of gravity yet? I heard that future Oscar nominee Lawrence Krauss has come up with some proof?

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    10. @Kevin Bryan

      You can go ahead and try to argue the Bible with people who have no knowledge and no clue about it and who think that the existence of evil is a proof for non-existence of God. I hope you have the patience for it. I don't. Sorry.

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    11. What killed your believes is the general consensus among the astrophysicists that the universe, time and space had a beginning. So, whatever or whoever is the first cause of the beginning-big bang or big formation, has to be outside of time and space; has no beginning and no end. It's/He's eternal. You won't like this assessment but that is the only logical conclusion. But, who am I talking to? Materialists... What a shame...

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    12. A nice little fable, Dominic. Just strike out Uranus and Neptune. They were discovered well after Newton's death.

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    13. Are you sure they did not self-assemble after his death? Who really knows? There is no real proof one way of the other...Just theories :-)

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    14. Such details simply reveal the general ignorance of the author of that naive anecdote, as well as yours.

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    15. Dominic, you're either lying or an ignoramus-- well, to be fair, ignoramus, but you lie about your knowledge of astrophysics.

      What killed your believes is the general consensus among the astrophysicists that the universe, time and space had a beginning.

      BULLSHIT. Beyond the Planck energy scale, we can't be sure Einsteinian space-time even EXISTS.

      I'd ask you for a reference to the scientific literature-- since you falsely portray yourself as being FAMILIAR with astrophysics! But I'd done asking creationists questions they can never answer.

      You can't provide a reference because creationism is a fraud. Hoaxing motherfucker.

      So, whatever or whoever is the first cause of the beginning-big bang or big formation, has to be outside of time and space; has no beginning and no end.

      Bullshit, that does not logically follow. "Cause" has no meaning applied to a time-point with no time before it. Anything that "caused" space-time to exist would be part of a bigger universe, of which the space-time we see would be a subset. What created that bigger universe?

      If the universe had to have a "cause", it could be a metaphysical carrot just as much as a metaphysical man. No properties can be assigned to this invisible cause or causes.

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    16. Sir Isaac Newton had a friend who, like himself, was a great scientist; but he was an infidel, while Newton was a devout Christian.

      Actually it was Isaac Newton who was the infidel, he was a Antitrinitarian monotheist who held that worshipping Christ as God was idolatry.

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    17. All that stupid story Dominic, yet you could not answer one simple question: why evolution "can only have any use whatsoever if life came into existence on its own"?

      I am reaching the conclusion that, as I thought, you care neither about understanding nor about making yourself clear.

      By the way, to build a miniature solar system in this planet, that looks like the real solar system and moves like the real solar system, you have to overcome the very same forces that formed and move the real one, none of which is an unnatural one. You would have to build those miniature versions in somewhat proper proportions and then place them them in the same order, none of which was preordained for the real one. Newton's work and argument in the story would have been nothing but equivocating, fallacious, rhetoric. Bullshit of the kind so loved by creationists who can't tell the difference between reality and their imaginations.

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    18. dominic said:

      "@Kevin Bryan

      You can go ahead and try to argue the Bible with people who have no knowledge and no clue about it and who think that the existence of evil is a proof for non-existence of God. I hope you have the patience for it. I don't. Sorry."

      In other words, you're running away from the questions I asked because you know that your religious beliefs can't survive anywhere near the level of scrutiny and proof that you expect from and of science, and especially evolution and evolutionary theory.

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    19. @The whole truth

      "In other words, you're running away from the questions I asked because you know that your religious beliefs can't survive anywhere near the level of scrutiny and proof that you expect from and of science, and especially evolution and evolutionary theory."

      1.First of all, I'm not a scholar or Bible expert--I never claimed to be--but I know enough to have my beliefs up to date and up to my satisfaction.

      2. Your arguments are nonsense; they tell me you have never investigated Judeo-Christianity, which is now readily available on line. I'm not going to educate you and others. I have no time. That is why I asked Kevin Brian to do it, since he volunteered.

      This is an example of your nonsense thinking:

      "So, how, when, where, and why did 'God' arrive?
      How valuable is talking about what 'God' (and/or all the other labels) could and couldn't accomplish, if the real foundation of it has not been resolved--the origin and existence of 'God'?

      Let’s look at how, where and why?

      How: If the universe, time and space had a beginning ( which is a general consensus among "the gods of science". So whoever/whatever before that had to be what? It had to have no beginning end no end, no past no future. It created the beginning, time, space.It has to be outside of time, space.

      Scientists believe and have some good equations to support it that there are infinite dimensions. If that is true, what does that tell you about the possibilities of the Unknown?

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  14. Surely the issue here is whether "naturalistic evolution is a self-defeating proposition" because if you think it has happened you acknowledge that your conclusions are fallible, whereas if you think it hasn't you (what?).

    Likewise issues like Jerry Coyne's position on consciousness are beside the present point.

    So ... how does Plantinga's argument against believing in evolution work?

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    1. Plantinga states that evolution and "naturalism" are self refuting as follows:

      1. He states that evolution under "naturalistic assumptions" would only select for survival behaviour, not for "Truth[TM]". Therefore, as long as a "belief" would keep an animal alive, then the animal will survive whether the "belief" is true or false. Example: when cave-man sees a tiger, he thought maybe that the tiger was running a race against him, and that's why caveman ran and survived.
      2. Plantinga goes from that into saying "let's suppose that each belief that allows survival has a probability of 0.5 of being a true belief, if we put all beliefs together the probability that evolution produced true beliefs altogether would be 1 in whatever-huge-numbers."
      3. Since evolution is a result from the above "evolved" sets of beliefs, it has a high probability of being false, therefore naturalism and evolution are self-defeating.

      Yes. It's that stupid from the very beginning. Yet you should see how hard it is to explain the stupidity embedded in the argument to believers.

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    2. The even funnier thing: According to PZ Myers as the link given below, in order to figure out the probability of 3/4 of a hundred beliefs being correct if the probability of each one being correct is 50%, Plantinga needed someone else to do the math for him.

      http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/29/alvin-plantinga-gives-philosop/

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    3. They say that maths is cost-effective because all that a mathematician needs is a pencil, some notepaper, and a waste-paper basket. But philosophy is still cheaper because a philosopher doesn't use a waste-paper basket.

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    4. Interesting that the same objections I found to Plantinga's nonsense, PZ Myers concluded back in 2009 too.

      Our beliefs are formed by experiences of the world, they're for the most part not some kind of weirdly disconnected random cognition that only happens as a byproduct of heritably determined and adaptive neurophysiology.

      In point of fact, one of few actually heritable and adaptive cognitive processes we come instilled with, is the instinctive behavior to form our beliefs through experiences of the world from birth and through childhood.

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    5. I also love the 50/50 odds of a belief being true that he just pulls out of nowhere. By the same "reasoning", if I were to run against Usain Bolt in the 100m dash, I have a 50% chance of winning, since there are two possibilities: I win or Bolt wins.

      Philosophers are supposed to be the ones who specialize in logic. Did Plantinga skip class the day they covered that?

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    6. Well, for one, Plantinga is assuming that it is particular behaviours and beliefs that are selected for. In other words, there's selection on a per case basis: One for tigers, one for lions, another for wolves, then another for eating, another per .... he has no idea of the tension such a thing would create against the survival of the organisms if things worked out that way. He has no idea about either logic or biology. If he does not understand how behaviours arise evolutionarily speaking, how they work neurologically speaking, long long et cetera, then he has no business even proposing his bullshit. He failed at both, his supposed training: philosophy, and many fields of biology he has no business trying to criticize unless he was willing to learn them properly. Ironically, this is the very same guy who criticized Dawkins for stepping into philosophy without being a philosopher, yet he does not grasp any little biology, and misuses his own field.

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    7. Sorry, but I had to add: Plantinga has no idea how knowledge is acquired, which means he has no idea about epistemology. Plantinga is just an ass-hole who makes incredibly stupid philosophical mistakes before we even visit biology. Philosophy cannot be done in empty space. The reason philosophy has lost so much prestige is that many philosophers don't realize that uninformed philosophy is untenable.

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  15. I'm convinced that evolution does not produce fully reliable brains but I already was convinced of that. The counterargument that I then can't be sure of my thinking is a given. It is, however, clear that we can't rely of the thinking of others because they often hold mutually incompatible positions. That observation holds regardless.

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  16. Yes, and other people's thinking can be used to correct ours, we theirs. And logical arguments can be laid out step by step and each step evaluated. By multiple people. The end result is much greater reliability.

    Does Plantinga think that since his brain came about by Creation and not evolution, it is infallible?

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    1. I think Plantinga says a God-created mind could be reliable, whereas he says there is no possibility (or very low probability) of this happening thru evolution.

      Among the apparent flaws of the argument: Just because you cannot know something to be true does not mean it isn't true. It seems to me an analogy to his claim would be this: Suppose there is a box which may or may not contain a cat. However, the box cannot be opened and there is no other means by which we can determine what is inside it. Does this then mean that is impossible for the box to contain a cat? Obviously not. Yet that seems to be analogous to the claim Plantinga is making, that because we cannot know whether evolution is true (under naturalism, he believes) then it cannot be true. That's a non-sequitor.

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    2. Well, it sounds like he totally ignores the role debate among multiple people can play in making the output of a fallible mind much less fallible.

      If both his mind and yours are God-created and infallible, he still doesn't have the advantage. Ditto if he doesn't believe in evolution and you do, but both of your minds are evolution-created and thus fallible.

      Sheesh.

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    3. The Discovery Institute just announced an upcoming seminar by Plantinga here in Seattle, The announcement in Uncommon Descent showed his photo but mistakenly indeitifed him as "A. C. Grayling" in the text of the announcement, though as "Alvin Plantinga" in the headline. I guess their brains did arise by evolution and thus are fallible ...

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    4. Plantinga is now openly associating with the Discovery Institute? Or has he been doing this all along?

      Regardless, endorsing creationism is hardly the way to prove one's credentials as a leading intellectual proponent of Christianity. Or of anything, for that matter.

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  17. Joe Felsenstein
    I don't know about this man but it would be the teaching of historic Christianity that all our thinking is done with our soul/heart and nothing with our brain.
    When we die we go to the afterlife, we say, fully thinking and thenceforth.
    Yet we leave our brain behind.
    The brain is just a middleman between us and our bodies.
    Its impossible for mankind therefore to have growth or loss in our thinking abilities.

    Therefore all problems with our thinking must come from somewhere else.
    its my observation this is clearly from triggering errors using our memories.
    This is hinted at mental retardation/autisms which always show the person has above average memory despite below average.
    In fact famous cases of savants demonstrates the equation.
    The aberration is the revelation of the true equation of whats wrong.

    To bring healing , I think, the direction should be about fixing the triggering mechanism for memory. .This is a example of how creationism can do a better job in analysis and medical research based on better presumptions.
    Science fiction movies are just plain wrong. Bigger brains is unrelated to bigger intelligence.
    Sorry Star Trek!

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