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Why belief in God casts doubt on all atheistic beliefs

If fundamental and widely-held beliefs are selected by evolution not because they are true, but rather because their falsehood confers a survival advantage, shouldn’t we expect any and all beliefs (including scientific and atheistic ones) to be possibly false in the same way?

Atheists tell me that evolutionary psychology has shown that belief in God is just a conditioned impulse; programmed into us by genetic forces because it confers survival value.

Indeed, the notion that religious belief is a coping mechanism seems to be what motivates the evolutionary psycho-analysis—there’s no doubt that faith of one sort or another is better for one’s mental health than non-faith, and that believers reproduce at higher rates than non-believers.

This evolutionary advantage explains why such vast proportions of humanity believe things which are (so atheists say) patently untrue and even ridiculous. Figures vary, but as a rule it seems at least 95% of the world’s population professes some kind of belief in the supernatural—if not God, then something we might call the “transcendent”. And although some of the world’s most intelligent and well-educated people have spent a great deal of time elaborating sophisticated reasons to believe in the transcendent—in Christianity we have philosophers like Plantinga and Swinburne and Craig among many others—even the best of these reasons are actually just after-the-fact justifications for beliefs purely held because of biological programming.

It’s rather like how a man will justify his decision to buy a Lexus rather than a Toyota. It makes no difference the reasons he gives us; we know that at the end of the day, it was non-rational, emotional factors that really motivated him.

However, if this evolutionary account of religious belief is true, it seems to saddle atheists with an awkward problem.

Why think any belief is not just a biologically-programmed “useful fiction”?

If evolution has ubiquitously selected for absurd transcendent beliefs, and even the most sophisticated arguments we develop to defend those beliefs are just our vain efforts to rationally justify what biology has programmed us to think despite the actual facts of the matter, then how can we trust any of our beliefs whatsoever? After all, we’re not talking about minor, unimportant and/or uncommon beliefs that most people recognize as irrelevant or foolish. We’re talking about beliefs that affect our most fundamental understanding of reality, and which are held (across a spectrum) by almost everyone—including the most intelligent and learned members of our species.

But if such fundamental beliefs about reality are so ubiquitously and persistently false and uncorrectable, surely it is not only possible but indeed very likely that other fundamental beliefs we have about reality are equally false and uncorrectable? There seem to be plenty of other critical beliefs we should also have good reason to doubt. Not only is it possible these are false, but they are exactly the sorts of false beliefs it seems evolution would select for because of their survival advantage:

Indeed, what if the belief that transcendent beliefs are false…is itself a biologically-programmed false belief? What if thinking that religion is uniformly bunkum is itself simply a false belief selected for by the strange social evolutionary pressures of modern academia? Not only could the atheist not discount this possibility, but if it were true it wouldn’t matter what arguments he tried to give to defend his belief—they would simply be after-the-fact justifications.

Fundamentally, it seems that if such basic and important beliefs as religious ones are selected for because they confer survival value despite being completely false, then any basic and important beliefs we hold are quite possibly false by the same token. But this utterly undermines not only the scientific enterprise, but also the very idea that our beliefs are selected for by evolutionary forces.

Why should anyone think such a self-refuting view of the world is rational or worthy of being taken seriously? Beats me.

26 comments

  1. Johnny

    Hmm, I suppose the argument goes something like this. In times past evolution gave an advantage to belief in God because… well I guess it gave life meaning and gave explanation to things otherwise beyond explanation.

    Now non-belief in God is justified because of science and because we now can explain by physics what previously was explained by God. This has a better foundation because it is based on science. Evolution is a slow process, so this “new” belief is not because of evolution, but because of scientific knowledge. Science is not because of evolution. Science is because of human progress.

    In that sense, theism and atheism beliefs are not symmetrical and not equally explained by evolution. Even a Christian has to admit that Hinduism is rubbish, and vice versa. But a modern day atheist says both are based on inadequate evidence. The difference between pre-scientific thinking where using science to explain what goes on was not an option, and scientific thinking where beliefs are more rigorous.

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Johnny, no doubt an atheist could make that argument. And no doubt other atheists would find it convincing. But why, given the truth of evolution, should we treat it as more than an after-the-fact justification of a biologically-programmed belief? The problem I’ve outlined completely undercuts any kind of argument the atheist can make, because there’s no reason to think the fundamental foundations it rests on are actually true, given that they’ve been selected by evolution, which isn’t aimed at truth.

  3. Johnny

    Don’t you think, assuming for a minute that some beliefs were selected by evolution, that it might be possible now to distinguish those beliefs from beliefs that rest upon a better and/or different epistemological foundation?

    I mean, to take an analogy, we all know there are crazy people in this world, who can’t see reality and who are paranoid, and who think people are after them, and so forth. These people have no idea tha they are crazy, they think they are quite sane.

    Now, because we all know such people exist, and they are unaware of their craziness, is it therefore our duty to live our lives under the assumption that we too can’t know the truth about anything and that we too may well be crazy, since we know that people who are crazy don’t know it?

    It seems to me, that there might be ways to distance ourselves from pure animal instinct and use logic to sort some of this stuff out, without immediately throwing up our hands and giving up. It seems to me, if we accept your premise, you must certainly abandon all hope of truth, because you know there are crazy people in this world.

    BTW, your blogging site or provider is completely broken on iPad.

  4. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Johnny, the problem is that the evolutionary epistemology starts with a foundational principle which makes the probability of any given belief being true inscrutable. If we assume that our beliefs are biologically programmed regardless of their truth, and that arguments for their truth are just post-facto rationalizations, then we simply have no way of assessing whether they are true or false.

    That’s quite a different situation than starting with an epistemology that assumes the basic truth-orientedness of our mental faculties, and which allows rational assessment of our beliefs. Under that kind of epistemology, knowing that some people’s mental faculties malfunction doesn’t automatically cast doubt on the functioning of our mental faculties. But under evolutionary psychology, we can’t even rise as high as saying that people’s faculties malfunction—because that would presuppose those faculties are oriented toward truth, but failing to hit it. Yet under evolution, mental faculties just aren’t oriented toward truth. That’s the fundamental problem.

    Btw, in what sense is the site broken on iPad? I don’t have one to test it with, but with all the testing I’ve done in Chrome-based browsers and on tablets in general it has worked flawlessly. Could you provide a screenshot so I can fix the problem?

  5. Johnny

    Hmm. We seem to be biologically programmed to like to eat chocolate cake. And we are very good at making post-facto rationalisations about why it is a good idea to eat chocolate cake. But does that automatically mean that we can’t look more objectively at the health benefits of chocolate cake?

    It seems to be biologically programmed that we feel great by injecting ourselves with heroin. And having done so, we are very good at post-facto rationalisations about why taking heroin is a good idea. Does that mean it is impossible to step back and analyse more objectively whether taking heroin is a good idea?

    It seems to me that your twin conditions: biological programming, and post facto rationalisations, is not necessarily enough to assume that we are beyond all hope of escaping that conundrum.

    I mean, let’s face it, all of us ARE guilty of post-facto rationalisations, whether it be the Lexus or whatever. But the fact that we know that we CAN, sit down and… well for example, analyse the various pros and cons objectively of a Lexus, means that we know that we can escape if we really have a desire to, if we are motivated to, and if we want to sit down and do the necessary work and logic.

    I’m not sure if Christians and non-Christians are really so much at odds over the “truth orientedness of the mental faculties” (whatever that means). I think both would agree for example that there are various factors in ones environment (for example) or one’s predispositions that would lead people to have false beliefs on various issues. There are various factors that might lead to us overcoming those errors… curiosity… application of brain power… intervention of 3rd parties… luck to observe something which reveals the truth… and so forth. And I think everyone can really agree that people who don’t know the truth, but are living in error, are predisposed to justifying their current erroneous world view, because it is human nature to try and make sense of the world with the understanding that we have. So is there really so much disagreement about epistemology?

    ipad: my initial post was fine. But when clicking in the email, to reply, I couldn’t click in the name or email fields. The screen bounces around but you can’t enter anything. The same thing happened in Safari and Chrome for iPad.

  6. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    We seem to be biologically programmed to like to eat chocolate cake. And we are very good at making post-facto rationalisations about why it is a good idea to eat chocolate cake. But does that automatically mean that we can’t look more objectively at the health benefits of chocolate cake?

    I don’t think you’re seeing the magnitude of the problem under the evolutionary view. The examples of chocolate cake and heroin presuppose what the evolutionary view seems to obliterate—namely that our mental faculties are “aimed at” truth to a sufficient extent that we can tell when something is just a rationalization as opposed to a justified true belief.

    Let me show you what I mean with a non-trivial example:

    We seem to be biologically programmed to believe that the external world is basically like the world we perceive “behind our eyes”. Now, given that the probability of this belief being true is inscrutable if evolution is true, how would you go about justifying it?

    Thanks for the heads up re the comment fields; I’ll check that out asap.

  7. Johnny

    I don’t think the evolutionary theorists are claiming that the only force acting on the human mind is what you might call a tendency to believe falsity when it gives evolutionary advantage. After all, discerning truth gives evolutionary advantage too.  I think they would argue that what is required is more rigorous application of the logical part of your mind.

    In any case, doesn’t Christian theology also work under the premise that people’s minds are not oriented towards truth? That non-Christians are under the force of the devil and/or have unregenerate minds unable to see the real truth? In which case, isn’t the whole argument also meaningless? People will either believe in God, not so much in consequence of the evidence, but due to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Or they don’t believe not so much due to lack of rigorous application of logic, but due to the fall, and their hearts being darkened, commitment to sin, etc. So then the problem of knowing truth is still not a problem of logic. Or at best it’s a case of vigorous care to exclude from your thinking those natural  influences which draw you perversely in the direction of error.

    Wouldn’t the evolutionist at least have the benefit of arguing that perhaps we have a better hope of rigorous application of logic and scientific method with repeatable results to the problem, whereas the Christian has to compete with an infinite number of gods and world views to argue about whose mind is corrupted by what invisible spiritual forces, in what directions for what reasons?

    See, the problem I have with your argument is that it seems that logic and reason are parts of nature that really can’t be disputed by any world view. Not all problems easily succumb to logic, but lots of them do. Even if the atheist argues that there are certain tendencies in human nature to believe falsehood, it doesn’t automatically lead to the extreme position that we can know nothing. Tendencies are just that, general forces that excerpt a weak force on our lives in the absence of discipline. Like I have a tendency to be lazy, eat too much and get fat. But with discipline, I can overcome the natural force.

    It looks like you improved the ipad problem, but the add comment button overlaps the text area, which isn’t great.

  8. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Wouldn’t the evolutionist at least have the benefit of arguing that perhaps we have a better hope of rigorous application of logic and scientific method with repeatable results to the problem

    No, again, because that assumes the truth of what the evolutionist is committed to denying: namely, that our mental faculties are aimed at truth, rather than at survival. This is an intractable problem for evolutionists precisely because it undercuts any argument you try to make to get out from under it.

    whereas the Christian has to compete with an infinite number of gods and world views to argue about whose mind is corrupted by what invisible spiritual forces, in what directions for what reasons?

    Not at all. There are hardly an infinite number of gods and worldviews; really there are only a handful of viable competitors. And in terms of adjudicating between them, Christianity is in a very strong position, both philosophically and historically.

    See, the problem I have with your argument is that it seems that logic and reason are parts of nature that really can’t be disputed by any world view.

    I agree, but this just seems to demonstrate that the evolutionary worldview is self-refuting, since it entails that logic and reason are not only disputable, but ultimately entirely impotent.

    Tendencies are just that, general forces that excerpt a weak force on our lives in the absence of discipline.

    Well if this is true, it falsifies evolutionary psychology’s account of where religious beliefs come from, since a mere weak inclination to believe religious things wouldn’t account for the kind of ubiquitous beliefs we find in people; nor for how reasonably many people can defend these beliefs.

    Re the button, yes, it looked cool when I made it, but now that I actually have to use it, I find it very annoying :)

  9. Johnny

    I think your concept of “mental faculties aimed at truth” is far too obscure and vague to really say much about it. Is this a concept that really has a defined meaning?

    As I pointed out, the Christian worldview doesn’t really claim that people’s minds are aimed at truth. Christian theology specifically denies that claim quite frequently.

    In any case, putting aside high philosophy and theology, I don’t think the Christian really denies that the human mind is very strongly aimed at survival. Given a choice between being right and being alive, people tend to choose being alive rather than being right, Christian or not. It varies between people, but if you are plunking your own money down, don’t bet against someone choosing what pragmatically helps their survival against what logic says is right. Would you really deny it? If not, are you really in a different boat?

    People’s faculties ARE often distorted, by a whole range of factors. You know it, and I know it. Yet most world views tend to assume that we can somehow block out the extraneous factors to get at truth. The atheist world view would tend to look to the scientific method. If something is repeatable, not only by me, but by everyone else, it seems to be truth. As long as nobody disproves it, it takes on all the characteristics of truth. At this point it doesn’t really matter if people not using the scientific measurement don’t believe it, because they potentially have a distorted view. The method to overcome common distortions is well defined, and it doesn’t matter how crazy that some, many or all of the population is.

    You say there are only a few viable competitors to Christianity. That though is based on certain presuppositions. For example, it assumes that your mind isn’t corrupted by someone successfully using a voodoo doll against you. You might say that’s ridiculous, but then again… you would seeing as your mind has been messed around by voodoo, wouldn’t you. Similarly you argue that other people subscribe to unviable world views because their hearts are corrupted by the devil or the fall or whatever. But that’s presupposing the spiritual corruption of your worldview on their minds and dismissing the possible spiritual corruption of your mind by factors from their worldview.

    You say that weak inclination wouldn’t account for a ubiquitous belief. But discipline IS a painful thing. Think of this way. How many Americans are overweight? I think at this point the answer is, the vast majority of them. Is that because Americans in general have no idea at all that they are overweight or that they are oblivious about the possibility something could be done? Of course not. They are, mostly, undisciplined, and they know it. In the same way, ubiquitous behaviour isn’t proof that the force causing the behaviour is beyond one’s power to overcome. I mean I call it “weak” only in the sense that we could overcome it if we chose. That it’s not so powerful that it is beyond our faculties to observe the effect and overcome. In space, even a weak force can move something until something stops it.

    As luck would have, right now I happen to be watching a TV show about common mental illusions. For example, if you show someone a picture of 4 people and ask them to choose one for an advertising campaign. Then you show the picture of the person they did NOT choose, and ask them why they chose that person, 75% of people won’t notice you showed them the wrong person, and they’ll justify their decision. Except that wasn’t their decision!! It’s a classic case of what this blog article is about. People tend to justify their decision, even in the absurd case that it wasn’t even their decision.

    So you see, it’s a fact that people do that. One might argue that people brought up in a religion engage in this practice… they justify it because they take it as their decision, even if it really wasn’t, even if it was their parent’s decision, or that of society.

    Given that such an experiment shows that the effect is real, is this really such a great argument against atheism? You can’t deny absolutely that you aren’t doing it now, can you, since the effect is in fact real. If you think you have overcome such influences, by whatever means… great… but why can’t you grant that the atheist might have also done it, by the same means?

    BTW, the Add comment button and stuff is a mess now running on a Mac, in that it is right in the middle of the text field.

  10. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I think your concept of “mental faculties aimed at truth” is far too obscure and vague to really say much about it. Is this a concept that really has a defined meaning?

    I’m sorry if I have been too vague; I’m referencing a concept which, as you say, does have an already-defined meaning. Essentially, the question is whether our mental faculties operate in such a way as to reliably discover how reality actually is, or whether they operate in such a way as to reliably allow us to survive. The point of my OP was to use religion as an example of how evolutionary psychology holds the latter at the expense of the former, to the extent that it undercuts itself completely.

    As I pointed out, the Christian worldview doesn’t really claim that people’s minds are aimed at truth. Christian theology specifically denies that claim quite frequently.

    On the contrary, Christianity expressly claims that all human beings are made in the image of God, who is truth (1 John 5:6). Our minds are designed to reliably discover how reality actually is. You’re probably thinking of the noetic effects of sin, which effectively cause our minds to “malfunction”. But that is not a systematic malfunction; it does not so affect our minds that they become consistently aimed at falsehood in every respect. Rather, it is a moral malfunction, so our moral sense is consistently aimed at the wrong standard. Yet even with this malfunction, our general knowledge of moral categories remains intact. We don’t completely substitute right and wrong or become unable to tell the difference. Rather, we reject the ultimate standard of right and wrong and replace it with the best substitute we can find.

    Possibly there is also a general “degradation” of our mental abilities compared to what we would otherwise have. We are slower-thinking and more error-prone than unfallen people would be. But our minds are still aimed at truth. We just have a harder time hitting it.

    Given a choice between being right and being alive, people tend to choose being alive rather than being right, Christian or not.

    This comment suggests that you don’t really understand the problem I’m raising in the OP. The issue isn’t what people would choose; the issue is what evolution “chooses”. Christians don’t deny that we are designed with a survival instinct. But our survival-aimed faculty is just a component of our mental faculty. Whereas, under evolution, our survival-aimed faculty just is our mental faculty.

    Yet most world views tend to assume that we can somehow block out the extraneous factors to get at truth.

    Agreed. The problem is, the evolutionary worldview undercuts this assumption by making truth or falsehood inscrutable—ie, impossible to tell the probability of.

    The atheist world view would tend to look to the scientific method. If something is repeatable, not only by me, but by everyone else, it seems to be truth.

    Which merely begs the question against the problem I’m highlighting. You can’t assume what you need to prove; but the very issue at hand is that you cannot prove this sort of thing is evolution is true.

    For example, it assumes that your mind isn’t corrupted by someone successfully using a voodoo doll against you.

    You’re forgetting that there are much broader ways of establishing the likelihood of a worldview’s being true. Does it adequately answer critical epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical questions? Christianity demonstrably does, whereas animism in whatever form demonstrably does not. It has no satisfactory answers to questions about the origin of contingent objects, moral values, or knowledge itself.

    ubiquitous behaviour isn’t proof that the force causing the behaviour is beyond one’s power to overcome.

    Perhaps, but how is this relevant to the problem I raise?

    I mean I call it “weak” only in the sense that we could overcome it if we chose.

    But many of the world’s finest thinkers are unable to overcome the (ex hypothesi) programmed religious belief they hold. They actually think there are very good reasons to hold those beliefs, and they commensurately think there are very good reasons to reject the evolutionary view. For example, the very reason I gave in the OP.

    Given that such an experiment shows that the effect is real, is this really such a great argument against atheism? You can’t deny absolutely that you aren’t doing it now, can you, since the effect is in fact real.

    I think you may be confused about how the argument works. I’m not making an argument that if we sometimes engage in erroneous post-facto justification, then we cannot know anything. I am making an argument that if evolution is true, then we cannot know anything because our mental faculties are not aimed at truth in the first place—and I’m using the example of religion to demonstrate the point.

  11. Johnny

    It seems to me you are exaggerating the problem. After all, except in a few special cases, accurately knowing about reality is perfect for survival, so the aims are quite in tune.

    But, let’s say for the sake of argument that your complaint really is as bad a problem as you propose. Namely that if our minds are actually aimed at something other than truth then really we can’t know anything for sure anymore.

    Doesn’t this argument then undermine your own position? Because if we hypothesise for a moment that this theory is true, and that our minds might not aimed at truth, and therefore we can’t be sure of anything, then you can’t be sure right now if your entire argument is nonsense and just a self-serving bogus argument to help your survival. Since religion is a scheme to live forever, it seems doubly questionable.

    It seems to me that your argument, if valid, doesn’t just upend the atheist apple cart, it upends all apple carts. You’re saying that if our minds are aimed at something other than truth, we won’t know it, and we’ll never know truth, there’s nothing we can do, and it can’t be proven. It’s like the ultimate conversation killer. Epistemological mutually assured destruction. You’ve proposed that all entire epistemological systems rest upon this first assumption about which directions our minds are aimed at, therefore any and all arguments are null and void, being as they are, possibly invalidated by our minds not being aimed at truth.

    “But our minds are still aimed at truth. We just have a harder time hitting it.”

    It’s a pretty subtle distinction between a mind aimed at truth, but has a hard time hitting it, and a mind aimed at survival, where survival is very closely aligned with truth, and you hit it with great reliability. The latter might actually work better than the former.

    “You’re forgetting that there are much broader ways of establishing the likelihood of a worldview’s being true. Does it adequately answer critical epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical questions?”

    Aren’t you lecturing us that if, hypothetically, our minds are not aimed the right way, that we can’t know truth anyway? So these arguments of yours are based on the starting assumption that you are right.

    Now if your mind is corrupted by voodoo, how are you going to know that your logic is correct? Maybe you only think voodoo doesn’t explain everything, because your mind is thus corrupted, and/or aimed the wrong way.

  12. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    After all, except in a few special cases, accurately knowing about reality is perfect for survival

    Since my argument undercuts this assumption, you’re begging the question again.

    Doesn’t this argument then undermine your own position? Because if we hypothesise for a moment that this theory is true, and that our minds might not aimed at truth, and therefore we can’t be sure of anything, then you can’t be sure right now if your entire argument is nonsense and just a self-serving bogus argument to help your survival.

    How does this undermine my position? Aren’t you just agreeing that if “this theory” (ie, evolution) is true, then we can’t be sure of anything, including whether evolution is true? But isn’t that exactly my point?

    You’re saying that if our minds are aimed at something other than truth, we won’t know it, and we’ll never know truth, there’s nothing we can do, and it can’t be proven.

    Sure, and if I’m a brain in a vat there is no computer in front of me right now. Extreme skepticism is only a problem if you have some reason to take it seriously. That’s a problem for an evolutionist, because his evolutionary understanding of psychology necessitates such a position. It’s not a problem for me.

    It’s a pretty subtle distinction between a mind aimed at truth, but has a hard time hitting it, and a mind aimed at survival, where survival is very closely aligned with truth, and you hit it with great reliability. The latter might actually work better than the former.

    It might, but you’d have no way of knowing, because the truth-value of any given proposition under evolution is inscrutable. Moreover, under the Christian view there are checks and balances for avoiding mistakes and discerning truth. Under the evolutionary view there aren’t.

    Aren’t you lecturing us that if, hypothetically, our minds are not aimed the right way, that we can’t know truth anyway? So these arguments of yours are based on the starting assumption that you are right.

    They’re based on the starting assumption that I can be right, and that I can know if I am right. Absent any reason to think otherwise, that’s a reasonable assumption. Now, evolution would give me a reason to think otherwise—but since it ends up refuting itself, I don’t need to take that seriously. Does voodoo give me a reason to think otherwise? Can you produce a voodoo practitioner who thinks that I (and presumably all Christians) are being deceived by some kind of magic? Does voodoo theology hold that non-believers in voodoo are deceived in such a way?

  13. Johnny

    You say that your argument undercuts the assumption that knowing about reality is good for survival? Why? Because supposedly you can’t know anything about anything if our minds are attuned for survival? So any argument, no matter how legitimate you can response with “nya, you can’t know that”.

    Well you’re supposedly arguing from a position in which you can know the truth, so you supposedly can agree with that proposition that truth is good for survival, even from a Christian viewpoint. So if you disagree, you can say why.

    You say that if evolution is true we can’t be sure of anything, isn’t that your point. Well, no I didn’t think that was your point. I don’t think the scientific method ever claimed to attain 100% certainty on anything. Everything is provisional, it could be upended with new information, better theories etc. But you went far beyond that, you said that it is “very likely that other fundamental beliefs we have about reality are equally false and uncorrectable” if evolution is true. That’s a much bigger claim. It’s one thing to introduce a hair of doubt because of this vast framework you’re trying to construct around the problem. It’s another thing to say if this one single fact is true, then its likely that everything else we know about reality is untrue.

    That’s what I’d call “brain in a vat” hyper skepticism. There’s a difference between pointing out areas of doubt, and claiming that all of reality is upended if one fact turns out to be true.

    You say that evolution necessitates evolutionary psychology which in turn necessitates brain in a vat extreme skepticism. If appealing to possibilities for which there is very little evidence (“brain in a vat”) is a result of your issues dealing with what you find in reality, and if furthermore the evidence seems to point to evolution, but you deny it, appealing to supernatural forces for which there isn’t much evidence, isn’t it you who are extremely skeptical, with an explanation not far off of “brain in a vat”?

    How are you going to establish who is the extreme skeptic about reality? At best all you’ve done is introduce a sliver of doubt into the evolutionists mind, just the same as mentioning “brain in a vat”, would also introduce a sliver of doubt. But it doesn’t introduce extreme skepticism. Or at least I don’t see how it does. Only if you’re prone to brain in a vat theories does your objection lead to extreme skepticism.

    You say that your view is based on the starting assumption that you can be right and know it. And that’s reasonable absent any reason to think otherwise. But there is evidence for evolution. According to your logic, that means there IS a reason to think otherwise. Therefore, by your own criteria, it’s not a good starting assumption.

    Can I produce a voodoo practitioner who thinks that you’re deceived by magic? Yeah, I reckon I could if push came to shove. Why, would it change your view? Does voodoo give you a reason to think otherwise? Well, if it does, you’ll never know, because your mind is not aimed at truth, rather its corrupted by voodoo into THINKING its aimed at truth.

    Anyway, if under your theory the human mind IS aimed at truth, and most of the best and brightest human minds looking into the problem think that evolution must be true, then where does it leave you?

    This is the trouble I see with your outlook here. You can’t get to the epistemological starting blocks of having a discussion with any other viewpoint, because you end up saying that various viewpoints exclude each other from seeking truth. If the voodoo people are right, you’re mind is stuck and can’t find truth, even though it thinks it can. If the scientists are right, you’re stuck believing rubbish because your mind is warped by your beliefs. If you’re right, the evolutionary scientists (supposedly) can’t know anything about anything. Basically you’re stuck pulling your beliefs out of anywhere you like. You’ve basically given “brain in a vat” enough breath of life to defeat yourself, instead of doing what people ought to do with brain in a vat, which is ignore it.

  14. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Because supposedly you can’t know anything about anything if our minds are attuned for survival?

    My argument is not that we can’t know anything about anything if our minds are aimed at survival. Rather, it is that even if we do know something, we can’t know that we know it, because a mind which is not aimed at determining truth from falsehood is…well…unable to determine truth from falsehood. And that is what evolutionary psychology claims about our minds. Take for example the famous comment by atheist and naturalist philosopher Patricia Churchland:

    Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in…feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing [the world] is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost. Patricia Churchland, “Epistemology in an Age of Neuroscience,” Journal of Philosophy 84 (1987), pp 548-549; emphasis in the original

    Or consider Darwin’s famous comment:

    With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the 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? Charles Darwin to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; reprint, Boston: Elibron, 2005), 1:285

    I may, as a short way of speaking, say that the truth of evolution precludes us knowing anything; but that is just a short way of speaking, so forgive me for sacrificing a little precision for the sake of brevity. What I specifically mean is that even if we have true beliefs about the world under evolution, we cannot know that they are true.

    so you supposedly can agree with that proposition that truth is good for survival, even from a Christian viewpoint. So if you disagree, you can say why.

    I agree that truth may be good for survival. The problem is, there’s no way to know for sure in any given case whether truth is better for survival than falsehood. Once again, I point to the example of religion. But examples like believing in moral values or a meaning to life are just as good; perhaps better since atheists tend to believe them also.

    I don’t think the scientific method ever claimed to attain 100% certainty on anything. Everything is provisional, it could be upended with new information, better theories etc.

    Agreed. But I don’t think 100% certainty is a realistic expectation for any beliefs. The difficulty is not that evolution gets you only to, say, 90% certainty, but rather that if evolution is true, we cannot in principle know what the probability of any given belief might be. As I have said many times now, truth values are simply inscrutable if evolutionary psychology is true.

    There’s a difference between pointing out areas of doubt, and claiming that all of reality is upended if one fact turns out to be true.

    I’m confused. Are you complaining because the truth of evolution makes knowledge impossible in a thoroughgoing way? Shouldn’t you take that up with evolutionists? Or is it just that you think I’ve over-reached with my conclusion, and the truth of evolution actually just makes some beliefs doubtful? In that case, you don’t seem to have understood my argument in the first place; or at least, you need to make a counter-argument of your own.

    If appealing to possibilities for which there is very little evidence (“brain in a vat”) is a result of your issues dealing with what you find in reality, and if furthermore the evidence seems to point to evolution, but you deny it, appealing to supernatural forces for which there isn’t much evidence, isn’t it you who are extremely skeptical, with an explanation not far off of “brain in a vat”?

    None of this really addresses the actual argument I’ve made. But suffice to say I am not appealing to a brain-in-the-vat scenario. I’m just arguing that the truth of evolution entails the thoroughgoing inscrutability of truth-values. Moreover, the evidence for evolution is increasingly falling apart. Even atheist scientists are starting to question it—especially those who have to explain how it actually occurs at the molecular level. On the other hand, there has never been more evidence for God available to the average person as there is today.

    At best all you’ve done is introduce a sliver of doubt into the evolutionists mind

    No offense, but if you think that’s all I’ve done, you either don’t understand my argument, or you need to give your refutation.

    Anyway, if under your theory the human mind IS aimed at truth, and most of the best and brightest human minds looking into the problem think that evolution must be true, then where does it leave you?

    Firstly, as I’ve said, the evidence for evolution is faltering in a pretty impressive way.

    Secondly, the real problem here is that evolution is a replacement for creation. It is the only viable alternative to God. So if the fundamental malfunction of human mental faculties is that they’re aimed squarely away from God, then that casts serious doubt on how good the evidence for evolution really is. If the Christian is right, then any non-religious person has a heavy vested interest in fudging the facts so as to maintain their belief in evolution. And indeed, if you start investigating just how various scientific disciplines fit things together under the evolutionary framework, that is exactly what you find happening.

    If the voodoo people are right, you’re mind is stuck and can’t find truth, even though it thinks it can.

    Until you produce a genuine account of how voodoo actually teaches this, so we can examine it, you might as well be appealing to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In any event, it doesn’t change the conclusion of my original argument, which is that evolution undermines our ability to know anything.

  15. Johnny

    even if we do know something, we can’t know that we know it

    What does it mean to know that we know something? Does it mean self-awareness about what we know? Does it mean more certain knowledge that we know something above regular everyday “knowing” something? Does it mean having a rock solid epistemological foundation for everything we know?

    If it means any of those things, I’m not sure how the Christian is fundamentally better off. I mean, the epistemological foundation you are pointing to is based on an assumption. Assumptions are shaky anyway, but by your own criteria its shaky.

    Can you know for sure your world view is correct? You pointed to the majority of people believing in God as evidence your world view is probably correct. But only a minority subscribe to Christianity, despite your claim that our minds are aimed at truth. So by your criteria, you can’t know its correct.

    Anyway, you say that a mind that is not aimed at truth is unable to determine truth from falsehood. But that doesn’t seem like a safe assumption. You already admitted at least that truth may be good for survival (I think you’re understating it). So that assumption might not be great. And I think you have to admit that most people in this world are unable to determine truth from falsehood. So even with your theory that people’s minds are “aimed at truth”, even still most people can’t determine truth. So how do you win? What is the difference between being able to be right, to be able to know you are right, and to think you are right, and yet… you’re wrong, just like all the Muslims and Buddhists and atheists etc, compared to not being able to know for sure you are right, but quite possibly being often right anyway? If atheism results in inscrutable probability for being right, neither can you really pull your calculator out and figure out the probability that your world view is right. You think its right, but you can’t calculate it. Its probability of being right is inscrutable.

    The human experience is that gravity is right. Could it be wrong? Yeah, if we are brains in vats. It seems certain, because we can’t do anything which contradicts it. Compare it to your world view which you already conceded was based on its foundation an assumption. One that by your own criteria could be shaky.

    You say that if evolution is true we can’t in principle know what the probability of any belief being true is. I don’t know that this is true. I mean, is gravity true? If for the sake of argument, not believing in gravity gave an evolutionary advantage, would it mean we couldn’t discover that gravity is true? Or if there is an evolutionary advantage in believing the earth is flat, we can’t discover it is round, and know it? I’m struggling to buy into that.

    You say that evolution involves “thorough going” inscrutability, because at its base rests what you call “mind aim” of survival, which might be unaligned with truth. But at the base of your world view also rests an assumption, or probably many assumptions. If those unproven assumptions are untrue, then your world view comes down just as surely. Maybe even more surely, since at least the atheist is basing what he thinks he knows on repeatable experiment, which seems likely to have something to do with truth.

    You say that if the fundamental malfunction of human mental faculties is that they’re aimed squarely away from God, then that casts serious doubt on how good the evidence for evolution really is. So its a mexican standoff then. If atheistic evolution is true, then it casts doubt on you self-justifying your religion because your mind is not directed towards truth, but towards survival. So you cannot know the truth. If Christianity is true, according to you, the malfunction of human faculties being aimed away from God, means you cannot know the truth. In either case, you can’t know you are right. You can believe it, you can hope for it, but you can’t know it, because you don’t know if you are the one with the warped mind.

    You ask for an account of how voodoo teaches this. Its easy enough to google black magic and find accounts that it can give you unnatural thoughts, inner turmoil, loss of willpower, etc etc. But no matter whether anyone can or can’t explain it, or prove it, the fact you don’t believe it might well be because of the malfunction of your human mental faculties due to black magic. If only you didn’t have that spell on you, you’d be able to see it. Then you’d see reality as it really is.

  16. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    What does it mean to know that we know something?

    At a basic level, it just means we can show that we have warrant for believing it.

    If it means any of those things, I’m not sure how the Christian is fundamentally better off.

    Any worlview that makes knowledge broadly possible is better off than one which doesn’t. We don’t even need to evaluate Christianity specifically to suspect it will make a better alternative than atheism, where facts about the world simply can’t be evaluated for truth.

    You pointed to the majority of people believing in God as evidence your world view is probably correct.

    I don’t think so. Where did I do that?

    you say that a mind that is not aimed at truth is unable to determine truth from falsehood. But that doesn’t seem like a safe assumption. You already admitted at least that truth may be good for survival

    Again, you’re not keeping in mind the distinction between having true beliefs about the world, and showing that we have warrant for those beliefs. A survival-aimed mind might have any number of true beliefs about the world—but how would it justify those beliefs? How would it know that they actually are true? This is the key factor I keep repeating and you keep seeming to miss: I am not saying that under evolution true beliefs are unlikely. I am saying that under evolution, the truth of beliefs is inscrutable.

    I think you have to admit that most people in this world are unable to determine truth from falsehood.

    Well, no, I definitely wouldn’t admit that. I think that all people are broadly able to determine truth from falsehood, and that in most situations most people even do determine truth from falsehood. But there are certain questions about which people deliberately suppress the truth in favor of falsehood, or choose to ignore thinking about it altogether.

    neither can you really pull your calculator out and figure out the probability that your world view is right.

    Probabilistic knowledge doesn’t require a calculator. If we are warranted in certain base assumptions, then we can see that some beliefs are more probably true than others. Beliefs which are supported by multiple lines of independent evidence are more likely to be true than beliefs which are not. Beliefs that ride on the testimony of witnesses we have found to be reliable in the past are more likely to be true than beliefs which ride on the testimony of those we have found unreliable. Beliefs which fail to give account of important features of reality, or which result in contradictions, are unlikely to be true; whereas beliefs with strong explanatory value and consistency are likely to be true. Beliefs which are verified by repeated testing are more likely to be true than one-off tests (assuming, again, you have warrant for base assumptions like the regularity of nature).

    The human experience is that gravity is right.

    Agreed. But if you can’t even get the assumption off the ground that human experience basically reflects the external world, where do you go from there? Historically, science has borrowed those sorts of assumptions from Christianity. But an atheistic worldview can’t ground them as Christianity can. If you’re going to throw Christianity out, you can’t keep borrowing key ideas from it without giving your own account of their truth. But as I’ve pointed out, evolution not only fails to do that, but positively undermines any possible case you could make.

    You say that if evolution is true we can’t in principle know what the probability of any belief being true is. I don’t know that this is true. I mean, is gravity true? If for the sake of argument, not believing in gravity gave an evolutionary advantage, would it mean we couldn’t discover that gravity is true?

    You keep focusing on high-level questions. But answering high-level questions correctly presupposes a fundamentally accurate low-level foundation of assumptions. The problem you have is not just that evolution throws doubt on questions like gravity. The problem is that it throws doubt on questions like the discoverability of truth in the first place. So the answer is no: if falsely disbelieving in gravity and falsely believing in the discoverability of truth gave an evolutionary advantage, then obviously we would be in an intractable situation with no possibility of correction.

    But at the base of your world view also rests an assumption, or probably many assumptions. If those unproven assumptions are untrue, then your world view comes down just as surely.

    I don’t deny that. That’s true of any worlview. The question is whether we are warranted in the assumptions we hold, and whether those assumptions are “truth-building” or truth-destroying. And the evolutionary worldview starts with at least one assumption that is truth-destroying (actually many more than one, but this is the one I’m focusing on here).

    Maybe even more surely, since at least the atheist is basing what he thinks he knows on repeatable experiment, which seems likely to have something to do with truth.

    Again, you’re just begging the question here. You can’t support an atheistic worldview with assumptions grounded by Christianity. You need to show how those assumptions are grounded under atheism.

    So its a mexican standoff then.

    Only if you think a Mexican standoff involves a sharpshooter with a repeating carbine facing down a blind guy with a musket but no powder or shot.

    If Christianity is true, according to you, the malfunction of human faculties being aimed away from God, means you cannot know the truth.

    I would distinguish between “cannot” know and “will not” know. Everyone is aware of the truth about God in some sense, but most people suppress it. Fortunately, God intervenes to turn the moral inclinations of his elect, so they both know and acknowledge the truth.

    If only you didn’t have that spell on you, you’d be able to see it. Then you’d see reality as it really is.

    Okay, but voodoo doesn’t entail the complete inability to know truth from fiction. Presumably voodoo holds that our mental faculties work as we think they do, unless we are under the effects of black magic. Moreover, since the effects of black magic involve internal effects, it seems I am in a strong position to discount that kind of influence if I discover within myself no apparently unnatural thoughts, no significant inner turmoil, and no loss of willpower. Evolution, on the other hand, entails skepticism about every single person’s mental faculties, and makes this kind of introspection useless since the fundamental truth of anything is unknown.

  17. Johnny

    Hmm, I keep coming back to the point that your concern is about whether our mental faculties operate to reliably discover how reality is or whether they operate to survive.

    I’m wondering what sort of a question this is, whether it is philosophical, or whether it is scientific. Because it sounds like the sort of question that might yield to scientific testing.

    The mind is a neural network. It gets input from 5 senses. It makes decisions to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Increasing pleasure and decreasing pain is pretty much equivalent to survival. This isn’t really controversial, is it?

    So where does the controversy creep in. In the process of doing the above, people will have a mental model of “reality”, because it assists in the process. The model of course is not reality. It’s a model that helps us do what we need to do… to survive.

    Take the illusion of the spinning dancer. People will look at it and form a mental model about whether it is spinning clockwise or anti-clockwise. Some people see it one way, some the other. In reality, it’s just a flat image. Because the image looks like a person, and we are accustomed to what people look like in three dimensions, we will impose our person-model on the moving black shape. If we didn’t have the visual cue it was a person, but just abstract shapes, it wouldn’t correspond to our experience and it would be harder to make sense of.

    Now what if our survival depended on seeing the image rotating say anti-clockwise rather than clockwise. Let’s say we get dancers, we have them dance clockwise. We show you them they are dancing clockwise, so that you know what reality is. Then we dim the lights, make them silhouettes like the illusion, then we hook you up to a machine with instructions that when their foot is closest to you, if you press the button it will dispense food, and if you get it wrong, you’ll have an electric shock. Now your mind has an incentive to see the dancer dance the “wrong way”, compared to reality.

    I think in such a case, it won’t take you long to train your mind to see what you need to see to survive.

    They did an experiment with playing football with distorting lens glasses on. For a few minutes you look like a fool, you can’t kick the ball, because everything seems the wrong distance. After some minutes like this your mind starts to adapt and you can start playing the game. Then the funny thing is, if you take the glasses off again, your perspective is again wrong, and you can’t play, until you re-adapt. Doing this, you can cause a pro footballer to not be able to kick the ball properly, because you’ve altered their judgement.

    Isn’t it simple scientific fact that our mental model of reality is whatever we need our model to be, to live our lives?

    In fact, isn’t a lot of counselling aimed to make us change our mental model. Not because necessarily our current model is not factual, but because it isn’t helping us survive. Maybe we have a mental model that our lives are bad, we are unattractive, without talent, or whatever. The councillor doesn’t tell you to try an analyse carefully to check if your life is bad. He doesn’t say, yeah I guess you are ugly and talentless. He doesn’t say, go get plastic surgery and an education. He doesn’t say, yeah life sucks, deal with it. Rather he encourages you to change your mental model of reality to one that allows you to survive better.

    Certainly, one can change one’s mental model of reality, with practice. And aiming for realism, isn’t the thing you want to aim for. People who are expert in personal development encourage you to make a lot of “I AM…. ” statements about who you want to be. They are specifically not factual, they are what you want to be, rather than what you are. It’s a case of deciding what you wish reality is, and training your mind to become accustomed to thinking this false reality is true. After a while of deluding yourself like this, you may actually make the self-fulfilling prophesy out of it. It’s another case of a false view of reality helping you to survive.

    If we can then show examples of the mind not aimed at reality, isn’t your proposition defeated?

    You say that its a Christian worldview to assume that we are aiming to know reality. Hang on though, I think every living creature THINKS their mental model is reality. You take a native bushman in the jungle with no religion and he will basically live assuming that his mental model is reality. In a quiet moment of philosophising, he may have even pondered if he was a brain in a vat, but in everyday life, pretty much everyone assumes their mental model is reality. They may assume it without a philosophical framework for it. But that’s the point, this assumption is ingrained in us, it’s not part of a particular world view.

    You say it is a reasonable starting assumption that you can be right, and can know you’re right. Why is that reasonable? By DEFINITION, our mental model is what we view reality as. If we didn’t view reality a certain way, then it wouldn’t be our mental model. But this observation applies equally to both false and true mental models. So from whence does the reasonableness of your starting assumption come from? Both sane and insane people are equally convinced of their own reasonableness. And minds aimed at truth and minds aimed at other things are also equally convinced of their reasonableness. How can you step outside of your personal mental model in order to cast judgement on which things are reasonable to assume absent a mental model, or prior to choosing a mental model? You’re a victim of your own “reality” before you can even say what is reasonable. You’ve conceded that some conceivable interpretations of reality would have us with false models. Not just brain in a vat, but also evolution, which is much less implausible, and in fact, fairly plausible. So some plausible views of reality make your “reasonable” starting assumption a false assumption. That means it’s only one possible reasonable assumption among many.

    It’s bad enough when one’s argument has assumptions that look shaky. But when its the foundation stone, then what do you have?

    Since your entire argument is based on this assumption, and since the assumption is based in circularity on your world view, do you really have a warrant for this belief, since it is only assumption? In which case, you can’t know that you know this. And if you can’t know that you know this, then you can’t know that you know anything, at least by your argument. Your “warrant” is lacking a key piece.

    It seems to me still, you’d have a firmer basis for discussing the issues with an atheist if you’ll concede some common ground about perception of reality. I’m still seeing that this entire edifice to make the atheist reality uncertain, makes your own reality just as uncertain.

  18. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    If we can then show examples of the mind not aimed at reality, isn’t your proposition defeated?

    Could you explain how?

    You say that its a Christian worldview to assume that we are aiming to know reality.

    No; I said that under Christianity we are designed to know reality.

    You say it is a reasonable starting assumption that you can be right, and can know you’re right. Why is that reasonable?

    Because that is our experience. We have the consistent experience of being able to know things about reality, and distinguish truth from falsehood. Reading between the lines, I get the impression that you think we need to start from a position of neutrality with regard to this idea, and then somehow prove it. And since we can’t prove it, the Christian is in the same boat as the atheist. But that has never been my line of reasoning. Rather, I think it is obviously reasonable to assume we can know all kinds of things about reality, since that is our common, day-to-day experience. And since evolution would undermine that assumption, evolution is therefore obviously unreasonable.

    Not just brain in a vat, but also evolution, which is much less implausible, and in fact, fairly plausible.

    I don’t find evolution plausible at all. Indeed, I find it absurd. It is an atheistic just-so story.

    It seems to me still, you’d have a firmer basis for discussing the issues with an atheist if you’ll concede some common ground about perception of reality.

    The fact that you think I don’t concede any common ground strongly suggests you still don’t understand the basic structure of my argument. I don’t think atheists actually cannot know anything about the world. I don’t think atheists actually suffer from inscrutable beliefs. Rather, I think they don’t, and that this is evidence that atheism is false—because if evolutionary psychology were true, then atheists would not enjoy the ability to tell truth from falsehood.

  19. Johnny

    I agree with you that we have a consistent experience that we seem to be able to know about reality.

    HOWEVER

    Your entire argument is that IF evolution were true THEN we could have this consistent experience of reality, and be misled.

    So if we apply the scientific method of hypothesis, testing the hypotheses, and reaching the conclusion, your hypothesis is that if evolution is true, our experience of reality could be just as it is, yet unreal, and we would have no idea.

    That’s untestable, because the control and the hypotheses yield identical results. Therefore, you can’t reach a conclusion.

    This is why I say your argument is self defeating. If we accept the premise of your argument, nobody can tell if truth is knowable if evolution is true, then you are left to prove evolution is not true before you can reach your conclusion that the truth is knowable and our experience that reality seems to be knowable is not an illusion. But then by your own premise you can’t prove evolution is not true, because if it is true, you wouldn’t know anything for sure about such thing.

    One other thing, evolution must be plausible given the right math. Monkeys could write Shakespeare given enough monkeys and enough time. Any implausibility must come down to a difficult math question, no?

  20. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I think you have the wrong end of the stick :) Rather than cash the argument out as you have, it seems to me the reasonable approach is to say that since we are not in the hypothetical “inscrutability” situation that evolution would entail, it therefore follows that evolution is false.

    Of course, one man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens.

    Monkeys could write Shakespeare given enough monkeys and enough time.

    So the popular quip goes—but what reasons do we have to think it is actually true? It looks obviously like nonsense.

    Any implausibility must come down to a difficult math question, no?

    No, I wouldn’t say so. Many of the reasons that evolution is not merely implausible, but absurd, are reasons of principle. The hard problem of consciousness is one example. But even with regard to the physical process, there seem to be difficulties which simply can’t be overcome by time (or “math” as you put it). If cells really are irreducibly complex, there is no way to overcome that hurdle naturalistically. The same goes for sexual reproduction, and the numerous symbiotic relationships we are starting to discover among organisms. Then of course there’s abiogenesis, and the structure of DNA itself as a code and cipher—something which seems to necessitate a designer. Etc.

  21. Johnny

    Where you cash out I guess depends on which hinge you are going to let the door swing on. The two hinges you think matter are is our perception of reality try, and does evolution seem to be true. But the whole premise of your argument is that perception of reality would be the same in both cases, so by your own premise that should not be the basis of your decision. Rather whether evolution true should be based entirely on… Whether evolution seems to be true. Funny that.

  22. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Not quite. Our perception of reality might be the same in both cases. But in the evolutionary case, knowledge of the world is undermined. In the theistic case, it is supported. Given the antecedent probability that we do have truth-oriented mental faculties that allow knowledge of the world, that casts serious doubt on the evolutionary view.

  23. Johnny

    Oops, pressed add too soon. I really hate it how the add button moves around all the time, and covers the text.

    You say it “obviously” looks like nonsense. What is obvious about it? Whether monkeys could write Shakespeare in a certain time is pure math, and we could calculate it. Whether evolution is true is also math. Even creationists don’t deny that there is random mutation and natural selection. Even creationists admit that, for example, germs can mutate into drug resistant forms. The rest of evolution is more math rather than a difference over the existence if the basic mechanisms, is it not? And as math questions go, it’s incalculable because there are so many unknowns. So how is anything about the problem “obvious”?

    One might argue that it’s “obvious” that the way creatures get genes is from their parents. Some creatures that look entirely different share some genes. An “obvious” conclusion might be that they share ancestors. You might have another theory, but you have to admit that there is an obviousness to that.

    Irreducable complexity of cells: that’s really a different question for a different time. Right now we’re talking about evolution, not the initial existence of the first cell, the way the whole process got started. One could come to a different conclusion. Maybe god did one and not the other. Your premise is that if evolution is true we can’t know reality, not that spontaneous life is true, we can’t know reality.

  24. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    This is really another question for another time, but my argument is specifically against atheistic evolution. After all, if theistic evolution were true, then evolutionary pscyhology would presumably be (at best) somewhat mistaken about the origin and truth of religious beliefs!

    Btw, the Add Comment button shouldn’t sit over the text any more at all, nor move around. Have you tried a full refresh? It works great in Webkit (Chrome/Safari) at every resolution I’ve tried down to 800px wide, which is lower than iPad and any current Mac desktop.

  25. Johnny

    Well, you could be a creationist working for creation magazine and still believe in evolutionary psychology. After all, creationists believe in evolution, they just don’t think it has much creative power.  But if there is any tendency in humans to self justify and believe things beneficial for survival against things that are true, then a creationist could still affirm that evolution could have bred into humans a tendency to self justify for survival against truth. Since I’ve given examples where it happens that you didn’t disagree with and since even Christianity says human nature is corrupted, why is it a stretch to think evolution might have corrupted mankind into self interested survival? We know that humans have bred into dogs different natures.

    Anyway, what part if the bible would say no?

    The add comment button overlaps the text on iPad and iPhone when it does not have focus, even after refresh. I’m not on my Mac right now to test. I’m not really a fan of how it resizes when it gets focus causing it to all get recalculated and move about. When you press the button on iPad to hide the keyboard it’s generally because you want a big view of the text. However this causes it to lose focus and shrink giving you a reduced size view if the text. Or in other words on iPhone and iPad you can’t see much.

  26. Andrew

    Let’s try presenting this another way…

    Forms of both atheism and Christianity enshrine a “corrupted” epistemology – some people do not “know” cleanly. Which immediately prompts the question: how do you know that your very basis for belief is not itself compromised? The trick is this: to provide an epistemological mechanism that will get you off the hook without doing the same for your opponents.

    For Christianity this is trivial. The observer is not a locus of Truth, and thus Truth can enter into the system regardless of how many accurately observe it. Special pleading (e.g. revelation) is a foundation of the worldview. Given that atheism seems to set itself against all forms of epistemological special pleading, I don’t see it having an obvious “out”.

  I don’t post ill-considered articles and I don’t sponsor ill-considered comments. Take a moment to review what you’ve written…