• Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

    Christian Philosopher Alvin Plantinga is well known for posing a challenge to metaphysical naturalism (the view that nature is all there is, no supernatural beings) with evolution: he says that evolution will only favor belief-forming mechanisms in the brain that lead to survival, not necessarily to truth. Any situation will usually have more than one belief that allows you to survive but is not true. An example Plantinga gives is this: in order to survive primitive man must run away from tigers. Lots of false beliefs could cause primitive man to run from tigers (if the man wanted more than anything to pet the tiger, and also believed that running away from the tiger would allow him to do this). So, given that evolution favors only beliefs that lead to survival, and there are many beliefs that can do this but aren’t true, the odds are pretty low that evolution would produce reliable minds (unless God guided evolution, which naturalists do NOT believe). This means that under the naturalist’s tent, evolution probably didn’t create reliable minds, which means that you can’t trust your mind, which means you can’t trust your belief in evolution and/or naturalism. It is a self-defeating belief system, in Plantinga’s eyes.

    Many of my fellow atheists are annoyed by this argument, but not me. I view this as a riddle that’s worth an answer. Here’s what Eric Schliesser has to say:

    “Let’s grant — for the sake of argument — the claim that ‘Mechanisms of belief formation that have selective advantage in the everyday struggle for existence do not warrant our confidence in the construction of theoretical accounts of the world as a whole.’ What follows from this?

    “My quick and dirty answer is: nothing. For the crucial parts of science really do not rely on such mechanisms of belief formation. Much of scientific reason is or can be performed by machines; as I have argued before, ordinary cognition, perception, and locution does not really matter epistemically in the sciences.”


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    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, Politics and what I call "Optimal Lifestyle Habits."