Monday, March 07, 2011
Does Evolution select false beliefs?
Though I can't cite a specific example, I have heard atheists and evolutionists suggest that religion is a product of evolution. That is, somewhere in the past, men invented religion as a source of comfort in "having something to believe in." As I understand it, the evolutionist would contend that such a view could produce survival value. A number of reasons might be implemented to support this. Perhaps religious persons had less stress and depression than non-religious, since they had characteristics such as hope, peace, and joy; traits that could possibly lead to older age. Furthermore, since such beliefs would flourish throughout different cultures, the following generations would likely hold to these beliefs.
One thing that makes this interesting is that those subsequent generations sincerely hold to these beliefs without believing they are false. But let's say for the sake of argument that all these religious beliefs are false. The conclusion; because of survival value, evolution selects false beliefs over true ones. Some might argue that such beliefs are not a product of evolution, but of human invention. But this is not necessarily so. Why could it have not been the case that a neuro-chemical reaction in the brain produced a sudden need for a "higher power" without the recipient's knowledge of such an event? Perhaps the recipient interprets this chemical reaction as a calling from a god?
Again, the outcome remains the same: evolution produces false beliefs and passes them down to subsequent generations by means of natural selection.
Here is the problem; if evolution produces false beliefs that the recipients are convinced of and likewise interprets as truth, then on what basis can anyone trust the reliability of their reasoning faculties? Even the belief of evolution could, in turn, be a false belief. That is, if evolution is true, no one could know it given that evolution can and does produce false belief.
You could say this is very similar to Plantinga's EVOLUTIONARY ARGUMENT AGAINST NATURALISM, but with a slight modification. The point is to show a significant defeater within the evolutionist's own epistemology. That is, evolution is self-defeating in that one cannot know it, even if it is true.
I've never attempted this and will gladly accept any criticisms which may contribute to modification or abandonment of the argument.