Monday, September 7, 2009

Darwinian Logic and the Mind

The post Darwinists Check Their Logic at the Door over at Uncommon Descent brings up one of my favorite topics, the relationship of evolution to the mind. I think all three of the participants in the main post miss the logic of the situation.

The problem with Delurker's response in the first exchange ("To the extent that nature is comprehensible, modern evolutionary theory predicts that alignment with reality will be selected for.") is not that it is circular. Barry A. confuses an epistemological question with an empirical one in making that argument. No, the problem with Delurker's response is that it is a philosophical response rather than the empirically contingent one he seems to think it is.


There is nothing wrong with philosophical responses, of course, unless they are mistaken for something else. This is what happens here. "Alignment with reality will be selected for" cannot be a contingent conclusion from evolutionary science, but is a precondition for the possibility of evolutionary science itself. Is evolutionary science about the true world or merely about our impression of the world, an impression that may or may not have anything to do with true reality? (I.e. do we have a science of the noumenal or the phenomenal?) Evolutionary scientists to a man take it for granted that their science is about the world as it really is, which means that they already assume that their minds are "aligned with reality." Evolutionary science must predict that alignment with reality will be selected for, because only a mind aligned with reality can truly investigate how it is that the mind is aligned with reality. I happen to agree that our minds are aligned with reality, but not because I think it is a possible empirical conclusion, but rather because Aristotle settled the issue thousands of years ago in his Metaphysics Book IV.


The logic of Exchange #3 is similar. How did the mind and world become coordinated? The answer is that "organisms who don't deal with reality die (eventually)." This again cannot be a contingent conclusion from evolutionary science, but is a precondition for the possibility of evolutionary science itself. If it were a contingent conclusion, then we would have to seriously consider the possibility that "organisms who don't deal with reality fare quite well." But if this latter possibility were true, then since human beings have fared quite well, we may very well be the type of creature that fares well without dealing with reality. Our evolutionary science, in that case, might have nothing to do with the way things really are. The assertion "organisms who don't deal with reality die" is an assertion about reality only if it is spoken by a creature already confident of his connection with reality; if its negation is taken seriously as an empirical possibility then the mind has put itself out of its own misery.


In exchange #4, the point is made that "the nature of reality is not addressed by modern evolutionary theory. The fitness of organisms to that reality is." If the nature of reality is not addressed by modern evolutionary theory, but the fitness of organisms is, then the fitness of organisms must have nothing to do with the nature of reality. We are back to the point that the possibility of evolutionary science requires that the human mind be "fitted" to reality; if this fitness is not itself part of reality but only our imaginations, then evolutionary science as a science of the way things truly are is not possible.

4 comments:

Marjorie said...

Brilliant, just brilliant!

You are the voice of sanity crying in the wilderness....

Thank you!

Marjorie

David T. said...

thanks for the kind words and stopping by!

David

EdT said...

Dave,

If
1)the assertion "organisms who don't deal with reality die" is true
and
2)a large majority of humans believe that a god exists
Then god is a reality.
I suspect a lot of Darwinists would not agree with this conclusion.
- Ed

David said...

Ed,

That's an excellent point!

D.