Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Manata Primer on EAAN

I haven't had much brainpower or bandwidth for blogging this past week (and I can spare precious little of that), but I've been listening to Paul Manata's utter and ruthless pasting of Christopher Hitchens' god Is Not Great on The Narrow Mind podcast.

Anyway, Manata gives a very good primer of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism during series episode #8 at minute 33:45. I recommend it.

4 comments:

Dr Funkenstein said...

Possibly Plantinga (or others) have addressed some of these questions, as I'm only familiar with the basic outline of his argument similar to what Paul described on the show and Fitelson and Sober's response (although I've downloaded a couple of discussions and the dissertation mentioned), but anyway:

1. This still doesn't appear any better than an argument for deism if it is sound - it needn't follow that any designer must have revealed him/herself to us and therefore I can't see how this supports Christianity any better than FSMism.

2. As Plantinga himself has said, it's not an argument against eg common ancestry, rather unguided evolution - again it doesn't falsify something that Christians such as you and Paul require to also be false. In fact, with my reliably designed senses, I may have to give up my atheism but can happily hold to common ancestry of all life and a several billion year old universe. Additionally, according to one discussion I quickly looked at (by Arash Naraghi) he quotes Plantinga as having admitted that he's not been successful in proving naturalism to be false yet - perhaps anyone who knows more about EAAN/Plantinga can shed light on this (Paul Manata maybe?)?

3. Similar to what Fitelson and Sober asked, if they've been designed for reliability, why do our senses lead us to so many bad mistakes eg eyewitness testimony is a leading cause of wrongful imprisonment - psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has argued it should not be admitted in court cases I gather. This is something we can sometimes correct for later down the line because of objective testing methods, such as DNA testing, but obviously these are recent inventions unavailable to most people through history, thus the senses may still have given rise to many false beliefs, perhaps even those documented in the bible.

4. Even in cases where we know for sure the senses are faulty - eg I wear glasses (you also have to ask why the senses degrade so easily if they've been designed for reliability) - this is something we may only discover/realise after many false beliefs have become ingrained or propagated as a result, including potentially some of those beliefs central in major religions. Similarly, in your view the majority of the world's population has adopted false, or at least mutually incompatible beliefs - not a huge number of people in the grand scheme of things hold to YEC biblical literalism, and many find much to argue against it (even other Christians). Why would this be if the senses can be considered reliable?

5. The probabilities Plantinga calculates seem very subjective, and some of his argument appears to be by far fetched analogies - eg the man running away from the tiger survives because he's looking for a cuter one to pet. That doesn't strike me as a remotely plausible scenario for a person to survive for very long.

Can't complain about a spot of AC/DC to finish the show though, absolutely great band!

Rhology said...

Hi Dr Funk

This still doesn't appear any better than an argument for deism if it is sound

Well, as far as I can see, it's not an argument FOR anythg. It's called the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. It's sinking the naturalist ship.


it's not an argument against eg common ancestry, rather unguided evolution

Well, on one hand, it's an argument that ANY idea can be confidently held on evolution.
I guess I can see how theistic evolution might solve its problem.


- again it doesn't falsify something that Christians such as you and Paul require to also be false.

Never claimed it was the end-all, be-all. It's but a plank in the deck, an arrow in the quiver. One of many.


In fact, with my reliably designed senses

Total assumption on your part.


I may have to give up my atheism

Why don't you?


Plantinga as having admitted that he's not been successful in proving naturalism to be false yet

Well, the argument as formulated in Plantinga's public lecture where he described EAAN in detail, sets the probability of naturalism, given evolution, as low or inscrutable. Maybe he was being circumspect and philosophically precise.


if they've been designed for reliability, why do our senses lead us to so many bad mistakes eg eyewitness testimony is a leading cause of wrongful imprisonment

1) Sin, the Fall. You know, I don't think I've seen atheist bloggers take sin and the Fall into acct more than 10% of the time when engaging Christians. Why not just leave out the fact that I believe in Jesus too, while you're at it?
2) Eyewitnesses of crimes are still highly accurate in their reportage. When was the last time someone who witnessed a murder in a dark alley reported observing 100s of pink bunnies hopping out of the corpse? Or that the crime occurred on Mars? Or in the heart of a volcano? That the crime occurred in the year 440BC? That the perp was Julius Cæsar? That they themselves were not physically present, but it was part of a future-time spirit-walk in their previous reincarnation?


psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has argued it should not be admitted in court cases I gather

One of the more idiotic things I've heard so far today. But I haven't yet listened to a B Hussein Obama speech, so the day is young...


the senses may still have given rise to many false beliefs, perhaps even those documented in the bible.

Perhaps even those espoused by atheists and evolutionists.
Except there is excellent reason to doubt the reliability of senses and especially of one's cognitive faculties given evolution. It's even a defeater argument for the argument for evolution. If it's true, it's probably un-figure-out-able, so why believe it?


including potentially some of those beliefs central in major religions.

And atheism.


Why would this be if the senses can be considered reliable?

Sin.


That doesn't strike me as a remotely plausible scenario for a person to survive for very long.

Why? It kept him away from the tiger, didn't it? What is your argument?

AC/DC

You know, every wedding I go to, I specifically ask the DJ *NOT* to play You Shook Me. It's infernally catchy, and perversely I can't stand it. Cognitive dissonance right there!

Dr Funkenstein said...

Well, as far as I can see, it's not an argument FOR anythg. It's called the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. It's sinking the naturalist ship.

I think Plantinga offers up traditional theism (TT) as an/the alternative option during the course of his argument, and compares the probabilities etc of that vs E & N. Presumbaly at least it must be an argument for supernaturalism if it's against naturalism


Well, on one hand, it's an argument that ANY idea can be confidently held on evolution.
I guess I can see how theistic evolution might solve its problem.


Unguided evolution, yes. So I don't see that even if it was sound that it's too much to get excited about in terms of being a follower of any given religion.


Never claimed it was the end-all, be-all. It's but a plank in the deck, an arrow in the quiver. One of many.

Fair enough, but doesn't using these arguments kind of fly in the face of being a presupp, since by default the world, the bible etc must conform to the presupposition that TGOTB is a stone cold fact?


Total assumption on your part.

OK, so who has been selected to be endowed with reliable senses then (and I'm not limiting these categories specifically to Christianity) - theistic evolutionists? OECs? YECs? Progressive creationists?


Why don't you?

You can assume that I was taking the stance for the sake of argument when I said that. As to why I don't give up atheism - many reasons, but I don't want to divert the thread by lisiting them just now.


Well, the argument as formulated in Plantinga's public lecture where he described EAAN in detail, sets the probability of naturalism, given evolution, as low or inscrutable. Maybe he was being circumspect and philosophically precise.

Possibly you're right, I just wondered if there may have been flaws in some of his arguments that he may be acknowledging.


1) Sin, the Fall. You know, I don't think I've seen atheist bloggers take sin and the Fall into acct more than 10% of the time when engaging Christians. Why not just leave out the fact that I believe in Jesus too, while you're at it?
2) Eyewitnesses of crimes are still highly accurate in their reportage. When was the last time someone who witnessed a murder in a dark alley reported observing 100s of pink bunnies hopping out of the corpse? Or that the crime occurred on Mars? Or in the heart of a volcano? That the crime occurred in the year 440BC? That the perp was Julius Cæsar? That they themselves were not physically present, but it was part of a future-time spirit-walk in their previous reincarnation?


1. Firstly, because you agreed it was only an argument for deism above. Second, it would mean we've been given reliable sensory systems that we can't be sure are reliable any more - seems a bit self-defeating to me. I think this would actually benefit a deistic evolutionist quite well compared to a Christian - since their worldview only requires a deity, and doesn't have to deal with the possibility their senses have failed due to the effects of the fall.

2. Fair enough, but sci-fi scenarios aside, there are still some shocking errors in judgement that can have fairly major effects.


One of the more idiotic things I've heard so far today. But I haven't yet listened to a B Hussein Obama speech, so the day is young...

Why is that? She has a list of articles on her website dealing with the issue, and gives details and examples of how easily the senses are duped and the implications for the legal system. Obviously, these sensory faults aren't solely limited to beliefs related to matters of law either.

http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/

Perhaps even those espoused by atheists and evolutionists.
Except there is excellent reason to doubt the reliability of senses and especially of one's cognitive faculties given evolution. It's even a defeater argument for the argument for evolution. If it's true, it's probably un-figure-out-able, so why believe it?


If the argument is sound then obviously it rules out atheism. But then there's not much more that can be said apart from that it seems. I can't see how it would rule in or out any other viewpoint by extension.

And atheism.

Right, but we seem to be reaching some kind of stalemate whereby the only conclusion we can draw is some kind of weak deism.

Sin.

Since we're all sinners (in the Christian worldview at least), who can be sure their senses are reliable?


Why? It kept him away from the tiger, didn't it? What is your argument?

Yeah it did. But then pretty much anything can happen in an analogy, since it's up to whoever constructs it to make it as outlandish as they please.


One final thing I meant to ask last time - the 'inscrutability defeaters': Paul stated that the idea of the probability of E & N being inscrutable is a defeater, as one could say the probability of the Matrix is inscrutable also, so one is as good as the other. Wouldn't the same apply to any kind of theism ie, if the probability of a sensory-system designing God existing is inscrutable, then atheism=matrix=theism in terms of validity?

You know, every wedding I go to, I specifically ask the DJ *NOT* to play You Shook Me. It's infernally catchy, and perversely I can't stand it. Cognitive dissonance right there!

I know what you mean - I've lost count of the number of classic songs I've listened to that drive me nuts now as I put them on repeat until I got sick of them

Rhology said...

Dr Funk said:
I think Plantinga offers up traditional theism (TT) as an/the alternative option

Fair enough, he does.
I don't recall if he makes that the linchpin of his presentation. I got the feeling he would, when asked about it/challenged, refer to other arguments FOR TGOTB rather than stick with EAAN, leaving EAAN to blow up naturalism. But I could be wrong.


Presumbaly at least it must be an argument for supernaturalism

Indeed. I guess one could say that there are multiple supernatural options out there.


Unguided evolution, yes.

Which is your position.


Fair enough, but doesn't using these arguments kind of fly in the face of being a presupp, since by default the world, the bible etc must conform to the presupposition that TGOTB is a stone cold fact?

You might have a point. I am still a bit new to this presupp thing, and I am particularly unfamiliar with the evidentialist/classicalist vs presupp debates within Xtian circles. Those don't interest me nearly as much as other areas of study. And if you have kids, you know how time can be limited!


OK, so who has been selected to be endowed with reliable senses then

On naturalism, there's no reason (that I've seen) to think that ANYONE has reliable senses, or better said, the cognitive faculties to interpret data in order to form true beliefs about the world.


1. Firstly, because you agreed it was only an argument for deism above.

I confess - I have to having a fully-formed worldview. :-0 ! :-D !
It's not just dependent on EAAN.


it would mean we've been given reliable sensory systems that we can't be sure are reliable any more - seems a bit self-defeating to me.

The Fall of man would? No, it would just mean that they are dubitable sometimes, we don't always get stuff right. But we don't always get it wrong either. On naturalism, EAAN states that there's no reason to suggest we EVER get it right.


Fair enough, but sci-fi scenarios aside, there are still some shocking errors in judgement that can have fairly major effects.

You can't just shuffle this aside as a "sci-fi scenario". Eyewitnesses just don't get it THAT wrong all the time. Your lack of a response kills your point.
They don't get it ALL right ALL the time, but they do get it mostly right most of the time, when compared with the massive set of things that it is possible to express in English.


Why is that? She has a list of articles

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Don't get all eyewitness-y on me. I can't be sure of your report at all.
I'm going to need some hard evidence.
And apparently I can't trust my own eyes or cognitive faculties, even once I get to her website and read her articles.


I can't see how it would rule in or out any other viewpoint by extension.

Perhaps, but it doesn't speak to theism at all. Atheism is right out.


but we seem to be reaching some kind of stalemate whereby the only conclusion we can draw is some kind of weak deism.

Why does EAAN lead to weak deism?
It leads to AT MINIMUM weak deism, but does not rule out a full-orbed theistic worldview. But perhaps I don't understand where you're going.


Since we're all sinners (in the Christian worldview at least), who can be sure their senses are reliable?

Depends on which senses, answering which question.
We have minds that are able to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, understand we are sinful, understand we need forgiveness. We can understand that God is and that we are condemned as lawbreakers. But in particular, our moral sense is jacked up. Yet God has prevented the Fall from destroying every vestige of reliability of our cognitive faculties and senses.


But then pretty much anything can happen in an analogy, since it's up to whoever constructs it to make it as outlandish as they please.

1) You have no idea whether that happened or not. Like I said, you don't think it's likely, but that kind of judgment depends on massive assumptions - that the homo sapien in question thinks like you, that he knows what you know, etc.
2) The point is that nat sel selects for BEHAVIOR, not beliefs. This scenario is possible and makes the point quite well.


Wouldn't the same apply to any kind of theism ie, if the probability of a sensory-system designing God existing is inscrutable, then atheism=matrix=theism in terms of validity?

This is an interesting question, and I've been thinking about it quite a bit recently.
On naturalistic presuppositions, there's no reason that I've yet found to think that the Matrix (or brain-in-a-vat, as I've been calling it recently) (aka solipsism) isn't true.
On Christian presuppositions, TGOTB tells the truth, so we know that there is the Divine, there is the non-Divine, that there is the Other, solves the question of the One and the Many. B/c TGOTB grounds logical, rational thought (ie, gives us a reason to think that logical, rational thought is the right way to think and can lead to true beliefs), we know that the Matrix scenario is self-defeating, self-refuting. If you're in a Matrix, you can't know you're in a Matrix. And there's no reason to think that anything is true.

Peace,
Rhology