The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism is a novel argument which presents the case that because our mental faculties are developed for adaptive capacity and not for truth making, a person who holds to both naturalism and evolution should doubt the reliability of their mental faculties in terms of truth-making. This would produce a universal undercutter of one’s beliefs.
One of the most common responses to this argument is that it seems likely that at least some of our cognitive faculties are tuned to true belief insofar as forming true beliefs about extreme selective pressures would be valuable. Thus, we would expect as a behavior can be described as highly adaptive, it is more likely to based on strong cognitive faculties related to that behavior. While there might not be much in the way of adaptive benefit in able to figure out the truth of a calculus formula, it would be adaptive to know that fire hurts when applied to the skin, and that those types of cognitive faculties are reliable in producing such beliefs.
But where does this get us? It seems at best, this response would allow the naturalist to feel confident about the truth of a certain set of beliefs that conform to high selective pressures (like avoiding fire). However, the EAAN doesn’t need to provide a universal undercutter to succeed in its primary goal, which is to cast doubt on naturalism.
Thus, I propose the following response to the naturalist who responds to the EAAN above…
- If our cognitive faculties are reliable, why do more people form the belief that naturalism is true?
- If there is a scale of general reliability regarding cognitive faculties related to selective pressures, it seems naturalism would fall on the far end of non-essential cognitive faculties. If this is the case, we still have an undercutter for belief in naturalism.
- If the naturalist claims that there are other factors which influence belief, like the amount of time a person studies a particular area of knowledge, it begs the question that our cognitive faculties are reliable enough to know when we have studied enough to know the truth.
Thus, it seems that the EAAN is immune to this line of argumentation. As Darwin famously wrote…
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?