The Unreality of Plantinga

This ramble was inspired by a discussion in an OEDILF limerick workshop. Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism was raised by Pilgrim4Truth and roughly summarized as follows:

a) Evolution theory suggests our faculty of ratiocination is honed only for survial purposes, it need not be perfect
b) Naturalism assumes that all phenomena have natural causes
c) Ratiocination assumes we are able to resolve all logical problems rationally

These axioms have a self-contradiction, one has to be modified.

There's more discussion over here, and more of Plantinga's own words here.

(As I meander on this topic, I'll also refer to Platonic forms which were also raised in passing in the workshop.)

I consider Plantinga's EAAN blinkered and completely disconnected from reality. I think his primary error is to think in terms of changes in genetics being the only factors that can change our beliefs, our ways of gaining reliable knowledge or our faculty of ratiocination. Just from a genetic storage assessment, you can tell that there is not enough information in our genome to pass beliefs or systematic rules of logic (or any situation-specific behaviors, for that matter). Evolution honed our instincts, our ability to hold memories and beliefs, our ability to communicate and to make predictions based on beliefs, but the beliefs themselves and most of our ways of thinking (correct and incorrect) are cultural, not genetic. Beliefs are formed and refined by communication within our communities and by constant comparison with reality. Evolution can only claim responsibility for giving us a survival advantage in the form of communication, memories, and general intelligence, all fallible but good enough to allow culture to take the wheel.

Let's take his argument away from intangibles like the fantastic beliefs of imagined prehistoric hominids and apply Plantinga's untrustworthy-beliefs ideas to car manufacture. Would I trust my life to a car designed and made by an arbitrarily selected "naturally evolved" individual? No. Would I trust my life to a car designed and made by a reputable car manufacturing company with a proven track record of quality assurance procedures implemented at every level of their process? Yes. I do. Every day. I don't trust any single "naturally evolved" person in that company; my trust rests on the collaborative systems they use to prevent individual erroneous beliefs from guiding actions that produce a dangerous product. Mistakes still get made, but even then, the vigilance of the wider community of customers adds an extra layer of error checking that reduces my personal risk still further. The systems that manufacturers implement are not based on some divine or platonic knowledge of how things should be: they are the culmination of generations of experiment and refinement of cultural beliefs and practices. They are evidence based. Sure there will be some things in their production process that they may happen to get right for the wrong reasons, but when changes in the industry expose those incorrect beliefs, they're forced to modify them or suffer loss of business. This is not evolution by natural selection. This is evolution by intelligent selection, and the processes by which changes are implemented are available for analysis.

Yes, reliable systems can be constructed out of unreliable parts. (Hey, that was one of the founding principles for the development of the web.) We don't have to rely on perfect knowledge or absolute truths. We accept the fallibility of our components and construct systems that are robust and reliable through redundancy.

As a species, humans are able to outwit and out-cooperate any other species on this planet. We don't achieve that ability by application of perfect logic. We do it by applying good-enough logic. We do it by testing various techniques and locking the results into our collective memory--our culture. When we come across a problem that shows our good-enough logic to be not good enough in the real world, we don't wait for genetic changes to improve anything, we experiment (sometimes blindly) until we find ways to make it good enough. Though all of our senses and judgments are measurably flawed, we experiment and learn ways to overcome our limitations. Sometimes we stumble upon useful abstract rules that show themselves to be 100% reliable when applied in real life. The ability to manipulate natural numbers would seem to be a good example that demands no supernatural explanation. Ethologists have found lots of non-human species with varying levels of basic numeracy. For humans, the ability to work with numbers answers questions like "do we have enough food to survive the next winter or should we migrate?" Just because it turns out later that the manipulation of pure numbers exhibits some intricate and elegant patterns, all waiting to be discovered, doesn't mean that these patterns had to be a gift from a supernatural source. Look at our logic. Syllogisms, ways to validate chains of reasoning, are easy to envisage as useful discoveries for making the real world more predictable (hence survivable). The discovery can be completely grounded in observation and shared as a useful mental tool for hundreds of thousands of years before anyone proves the Platonic purity of the logic. No supernatural agent is required to explain how better logic is worth keeping in a culture. The fact that most people commit logical fallacies until they are taught the rules of logic tells me that genes and natural selection have nothing to do with the correctness of our logic faculties.

Being limited in dexterity and strength, we humans use tools to make better tools, then use those tools to make even better tools. We can manufacture detailed artifacts invisible to the naked eye. This capability is not achieved by holding false beliefs that happen to be adaptive and preferred by natural selection. The simple toolmaking abilities honed by evolution turn out to release a self-multiplying (possibly unbounded) ability to manufacture. Toolmaking + Intelligence -> Tools for making better tools.

Being biased in our perceptions and judgments, we humans use mental tools to make better mental tools, and refine those mental tools to make even better mental tools. Think about the field of statistics, a tool built from a simpler tool, the mathematical manipulation of numbers, which was in turn built on simpler mental tools like cardinality. Our un-tooled estimates of risks and probabilities are notoriously biased, but application of the specialized tool of statistics provides us with a remedy. The mental machinery to use a survival strategy like science (even in a very rudimentary form: try something different; if it works, do it again; if it doesn't, restart) and to retain the knowledge in a culture has the benefit of releasing a self-multiplying (possibly unbounded) ability to think, and to think about thinking in order to refine our thinking.

Mental tools accumulated in a culture provide means to correct the biases and flaws in our "monkey brains", just as physical tools can compensate for the frailty of our primate bodies. The fact that many people don't use the available remedies for false beliefs doesn't mean that we're somehow limited in how well we can apply the logic tools we've discovered, and doesn't mean we need look for more than natural reasons for the development of our superbly capable (and fun to play with) brains. Plantinga seems locked into a very distorted view of the relationship between beliefs and evolution, and seems oblivious of the power of collaboration as a tool for excising error.

The only thing that can reliably refine our beliefs is reality. If we hold false beliefs that still seem to work, it's only because we haven't squeezed them hard enough against reality.


You come across as a true believer: I have doubts. Certainty of position sounds like an emotional attachment. We frame reception of new ideas accordingly.

Let me say upfront I think evolution is the best hypothesis out there right now, it's the simplest fact-fitting theory. I also have faith that reason is a useful tool to get at truth. Just so you know I'm won't attempt to go to a place you may reject to countenance :-)

It appears to me that the EAAN argument has something to teach us (Darwin thought so, he said: "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 anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind...?")

So if it worried Darwin, we should not dismiss it willy nilly � right?

Let's keep a tight scope for discussion: keeping it to the logic of EAAN argument and not digress to "true" opinion at the outset.

This may take a few interactions, but it�s crucial to get our definitions and assumptions previewed, else we risk wearing out our keyboards!

Are any of these axioms wrong to your way of thinking?

a) Naturalism (the system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws) is true.

b) Evolution, as the belief that we human beings have evolved in conformity with current evolutionary doctrine, is true (as the most likely hypothesis given emprical data thus gathered).

c) The our faculties of ratiocination (methodical logical reasoning) are "reliable".

"Certainty of position sounds like an emotional attachment."
I wouldn't apply the "emotional attachment" label to every belief held with a high degree of certainty. I believe in the fact of gravity (because I've sensed it without exception). That belief is not unchangeable, but I have a very very high degree of certainty that I will experience the same gravity tomorrow without a scrap of "emotional attachment". I believe that Newton's theory of gravity is sufficiently accurate for me to use, with very high certainty, for calculations about objects that I can manipulate with my hands. Again, there isn't a hint of emotional attachment. If I have to go beyond the range of usefulness of Newton's model, I'll happily switch to a relativistic model. I predict that in the future, I'll feel no emotional tug if I have to drop Albert's wonderful equations for a better model. Oh, ok, maybe a tiny twinge of nostalgia. :)

I say that Plantinga is wrong to frame an argument about evolution having selected for beliefs that arbitrarily match adaptive behavior, because it is clear to me that evolution is incapable of effecting changes to human beliefs (to any detectable extent). Human beliefs change far too fast to attribute their changes to the force of natural selection (or drift or etc.) acting on genetic information. There is no need to attribute emotional attachment to my disagreement. You might point to my unstated axioms, my biases, my acceptance of the huge wealth of evidence that indicates that genetic change doesn't happen at a sufficient rate to be possible explanation for changes of belief, but I don't see any need to denigrate that part of my argument with the accusation of "emotional attachment".

I'll assume for the moment that your comment about emotional attachment is targeted at my comments about the lack of need for supernatural explanation, not at my rejection of Plantinga's premises. I'll leave that for the moment, as it will no doubt crop up later in the discussion.

"So if it worried Darwin, we should not dismiss it willy nilly - right?"
We stand on the shoulders of giants, many of whom have themselves stood on Darwin's shoulders. Darwin no doubt also worried about the lack of any known mechanism via which phenotypical traits could be inherited with variation from ancestors. Once Mendel's work was integrated into the synthesis, we could dismiss that worry, and worry instead about details of the mechanisms that had been discovered. Prior to Francesco Redi's experiments in 1668, the greatest thinkers would perhaps have voiced concerns about spontaneous generation. I'm happy to dismiss any such concerns willy-nilly. Why should I not dismiss Darwin's concerns on a matter that now has adequate explanations? Plantinga may choose to live in Darwin's world, or occasionally in the world of some eleventh-century theologian, but I can't ignore the expansion, refinement and correction of human knowledge that has occurred since then.

On the axioms, I'm happy to accept your definition of (a) Naturalism with one reservation, and that is on the understanding of the word "laws". You are no doubt aware that the word has connotations of authority. I reject that sense of the word in relation to naturalism. The word "models" would be a better fit. I'm happy to keep using the word "laws" as long as we both agree that they have nothing to do with fiat, and we must also agree that there is a difference between the laws that nature "obeys" and the models of those laws that we construct. We don't have access to the actual laws. The best we can have are reliable approximations that work over our observable range. That said, I'll accept "laws" as a convenient shorthand for "our models of nature's laws" provided it doesn't impede the discussion.

I'm happy with (b) Evolution because we can focus our attention on current understandings, not the limited understanding of Darwin (a brilliant man, hampered by a lack of the last century of human scholarship).

I don't completely agree with (c) because it's far too easy to switch between "our faculties of ratiocination"="one human's ratiocination" and "our faculties of ratiocination"="the output of an ongoing scientific process involving myriad humans". The former is demonstrably unreliable, so I have a conflict with (c). The latter appears to be monotonically increasing in reliability, and has a level of reliability that is our best available approximation to truth, so on that interpretation I'd accept (c).

(I know that there are sub-domains of our faculties of ratiocination in which we can conceive of 100% reliable laws: truths that are true by dint of our definition of the concepts. But since those truths must be mapped to the world by analogy and via the mediation of our senses, they do not change my opinion that a single human's faculty of ratiocination must be considered unreliable to some extent.)

Where would you like to go from here? Do our axioms align?


Hyperbolic doubt is a fact of (rational) life:

• Socrates through his method of probing questions could not find anyone who could defend any belief, and asserted all he knew was he knew nothing.
• Descartes believed the only thing that was certain was "Cogito ergo sum".
• Idealists (Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, Peirce, etc) would tell you that our minds condition our perceptions. Our minds think a priori forms of geometry; we see Euclidean forms. But the “world’s” physical geometry is not Euclidean, its Riemannian, but we don’t see curved space time, we perceive Gravity in Euclidean space time. Gravity is the minds solution to the problem of perception.
• Existentialists like Sartre and Camus made their living out of claiming all is subjective, that existence precedes essence.
• Postmodernism thought is in a swamp of denial of any absolute value.

Sorry for all the name dropping – I wanted you to know this is a deep subject, well looked into. And we should try and avoid it crossing those bridges till we come to them!

2/ Evolution conditions our belief;

It does this a number of ways:

• Conditioned reflex – we tend to justify our bodies response. Courage to fight is right, Prudence to flee is right. It take 1 in a 1000 to challenge these inbuilt tendencies.
• There has been a lot of work recently to support our brains are genetically coded to want to believe in things – e.g., it builds tribal loyalty. This area is called Evolutionary Psychology.


Let’s hone these given you comments:

a) Naturalism (the system of thought holding that all phenomena can be modeled in terms of natural causes and laws) is true.

b) Evolution, as the belief that we human beings have evolved in conformity with current evolutionary doctrine, is true (as the most likely hypothesis given empirical data thus gathered).

c) The human faculties of ratiocination (methodical logical reasoning) are "reliable".

This last one may need further pruning, since I did not really understand your concerns. Keep in mind this is logic and reasoning. It relates to questions like “Can we see that Pythagoras theorem is true” or “Gödel’s Incompleteness theorem is true”.

This said can we proceed? (no point otherwise!)

The name dropping is fine. However, it's also worthwhile to apply the same skepticism to their insights that I've suggested we apply to Darwin's monkey-brain doubts. For example, is there anyone with even a summary knowledge of current neuroscience who takes Cartesian substance dualism seriously? This is not meant as a criticism of Descartes' abilities as a thinker, but a warning that we shouldn't let famous names distract us from the limitations of the knowledge available to them. However, I do agree that Descartes was right to doubt his beliefs, as were the others you mention.

re: "Gravity is the minds solution to the problem of perception." This is a beautiful way of looking at the universe through the eyes of a mathematical model. The Euclidean/Riemannian shift in perspective allows us to better understand the behavior (and history) of our universe. It frees up our minds from one way of thinking and allows us to imagine a better model (thus you shall go to the stars). What it doesn't do is cast any doubt on the applicability of older models to work to known degrees of accuracy when applied within their limited ranges. What it does do is remind us that our models are not beliefs about what things really are. If you find a scientist who believes that we can understand the True nature of things, then you've found someone who needs a dose of remedial philosophy.

Let's try to avoid the extremes of pomo. It's fine to say we know nothing about the true nature of anything, while at the same time it's clear to all that we understand enough about our universe and the way it works, and about ourselves and the way we work to perform marvels on a daily basis. Doubt is extremely valuable, but never let it be used as a platform to elevate untested models to the same level as models that have stood the test of time. Philosophers who want to insert untested and untestable GodDidIt models into human origins find doubt to be a very useful rhetorical tool. The standard play is: if you're certain, then you're unscientific/bigotted; if you're not certain then you've got to allow my (untested crackpot) theory some credibility.

"Evolution conditions our belief"
I think we're in complete agreement here. Our evolutionary heritage has given us a wonderful array of biases and perceptual filters. Every week we see on eBay a new Madonna and Child immortalized in someone's half-baked breakfast. One of the simplest mental tools we've inherited is an overly sensitized pattern recognition faculty; it's geared to minimize Type II errors at the expense of Type I errors. It's my opinion (possibly a rash generalization) that this bias is one big reason why philosophers through the ages have been forced to underpin their musings with doubt. When you know that you (and everyone around you) are biased toward seeing patterns where there are none, or generalizing from too little evidence, then doubt is a necessary corrective.

The bias towards retrospective rationalization of our actions is another interesting characteristic. I don't recall reading any EP speculation about its foundations, but I'd take a guess that it'd be a useful self-deception to prevent inaction through indecision. In a world where your senses are limited and you never have all the information you need to make the best decision, a bias to action with a self-justification mechanism to lock you in might confer some advantage.

On axioms and definitions:
The rewording of (a) will be suitable for the purposes of this discussion of Plantinga's EAAN.

(b) is still suitable.

(c) The human faculties of ratiocination (methodical logical reasoning) are "reliable"
This still causes me problems. Which human? Kurt Gödel or Britney Spears? How many humans and under what methodological discipline? A team of creationists can cherry-pick items from any data set, apply dubious line-fits without error estimates, completely miss a glaring impossibility from another scientific discipline, and conclude from their studies that the earth is therefore less than 10000 years old. They can check each other's logic very carefully to make absolutely sure that their conclusion agrees with their presuppositions. They'll still be wrong. The methodology applied by our subject "human" or "humans" makes the difference between "as reliable as we could hope for" and "worthless".

I'd be prepared to work with:
(c) The human faculties of ratiocination (methodical logical reasoning) are capable of being applied reliably (by most humans) given clear, unambiguous input.
I'd also be prepared to add:
(d) The human faculties of ratiocination, observation and imagination when applied through the discipline of science are capable of increasing the body of reliable knowledge of our universe.

NB. I consider "methodical logical reasoning" to be a series of discoveries, not an intrinsic trait bestowed by evolution. In any other discussion, this should be able to go unstated, but it seems that Plantinga would prefer to have genetic changes as sufficient cause for prehistoric hominids to employ different chains of logic for tiger evasion.


What I'm getting at with the Euclidean point is that that MAY be the model the mind FORCES us see things. The model may be a consequence of evolution selecting a genotype that produces phenotypes that think in a certain “framed” way.

If this does not work for you think of another example. Our concept of time may be an illusion we try to make structure reality,

E.g., think of this Gendanken experiement -- if a photon had a wristwatch he would never see a tick of the second hand, from the big bang start to the end of the universe (however that manifests itself). This a photon (smart fellow that he is) would not have any conception of past-present-future. There would be just this BIG NOW, he see the lot

Now what about our case: We see past-present-future with an arrow of time and consciousness that flows along it.

Is that a feature of reality (is their causality) or is it just the way our consciousness allows us to see the BIG NOW?

It could be either.

It is legitimate to take an Idealist or Realist view, it may even be possible to see them as part of the same thing.

Suffice to say, all I am trying to tell you: DON’T STICK TO YOUR MODEL OF HOW MODELS MIST BE, ITS JUST A MODEL. I’m not sure if you’ve got this point, it’s a recursive point that has broken the back of Philosophers like Russell and others.

But I’m tempted to diverge, so enough of that. We need to move on.


OK with a) & b) then. Point d) is superfluous it need not come into the discussion.

We are still stuck on c) though. I don’t see the point that we must factor human limits to ratiocination in advance.

The issue for the expression “methodical” is that by following methods it does not matter if individuals are dumb or smart.

The expression “logical”, means the use of rules applied must be those we accept reliably get is to what is true or false propositions.

It’s nothing to do with data collection imperfection, or facts, knowledge or belief systems. It relates to how we know Pythagoras theorem is true.

This is independent of our humanity [actually that’s a very crucial point we should book mark #1]

If this was not so then Turing could not have been able to prove his principle of Universal Turing Machine’s and Computable Numbers. He did not need to bring human factors into the issues, neither do we.

This is crucial, to move on with a pure methodical and logical definition of ratiocination. I think we may be wasting our time otherwise. It's OK to drop things if required. Don't feel I am pushing you to argue on my terms.

But you can't say you feel EAAN argument wrong (or for that matter anything is right or wrong), if you don't accept rationality is reliable. That would be tantamount to saying I accept irrationality -- there is nothing further to say to that.


"Our concept of time may be an illusion we try to make structure reality" + Gendanken experiement

Don't get me wrong; I'm happy to entertain ideas to open the mind to different ways of looking at things. Not so long ago I was pondering the possible implications of time having a second dimension (triggered by recent speculations in physics), and was toying with concepts of completely consistent "trouserless" time travel by a (somewhat strained) analogy with electronic networks. But I diverge from your point.

What's it like to be a photon? That's a question I'll let Thomas Nagel answer, as soon as he stops squeaking and comes out of his cave. We are limited by our senses. We only think we can imagine what it would be like otherwise, but sometimes such imaginings lead to cleverer ways to interpret our senses. Every wonderful insight that arises from a flight of fancy must help us understand something -- something observable (or perhaps even provable in a strict sense) that we can test our ideas against.

According to my understanding of relativity (from physics lectures about 25 years ago, so I could be a bit rusty) "There would be just this BIG NOW, he see the lot" turns out not to be so (according to the best available evidence), because the photon's time dilation is only observable from our frame of reference. From the photon's perspective, time is ticking away normally and we are the ones whose time is dilated. ( ) But that's neither here nor there from the point of this discussion.

Regarding the sticking to models of how models must be, I'm in sore need of an alternative model of how models must be. What is your preferred model of scientific models? Are there non-scientific models you want included that can be demonstrated to be helpful? (And if we do accept any untestable models, then how will we reject the Omphalos hypothesis?) Do you have a link or a reference to something I should read that shows how Bertrand Russell's model of how models must be caused problems, or are you referring to physical realism in general?

Back to definitions:

Ok, I'm happy to accept the statement:

(c) Methodical logical reasoning is reliable.

And I expect you'd be happy to drop the phrase "human faculties of ratiocination" since you just stated that the form of ratiocination you're talking about is "independent of our humanity".

I think you might see the relevance of my point d) when you try to close Plantinga's loop. Pure logic cannot validate or invalidate any scientific theory without connecting its inputs and outputs to observations and interpretations. But I'm happy to continue without point d).

I noticed a couple of typos in the earlier posting – could you delete that and leave this one extant.


A photon's wristwatch would tick normally (in terms of 1 sec of his time corresponds to 1 sec of a tick). But because at the speed of light time is dilated infinitely within a finite universe (in terms of start and end time are finitely separated), it would be all over before an infinitesimal tick has elapsed. So time for a photon does not practically exist (if the universe was infinite and unbounded in time you would have a trans-infinity problem). There is just a BIG NOW for it.

I have just finished reading some work on Heidegger. It’s tough going, his writing is hard to penetrate (because he has a different model in mind, and before you shift your paradigm it’s incommensurate). His view is predicated on his concept of Dasein. This is our view of existence in time. He believes we have misused the concept of being. We view existence in some unhelpful forms/models. There are many views of existence (models) that are present in our mind. To be authentic (being here) we need to understand this. Some commentators believe if this model of models is correct we live in world that from a religious perspective is similar to a Buddhist idealism (others of course disagree, asserting there is a Dasein mode that that is authentic and absolute if we could release the illusions of other models of being, but that’s a definition of the human problem)

If you would like an easier model (that actually follows Heidegger's view of historicism (and this maps very interestingly to some of your comments of the importance of history in the development of science). Read "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", by Thomas Kuhn (he made the point about incommensurability mentioned earlier). This really put the cat amongst the pigeons and suggested that the ivory tower of the scientific method is a bit of a cherished illusion in practice).



I don’t want to fudge, I’m tempted to accept the simple definition of c). Since I happen to think it’s true. But it will necessitate an extra step in the reasoning, when we link evolution to reason. Any way lets have a go (and keep our minds open as to where we will arrive).

Let’s agree therefore that :

a) Naturalism (the system of thought holding that all phenomena can be modeled in terms of natural causes and laws) is true.
b) Evolution, as the belief that we human beings have evolved in conformity with current evolutionary doctrine, is true (as the most likely hypothesis given empirical data thus gathered).
c) Methodical logical reasoning is reliable.

If that’s it – we then proceed.

"So time for a photon does not practically exist"
My apologies. It seems my physics is very rusty.
"There is just a BIG NOW for it."
By placing myself in three dimensions instead of my accustomed four, I'm forced back to a far worse state than Nagel merely trying to "be" a bat. As a photon I have not even the illusion of passage of time. I cannot perceive anything, because the only senses I have take a finite time to make an effect in my brain. I can have no memory as I have no past. I can have no purpose, since the very concept of intention no longer has meaning for me. The only thing I can compare it to is the infinitesimal instant between falling asleep at night and waking in the morning after a dreamless night.

Going back to your earlier question: "Now what about our case: We see past-present-future with an arrow of time and consciousness that flows along it."
"Is that a feature of reality (is their causality) or is it just the way our consciousness allows us to see the BIG NOW?"

I'm aware that there is at least one physicist (John Cramer) researching retrocausality. As far as I know, he's using a scientific process, basing experiments and predictions on models that in turn rely on existing generally accepted physics models (without need for different ways of being).

What does this thought experiment do for me? Or, perhaps it's easier to answer what it has done for you? I don't want to knock myself out banging my head on the bars of my temporal cage unless I can see them weakening. To me, time is just another dimension that I exist in. I've given up asking questions like "What if my height were negative?" Even if I could conceive of a human with negative height, conceiving of something does not "magic" it into existence. I accept the approximate stability of my height with respect to the rest of my universe not because some truth or irrefutable logic demands it, but because of the weight of my personal observations and lack of any exceptions. Can I imagine what it would be like if time compressed to zero or went negative? No. Not really. I have sensed time going faster or slower, but those perceptions appear to be at least partially understood (and look sufficiently promising that I wouldn't expect to see a revolution of thinking in that area).

On Heidegger: Ok, I'm a step closer to understanding where he was heading. I'll need to read more to come to grips with his way of thinking.

I already had a passing acquaintance with Kuhn. Having worked with scientists for several decades, I don't think I was bearing any cherished illusion of an ivory tower -- hence my consistent problems in accepting axiom c) in the previous comments while it contained the word "human" but didn't say anything about methodology.

On definitions, we're ready to go.

As I've already made it clear that I feel the statement "Evolution theory suggests our faculty of ratiocination is honed only for survival purposes, it need not be perfect" is wrong, I'm happy to let you lead off with your view of whether you think Plantinga's argument can be made to work.

Aside from the EAAN, what's your opinion of Plantinga as a philosopher?


Photons don't think, I think. Neither do machines (though they may exceed our facility in specific areas of problem solving). Thinking is a word. We assign it as an attribute to man (e.g., “this man’s a thinker”, or “what I think about that man’s thought you could not print”).

If we abstract the word Thinking, it is no longer thinking, but “describing a doing”. It may be calculating or ordering input data (very useful stuff). But it is not the human attribute Thinking -- this follows Wittgenstein treatise "Philosophical Investigations" on this subject.

He was a contemporary of Turing. They had some interesting interactions. Turing (as I'm sure you appreciate) side stepped the issue with his "Turing Test". That follows this logic: if it quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, tastes like duck (I like Peking Duck) -- then it is, for practical purposes a duck (now a digested one -- yum -- now that’s what I call “knowing”!).

Have you heard the behaviorist joke ... Having just had sex, one behaviorist says to the other behaviorist "I observed it was good for you, but tell me was it good for me?"

The purpose of the “photon” Gedanken experiment was only to show that the photon's "being" in "time" (Dasein) is clearly radically different to ours. If we where quantum specks we would radically see reality different to our classical domain.

We frame our Dasein for the situation we find ourselves in, but in actuality all Dasein forms are there competing for our view. Science or Philosophy has a particular Dasein; Heidegger called it "they-self", a kind of impersonal out of the picture vision. In reality it cannot be – it’s a useful reductionism tool, that’s all. The “real”picture is in our heads, and “reality” may be a consensual illusion.

As for acausal representation of reality (a la Jung's synchronicity) – yes this is a real possibility, folks will offer up subjective anecdotal “evidence”, but it’s not easy to repeat and not analytical according to linear causality (as defined by the “natural law”of causality).

John Cramer's transactional interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is OK (but the many-worlds is a better fit - and by Occam' razor ...why do I have this sudden feeling of déjà vu and anxiety!).

If that further proves that there are yet more models of reality out there, then it's a good example to mention.

**** But for goodness sake we are going on and on in commentary -- enough already! ****.

That said, before launching into actual discourse -- I have some CONDITIONS to make, it's a proposal I recommend that should be binding on us both equally for the sake of our sanity...


a) Any further commentary will be limited to ONE reasonable paragraph (e.g., approx 5 lines) per post Large annotated notes are fine when you're setting out a position (like in an addendum to a limerick on OEDILF). But in a blog dialog, if we are to keep on track and sane, we must reign it in.

b) Only one point of logical step per post, giving the other party time to assent or dissent and simple comments (as in a above).

c) If we cannot assent after two rounds – of dissent. We’ll drop it on the basis that we have incommensurable worldviews – that does not make us bad people!


BTW you asked me about Plantinga as a philosopher. We mostly for extant chaps, I would echo the sentiment of Gag Halfrun's opinion of Zaphod Beeblebrox, he said, "Vell, Zaphod's just zis guy, you know?"

He tends to get up some people's noses, because he defends his position. You may think it wrong, and support Dennett and Dawkins counter-position. This is how Dennett light heartedly characterized Alvin Plantinga ...

alvinize, v. To stimulate protracted discussion by making a bizarre claim. "His contention that natural evil is due to Satanic agency alvinized his listeners."

planting, v. To use twentieth-century fertilizer to encourage new shoots from eleventh-century ideas which everyone thought had gone to seed; hence plantinger, n. one who plantings.

If you look at Dennett's lexicon he has not much good to say about anyone in particular!

But without these guys the debate would be milquetoast (someone once said about folks who sat on the fence, "...but since you are lukewarm and not hot or cold, I'm going to spit you out of my mouth").

If they did not exist you'd have to invent someone like them.

I'm happy with the conditions for further commentary. I presume that the two rounds of dissent refers to actual dissent, not just requests for clarification.