CS Lewis Quote: EAAN

Nouveau

Active member
CS Lewis' formulation of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN):

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

The problem with this crude formulation of the argument is that it completely fails to acknowledge the non-random role of selection in evolution. Of course a purely random event is highly unlikely to produce a reliable mind or an accurate map of London. But suppose there were a naturally-occurring iterative procedure whereby whatever small part of the spilled milk that did look a bit like London were kept, and the rest cleaned up and spilled again. Then, if repeated over millions of trials, one could easily eventually end up with a map of London.

The same applies to the reliability of our minds. They were not produced by a one-off random milk spillage, but by a natural and iterative process, where true beliefs and general intelligence were adaptive and favoured by selection. A deeper worry is that there is circularity here, in that one must first believe in the reliability of their own mental processes before analysing the evidence and arguments supporting this evolutionary story. But that is to mistake the role of evidence here. There is no assumption-free Cartesian starting point from which to build up a worldview. The situation is rather that to avoid the paralysis of extreme skepticism we must all assume generally reliable cognition, and the question is rather whether what one discovers after this point, in abductively constructing a coherent explanation for all we experience, remains consistent with our initial assumption.

It would certainly be a problem if our assumed reliable reasoning and perception led us to see that our minds could only have formed either through the capricious choices of an unknowable deity, or through a one-off random natural occurrence. It would also be an issue if we found we had evolved in a niche favouring adaptive behaviours and beliefs regardless of their truth. But that is not what we find. We instead find a natural iterative algorithm that can produce the appearance of complex design all by itself, and that we seem to have evolved in a niche for general-purpose intelligence.

For more on this argument, and its history and formulations, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism
 

Whatsisface

Active member
CS Lewis' formulation of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN):



The problem with this crude formulation of the argument is that it completely fails to acknowledge the non-random role of selection in evolution. Of course a purely random event is highly unlikely to produce a reliable mind or an accurate map of London. But suppose there were a naturally-occurring iterative procedure whereby whatever small part of the spilled milk that did look a bit like London were kept, and the rest cleaned up and spilled again. Then, if repeated over millions of trials, one could easily eventually end up with a map of London.

The same applies to the reliability of our minds. They were not produced by a one-off random milk spillage, but by a natural and iterative process, where true beliefs and general intelligence were adaptive and favoured by selection. A deeper worry is that there is circularity here, in that one must first believe in the reliability of their own mental processes before analysing the evidence and arguments supporting this evolutionary story. But that is to mistake the role of evidence here. There is no assumption-free Cartesian starting point from which to build up a worldview. The situation is rather that to avoid the paralysis of extreme skepticism we must all assume generally reliable cognition, and the question is rather whether what one discovers after this point, in abductively constructing a coherent explanation for all we experience, remains consistent with our initial assumption.

It would certainly be a problem if our assumed reliable reasoning and perception led us to see that our minds could only have formed either through the capricious choices of an unknowable deity, or through a one-off random natural occurrence. It would also be an issue if we found we had evolved in a niche favouring adaptive behaviours and beliefs regardless of their truth. But that is not what we find. We instead find a natural iterative algorithm that can produce the appearance of complex design all by itself, and that we seem to have evolved in a niche for general-purpose intelligence.

For more on this argument, and its history and formulations, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism
How do i know if you're the real Nouveau or the fake?
 

Torin

Member
I would characterize Lewis as making an argument from reason rather than an evolutionary argument against naturalism, since evolution makes no appearance in your Lewis quote.
 

Nouveau

Active member
I would characterize Lewis as making an argument from reason rather than an evolutionary argument against naturalism, since evolution makes no appearance in your Lewis quote.
Well, it is quoted on the Wiki page for EAAN and it's not hard to see why. While he doesn't specifically mention evolution here, it is still the obvious naturalistic alternative for explaining our cognitive capacities, and he is arguing that no such naturalistic account can account for their reliability.
 
If I remember my Lewis correctly, and that's a big if at the moment, I believe this was more an argument of intentionality. A companion quote to this, to paraphrase, was that the idea of bits of matter thinking true thoughts about other bits of matter was more than he could stomach philosophically.
 

Whatsisface

Active member
CS Lewis' formulation of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN):



The problem with this crude formulation of the argument is that it completely fails to acknowledge the non-random role of selection in evolution. Of course a purely random event is highly unlikely to produce a reliable mind or an accurate map of London. But suppose there were a naturally-occurring iterative procedure whereby whatever small part of the spilled milk that did look a bit like London were kept, and the rest cleaned up and spilled again. Then, if repeated over millions of trials, one could easily eventually end up with a map of London.

The same applies to the reliability of our minds. They were not produced by a one-off random milk spillage, but by a natural and iterative process, where true beliefs and general intelligence were adaptive and favoured by selection. A deeper worry is that there is circularity here, in that one must first believe in the reliability of their own mental processes before analysing the evidence and arguments supporting this evolutionary story. But that is to mistake the role of evidence here. There is no assumption-free Cartesian starting point from which to build up a worldview. The situation is rather that to avoid the paralysis of extreme skepticism we must all assume generally reliable cognition, and the question is rather whether what one discovers after this point, in abductively constructing a coherent explanation for all we experience, remains consistent with our initial assumption.

It would certainly be a problem if our assumed reliable reasoning and perception led us to see that our minds could only have formed either through the capricious choices of an unknowable deity, or through a one-off random natural occurrence. It would also be an issue if we found we had evolved in a niche favouring adaptive behaviours and beliefs regardless of their truth. But that is not what we find. We instead find a natural iterative algorithm that can produce the appearance of complex design all by itself, and that we seem to have evolved in a niche for general-purpose intelligence.

For more on this argument, and its history and formulations, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism
Considering the amount of disagreement in the world, a lot of people can't always trust what they're thinking is right.
 

Gus Bovona

Member
CS Lewis' formulation of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN):



The problem with this crude formulation of the argument is that it completely fails to acknowledge the non-random role of selection in evolution. Of course a purely random event is highly unlikely to produce a reliable mind or an accurate map of London. But suppose there were a naturally-occurring iterative procedure whereby whatever small part of the spilled milk that did look a bit like London were kept, and the rest cleaned up and spilled again. Then, if repeated over millions of trials, one could easily eventually end up with a map of London.

The same applies to the reliability of our minds. They were not produced by a one-off random milk spillage, but by a natural and iterative process, where true beliefs and general intelligence were adaptive and favoured by selection. A deeper worry is that there is circularity here, in that one must first believe in the reliability of their own mental processes before analysing the evidence and arguments supporting this evolutionary story. But that is to mistake the role of evidence here. There is no assumption-free Cartesian starting point from which to build up a worldview. The situation is rather that to avoid the paralysis of extreme skepticism we must all assume generally reliable cognition, and the question is rather whether what one discovers after this point, in abductively constructing a coherent explanation for all we experience, remains consistent with our initial assumption.

It would certainly be a problem if our assumed reliable reasoning and perception led us to see that our minds could only have formed either through the capricious choices of an unknowable deity, or through a one-off random natural occurrence. It would also be an issue if we found we had evolved in a niche favouring adaptive behaviours and beliefs regardless of their truth. But that is not what we find. We instead find a natural iterative algorithm that can produce the appearance of complex design all by itself, and that we seem to have evolved in a niche for general-purpose intelligence.

For more on this argument, and its history and formulations, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism
I think this reduces to the problem of induction, because we rely on what evidence has shown us in the past, all the way back to when we are babies and start to differentiate the blooming, buzzing confusion into the inside our head and the outside our head worlds and discover how the outside part works. We build up the empirically validated knowledge (yes, object do continue to exist even when we can't see them) step by step. It's empirically validated, and we ignore the problem of induction to predict the future.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
CS Lewis' formulation of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN):



The problem with this crude formulation of the argument is that it completely fails to acknowledge the non-random role of selection in evolution. Of course a purely random event is highly unlikely to produce a reliable mind or an accurate map of London. But suppose there were a naturally-occurring iterative procedure whereby whatever small part of the spilled milk that did look a bit like London were kept, and the rest cleaned up and spilled again. Then, if repeated over millions of trials, one could easily eventually end up with a map of London.

The same applies to the reliability of our minds. They were not produced by a one-off random milk spillage, but by a natural and iterative process, where true beliefs and general intelligence were adaptive and favoured by selection. A deeper worry is that there is circularity here, in that one must first believe in the reliability of their own mental processes before analysing the evidence and arguments supporting this evolutionary story. But that is to mistake the role of evidence here. There is no assumption-free Cartesian starting point from which to build up a worldview. The situation is rather that to avoid the paralysis of extreme skepticism we must all assume generally reliable cognition, and the question is rather whether what one discovers after this point, in abductively constructing a coherent explanation for all we experience, remains consistent with our initial assumption.

It would certainly be a problem if our assumed reliable reasoning and perception led us to see that our minds could only have formed either through the capricious choices of an unknowable deity, or through a one-off random natural occurrence. It would also be an issue if we found we had evolved in a niche favouring adaptive behaviours and beliefs regardless of their truth. But that is not what we find. We instead find a natural iterative algorithm that can produce the appearance of complex design all by itself, and that we seem to have evolved in a niche for general-purpose intelligence.

For more on this argument, and its history and formulations, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism
sounds like intelligent design to me.

I.e., the moment the randomness is removed, and it becomes guided.... intelligence is placed into the mix.

Once intelligence is placed into the mix, design takes place.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Not necessarily guided by any conscious intelligence. Just the non-random natural process of NS.
Guided processes inherently possess intelligence.

Once you remove randomness, you make it about the guiding influences, which are inherently intelligent.
 

Nouveau

Active member
Guided processes inherently possess intelligence.

Once you remove randomness, you make it about the guiding influences, which are inherently intelligent.
Nope, that's not how NS works. If you want to define anything non-random as 'guided' then it is false that all guided processes involve conscious intelligence. And if you want to insist that all 'guiding' is intelligently driven then it is false that anything non-random must be guided.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Nope, that's not how NS works. If you want to define anything non-random as 'guided' then it is false that all guided processes involve conscious intelligence. And if you want to insist that all 'guiding' is intelligently driven then it is false that anything non-random must be guided.
You assume that NS is the way it actually worked.

You have no evidence at all....

Just opinions of people who were not present to observe it.
 

Nouveau

Active member
You assume that NS is the way it actually worked.

You have no evidence at all....

Just opinions of people who were not present to observe it.
You're missing the point. The thread isn't about proving NS. The point here is rather that NS is the explanation Lewis fails to recognize which would explain why our cognitive faculties are generally reliable even if not given to us by God.
 
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