Logical consistency

#1
Evolution News has put up the following essay on thie website:
A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. "This circle is square" is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity -- which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself....

An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth -- which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, "If Darwin's theory of natural selection is true,... the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth." What is the contradiction in that statement?

Gray has essentially said, if Darwin's theory is true, then it "serves evolutionary success, not truth." In other words, if Darwin's theory is true, then it is not true.

Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar's paradox: "This statement is a lie." If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, "Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive." But that means Crick's own theory is not a "scientific truth." Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, "Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth." Steven Pinker writes, "Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not." The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion -- and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.

So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, "If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? ... Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it."

On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, "Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?" His answer is no: "I have to be able to believe ... that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct -- not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so." Hence, "insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining."

Darwin's Selective Skepticism

People are sometimes under the impression that Darwin himself recognized the problem. They typically cite Darwin's famous "horrid doubt" passage where he questions whether the human mind can be trustworthy if it is a product of evolution: "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."

But, of course, Darwin's theory itself was a "conviction of man's mind." So why should it be "at all trustworthy"?

Surprisingly, however, Darwin never confronted this internal contradiction in this theory. Why not? Because he expressed his "horrid doubt" selectively -- only when considering the case for a Creator.

From time to time, Darwin admitted that he still found the idea of God persuasive. He once confessed his "inward conviction ... that the Universe is not the result of chance." It was in the next sentence that he expressed his "horrid doubt." So the "conviction" he mistrusted was his lingering conviction that the universe is not the result of chance.

In another passage Darwin admitted, "I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man." Again, however, he immediately veered off into skepticism: "But then arises the doubt -- can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?"

That is, can it be trusted when it draws "grand conclusions" about a First Cause? Perhaps the concept of God is merely an instinct programmed into us by natural selection, Darwin added, like a monkey's "instinctive fear and hatred of a snake."

In short, it was on occasions when Darwin's mind led him to a theistic conclusion that he dismissed the mind as untrustworthy. He failed to recognize that, to be logically consistent, he needed to apply the same skepticism to his own theory.

Modern followers of Darwin still apply the theory selectively. Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote, "Darwin applied a consistent philosophy of materialism to his interpretation of nature," in which "mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity." In other words, God is an idea that appears in the human mind when the electrical circuitry of the brain has evolved to a certain level of complexity.

To be logically consistent, however, Gould should turn the same skepticism back onto Darwin's ideas, which he never did. Gould applied his evolutionary skepticism selectively -- to discredit the idea of God.

Applied consistently, Darwinism undercuts not only itself but also the entire scientific enterprise. Kenan Malik, a writer trained in neurobiology, writes, "If our cognitive capacities were simply evolved dispositions, there would be no way of knowing which of these capacities lead to true beliefs and which to false ones." Thus "to view humans as little more than sophisticated animals ...undermines confidence in the scientific method."

Just so. Science itself is at stake. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, writes that according to atheism, "the mind that does science ... is the end product of a mindless unguided process. Now, if you knew your computer was the product of a mindless unguided process, you wouldn't trust it. So, to me atheism undermines the rationality I need to do science."

Of course, the atheist pursuing his research has no choice but to rely on rationality, just as everyone else does. The point is that he has no philosophical basis for doing so. Only those who affirm a rational Creator have a basis for trusting human rationality.

The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively. They apply it to undercut only ideas they reject, especially ideas about God. They make a tacit exception for their own worldview commitments.
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/03/why_evolutionar094171.html

Rather than just argue for and against ID, can we discuss the logical content of this essay. I think the author has hit the nail on the head - there are so many materialistic arguments that seem to contain logical absurdities. The most obvious one is the assertion that "Consciousness is an illusion".

David
 
#2
Some very good points.
I am not sure if I follow entirely... wouldn't the experimental side of science be a good indicator that our mind is not fooling us?

If we have a theory and our experiments confirm it, wouldn't this be indication that our logic works? Or is this more of a radical stance where even the idea of experimental confirmation is potentially untrue?

I suppose that if what we call "logic" was entirely fallacious we would have killed ourselves a long time ago, by not realizing how things really work in the world.

Am I on the wrong path?
 
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#3
Rather than just argue for and against ID, can we discuss the logical content of this essay. I think the author has hit the nail on the head - there are so many materialistic arguments that seem to contain logical absurdities.
Logical consistency is not an arbitrator or flag of truth. And logical absurdity is not an arbitrator or flag of falsity. The very notion that logic equates with truth comes back to using "it makes sense" as a .guideline. As if existence is a human creation and as such would be constrained by human thinking patterns. I'd posit that the addiction to logic and/or rationality is another flaw in human thinking processes but there are those who aren't addicted.
 
#4
Evolution News has put up the following essay on thie website:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/03/why_evolutionar094171.html

Rather than just argue for and against ID, can we discuss the logical content of this essay. I think the author has hit the nail on the head - there are so many materialistic arguments that seem to contain logical absurdities. The most obvious one is the assertion that "Consciousness is an illusion".

David
“ Modern followers of Darwin still apply the theory selectively. Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote, "Darwin applied a consistent philosophy of materialism to his interpretation of nature," in which "mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity." In other words, God is an idea that appears in the human mind when the electrical circuitry of the brain has evolved to a certain level of complexity. “

Is this implying some sort of telos, that is the idea or actuality of God was there all along and manifests in different ways at different levels of complexity?

Applied consistently, Darwinism undercuts not only itself but also the entire scientific enterprise. Kenan Malik, a writer trained in neurobiology, writes, "If our cognitive capacities were simply evolved dispositions, there would be no way of knowing which of these capacities lead to true beliefs and which to false ones." Thus "to view humans as little more than sophisticated animals ...undermines confidence in the scientific method."

This implies to me that both Dawinist’s and Theists regard humans as some how in a different category than animals which is an idea that I think comes from theism and is perhaps unconsciously adopted by science. (the rules don’t apply to us)
 
#5
Good post, David; I read the article myself recently. It's a logical argument turned back on radical neo-Darwinists. It's quite true that if our consciousness is illusory, but is making that argument, then why should anyone trust the argument?

It appears that consciousness is an illusion except when it's used by radical Darwinists: in that case, it's real and rock solid: it's okay to slag off those who have doubts.

Bucky, you use the word "logic", which of course couldn't exist without consciousness; how could you come to a conclusion that you were sure was valid if your consciousness was illusory? What is it that draws inferences from experimental data? According to radical Darwinists, it's an illusory faculty; and thereby, they are admitting that the whole underpinning of the scientific method is illusory.

On the other hand, those who think that consciousness isn't an illusion have a firm grounding for trusting in science (when performed free of pre-existing bias). And what does the data, freed from pre-judgment, tell us about neo-Darwinism? Why, that random mutation coupled with natural selection isn't sufficient to account for the evolution of species: there must be something else going on. That is where we're at: and it's the only scientifically justifiable conclusion at the moment.
 
#6
The fundamental contradiction in "Consciousness is an illusion", is of course, that if consciousness is an illusion that means it does not exist - so how can it be fooled by an illusion?

I think this article illustrates just how many arguments seem to be shot through with the same contradictions. If our brains were honed to survive on the savannah, why should we trust them at all to come to conclusions about maths, physics, or biology?

BTW, I was kind of hoping a few sceptics might want to discuss this piece :)

David
 
#7
BTW, I was kind of hoping a few sceptics might want to discuss this piece :)
Well I think I agree with the thrust of the piece which is, as far as I can tell, "Human individuals are rubbish at determining truth. Trusting experiences, memories, intuition and anecdotes is a sure route to delusional thinking."

Or did I miss something?
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#8
Well I think I agree with the thrust of the piece which is, as far as I can tell, "Human individuals are rubbish at determining truth. Trusting experiences, memories, intuition and anecdotes is a sure route to delusional thinking."

Or did I miss something?
Well, you may be missing something. There is this branch of science called "Psychology". Have you heard of it? And there are known methods of verifying memories, and determining truth, testing intuition etc.

Also - might also point out that science itself is a human endeavor, and is based on human "observation" and human "reason". Science by the way has often been "humanly" wrong. Science is not an absolute truth, though if you listen to enough Skeptics, I could see how one might begin to think science was as infallible like the Pope, and start believing Science was some kind of religion.

My Best,
Bertha
 
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#9
I don't think that the potential human beings have to deceive themselves in fond subjects is a deliberate or malicious act in any sense. Even though I suspect that far and away the *most likely* truth about the paranormal is that we are using ambiguity to talk ourselves into believing in things that aren't *literally* there, and I'd have to be honest and say I think this is ten times more likely than any other scenario, still there could be a form of agency in this cosmos that generates self-concealing phenomena.

I just think it's very unlikely.
 
#12
Why do you suspect this?

My Best,
Bertha
Well, it would probably be a topic for a separate thread, though the article at the OP did make me think of it. Why do I suspect it? Pretty much everything about these phenomena, their relationship to knowledge, and the kind of roles they seem to have in our society.
 
#13
Pretty much everything about these phenomena, their relationship to knowledge, and the kind of roles they seem to have in our society.
I wasn't able to understand above sentence. I'm not trying to be difficult, just letting you know, I'm not sure what you're saying here.

My Best,
Bertha
 
#14
What I mean is that they thrive in environments where information is not properly secured, on the one hand, and they seem to offer a psychological benefit against oppressing forces we can actually do nothing about on the other (death, sickness, the future, etc).
 
#15
What I mean is that they thrive in environments where information is not properly secured, on the one hand, and they seem to offer a psychological benefit against oppressing forces we can actually do nothing about on the other (death, sickness, the future, etc).
Both of your points here have been well known by psi researchers and taken into account.

My Best,
Bertha
 
#16
Both of your points here have been well known by psi researchers and taken into account.

My Best,
Bertha
Yes, I can quite imagine that the more thoughtful experimenters or theorists are aware of them, but that does not mean that they arrived at a solution. Indeed, they did not.
 
#17
Yes, I can quite imagine that the more thoughtful experimenters or theorists are aware of them, but that does not mean that they arrived at a solution. Indeed, they did not.
I don't think you can be quite sure of that. There are plenty of very intelligent people who would not agree with you.

My Best,
Bertha
 
#18
I don't think you can be quite sure of that. There are plenty of very intelligent people who would not agree with you.

My Best,
Bertha
I'm always prepared to see something new I haven't encountered before by way of argument in this area. Those are pretty rare moments however.
 
#19
I'm always prepared to see something new I haven't encountered before by way of argument in this area. Those are pretty rare moments however.
I imagine most people if asked, would say the same, that they are open to something new.

Hell, think of the shock of Bohr, Einstein or Heisenberg when they realized electrons pop from one part of the atom to the other, without actually moving in-between! I mean, they still to this day teach classical physics in the classroom, as if electrons orbit some kind of atomic nucleus - in some kind of fluid motion. And it's all completely wrong! Einstein spent decades arguing with Bohr, couldn't believe the data. Then John Bell came along and you know the rest.

So perhaps you're the new Einstein Kai. And everyone else here, well, maybe we're just not at your level? So that's why it's so "rare" for you? Well - if you're Einstein, I guess I'll pretend I'm Heisenberg. What the heck!

My Best,
Bertha
 
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