Thank non-God for Science and thank Science for non-God!

So, the claim is that modern physical science is the deliverance of our Stone Age brains from the cognitive myopia we evolved over eons, yes?

Science at last gives us the precise apparatus we need as a species to overcome the crude folk theories of ontology, physics, biology, and ethics which we have simply picked up and confected for survival value, yes?

Our natural, common sense assumptions about the world, while helping us survive and procreate, are woefully off-base about the actual workings of the physical cosmos, correct?

Natural selection, therefore, has given us a range of useful but misguided capacities just so we can pass our genes along, right? We are, in other words, naturally wrong about the world we inhabit (at least on a theoretical, if not perceptual, level)?

There is, then, no inherent need for us, as products of natural selection alone, to understand, say, quantum mechanics and electrodialysis, since, obviously, numerous species (and all our pre-scientific ancestors) passed along their genes just fine without such heavy-duty rational insight, yes?

Is it not, then, almost axiomatic that natural selection has no selective “interest” in how impressive or dull our theories are? As long as we can function well enough, at a perceptual and kinesthetic level, to survive early death and pass on our genes, what need is there for nature to select for advanced theoretical truth about the non-genetic world?

In light of the above considerations, what grounds do we have for saying natural selection has brought us to a true grasp of the world? Scientific knowledge is not a normative, predictable result of natural selection. If it were, we would have all evolved scientific instincts, but, again, we actually have crude, anthropocentric, small-range, large-scale myopia about the world. Therefore, we are at our most procreatively fit without any theoretical baggage confabulated by modern exact science. Therefore, the theory of natural selection alone lacks a cogent basis for the emergence of scientific theoretical knowledge. In which case, however, what grounds do we have for adhering to the theoretical confabulation called “natural selection”? Do we need to understand natural selection in order for our societies to function stably enough that our species can procreate? Clearly not.

Only if advanced scientific theories are construed as deductive elaborations of our brute sensory grasp of the world can we say that exact theoretical science naturally emerges from the process of natural selection. Unfortunately, it is harder to find a worse caricature than that of how exact science has actually developed and how it actually works.

4 Responses

  1. “Science at last gives us the precise apparatus we need as a species to overcome the crude folk theories of ontology, physics, biology, and ethics which we have simply picked up and confected for survival value, yes?”

    To my knowledge, science comprise even physics as well as biology, to say the least.

  2. e-non:

    Does. not. compute. ??

  3. “Science at last gives us the precise apparatus we need as a species to overcome the crude folk theories of ontology, physics, biology, and ethics which we have simply picked up and confected for survival value, yes?”

    No.

    “Our natural, common sense assumptions about the world, while helping us survive and procreate, are woefully off-base about the actual workings of the physical cosmos, correct?”

    No.

    “no inherent need for us, as products of natural selection alone, to understand, say, quantum mechanics and electrodialysis, since, obviously, numerous species (and all our pre-scientific ancestors) passed along their genes just fine without such heavy-duty rational insight, yes?”

    Need? No. Because other species don’t have rational capacities? No.

    I’m sure there are some naturalists out there who hold the positions you’re objecting to here, but one certainly needn’t hold them in order to be a naturalist. There is no inconsistency between belief in evolution by natural selection and belief in the fundamental reliability of human rational capacities to gain knowledge of the world. We do not need to know physics or biology in order to survive and procreate, but naturalists are not committed to saying that we do. Rather, they are committed to saying that our ability to do physics, biology, and the rest stem from our basic rational capacities, and that those basic capacities evolved because they had serious evolutionary benefits. Not every feature or ability needs to have been selected for; it might simply follow from some other, more fundamental feature that was selected for. Scientific knowledge is not a result of natural selection in any direct sort of way at all; to think that it either must have been selected for itself or that it otherwise can’t be explained by natural selection is to misunderstand the theory. The theory does not hold (at least not when correctly interpreted!) that every feature a species possesses has contributed somehow to its survival and procreative success, much less that everything members of that species do (like science) must be selected for.

    One also need not embrace the denigration of our ordinary cognitive capacities that you attribute to the naturalist. Some naturalists do, of course, but that denigration is more rhetoric than anything else. Even still, one can consistently believe that our ordinary ways of getting around in the world do not deliver us highly accurate knowledge of the way things are. All the naturalist needs to be able to do is to explain how we nevertheless possess the ability to transcend those ordinary ways of viewing the world in order to gain a more accurate picture.

    I agree with you that many naturalists face severe difficulties in explaining how their own knowledge of the truth of their theories is consistent with the theories. I simply reject any suggestion that this problem is somehow necessarily a problem for any naturalist or anyone who believes that our cognitive capacities can be explained as evolutionary developments.

  4. Naturalists can carve their own wax nose any way they like, from day to day, Bob, as they basically do, from generation to generation. I am just glad to keep cornering Lumpennaturalismus back into Aristotelian realism.

    You react to my posts, pretty much every time, as if I intend to cover every possible objection made by every possible objector. But that’s wrong. I intend merely to keep the lines shrinking inward while real savants like yourself carve up the elites at the core, out of my clumsy pike’s reach.

    Maybe you should go start your own blog to illuminate this one?

    All the best on your path to joy,

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