Russell and Duenes

Evolutionary Psychology and the Reality of the Mind

with 7 comments

Evolutionary Psychology is that field of “science” which attempts to inform us that, lo and behold, we do not actually have non-physical minds. We only have physical brains, and thus, there must be an unbroken causal link between our ancestral forebears, their genes, and our current psychological activity. Of course, such a strict chain of causation has never been empirically established, but establishing it appears to be the goal of this Darwinian branch of inquiry. And let’s suppose that such a chain one day is demonstrated. What then? The always articulate and entertaining David Berlinski muses on this possibility in his piece, On the Origin of the Mind:

Curiously enough, it has been evolutionary psychologists themselves who are most willing to give up in practice what they do not have in theory [i.e., the causal links that determine our behavior]. For were that missing theory to exist, it would cancel—it would annihilate—any last lingering claim we might make on behalf of human freedom. The physical sciences, after all, do not simply trifle with determinism: it is the heart and soul of their method. Were Boron salts at liberty to discard their identity, the claims of inorganic chemistry would seem considerably less pertinent than they do. Thus, when Steven Pinker writes that “nature does not dictate what we should accept or how we should live our lives,” he is expressing a hope entirely at odds with his professional commitments. If ordinary men and women are, like the professor himself, perfectly free to tell their genes “to go jump in the lake,” why then pay the slightest attention to evolutionary psychology—why pay the slightest attention to Pinker?



Written by Michael Duenes

September 20, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Duenes, Philosophy, Science

7 Responses

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  1. D-

    I disagree with you, and here’s why:

    I think Christians and scientists both have to start from the axiomatic belief that the senses and mind can interpret things correctly. The Christian cannot start with God or the Bible as truth, because the only reason we believe God exists is through what our senses and mind tell us about the Bible and God. If we didn’t believe our senses and mind, we wouldn’t believe the Bible necessarily exists, and we couldn’t believe what our eyes read in it, so we wouldn’t believe it tells us there is a God.

    The Christian accepts two axioms on faith, in my opinion:

    1. Our senses and mind can be trusted to make logical sense of our material surroundings, including the sense that there is a Bible and it can be read and understood.

    2. What one reads in the Bible accurately describes God.

    A scientist accepts the first axiom as a means of performing the scientific method. The second axiom is not within the realm of science, so not all scientists accept it.

    In addition, I maintain that Creationism is not science, because it cannot be disproved. Evolution can be, and is therefore scientific.

    This does not necessarily make one superior to the other, but the distinction is important.



    September 22, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    • Bates-

      Here’s why I disagree with your comment. Absolutely everyone has to start with some concept of “ultimate reality.” Our epistemology has to begin somewhere, and where we choose to start it becomes a faith commitment. There’s no getting around this. You say that we have to start with “the axiomatic belief that the senses and mind can interpret things correctly.” But this begs the question: Why think that the senses and the mind can interpret things correctly? In fact, why think there is such a thing as “mind” at all?

      The Christian properly starts with God and does so by faith. The only reason we can believe that we have minds and that we can apprehend God is because we start with the belief that God is ultimate reality. The Scriptures are eternal, just as God is, and thus they are properly prior to any human thought, and we only know the Scriptures are eternal because God has revealed it to us in Scripture. The godless scientist (not saying that all, or even most, are godless) accepts that “our senses and mind can be trusted to make logical sense of our material surroundings” only because he borrows Christian capital, as it were. If there is no God, then there is no nonphysical mind, nor are there laws of logic or physics. The godless man hangs his “rational senses” hook in mid-air. He has no ultimate reality upon which to hang it. The Christian does not, indeed cannot, begin with his senses and mind. Something must have existed prior to man’s mind, and that “something” is God. He is ultimate reality. We do not accept non-biblical epistemology, for upon what foundation can it rest? Non-believers justify rational thinking how?

      Your “creationism is not science” is a red herring, and not germane to the quote I posted. Berlinski is not arguing for creationism. But since you mentioned it, I would disagree with your assertion that “evolution can be disproved.” Ah, no it can’t. Not according to the current definition of “science.” Science assumes, without proper evidence, that “evolution is true” (“Evolution” in this case meaning the theory that all living things and all species descended from a common, single-celled organism by purely physical, undirected processes via natural selection). Richard Dawkins, who speaks for many, has said that even if there were not one shred of evidence that evolution happened, we would still have to accept it as true. Why does he say this? Because science, as currently defined in the academy, assumes a priori that God or an intelligent designer had and has nothing to do with the natural world. Therefore ALL explanations must be naturalistic, or, by definition, they are not “scientific.” Well who made that rule? To take one example, science assumes that our eyeball got here through some long Darwinian, naturalistic process; and it won’t countenance alternative explanations nor will it let the naturalistic explanation be falsified. Why not? Because materialism is assumed from the beginning. Thus, it is unfalsifyable, just as creationism is. Once science stops arrogating to itself the authority to decide what does and does not count as science, then we can talk about falsifying theories.



      September 22, 2010 at 9:33 pm

  2. D-

    But how does the Christian come to believe that God is the ultimate reality? Doesn’t he first have to hear about Him (trust his ears and mind), or read about Him (trust his eyes and mind), or sense Him in some other way?

    If he doesn’t trust his mind and senses first, he won’t believe in God as the ultimate reality, because he first conceives of God through the mind and senses.

    I still think the Christian and the scientist both have to start with the assumption that the mind and senses can be trusted.

    As for the Creationism/Evolution comment, I agree that it was not directly related to the post, but it is related to the last few posts you’ve made.



    September 23, 2010 at 8:28 am

    • B-
      I appreciate our back and forth discussion. I can only speak for myself, but I find it profitable. First, I’d be interested to know your take on what I said about the “Creationism/ Evolution” comment. Is evolution falsifyable, based on what I’ve said? Or do you think me mistaken in my assessment of materialist “science?” What do you think of my eyeball example?

      Yes, all people have to trust their senses, but logically, we have to start prior to that and assume that there is an intelligent, hearing and seeing God who gives us the ability to think and know. Upon what epistemological foundation does the unbeliever rest his confidence in “reason?” That’s the question that needs answering, and I don’t think you’ve answered it.



      September 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm

  3. This is a really great article. Thank you

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    September 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm

  4. I think your “current definition of science” is wrong, and I think what Dawkins said is ridiculous.

    Scientific theories need to be falsifiable, or they are not science.

    If we don’t agree on that, we can’t go much further with this discussion.

    Also, you say we have to start prior to the senses and assume there is a God who gives us the ability to think and know. Why?

    Why can’t you start with the assumption that we have the ability to think and know?

    And again I ask, how does one come to believe there is a God before he trusts his senses and mind?

    Didn’t you first believe in the truth of your senses and mind before you heard about and believed in God?


    September 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    • Bates – OK, you tell me what you think the “current definition of science” is. I believe that my definition is the de facto definition that is held in the academy. I think that science, properly speaking, should remain in the realm of what can be seen with the five senses and can be tested experimentally. This would put science in its proper, humble place. But in my view, that is not the current definition of science. So, what do you think it is? Or should be? I fully agree with you that scientific theories need to be falsifiable, or they are not science. Which means, they must be things we can test experimentally or we can see clear evidence for.

      Clearly, from an experiential standpoint, you and I must start with trusting our senses and our minds. All I’m trying to do is give a logically prior, not empirically prior, basis for warranting such trust. We cannot simply say that our senses are trustworthy and hang such an assertion in mid-air. It must be grounded in something prior to it. And that something must be God. God is the one who gives us minds to think and eyes to see and ears to hear. So I start with God. He must be there first to give me these things, though I can’t know that God is first experientially without trusting my mind and senses. But mind is not ultimate reality. Things do not start with mind. They start with God. But with what does the unbeliever start that doesn’t beg the question?



      September 29, 2010 at 5:51 am

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