Can Naturalistic Evolution Yield True Beliefs About Reality?

by Bill Pratt

Philosopher Ken Samples, in a recent “New Reasons to Believe” (Vol 1 , No 1) publication, argues that naturalistic evolution cannot explain how human beings can have true beliefs about anything.  Naturalistic evolution posits that there only exists the material, natural world around us.  Everything that exists is the result of  random, material processes working over billions of years.  According to naturalists, the ultimate result of those natural processes is the wonder of the human mind.  So why doesn’t this theory make sense?

Samples offers three reasons.  First, “Naturalism postulates a nonrational source for man’s rationality.”  Naturalists believe that nonrational, impersonal, unintelligent, and purposeless processes produced rational, personal, intelligent, and purposeful human minds.  But, as Samples argues, every effect must have a cause greater than itself.  This is exactly the opposite of what the naturalists would have us believe!  The effect of the human mind is orders of magnitude greater than its alleged cause, the matter of which it is composed.  Samples concludes that the naturalist “is assuming a trustworthy reasoning process only to conclude that his reasoning is is ultimately untrustworthy.”

Second, Samples argues that “evolution promotes a species’ survivability, not its true beliefs.”  Natural selection, the primary evolutionary mechanism, only selects for survival.  But having true beliefs about the world is not always required for animal survival.  One can think of examples where an animal’s beliefs about its surrounding environment are irrelevant to its survival…

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