Thursday, July 15, 2010

Argument From Discovery

I'm not sure if anyone has argued along these lines or not. I was just thinking of this yesterday.


  1. If atheism is true, then we evolved solely to survive (premise).
  2. If we evolved solely to survive, then we would behave such that we avoid things that could kill us (premise).
  3. We have evolved such that we desire to discover and explore the unknown (premise).
  4. Exploring the unknown is extremely dangerous and could kill us (premise).
  5. We follow our desire to discover explore the unknown (premise).
  6. We do not behave such that we avoid things that kill us (follows from premise 4)
  7.  Therefore, we did not evolve solely to survive (modus tollens from 2 and 6).
  8. Therefore, atheism is not true (modus tollens from 1 and 7).
I think premise 1 is uncontroversial. 2 I think is not as uncontroversial, but I think if naturalistic evolution is true, then we should see behavior geared for survival. I think that is inexplicable why, in a world where we all our behaviors are tuned so that we survive, that we would be compelled by an urge to discover things and knowingly put our lives in danger for those ends. We climb mountains, go on voyages across the ocean, fly 30,000 feet in the air, leave the earth's atmosphere to explore space and go to the moon. We have this insatiable urge to know things, and people purposely put their lives in jeopardy so that we can learn new things which may be ultimately neutral or detrimental to our survival.

48 comments:

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David said...

"Exploring the unknown is extremely dangerous and could kill us (premise)."

This is the faulty premise. "Exploring" is dangerous, but it is also potentially very rewarding. The tendency to "explore" is very common in animals. Most animal species must explore to find those resources that are essential to survive and reproduce. So, curiosity about what lies beyond the known is not unusual in the animal kingdom, despite the risks involved.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bossmanham said...

This is the faulty premise. "Exploring" is dangerous, but it is also potentially very rewarding.

And also potentially not rewarding and yet very deadly. As a creature that doesn't know potential benefits going into the excursion, why would my genes allow it?

Most animal species must explore to find those resources that are essential to survive and reproduce.

But they explore such that they are familiar with the territory (as most animals stay within a certain area) and are familiar with where they hunt. Furthermore, they aren't doing it simply to learn, but to find food. We go places where we KNOW we could die simply to discover.

David said...

"As a creature that doesn't know potential benefits going into the excursion, why would my genes allow it?"

It's allowed because on balance, you're more successful as an explorer than as a non-explorer.

"But they explore such that they are familiar with the territory (as most animals stay within a certain area) and are familiar with where they hunt. "

Is that accurate? An animal is born at a given spot. Initially, there is no "familiar territory". All territory is new, all excursions are into terra incognito.

"Furthermore, they aren't doing it simply to learn, but to find food."

Learning where the food is is still learning.

"We go places where we KNOW we could die simply to discover."

It's all a part of the same trait, namely "curiosity". Curiosity drives exploration and again, on balance, exploration often pays off big. One should also not underestimate the value of "showing off". Chicks dig mountain climbers, and that means sexual success.

Point is, there is no reason to think that traits like curiosity and a tendency to explore are either uniquely human or inexplicable without reference to something supernatural.

bossmanham said...

It's allowed because on balance, you're more successful as an explorer than as a non-explorer

Says who? I would certainly dispute that, especially in modern day America.

Is that accurate? An animal is born at a given spot. Initially, there is no "familiar territory". All territory is new, all excursions are into terra incognito.

1) Most animals survive with a caregiver. 2) Any new exploration isn't done for fun or knowledge. It's done for food. 3) Any new exploration isn't necessarily dangerous.

Humans knowingly and cognitively enter into situations they know are dangerous simply for knowledge.

Curiosity drives exploration and again, on balance, exploration often pays off big.

Again, says who? Someone could be very successful without doing hardly any exploration. Also, not all exploration is very dangerous.

Point is, there is no reason to think that traits like curiosity and a tendency to explore are either uniquely human or inexplicable without reference to something supernatural.

I didn't say they were uniquely human, I said it is inexplicable why evolution would lead to creatures who knowingly put their lives in danger simply for knowledge, while also aware that there may be negligible or even lower survival value.

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David said...

"1) Most animals survive with a caregiver. 2) Any new exploration isn't done for fun or knowledge. It's done for food. 3) Any new exploration isn't necessarily dangerous."

1) The vast majority of animal species receive no help from their parents. Think bugs. Those that do receive some help will almost inevitably have to strike out on their own at some point in time. Almost all animals must explore to survive, so curiousity and a tendency to explore is essential. If you doubt it, just watch some animals some time. See how far an animal gets if it never moves beyond the spot were it was born.

2) I don't understand. How is gaining knowledge about food not knowledge? When an animal explores, it learns, it gains knowledge.

3) Again, I don't understand. First you emphasis the danger of discovery and now you minimize it. Make up your mind. Is discovery dangerous or not.

"I said it is inexplicable why evolution would lead to creatures who knowingly put their lives in danger simply for knowledge, while also aware that there may be negligible or even lower survival value."

You don't get it. Evolution builds brains with a capacity for curiousity, a desire to explore, etc. This is because curiosity and a desire to explore is essential for success. At some point in its life, almost every animal must explore. Curiosity is selected for, especially in long-lived, big-brained animals.

Once you have such a brain, it means that the animal is a curious animal. It means that the animal is an exploring animal. But that does not mean that every single act of exploration has to have a payoff or is even always the right thing to do. We're born curious, because we inherited the ability to build brains capable of generating this thing called curiosity. It doesn't mean that we always use this capacity wisely, it doesn't mean that every act of exploration makes immediate sense or bring immediate reward. Curiousity and a desire to explore is simply a trait of our species.

This doesn't mean that we're always going to behave in a strictly rational way. Sometimes, because we're curious, we just can't help but do stupid things, too. We're also born with a desire to have sex (once the hormones kick in). That doesn't mean that everything that we do as a result of this innate desire or capacity is going make immediate sense, right? In fact, as a result of a desire to have sex, we often do incredibly stupid things.

David said...

"Says who? I would certainly dispute that, especially in modern day America."

Umm, I'm talking about traits that have evolved in countless species over millions of years.

bossmanham said...

Umm, I'm talking about traits that have evolved in countless species over millions of years.

And I disagree that exploration would benefit creatures. I could conceive of multiple ways organisms could have evolved without the need for exploration. And if modern exploration would not be beneficial, then the traits we have evolved should recognize that and discourage dangerous exploration.

David said...

"And I disagree that exploration would benefit creatures."

Perhaps it would help to define what you mean by "exploration". 'Cause I don't see how creatures could survive without exploration.

bossmanham said...

Think bugs.

Exploration for food is a necessary feat for survival that obviously would need to evolve, if that is how a species would survive. Climbing a mountain to see what's there isn't necessary for survival at all. Why would that dangerous aspect of exploration evolve? How would it be integrated into genetics if the creatures who employed it tended to die?

First you emphasis the danger of discovery and now you minimize it.

You're equivocating. I minimized the danger of some discovery. I am clearly speaking of extremely dangerous discovery. Some wanderings from one's place of birth aren't dangerous. Going to the moon simply because one can is.

You don't get it. Evolution builds brains with a capacity for curiousity, a desire to explore, etc.

How? I concede there may be a drive to look for food. How would that translate into a general curiosity about things you know are dangerous? Wondering where food is is far removed from wondering what's in the middle of that predator infested rain forest.

Once you have such a brain, it means that the animal is a curious animal. It means that the animal is an exploring animal.

And the question is, why would such a brain develop? If the traits don't add to survival, and even detract from it, why are they there? We have a lot more than we need if the framework is simply survival, and that is inexplicable.

That doesn't mean that everything that we do as a result of this innate desire or capacity is going make immediate sense, right? In fact, as a result of a desire to have sex, we often do incredibly stupid things

And, by the TOE, the creatures that do stupid things die and those traits would be weeded out of the genetic pool. So if this dangerous search for knowledge kills organisms, then we shouldn't be observing the trait.

bossmanham said...

Perhaps it would help to define what you mean by "exploration". 'Cause I don't see how creatures could survive without exploration.

I've defined the exploration I'm speaking of already. You're confusing a search for food with a curiosity of dangerous areas and beings. The former exists for obvious reasons. The latter is what doesn't make sense.

bossmanham said...

Incidentally, you can overcome the desire to do anything for sex by an act of the will, which also inexplicably exists on your framework.

David said...

"Wondering where food is is far removed from wondering what's in the middle of that predator infested rain forest."


Actually, it's not that different at all, except in degree. Curiosity is curiosity. The desire to explore the world is the the desire to explore the world. It's not necessarily specific to a given task. It evolves because it's generally useful, but how it plays out in a given individual is not pretermined or fixed. You can build a computer for the specific task of word processing, but having built the computer, is the machine then limited to just word processing?

"And the question is, why would such a brain develop?"

It develops because curiosity is a generally beneficial thing, especially when combined with complex brain with other capacities as well, such as the capacity for language. What I think you are doing is confusing why a general trait like curiousity and/or a desire to examine the surrounding world might evolve with the question of why a specific curious individual might do a specific act.

We have this general desire to explore and learn new things, because in general, the curious have done better than the incurious. Now, how that's expressed in a given individual is different question. Brains are not perfect calculating machines, because they're not intelligently designed. Yes, sometimes curiosity kills the cat. That's not enough to prevent the evolution of such trait if on balance, curiousity is a good thing.

"Incidentally, you can overcome the desire to do anything for sex by an act of the will, which also inexplicably exists on your framework."

You can, but often we don't. And that's the point. Inherent drives and behaviors that are often beneficial can also be detrimental at times. Sometimes the desire to have sex leads to high risk behavior just as curiosity can lead to high risk behavior. So, does this mean that curiosity or sex drives could not be evolved traits? Not if such things more often lead to success instead of failure.

As to the cases when we do overcome the desire, it's usually because we've calculated the consequences and concluded that the act would be stupid. This is hardly inexplicable. It's called reasoning. It's a product of other parts of brain adapted to calculating risk. It's not unique to humans.

David said...

By the way, ask yourself this question. Do human societies reward risk takers? Do we reward the explorers? Do we reward those who bring us new knowledge? Yes, exploration has its risks, but if we live...? Did I mention that chicks dig mountain climbers?

Skeptical Rationalist said...

Quick responses in no particular order:

First, I loathe and despise the phrase "if atheism is true." Atheism is a position regarding the claims of god--literally "NOT a theist." Your first premise is actually "If evolution is true" since evolution and the existence of god are two separate questions. If you want to specify "if God does not exist AND evolution is true" I can't necessarily stop you, but don't conflate the rejection of a claim with an assertion of fact.

Second, every organism, from the lowliest bacterium to redwood trees to savanna apes that stand erect, has to discover new food sources, new room to grow, new homes for their own offspring. EVERY organism at least has the capability to travel some distance from the place of its birth. Saying there's no benefit to exploration is tantamount to saying there's no need for plants to spread their seeds on the wind. If they don't then they will be competing with their own offspring for water, sunlight and soil. It's the same situation with every organism, animal, microorganism, or plant. Resources are limited, and your nearest source of competition are your immediate "family."

Yes, it's risky. The fact is that among just about any species other than humans, most individuals don't make it. (That's what clued Darwin in to the fact that there must be some quality or "fitness" which governs differential survival rates.) 99% of all species that have ever existed are extinct. But it's the only game in town.

Let me put this in terms you're sure to understand--everything gets equal opportunity, but there's no expectation of equal outcome. Starting a new business is extremely risky and could leave one penniless. Is it therefore inexplicable that anyone should put their livelihood at risk when there may be negligible or less benefit?

As for why such drives for novelty, knowledge and exploration exist, even when they can prove detrimental, it's easily understood as simply emergent behavior from primal, nonspecific urges. Genes can promote curiosity, tell you to go stake out a territory or home of your own, but they can't tell you not to go up the treacherous mountainside--although curiosity is often balanced by an instinct for self preservation. Any given trait often follows a bell-curve distribution, so you'd expect to have individuals who are extremely risk-averse and conservative in behavior, while others with low inhibitions and large drives for novelty we recognize as being foolishly reckless.

bossmanham said...

Actually, it's not that different at all, except in degree

I say it's very different. One is essential for the processes of your body to continue functioning. The other is a desire to acquire knowledge; knowledge that may be, and most likeley is, irrelevant or harmful to survival.

Curiosity is curiosity

And hunger is hunger. Two separate things. You are unjustified in linking the traits.

It develops because curiosity is a generally beneficial thing,

You keep asserting this, but have given no support for it.

What I think you are doing is confusing why a general trait like curiousity and/or a desire to examine the surrounding world might evolve with the question of why a specific curious individual might do a specific act.

No, I am separating the desire to eat from the desire to learn things that are irrelevant or harmful to survival. And why shouldn't I separate curiosity about food and curiosity about, in terms of survival, useless information?

You can, but often we don't

I do. I think it's pretty lame if others can't. But you've built a framework on which it's justified, I suppose.

Inherent drives and behaviors that are often beneficial can also be detrimental at times.

Sex spreads your genes. That's not detrimental to survival at any level.

So, does this mean that curiosity or sex drives could not be evolved traits?

In the forms they present themselves, I think it does show that they can't be randomly acquired traits developed by an unguided process. I don't believe you've been able to justify that belief.

Not if such things more often lead to success instead of failure.

And leading a dangerous life would lead to death more ofthen than not.

This is hardly inexplicable. It's called reasoning.

Which is inexplicable on naturalism.

By the way, ask yourself this question. Do human societies reward risk takers? Do we reward the explorers? Do we reward those who bring us new knowledge?

Perhaps sometimes. But it would be with rewards that seem either neutral or detremental to survival.

Did I mention that chicks dig mountain climbers?

Then we have to ask ourselves why the female part of our species developed a desire for an organism which constantly puts its own life in danger, thereby putting her life in danger. If the male dies, then the female loses that support and ability to procreate. So, where's the evolutionary advantage there?

Seems to me that there could be a transcendent value in courage...

bossmanham said...

First, I loathe and despise the phrase "if atheism is true." Atheism is a position regarding the claims of god--literally "NOT a theist."

Well I loathe the redefinition project atheists have undertaken in the last few years. Atheism is the position that God does not exist. If atheism is true, that would mean God does not exist. Therefore, I am justified in using the word as such.

Your first premise is actually "If evolution is true" since evolution and the existence of god are two separate questions.

Incorrect, because evolution could be true and God could still exist and could have made it so the human mind desires to explore (even dangerously) and subdue the creation He made for us.

Second, every organism, from the lowliest bacterium to redwood trees to savanna apes that stand erect, has to discover new food sources, new room to grow, new homes for their own offspring

All necessary for survival and don't entail an inherent desire for knowledge. And it certainly wouldn't entail evolving the trait to explore extremely dangerous areas.

Saying there's no benefit to exploration is tantamount to saying there's no need for plants to spread their seeds on the wind

I never said there was no benefit to exploration. There is. I said there's no benefit, as far as survival is concerned, with being curious enough to explore in extremely dangerous cirucumstances, especially knowingly.

But it's the only game in town.

A game with inconsistent and painfully obvious shortcomings, but I digress.

Let me put this in terms you're sure to understand--everything gets equal opportunity, but there's no expectation of equal outcome. Starting a new business is extremely risky and could leave one penniless.

This is entirely irrelevant to a discussion about biological survival.

it's easily understood as simply emergent behavior from primal, nonspecific urges

No it isn't. It's inexplicable why any intelligible urges would arise at all in creatures on naturalism. Most creatures survive extremely well, if not better, than we do. Our "intelligence" has killed off large swaths of our species. Intelligence seems to be completely separate from an unintelligent, unconscious process that is said to have brought it about. Consciousness itself is inexplicable on naturalism.

David said...

Ok, it's clear that you don't understand, and I can't think of any other ways of explaining this.

Incurious creatures that never leave the spot of their birth are less likely to survive than the curious. A brain that is built with a capacity for curiosity might be capable of being curious about something other than just finding food today. Once curious brains exist, they may generate feelings of pleasure when we explore all kinds of things, not just when we find more food, because brains are not that task-specific. Like the drive to seek mates, the desire to explore can be detrimental at times, and yet, on balance, it can be favored.

Human cultures often offer great rewards to those who take risks, including the risks of exploration. Yes, the explorer may die, but then again, the explorer may produce far more offspring than the dull and risk-averse.

David said...

"No it isn't. It's inexplicable why any intelligible urges would arise at all in creatures on naturalism. "

Seriously? You don't see any survival value in intelligence?

bossmanham said...

Ok, it's clear that you don't understand, and I can't think of any other ways of explaining this.

Well that's an easy out isn't it? Maybe I simply reject your characterization of my argument? I do understand this, I just enjoy exposing the ad hoc nature of this silly theory.

Incurious creatures that never leave the spot of their birth are less likely to survive than the curious.

One may leave it's place of birth not out of curiosity, but in a search for food. Hunger, not curiosity best explains that on naturalism.

A brain that is built with a capacity for curiosity might be capable of being curious about something other than just finding food today.

You're begging the question that curiosity is the sole drive behind exploration.

Once curious brains exist, they may generate feelings of pleasure when we explore all kinds of things, not just when we find more food, because brains are not that task-specific.

Says who?

Seriously? You don't see any survival value in intelligence?

I don't see it adding to anything that pure mechanistic behaviors couldn't accomplish in terms of survival, or that other traits couldn't handle. Not to mention there seems to be no natural reason for it to evolve, especially if the resources used in feeding the brain could be better placed elsewhere. Just look at trees. No intelligence yet an amazing ability to survive.

Skeptical Rationalist said...

I don't see it adding to anything that pure mechanistic behaviors couldn't accomplish in terms of survival, or that other traits couldn't handle.

Very true. Complex life has existed for 550 million years at least, with "intelligence" being quite a novel development in the past 2-3 million years.

Your first premise is actually "If evolution is true" since evolution and the existence of god are two separate questions.

Incorrect, because evolution could be true and God could still exist and could have made it so the human mind desires to explore (even dangerously) and subdue the creation He made for us.


There are four separate possible scenarios here:

Theism is true and the Theory of Evolution is true

Theism is true and the Theory of Evolution is false

Theism is false and Theory of Evolution is true, or

Both are false.

Your "syllogism," such as it is, ends with "The Theory of Evolution is not true."

However, it's burdened with an equivocation fallacy between nontheism and Evolution, and it's an argument from ignorance, in essence saying "I don't know what the survival value is to exploration, therefore evolution is false." Of course, what's unstated is the same old larger Argument from Ignorance, where you're so blindly dedicated to your own worldview that you go around trying to poke holes in the competition as though that makes your position any better.

Unanswered questions are the bread and butter of science. One can either say "well, the whole thing must be false" or one could write up a research grant and find out just what the heck is going on in our genes and behavior and actually learn something.

David said...

"Just look at trees. No intelligence yet an amazing ability to survive."

Irrelevant. So, do you think that within a population of, say, primates in which individuals compete with each other for survival and mates, there is no selection for greater intelligence?

I think that basic problem is that you think of brains as being perfect calculating machines divided up into totally hardwired modules built to perform very specific and limited tasks, and that each and every behavioral act must always act to increase the chances of survival. I think that the evidence suggests that brains and evolultion are not like this.

David said...

"One may leave it's place of birth not out of curiosity, but in a search for food. Hunger, not curiosity best explains that on naturalism."

My dog is well fed. He's never captured and eaten an animal in his life. He has no need to search for food. He has no need to explore his world after eating. And yet, he loves to explore the yard. He pokes his nose into holes, looks into bushes, watches birds and chipmunks, and if his yard was bigger, he would explore an area of several square miles.

Why does he do this? He's not hungry. He's not thirsty. If we lived in a land of wolves and cougars, his explorations could get him killed. And yet he explores. Why?

>Once curious brains exist, they may generate feelings of pleasure when we explore all kinds of things, not just when we find more food, because brains are not that task-specific.

"Says who?"

Says my dog.


"You're begging the question that curiosity is the sole drive behind exploration."

Actually, I think that I also made the point that it can be tied to sexual success if exploration pays off in a variety of ways. If nothing else, it's a demonstration of physical fitness, and the ladies like 'em physically fit (this is true for non-human species, too). Trust me. As a flabby, risk-averse nebbish, I know what doesn't impress.


One more thought on...

"No intelligence yet an amazing ability to survive."

You're conflating the observation that intellligence has not evolved in every lineage with the conclusion that it could not evolve in any lineage. The vast, vast majority of species on Earth lack vertebrate gills. So, does that mean that there is no selective advantage to vertebrate gills and that such gills could not evolve?

David said...

Sorry about the multiple posts, but I have to ask...

"Consciousness itself is inexplicable on naturalism."

Are non-human animals conscious?

bossmanham said...

SR,

Your "syllogism," such as it is, ends with "The Theory of Evolution is not true."

Apparently you're not familiar with what modus tollens is. Study up on that rule of logic and you'll see why the syllogism leads to that conclusion.

And I will not respond to anything else you say, because you are trying to redefine my whole argument, which is just a non-starter. Deal with the argument or move on.

bossmanham said...

Irrelevant

No it isn't. Evolution is only concerned with survival, not knowing things. It is inexplicable why things with intelligence, a trait that can lead to death, would come about when there are organisms that survive extremely well without intelligence.

I think that basic problem is that you think of brains as being perfect calculating machines divided up into totally hardwired modules built to perform very specific and limited tasks

No, I'm thinking of brains as products of a completely determined and mechanistic process, as one would have to if atheistic evolution were true.

and that each and every behavioral act must always act to increase the chances of survival

No, I'm saying the behavioral traits that detract from survival, such as the desire to explore dangerous areas, would be weeded out. It's your theory.

My dog is well fed. He's never captured and eaten an animal in his life. He has no need to search for food.

Now you're backtracking and introducing an irrelevancy.

And yet, he loves to explore the yard. He pokes his nose into holes, looks into bushes, watches birds and chipmunks, and if his yard was bigger, he would explore an area of several square miles.

You're begging the question here. The whole issue is that behavior is inexplicable on atheism, no matter which species performs it. Furthermore, you may simply be anthropomorphising your dog's search for more goodies. We need to deal with intellects we are familiar with, and we know human intellects desire to know things, even at the risk of their own lives. We don't know whether or not everytning a dog does is to find food.

Says my dog.

To repeat, you are passing human traits on to a dog. You may be misinterpreting his behavior.

Actually, I think that I also made the point that it can be tied to sexual success if exploration pays off in a variety of ways.

And that only detracts from the point you were trying to make.

You're conflating the observation that intellligence has not evolved in every lineage with the conclusion that it could not evolve in any lineage.

I'm saying if it doesn't add to survival, then by your own theory, there's no reason for it to be there.

The vast, vast majority of species on Earth lack vertebrate gills. So, does that mean that there is no selective advantage to vertebrate gills and that such gills could not evolve?

Well, since most of the earth is covered in water, then they would have a survival advantage, wouldn't they?

Are non-human animals conscious?

Why do you think it matters? If they are, it's inexplicable.

David said...

“No it isn't. Evolution is only concerned with survival, not knowing things. It is inexplicable why things with intelligence, a trait that can lead to death, would come about when there are organisms that survive extremely well without intelligence.”

You don’t think that increased knowledge can lead to increased survival rates? Seriously? Dumb animals do better than smart animals? Organisms can also survive without gills. So gills can’t evolve?

And again, once a brain has been built with a certain capacity for curiosity because there's an advantage to this when it comes to acquiring food, there is no reason to think that this "curiousity" will continue to be soley about food. After we've finished eating, we're still curious, and we're going to be curious about many things besides food.


“No, I'm saying the behavioral traits that detract from survival, such as the desire to explore dangerous areas, would be weeded out. It's your theory.”

This is a very oversimplified strawman version of the theory.

Almost any behavior that you can name can lead to death under certain circumstances. Staying put can lead to death, exploring can lead to death. The desire for sex constantly leads animals into danger. Consider the number of murders in the human population that can be linked to sexual conflicts. So, the desire for sex should be weeded out, right?

The question is whether or not a given behavior can result in death. The question is whether or not it pays off more often than it doesn’t.

You have to remember that natural selection acts on populations. To give a grossly oversimplified example myself, say we have a population of ten non-explorers and ten explorers. In a given generation, explorers have a higher mortality rate due to the risk of exploration. Let’s say six non-explorer and three explorers survive to reproduce. Looks bad for the explorer genes. But if exploring leads to much greater reproductive success (explorers find more food, attract more mates), if explorers leave three offspring apiece while non-explorers leave only one apiece, then explorer genes become more common. So, the desire to explore does NOT get “weeded out”.


>My dog is well fed. He's never captured and eaten an animal in his life. He has no need to search for food.

“Now you're backtracking and introducing an irrelevancy.”

No, I’m not. You suggested that curiosity and exploratory behaviors were all about hunger and you disagreed with my statement that once curious brains exist, they may generate feelings of pleasure when we explore all kinds of things, not just when we find more food, because brains are not that task-specific.

My dog story is in response to these points.


“The whole issue is that behavior is inexplicable on atheism, no matter which species performs it.”

Why?


“To repeat, you are passing human traits on to a dog. You may be misinterpreting his behavior.”

Could be I’m misinterpreting. Could be I’m interpreting this correctly.

David said...

>Actually, I think that I also made the point that it can be tied to sexual success if exploration pays off in a variety of ways.

“And that only detracts from the point you were trying to make.”

Er, no. It just adds another reason why a behavior might be favored. Something can be favored for multiple reasons. There’s no rule against this.


>You're conflating the observation that intelligence has not evolved in every lineage with the conclusion that it could not evolve in any lineage.

“I'm saying if it doesn't add to survival, then by your own theory, there's no reason for it to be there.”

And I’m saying that it clearly DOES add to survival in some lineages. It doesn’t have to have added to survival in all lineages for this to be true. See vertebrate gills.


>The vast, vast majority of species on Earth lack vertebrate gills. So, does that mean that there is no selective advantage to vertebrate gills and that such gills could not evolve?

“Well, since most of the earth is covered in water, then they would have a survival advantage, wouldn't they?”

That’s right. Gills are favored in some lineages under some conditions. Same is true of intelligence. It’s not going to evolve in plants, because it’s a product of certain cell types not found in plants. And there’s no rule that says that if something can evolve, it will evolve in all lineages. Point is, under certain conditions, in certain lineages, increased intelligence is a possibility and there are clear advantages to increased intelligence.


>Are non-human animals conscious?

Why do you think it matters? If they are, it's inexplicable.

Why are you so sure of this?

bossmanham said...

You don’t think that increased knowledge can lead to increased survival rates? Seriously? Dumb animals do better than smart animals? Organisms can also survive without gills. So gills can’t evolve?

No, and I pointed to trees. Dumb animals do better than humans. There are far more ants than humans, and they do an exceptional job at surviving. Try again.

And again, once a brain has been built with a certain capacity for curiosity because there's an advantage to this when it comes to acquiring food, there is no reason to think that this "curiousity" will continue to be soley about food.

1) Hunger != curiosity
2) If it begins to lead to a creature dying, then your theory would filter it out.

Almost any behavior that you can name can lead to death under certain circumstances.

None like the curiosity leading to the exploration of dangerous areas.

The question is whether or not it pays off more often than it doesn’t.

And being curious about danger doesn't pay off if it gets the organism killed.

But if exploring leads to much greater reproductive success (explorers find more food, attract more mates)

How would dying lead to successful reproduction rates? Is your theory that ad hoc that it relies on counterintuitive premises? Well, if anything, it's interesting to see the intellectual contortions you have to make to maintain it.

Plus, again, hunger != curiosity and you still haven't shown why anything would be attracted to something that has a tendency to get itself killed. So you're assuming most of what I'm asking you to explain, which is question begging to the max.

You suggested that curiosity and exploratory behaviors were all about hunger and you disagreed with my statement that once curious brains exist, they may generate feelings of pleasure when we explore all kinds of things, not just when we find more food, because brains are not that task-specific.

And your dog's yard adventures (which are not explorations into dangerous territory anyway) has nothing to do with it. In fact, it supports my point more. He scurries around what he knows.

Could be I’m misinterpreting. Could be I’m interpreting this correctly.

And since there are so many more options than just the one you've guessed at, odds are you are wrong.

Er, no. It just adds another reason why a behavior might be favored. Something can be favored for multiple reasons. There’s no rule against this.

Err, no, because my whole point is that curiosity is not the sole reason for straying from one's place of birth. There are things that one needs to travel to survive. But being curious about things you know can kill you isn't one of them.

And I’m saying that it clearly DOES add to survival in some lineages.

No it doesn't. Seems to be neutral or harmful. And how did those lineages even start? Why develop this trait if they were getting along fine without it?

Any more ad hoc contortions?

Same is true of intelligence.

When did you show this?

It’s not going to evolve in plants, because it’s a product of certain cell types not found in plants.

And how did the other cell types make it all that time before it developed? Why would the cell types that don't survive as well as plants still be here? I think there'd be a lot of dead plants if they became sentient.

Why are you so sure of this?

Because a reasonable and intelligent and conscious being has no reason to exist, and doesn't seem to be able to come into existence, on a random, unguided, unreasoned process.

It basically fits a lot better on theism. And the ad hoc contortions the evolutionary community has had to pull is testimony to that fact.

David said...

Hunger is a physiological state. It indicates that there is a danger of starvation. Exploration and curiosity about the world around the organism is the behavioral solution to the problem of starvation. A tendency to explore is favored because it reduces the risk of starvation. A neurological feature that has evolved for one reaons is not restricted to that one specific task alone.

Frankly, if you going to insist that there is no advantage to intelligence, then this is hopeless.

David said...

By the way, the reason why my dog scurries around what he knows?

There's a fence to KEEP him from scurrying into new territory!

bossmanham said...

Hunger is a physiological state. It indicates that there is a danger of starvation. Exploration and curiosity about the world around the organism is the behavioral solution to the problem of starvation

Ergo they are two different things. Thank you.

A tendency to explore is favored because it reduces the risk of starvation.

Mmkay, still doesn't explain curiosity. One doesn't necessarily entail the other.

Frankly, if you going to insist that there is no advantage to intelligence, then this is hopeless.

I never said there wasn't an advantage, I said that in terms of survival in a Darwinian paradigm, it makes no sense.

By the way, the reason why my dog scurries around what he knows?

There's a fence to KEEP him from scurrying into new territory!


And that proves nothing.

David said...

Ok, I give up. The answers are there. You refuse to see them. You don't understand how brains work. You want to play word games and work off a distorted view of natural selection. So be it. I'll move on.

Skeptical Rationalist said...

Your "syllogism," such as it is, ends with "The Theory of Evolution is not true."

Apparently you're not familiar with what modus tollens is. Study up on that rule of logic and you'll see why the syllogism leads to that conclusion.


Ah, I see what the problem is, I misused the word "syllogism" too broadly. Suffice it to say your argument hangs in tatters because while its structure is valid on its face, it proceeds from false premises regarding the relationship or lack thereof between ~theism and evolution, and an Argument from Ignorance regarding natural selection.

And I will not respond to anything else you say, because you are trying to redefine my whole argument, which is just a non-starter. Deal with the argument or move on.

Fine. I'll be specific.

(1) is false, due to the equivocation of atheism and evolution. You have a number of unstated premises on what behaviors arise from "solely to survive" which are not, as you claim, uncontroversial and constitute the bulk of the foregoing discussion.

(2) is false, because "avoiding things which would kill us" does not allow for the acquisition of food or even venturing out from our caves, thus putting ourselves (or whatever subject animal in question) at risk of predation.

(3) is an equivocation fallacy, as behaviors such as exploration and discovery may not be what is directly selected for, and may be by-products of other adaptive behaviors or drives.

(4) life is extremely dangerous and kills 100% of organisms on a long enough time frame. The phrase "nothing ventured, nothing gained" applies.

(5) is not universally true; we also exhibit caution and self-preservation behaviors in the balance.

(6) Avoiding things which could kill us is not exactly the sole criterion of success. Not having a great ungaily tail would lead to peacocks not being killed by tigers, but they have their reasons.

(7) We did not evolve solely to survive to merely to preserve our own existence at the expense of every other criterion of success or biological, reproductive, proximate or distal need.

(8) Nonexistence-of-God and Evolution are not the same thing; the equivocation fallacy again means you haven't proved jack squat.

The fact that at every turn you use overly narrow and loaded definitions to exclude possibilities and hypotheses you either haven't researched or simply disregard is what makes this ultimately an Argument from Ignorance, and I think your argument has been sufficiently dealt with.

bossmanham said...

Sr,

(1) is false, due to the equivocation of atheism and evolution. You have a number of unstated premises on what behaviors arise from "solely to survive" which are not, as you claim, uncontroversial and constitute the bulk of the foregoing discussion.

Sigh. Premise 1 is uncontroversial. I am not equivocating on atheism and evolution. I am saying that if atheism is true, if it is true that God does not exist, then neo-Darwinian evolution is the only explanation. And neo-Darwinian evolution posits that traits that aid in survival are what drive evolution.

(2) is false, because "avoiding things which would kill us" does not allow for the acquisition of food or even venturing out from our caves, thus putting ourselves (or whatever subject animal in question) at risk of predation.

Sure it does. This is about purposely puruing activities that we know are dangerous because we desire to. That trait is ridiculous on your view.

(3) is an equivocation fallacy, as behaviors such as exploration and discovery may not be what is directly selected for, and may be by-products of other adaptive behaviors or drives.

I love the ad-hoc qualities of this theory. But since exploration can be explained by positing other traits like hunger, it still remains to be explained why this trait of curiosity about the dangerous evolves and was not filtered out. I don't think you can explain this curiosity by appealing to the desire to eat. You don't have to want to know anything to search for food.

(4) life is extremely dangerous and kills 100% of organisms on a long enough time frame. The phrase "nothing ventured, nothing gained" applies.

Nothing to do with this argument.

(5) is not universally true; we also exhibit caution and self-preservation behaviors in the balance.

But we also go off onto trips we know can kill us. That isn't beneficial for survival, and is nullifying all of the self preservation behaviors. Don't make me bring up the behaviors of stunt-men.

(6) Avoiding things which could kill us is not exactly the sole criterion of success. Not having a great ungaily tail would lead to peacocks not being killed by tigers, but they have their reasons.

How do you know it has anything to do with being killed by tigers? And the peacock tail, I would say, could be the central premise of another argument against this silly theory.

(7) We did not evolve solely to survive to merely to preserve our own existence at the expense of every other criterion of success or biological, reproductive, proximate or distal need.

No, we live to pass on our genetic code, which is awful hard when you're out exploring for curiosity sake and then die.

(8) Nonexistence-of-God and Evolution are not the same thing; the equivocation fallacy again means you haven't proved jack squat.

Nothing is riding on that being the case. The argument is that we should be observing traits only beneficial to survival, not detrimental to it. The ones that evolved which are detrimental are inexplicable on your theory.

I'm simply arguing what neo-Darwinism posits. If life is about preserving genes, then this silly behavioral trait we have that causes us to explore in the face of danger for knowledge and entertainment is inexplicable.

bossmanham said...

Ok, I give up. The answers are there. You refuse to see them. You don't understand how brains work. You want to play word games and work off a distorted view of natural selection. So be it. I'll move on.

Oh boo hoo, David. How brains work is irrelevant here. If our behavior is determined by our genetics, then it is solely determined by our prior evolution. Why would this strange desire to explore in the face of danger for knowledge and entertainment sake evolve? You say "to find food." I say, "hunger seems to be enough to compel one to find food, and certainly wouldn't entail a desire to put your life in danger for non-food items, like knowledge.

David said...

"How brains work is irrelevant here."

I see that you still don't understand the connections. Well, maybe I didn't explain it well. Anyway, I'm done trying.

Skeptical Rationalist said...

And the peacock tail, I would say, could be the central premise of another argument against this silly theory.

Apparently you haven't heard of sexual selection, thus compounding your argument from ignorance with *actual* ignorance.

The ones that evolved which are detrimental are inexplicable on your theory.

Only because you are rejecting out of hand every proffered possible explanation--as you almost certainly must, your religion demands it.

It baffles me how you can say it's inexplicable when, in the world outside of Christian special plea-- I mean, "apologetics," this very tendency, to see what's over the horizon, to cross barriers laid in our path, has led to our species CONQUERING THE ENTIRE PLANET. It is a success story unequalled in the history of of life itself. You keep insisting it's detrimental when...obviously not. Your argument makes me lose not a wink of sleep over the validity of evolution.

RkBall said...

I think the underlying premise of your argument is that evolution is a rational process. It is, according to materialists, not.

Darwinism presumably results in all kinds of unworkable body parts and risky urges. The more dis-functional and risky ones get weeded out by death. Remember: there is no teleological goal of survival; survival "just happens".

We simply do not live in the irrational, mindless universe posited by Darwinism -- our own brains being a prime example.

bossmanham said...

RK,

Thanks for commenting. I don't think I'm presupposing that evolution is a rational process at all. Rather, I am saying that if it is a process that favors traits that promote survival, we should not see traits that blatantly fly in the face of survival.

RkBall said...

Fair enough.

zilch said...

Hey Brennon! I can sympathize with your attempting to derive what you hold dear from the real world, but your argument doesn't hold water. David and Skepsis have already shown why epistemic hunger, or curiosity, can be of survival value in those lineages equipped to use it, despite the fact that it can be dangerous. I'll just add that it's also dangerous to find out where the tigers are in the jungle, but it's also of obvious survival value.

The more basic problem with your argument, however, is what Skepsis pointed out- it's an argument from ignorance: I simply cannot imagine why people would be so curious, thus God. I would add that it's also an argument from incredulity: I simply don't believe that being curious could ever be of survival value; thus God.

The problem with such arguments is that they can be invoked ad hoc to support any position. I could say, that the existence of hula hoops is inexplicable on naturalism: what good do they do? They cost money, they don't aid survival, and people have thrown out their backs using them. Thus, there must exist the Hula God, who ordains that we hula.

cheers from drizzly Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

David and Skepsis have already shown why epistemic hunger, or curiosity, can be of survival value in those lineages equipped to use it, despite the fact that it can be dangerous

You can say a lot of things, but it sure doesn't make sense in the theory. If there are behavioral traits that fly in the face of survival, then it doesn't seem that that is what evolution is about.

I'll just add that it's also dangerous to find out where the tigers are in the jungle, but it's also of obvious survival value.

Then it seems to me a better trait for survival would be to not go in the jungle. None of this helps with the believability of this theory.

it's an argument from ignorance: I simply cannot imagine why people would be so curious, thus God

No, it's a deductive argument based on what the theory of evolution on a naturalistic worldview is. Look at the premises again. It follows logically. You can question individual premises, but it's a straw man to paint it as an argument from ignorance.

zilch said...

If there are behavioral traits that fly in the face of survival, then it doesn't seem that that is what evolution is about.

Evolution is about differential reproductive success. As has been pointed out to you numerous times here, risky behavior can be selected for if it increases differential reproductive success on the average. And the rewards of epistemic hunger, as has also been pointed out numerous times, are obvious: learning where food, enemies, and possible mates are, is all of utility to survival, is it not?

Then it seems to me a better trait for survival would be to not go in the jungle. None of this helps with the believability of this theory.

And how do you know not to go in the jungle? Unless you read it in a book, or have fear of the jungle imprinted on your genes (the way we apparently have fear of snakes), then you must explore to learn where the tigers are.

No, it's a deductive argument based on what the theory of evolution on a naturalistic worldview is. Look at the premises again. It follows logically. You can question individual premises, but it's a straw man to paint it as an argument from ignorance.

No, your argument is not based on the theory of evolution, because it leaves out the observed benefit of learning where food, enemies, and mates are, and it ignores the fact that risk-taking, even if it is fatal to some, can still be selected for, if it increases differential reproductive success on the average. So I would still classify it as an argument from ignorance, or perhaps personal incredulity.

But you're in good company here, as I'm sure you know: your argument is very much like Plantinga's EAAN, and fails for pretty much the same reason: lack of knowledge and/or personal incredulity about how evolution works.

cheers from drizzly Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

As has been pointed out to you numerous times here, risky behavior can be selected for if it increases differential reproductive success on the average.

You haven't shown that an urge to explore in spite of extreme danger simply for knowledge sake makes reproduction successful. Doesn't at all look to me like it does.

In fact, your little tiger in the jungle thing is simply a point in my favor. If we gain knowledge through our behavioral patterns, and we learn that the jungle is dangerous, then we should want to avoid the jungle at all costs once that knowledge has been gained. But we still have an urge, in spite of the many who have died in the jungle, to explore it to learn about it. That doesn't help you reproduce.

And the rewards of epistemic hunger, as has also been pointed out numerous times, are obvious: learning where food, enemies, and possible mates are, is all of utility to survival, is it not?

And, as I've said, those don't correlate at all. Hunger compels the search for food. Why would we search out enemies? A sex drive can compel sex. None of those require this strange desire to search the dangerous areas knowing we could die for the sake of knowledge. None.

And how do you know not to go in the jungle?

I don't have to know what's in a dark hole to know I shouldn't stick my hand in it. I don't have to know what's in a dark, cramped, noisy jungle to know not to go into it.

your argument is not based on the theory of evolution, because it leaves out the observed benefit of learning where food, enemies, and mates are, and it ignores the fact that risk-taking, even if it is fatal to some, can still be selected for, if it increases differential reproductive success on the average

Then you're addressing one of the premises, not an argument from ignorance. This is precisely the premise I've been defending. I say there's no survival benefit from just wanting knowledge that other instincts wouldn't handle.

But you're in good company here, as I'm sure you know: your argument is very much like Plantinga's EAAN,

Zilch, you never learn anything. Fits your name. This argument is more akin to the argument from consciousness than the EAAN.

zilch said...

Zilch, you never learn anything. Fits your name.

Okay, that's the end of the discussion. Toodle-oo.