Plantinga’s EAAN: Criticism and Discussion

Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism has attracted a great deal of serious critical discussion (e.g. Naturalism Defeated?) and has had a substantial impact on ‘popular’ appraisals of naturalism.  (For example, William Lane Craig frequently uses it, and it also appears in the dismissal of naturalism in The Experience of God.)  Many philosophers have pointed out various problems with the EAAN, and in my judgment the EAAN is not only flawed but fatally flawed.  Nevertheless, it’s a really interesting argument and it could be worth exploring a bit.  I’ll present the argument here and then we can get into it in comments if you’d like — though I won’t be offended if you’d rather spend your time doing other things!

The EAAN has gone through various iterations, but here’s the latest version, from Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011).  Intuitively, we regard our cognitive capacities — sense-perception, introspection, memory, reasoning — as reliable, where “reliable” means “capable of giving us true beliefs most of the time” (subject to the usual caveats).  Call this claim R (for ‘reliable’).   But how probable is R?

Suppose that one accepts evolution (E) but also affirms naturalism, defined here as the belief that there is no God or anything like God (N).  What is the probability of R, given N & E?    One might think it’s quite high.  But Plantinga thinks that, however high the probability of R, nevertheless the probability of R given N&E is low or inscrutable.  Why’s that?

Now, here’s the key move (and in my estimation, the fatal flaw): beliefs are invisible to selection.  Why?  Because selection only works on behavior.  If an unreliable cognitive capacity is causally linked to adaptive behavior, then the unreliable capacity will be selected for (i.e. not selected against).  Even a radically unreliable capacity — that one never or almost never yields true beliefs — can be selected for.  Selection only “cares” about adaptive behaviors, not about true beliefs.  (More precisely, we have no reason to believe that the semantic content is not epiphenomenal.)

So, Plantinga thinks, given N&E, the probability of R is very low. But, if the probability of R is low, given N&E, then that should ‘infect’ the likelihood of all of the beliefs produced by those capacities — including N&E themselves.  So, given N&E, we should it think it extremely unlikely that N&E is true.  And so the initial assumption of N&E defeats itself.  (Here I’m being much too quick with the argument, but we can get into the details in the comments if you’d like.)

Anyway, it’s a really cool little argument, and it’s not immediately clear what’s wrong with it — and I thought it might be worth discussing, given how influential it is.

 

 

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500 thoughts on “Plantinga’s EAAN: Criticism and Discussion

  1. Mung:
    Coyne fails at EAAN (and more).

    If Feser’s claims about Coyne are correct, then Coyne misrepresents the EAAN. That does not mean that the EAAN, when correctly understood, is a good argument.

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  2. Feser’s claims about Coyne (and anything else) are the results of a fanatic rightwing Catholic worldview. It’s impossible for Feser to be correct about Coyne: his extreme anti-humanist anti-atheist prejudices prevent him from telling the truth about his “enemies”. It’s amazing that Feser has any reputation as a thinker whatsoever.

    Which isn’t to say that Jerry Coyne is a great thinker, either, but at least Coyne has a chance at telling the truth about the evolutionary biology which underpins our cognition.

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  3. Here’s a more balanced review of Coyne’s book Faith Versus Fact (this review doesn’t touch on EANN) which makes these two main points:

    Coyne bluntly evaluates faith’s record of teachings about the natural world as a “failure of religion to find out the truth about anything.”

    That faith at times motivates people to do good things, Coyne argues, does not outweigh the harm it causes.

    No wonder Feser hates it!

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  4. keiths:

    Mung, tell us why norms are needed for life, and identify some of those norms for us. Perhaps KN and I are too dense to understand, but everyone else will nod sagely and admire your erudition.

    Or not.

    Mung:

    I don’t think either you or KN are dense.

    I know, but you regularly pretend to.

    otoh, you regularly act as if you think I am dense.

    Yes, and I do think so. But that isn’t what annoys me about you.

    Think, keiths!

    This is just one of those things that too me seems blatantly obvious, if not self-evidently so. I don’t see why I even ought to try to convince you if you disagree.

    Because your claim is clearly wrong. Norms aren’t needed for life.

    If you tell us why you believe that, it’s likely that we’ll be able to spot your error and explain where you went wrong. You’ll learn something.

    And in the unlikely event that we’re the ones in error, then we will learn something from the exchange.

    Wikipedia defines Norms as follows:

    Norms are cultural products (including values, customs, and traditions) which represent individuals’ basic knowledge of what others do and think that they should do.

    And since life preceded culture by literally billions of years, it obviously doesn’t depend on “cultural products (including values, customs, and traditions)”.

    Think, Mung.

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  5. Kantian Naturalist: If Feser’s claims about Coyne are correct, then Coyne misrepresents the EAAN. That does not mean that the EAAN, when correctly understood, is a good argument.

    If Feser’s claims about Feser are correct, Feser himself has been critical of Plantinga’s argument.

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  6. hotshoe_: Feser’s claims about Coyne (and anything else) are the results of a fanatic rightwing Catholic worldview.

    This is known as the genetic fallacy and could just as easily be turned around on you.

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  7. I already anticipated your argument keiths and dispensed with it, so you’re just playing games and I have no desired to play along with your games.

    No, human cultural norms are not required for life. If human cultural norms are the only norms then no, norms are not required for life to exist.

    But there is more to what is normative than human cultural norms, or so KF would have us believe.

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  8. Mung: This is just one of those things that too me seems blatantly obvious, if not self-evidently so. I don’t see why I even ought to try to convince you if you disagree.

    If you don’t see any point in trying to make the argument, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. We all have limited time and our involvement in TSZ is a no more than a hobby. But I do think that if you try to make an argument here, it will be intellectually productive for all of us.

    But it seems as if KN is willing to acknowledge the existence of different “kinds” of norms.

    I appreciate your caution in attributing a position to me, but in fact I’m going much further than that cautious note you sounded. It is central to everything that I’m doing that there is a distinction between biological normativity and discursive normativity.

    One of the questions I’m thinking about here is whether these are “kinds” of normativity or if they are better thought of as “dimensions”, as Joe Rouse argues. In his view, non-discursive animals have “one-dimensional normativity”, since their activities are only assessed relative to their goals, which are internal to the way of life characteristic of organisms in that evolutionary lineage. But us discursive animals have “two-dimensional normativity,” since our activities are also assessed relative to the partially autonomous game of giving and asking for reasons as well as our biological norms.

    In doing so, I should add, Rouse effectively naturalizes our discursive activity and thereby refutes both those who insist that our capacity for rational discourse requires a non-natural explanation and those who insist that naturalism cannot accommodate the fact of human rationality. It’s quite an extraordinary achievement.

    It might help you to think of how life might be possible if everything life depends on were abnormal.

    This seems . . . odd. As in, I don’t know what’s going on in this line of thought.

    It seems as if the idea is something like this: the existence of life in this universe requires a great deal of regularity and orderliness.

    One could, if one wanted to, say something like, “normally, salt dissolves in water”, or “the norm for salt is to dissolve in water.” But that seems a bit sloppy to me.

    Although it is true, it doesn’t pick up on a conception of norms that matches either biological normativity (organism-specific goals and purposes) or discursive normativity (allowable moves in a language-game). And it also doesn’t pick up on how counterfactuals function in scientific discourse. It would be more helpful to say, “if salt were placed in water, it would dissolve (unless ____________)” where the “_________” refers to an indefinite set of possibilities that would prevent dissolving — say, if the water is already saturated, or if the water is placed inside an electromagnetic field, etc.

    Another way of putting the same point is that the regularities and orderliness of physics and chemistry is specified by “would”-clauses, whereas the purposiveness of organisms and agents is specified by “should”-clauses.

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  9. Mung: If Feser’s claims about Feser are correct, Feser himself has been critical of Plantinga’s argument.

    Feser’s criticisms of Plantinga are interesting but much more limited than mine. From what I can tell, Feser objects Plantinga’s use of probabilities in framing “the argument from reason“.

    One thing that the EAAN does add to the argument from reason — a point that Feser picks up and appreciates — is that it should be understood as an argument against metaphysical naturalism. It does not thereby entail that non-naturalism is true. Plantinga is more clear about this than Balfour, Chesterton, and Lewis were. Interestingly, Feser does not mention that Plantinga does so in order to apply Bayes’ Theorem. Whether Plantinga improves on the argument from reason by casting it in terms of Bayes’ Theorem is a mildly interesting intellectual question.

    But unlike Feser, I am objecting “the argument from reason” entirely. Specifically, I think that “the argument from reason” only works if one does not understand evolutionary theory and cognitive neuroscience. Given a correct understanding of the relevant sciences, the argument does not work, for the reasons I’ve already given here.

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  10. Mung,

    No, human cultural norms are not required for life. If human cultural norms are the only norms then no, norms are not required for life to exist.

    Then why not quote a definition that actually supports your position, rather than undermining it?

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  11. Mung:

    hotshoe_: Feser’s claims about Coyne (and anything else) are the results of a fanatic rightwing Catholic worldview.

    This is known as the genetic fallacy and could just as easily be turned around on you.

    Sure, go ahead, turn it all you like.

    At least I’m honest, where Feser never is. I’m aware of my own anti-religious bias; I take it into account in my own reactions and I inform others as I have here at TSZ so they can also take it into account in weighing my words for accuracy and fairness.

    Feser is a piece of political slime masquerading as a “thinker”. Whether he is attempting to conceal that from himself, or merely from his audience, is an open question. Do feel free to fall for anything and everything he says. You’ll have plenty of company amongst his other tools.

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  12. keiths: Then why not quote a definition that actually supports your position, rather than undermining it?

    I did that. You ignored it. You win.

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  13. hotshoe_: Feser is a piece of political slime masquerading as a “thinker”.

    Given your obvious bias, there’s no reason to believe this is true.

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  14. Mung,

    You quoted two definitions:

    Wikipedia defines Norms as follows:

    Norms are cultural products (including values, customs, and traditions) which represent individuals’ basic knowledge of what others do and think that they should do.

    And:

    Wikipedia defines normative as follows:

    Normative means relating to an ideal standard or model, or being based on what is considered to be the normal or correct way of doing something.

    Neither of those supports your claim that norms are a prerequisite for life.

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  15. Mung:

    hotshoe_: Feser is a piece of political slime masquerading as a “thinker”.

    Given your obvious bias, there’s no reason to believe this is true.

    Suit yourself, sweetheart. 🙂 My happiness will never depend on your approval.

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  16. Mung: Given your obvious bias, there’s no reason to believe this is true.

    There is good reason to believe that Feser is one of the more dishonest of the second-class religious apologists. He dupes only the ignorant believers.

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  17. keiths: Neither of those supports your claim that norms are a prerequisite for life.

    If you mean that what humans think about what is normal or what is not normal is not a prerequisite for life I agree with you. You win. Time for you to move along now.

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  18. Mung: Time for you to move along now.

    Your condescension is one of your more attractive traits, unfortunately for you.

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  19. If there’s been a conception of norms and normativity introduced here to show that abiotic normativity is both real and a requirement for life, I haven’t seen it yet.

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  20. Kantian Naturalist:
    If there’s been a conception of norms and normativity introduced here to show that abiotic normativity is both real and a requirement for life, I haven’t seen it yet.

    Are we talking about fine tuning?

    Or front loading?

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  21. petrushka: Are we talking about fine tuning?

    Or front loading?

    I have no idea. Mung said it was self-evident to him that life depended on abiotic normativity. But he’s been reluctant to explicate this self-evident intuition, and instead gave us two quotes from Wikipedia that had nothing to do with it.

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  22. Kantian Naturalist: If there’s been a conception of norms and normativity introduced here to show that abiotic normativity is both real and a requirement for life, I haven’t seen it yet.

    No, human cultural norms are not required for life. If human cultural norms are the only norms then no, norms are not required for life to exist.

    But there is more to what is normative than human cultural norms, or so you would have us believe.

    If your move to make normativity immanent to life itself is legitimate why is my move to make normativity immanent to the molecules of life not legitimate?

    Can you define what is normal or normative in an objective way and without begging the question?

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  23. We’re talking teleology, and why KN thinks teleology applies to organisms but not to non-living matter. He ties it to some concept of normativity that he came up with that is not based on human cultural norms but which, one should suppose, still meets some definition of a norm, unless he’s just being imprecise with his language.

    I’d like to know what that more general category of norm is that KN has appealed to, since it’s obviously not Norm in the sense of human cultural norms.

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  24. Someone please wake me up if Mung ever answers this query:

    Mung, tell us why norms are needed for life, and identify some of those norms for us.

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  25. Mung:
    We’re talking teleology, and why KN thinks teleology applies to organisms but not to non-living matter. He ties it to some concept of normativity that he came up with that is not based on human cultural norms but which, one should suppose, still meets some definition of a norm, unless he’s just being imprecise with his language.

    I’d like to know what that more general category of norm is that KN has appealed to, since it’s obviously not Norm in the sense of human cultural norms.

    I suspect he’s talking about behavioral norms, which are unique to life as opposed to non-life. Only life responds to its environment in ways that are internally directed. But perhaps such behaviors are not required, as part of what it is to be alive. Only helpful in some ways.

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  26. Flint: I suspect he’s talking about behavioral norms, which are unique to life as opposed to non-life.

    And yet keiths claims atoms have behaviors and that “the behavior of organisms is determined by the behavior of their constituent atoms, but not vice-versa.”

    So while it may appear to some that I am the one caught in the middle here, it really is KN that is caught in the middle.

    keiths apparently wishes to argue that norms are human constructs, but that they are not determined by human societies but rather by the molecules of which humans are composed.

    KN wants to argue that norms are not limited to human constructs, that they are an aspect of all living things, but that they are not determined by the molecules of which organisms are composed.

    otoh, if the behavior of molecules and atoms did not adhere to norms they would both be wrong, and if the behavior of molecules and atoms do adhere to norms they are still both wrong.

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  27. I’m caught in a few middles, but not in any middles at work at TSZ.

    I would not use the word “behavior” to describe the activity of molecules, except in a very casual way. If keiths wants to use that word, he’s welcome to. He’s a physicalist and I’m not, so we have plenty to argue about there.

    When I talk about biological norms, I am talking about how any individual organism ought to be in order for it to continue in its way of being as the kind of organism that it is.

    That alone sounds very Aristotelian. And that part of Aristotle can be embedded in a post-Darwinian explanation of how kinds of organisms come into existence, without any Aristotle’s essentialism. Hence we can say things like, “deer should eat maple leaves” or “bats should hunt insects” or “the digger wasp should lay its eggs inside a paralyzed cricket” , etc.

    These are normative statements that specify the norm for a kind of activity typical of that kind of organism which in turn is explained in terms of the role of that activity in allowing the organism to meet its goals and purposes.

    As I see it, when we’re talking about norms we can be talking about

    (1) “one-dimensional biological normativity”. This is the kind of normativity of organisms whose responsiveness to, and engagement with, the affordances and solicitations in their environments is specified in terms of the satisfaction or non-satisfaction of the organism’s goals.

    (2) “two-dimensional discursive normativity”. This is the normativity of rational beings or agents who are responsive to and engage with patterns of commitments and entitlements of propositional contents in a space of reasons. It is “two-dimensional” because the discursive normativity both emerges from and transforms the first dimension of biological normativity.

    When I talk about discursive normativity, I am talking about the form or structure of uniquely human norms of conduct and language. The fact that these norms get filled in or specified in different ways in different cultures is not relevant to my project, though it is an interesting and important fact that these norms do get specified in distinct ways in different cultures. But it the form of normativity that interests me here.

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  28. KN,

    I’m unsure where to draw the boundary between your types of normativity. I think in terms of internally-directed behaviors. This applies to all living organisms. But as the pattern of responses to the environment becomes more complex, we see a continuum rather than a dichotomy.

    Bacteria respond because of internally directed behaviors, but they do not reason about them. Humans clearly craft their responses in complex ways because they see more complex patterns. But how about ants? Dogs? Octopi? There seems to be a spectrum of abilities to think, in terms of complex behavioral responses.

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  29. Flint: There seems to be a spectrum of abilities to think, in terms of complex behavioral responses.

    The continuum is related to ability to learn, a feature of brains, and of genomes at the population level.

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  30. Flint: Bacteria respond because of internally directed behaviors, but they do not reason about them. Humans clearly craft their responses in complex ways because they see more complex patterns. But how about ants? Dogs? Octopi? There seems to be a spectrum of abilities to think, in terms of complex behavioral responses.

    Indeed! From a bacterium’s run-and-tumble to human cognition: it’s a matter of degree.

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  31. Alan Fox: Indeed! From a bacterium’s run-and-tumble to human cognition: it’s a matter of degree.

    This is a very big question, and there are (from what I can see) two positions worth taking seriously:

    (1) from a bacterium’s run-and-tumble to human cognition, it’s a matter of degree.

    (2) from a bacterium’s run-and-tumble to primate cognition, it’s a matter of degree, but human rationality is different in kind from primate cognition (and even from non-rational human cognition).

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  32. Kantian Naturalist: (2) from a bacterium’s run-and-tumble to primate cognition, it’s a matter of degree, but human rationality is different in kind from primate cognition (and even from non-rational human cognition).

    Have you ever watched those videos of squirrels and (especially) birds solving some pretty daunting puzzles? Tool using isn’t unique to humans by any means, either. So your yardstick seems to be, that the capacity to ponder the whichness of the why is qualitatively distinct. Since you are a philosopher, this isn’t very surprising. As a programmer, I’d say what makes us uniquely human is the ability to track down subtle programming bugs.

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  33. Kantian Naturalist:…but human rationality is different in kind from primate cognition (and even from non-rational human cognition).

    I don’t know if you watched Frans Waals’ Ted Talk, but when I watch the macaque monkey’s reaction to getting an inferior reward compared to his companion for performing the same task, that reaction seems uncannily human to me. He seems to grasp the concept of fairness quite well.

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  34. As a trained, but not practicing special ed teacher, I don’t know of any distinctly human ability. Depending on which individuals you pick to represent your species, you could find a non-human superior to a human.

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  35. When I talk about “rationality” I’m talking about our ability to engage in mutual correction of each other’s perceptions and inferences, our ability to ask, understand, and answer questions like “why did you do that?” (even when “I just felt like it” is an acceptable answer), and our ability to understand that how the world is can differ from how any of us (even all of us, at a gjven time and place) take it to be.

    A good operationalization for the concert of rationality (and objectivity) that matters to me here is the false-belief task.

    I’m not talking about physical cognition (e.g. tool use) or social cognition (e.g. empathy). And rationality is not intelligence, either.

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  36. I would still say it’s a matter of degree.

    Obviously, language produces emergent possibilities, but most internet discussions remind me of the scene in “2001.”

    You know which one.

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  37. petrushka,

    Internet arguments are to rational dialogue what Internet porn is to sex.

    Besides which, it’s the capacity that interests me. The fact that bad education and defective socio-political institutions render most people unable to make the most of this capacity is also important, but a different issue.

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  38. Whatever.

    I would argue that language just leverages reasoning abilities that existed in ancestor populations and in cousin populations.

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  39. petrushka: I would argue that language just leverages reasoning abilities that existed in ancestor populations and in cousin populations.

    That certainly seems right. It’s figuring out the details that interests me.

    Meanwhile, Mung remains absent on his claim that normativity is required for life.

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  40. dazz,

    Unfortunately, “self-evident truths” differ between persons and between cultures. There’s no substitute or short-cut for the hard work of philosophical argument and scientific explanation.

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  41. Kantian Naturalist: When I talk about biological norms, I am talking about how any individual organism ought to be in order for it to continue in its way of being as the kind of organism that it is.

    And when I talk about molecular norms, I am talking about how any individual molecule ought to be in order for it to continue in its way of being as the kind of molecule that it is.

    Without such molecular norms three would be no biological norms. I’m just taking your biological essentialism and expanding on it.

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  42. Mung: And when I talk about molecular norms, I am talking about how any individual molecule ought to be in order for it to continue in its way of being as the kind of molecule that it is.

    Without such molecular norms three would be no biological norms. I’m just taking your biological essentialism and expanding on it.

    Again, I think KN is talking about internally-driven behaviors, which only biological organisms demonstrate.

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  43. Flint: Again, I think KN is talking about internally-driven behaviors, which only biological organisms demonstrate.

    KN is a professional philosopher. He’s perfectly capable of saying what he means.

    Do you think the behavior of molecules is externally-driven and that organisms have some vital “internally-driven” force that molecules lack? What is that force?

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  44. Mung: KN is a professional philosopher. He’s perfectly capable of saying what he means.

    The fact that you and I, both intelligent and educated interested readers, continue to speculate as to what distinction he is drawing, indicates that he’s not all that capable of communicating.

    Do you think the behavior of molecules is externally-driven and that organisms have some vital “internally-driven” force that molecules lack? What is that force?

    At the most basic level, it’s a response to a stimulus. I suppose there isn’t much difference between a bacterium responding to food, and a molecule responding to temperature change, but I think there is some. Molecules do not reproduce.

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  45. KN,

    I would not use the word “behavior” to describe the activity of molecules, except in a very casual way. If keiths wants to use that word, he’s welcome to.

    Why wouldn’t I? It’s a perfectly acceptable usage, both among scientists and the public at large. From dictionary.com:

    behavior

    noun
    .
    .
    .
    4. the action or reaction of any material under given circumstances: the behavior of tin under heat. [Emphasis added]

    Scientists use the word that way all the time:

    atomic behavior
    molecular behavior
    chemical behavior

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  46. Mung: KN is a professional philosopher. He’s perfectly capable of saying what he means.

    I think that this is rather badly mistaken. Many excellent professional philosophers are terrible at communicating their ideas. I mean, have you ever tried to actually read Kant? Or Heidegger?

    I like to think I’m pretty good at communicating, but even so, the fact is that (a) there’s always room for improvement and (b) ease of communication is only indicative of similarity in underlying conceptual frameworks.

    Since I’m actually developing a somewhat new philosophy of life (though one with deep roots in several philosophical traditions and scientific theories), there’s little reason to expect that it will be similar enough to what you already know for my ideas to be easily communicated to you.

    Mung: Do you think the behavior of molecules is externally-driven and that organisms have some vital “internally-driven” force that molecules lack? What is that force?

    I would say rather that chemical reactions can be understood in terms of fundamental physical laws. We know that salt dissolves in water because of the electrical charges distributed over the surfaces of those molecules, and we can understand those electrical charges in terms of the probability distributions of electrons in their orbitals, which in turn is a law-like necessity of quantum mechanics.

    That’s why the right way of putting the counterfactual is, “if salt were placed in water, it would dissolve” rather than “if salt were placed in water, it ought to dissolve”: the former statement expresses the necessity, the later statement expresses a norm.

    Trying to get at this distinction between norms and necessity is central to my project here, and making this conceptual distinction clear requires using ordinary language in a slightly different way than might be otherwise expected.

    What I am urging, then, is that there is an explanatory gulf between molecular biology and cell biology. More precisely: if autopoeisis is correct as a theory of what it is for something to be alive, then there is an explanatory gulf between molecular biology and cell biology. (I am assuming here that molecular biology is translatable into quantum mechanics; that might not be warranted.)

    Going back to my more general point, however: although there are cases when taking the mechanistic stance on an animal or human is conducive to satisfying some explanatory goal, the mechanistic stance is no substitute for the teleological stance and the teleological stance is indispensable for many branches of biology, including developmental biology, evolutionary theory, and ecology.

    And, it should be remembered, all this is in service of a naturalistic theory of cognitive functions that undermines the EAAN.

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  47. Mung: Do you think the behavior of molecules is externally-driven and that organisms have some vital “internally-driven” force that molecules lack? What is that force?

    Organisms have an inside and outside relative to their environments. Molecules do not.

    The organism-environment relationship is the fundamental concept of biology. Any organism, from bacterium to blue whale, persists as the kind of organism that it is only by virtue of maintaining an organizational differentiation from its environment while the same time being thermodynamically and materially open to that environment. (Hans Jonas captured this relationship by saying that organisms exist in a state of “needful freedom”.) Organisms need to take in energy and nutrients and shed heat and waste. And what counts as “the environment” is also partially specified relative to the capacities (including, when relevant, sensory and motor capacities) of the organism: the environment of the maple tree is not that of the deer who browses on its leaves.

    The organism-environment relationship, which is shaped over time by the results of past evolutionary & developmental constraints, is the kind of real pattern that is tracked and characterized by adopting a teleological stance. That’s why teleology is ineliminable from biological explanations at the organism level and up (ecosystems, species, etc.)

    (This is also why abiogenesis seems to be conceptually challenging: because it is perplexing as to how the organism-environment relationship itself came into existence.)

    Basically, then, what I’m saying is that the teleological stance is the only kind of embodied coping strategy that we have that reliably tracks those real patterns which are modeled in terms of organizational closure and thermodynamic openness. (Here I’m drawing on What makes biological organisation teleological?, though there’s more recent work that develops this approach further.)

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  48. Kantian Naturalist: Organisms have an inside and outside relative to their environments. Molecules do not.

    Not sure how you know this, but why do you think it is so? Cells have the cell membrane and molecules have “shells.”

    It would not be possible for organisms to have an “inside” and an “outside” if there were no norms regulating the molecules that make up the cell membrane.

    It seems pretty obvious to me that hydrogen atoms are not helium atoms. They both have a distinct identity. To claim that three must some “inner” dimension and some “outer” dimension seems to be to just be muddying the waters.

    As does the demand that norms require oughts, which is I think exactly backwards. Helium atoms ought to conform to certain expectations. Otherwise, how do we know we are dealing with a helium atom?

    All of reality seems to be relational. It’s not just limited to biology. Biology would not be possible otherwise.

    There is some doubt that chemistry can be reduced to physics.

    Are you certain that you’re not an essentialist?

    p.s. If this is ‘x’ then it ought to dissolve, given ‘y’. Relational. Normative.

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