Why think our rational mind comes from God?

I recently received a very interesting question about Platinga’s argument against naturalism.  In that argument Christian Philosopher Alvin Platinga made the case that if naturalism and evolution are true, then we have no reason to think that our mind has developed to lead us to truth (since it was aimed at survival).  thus we can’t be justified in believing anything, even evolution!

The respondent wanted to know why we should think that a similar argument could be run for theism.  If we aren’t justified in believing God has given us a rational mind, how can we be justified in any belief, even the belief that God exists?

My response is below:

You raise a great question!  What you seem to be referring to is the evolutionary argument against naturalism (EAAN), which was popularized (if not created by) philosopher Alvin Platinga.

 

In that argument, Platinga shows that naturalism (which seems to entail un-directed evolution) actually contains within it a reason to doubt both naturalism and evolution.  The theory of evolution entails that our minds were created for survival rather than truth.  It seems that your friend has first miss-characterized the argument, and then compared the theistic account with that miss-characterization.

 

He is assuming that the argument shows that we cannot know if our minds are operating towards the goal of truth.  This understates the case.  The theory of naturalistic evolution is that our minds were generated for survival rather than truth.  In other words, evolutionary theory contains within it a reason to doubt evolutionary theory and naturalism (a defeater).  The issue is not that evolution doesn’t guarantee that the process that developed our minds was aimed at truth, but that evolution entails that it was not.

 

The theistic account contains no such defeater.  The theistic account does not contain a story about how our minds were created for survival, as does the evolutionary account put forward by naturalists.  It is for this reason that these two accounts are not equitable on this point.  The theistic account does not give us a reason to doubt our minds but the naturalistic account does.

 

Does that help?

 

Sincerely,

Matt Bilyeu


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