Following the last post I wrote last night (or technically earlier this morning, but it was before I went to sleep), I thought of another way for the Naturalist to possibly avoid abandoning Naturalism given Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). Perhaps in order to avoid P(R/W) < o.75 the Naturalist could reject not Naturalism, but Evolution. Now, that seems like an odd thing for a Naturalist to do, particularly because there aren’t many Naturalistic alternatives to standard Evolutionary theory by natural selection. However, what about a Naturalistic construal of intelligent design? All Intelligent Design (ID) requires is that there be teleology in nature. That’s not nearly as significant a concession as the controversy in the United States would lead people to believe. As I have already argued in previous posts, there’s nothing necessarily and inherently theistic about teleology if one is willing to reject the Principle of Sufficient Reason. One can simply suggest that Teleology is true as a brute fact, or perhaps find some other way to account for Teleology (maybe by appealing to some philosophy of time, two way determinism [from future events as well as past ones] and four dimensional mereological sums – I dunno, I’m sure somebody could be innovative).
Thus, the Naturalist could say that P(R/N&ID) ≥ o.75
Now, ID might seem like an ad hoc suggestion, but of course there are ways of empirically verifying it (and it has been empirically verified by and large), and there may be some methods of verifying it which have not been tested yet (see Pruss here). Moreover, one might need to make ID relevant to reliable cognitive faculties (otherwise it wouldn’t be appropriate to call it ‘intelligent design’ in the context of the EAAN). However, one can perhaps get around appealing to any kind of actual design, and instead only admit apparent design (as is typically done in Biology today). First, take R to be a basic belief, and take the probability of R/N&ID to be inscrutable. Then, one might argue that R has no defeater, and that N&ID seem to follow from the empirical evidence. One might even simply appeal to brute fact to explain teleology orienting the evolution of cognitive faculties towards reliabilism. Why not? After all, the Naturalist can appeal to brute fact anytime she wishes if she rejects the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) (and I take it that the PSR logically entails theism, thus it entails ~Naturalism).
In fact, perhaps the Naturalist can even argue that the empirically verifiable teleology isn’t very supportive of Theism or Design, since the Naturalist can point out that if the process of evolution were ordered by some omnipotent designer there would be a quicker, cleaner, more efficient and obvious procession of life forms from single-celled organisms to something relevantly similar to human beings with reliable cognitive faculties. Instead what we have evidence of is a messy history of trial and error consigning species after species to oblivion.
Of course the Theistic answer to this will be that efficiency is something valuable only to a being with limited time and/or limited resources, which God does not have. However, in any case, the Naturalist has no good reason to suspect, based on the evidence of teleology we do have, that any ‘Designer’ exists, much less an omnipotent one.
If this sounds too sci-fi (for lack of a better term), then I wonder why the Naturalist thinks Naturalism in general is more believable – what makes the current account unbelievable is not, at bottom, the introduction of teleology, but the appeal to brute fact (or the rejection of the PSR).