Taking some concepts from Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN), I will attempt to show how our intelligible minds could not have evolved for two reasons.
The first reason will be more controversial I believe, and that is this. Beliefs are not entirely subject to genes, but other factors as well. If free will is true, then this is even more true. Even if not, one could argue that the setting we find ourselves in shapes our beliefs, even if genes make one more predisposed to believe something, it does not follow necessarily that they will believe that, since both/either free will and/or the environment can determine this. Given that natural selection, defined as “A process in which some individuals have genetically-based traits that improve survival or reproduction and and thus have more offspring surviving to reproductive age than other individuals, (Berkeley)” can only operate on genetically-based traits, and beliefs are not genetically-based, it therefore cannot effect them. This is not denying evolution, just evolution of the mind as we know it, that can entertain beliefs.
The second reason goes more along the lines of the EAAN, except not as radical. Let’s grant that evolution can effect beliefs. And let’s say that Plantinga is wrong that evolution may not select true beliefs. I actually am torn on this issue myself, since I find it plausible that it could select false beliefs that “promote” survival, but I can also see that somewhere along the lines, a false belief would be less beneficial than a true one. So let’s say that at least some beliefs can even be rationally thought to be guided by natural selection since they are true. But what about beliefs and concepts that don’t have any survival aspect whatsoever? People lived for thousands of years without calculus and physics, so were they promoted by natural selection? I can go two ways here. The first undercuts the idea that it could from the beginning. Natural selection cannot effect learned behavior of any sort, simply by definition. But even if we grant this, how does knowledge of the law of gravity increase my chance of survival? I don’t have to know anything about the law of gravity and it’s equation and how it works in order to know that if I step off a cliff I will fall. What about math? Does knowing 2+2=4 promote my survival? Do I live better by knowing that earth is the third planet from our sun? Do I have a better chance of living longer and producing more offspring if I know that a bachelor by definition is not married? I see no reason to think so. Based on this, natural selection cannot effect such beliefs since they have no survival value.
So what does this mean? Can we know or at least infer anything from this? I think that we can see that something else is needed to explain why we can apparently accurately detail laws of math and physics and concepts of biology, everything that we consider “intelligence,” if it doesn’t increase our chance to survive. What is this explanation? Even more, why is it that the ideas in our heads match up perfectly with actual world? Why are the laws of the world mathematically simple yet perfectly explanatory as well? Many have called this beauty, and finding beauty for these formulas seems to be an efficient way to find new laws. So what is the explanation for this? Yes, it could be chance. But what are the chances? I feel that this is simply not satisfying as an explanation at all. My proposal is that it is an extremely smart Being that did it all on purpose, for ease and beauty, and a small sign that allows us to find a small aspect of Him.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 NASB