September 1, 2022

A Hilarious Paradox

In short, if Darwinism, or any contemporary incantation of it, were true, then anything we believe is more likely to be wrong than right.

Clifford Goldstein

A hilarious paradox, one that troubled Darwin (he thought it “horrid” not hilarious), haunts evolution still: the paradox of self-refutation. If our brains arose from chance alone, with no front-loaded design, with no goals or end purposes (except, accidentally, survival), then why believe anything those same brains tell us? Unless mindlessness can create minds, and non-rationality create rationality (about as likely as radio static creating not just Dvořák’s Ninth but the symphony that plays it), we have little justification to trust what our mindlessly-made minds proclaim is true. 

Bemoaning this dilemma, Darwin himself worried about “whether the convictions of man’s mind, which have been developed from the minds of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.” And among the “convictions of men’s minds” was his own theory of evolution by natural selection. If our minds were created by nothing but non-rational accidents, then why should the products of those minds, i.e., thoughts, ideas, or scientific theories (such as evolution) have any epistemic value? 

They shouldn’t. If our brains evolved for survival only, and not for truth, then they are not reliable. Suppose some ancient hominids—believing that rattlesnakes were shifty gods coming from the sun and moon to punish them for eating dog meat—fled whenever they heard or saw rattlesnakes? That belief, no matter how erroneous, would have helped them survive, which according to evolution is what natural selection is all about: surviving. What matters is behavior, not belief, and if error after error, lie after lie, lead to our continued existence, so be it. We have been wired to keep on trucking, not to discover truth. 

“Under such conditions,” wrote Bruce Gordon, “any complex of beliefs and desires that conduces to survival would suffice. What we believe to be true under such conditions is therefore an accidental historical byproduct of purely natural events that bear no intrinsic relation to the actual truth of the beliefs we hold; it is an expression of how our brains just happen to work.”* 

In short, if Darwinism, or any contemporary incantation of it, were true, then anything we believe is more likely to be wrong than right because there are more wrong answers to any question than right ones, and we have no innate tools to help us to know the difference. 

What a contrast to biblical origins, in which we, made in the image of God, can not only know truth (“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” [John 8:32]), but follow it as well (“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” [3 John 4]). 

Being able to know truth isn’t, however, synonymous with knowing it, as the widespread belief in evolution shows. And the falsity of evolution is one truth (out of many) that we, because of our origins, can be certain of. 

* Gordon, Bruce; Demoski, William. The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science. Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ORD). Kindle Edition.