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Darwin's Doubt, Non-deterministic Darwinism and the Cognitive Science of Religion

  • Robin Attfield (a1)

Alvin Plantinga, echoing a worry of Charles Darwin which he calls ‘Darwin's doubt’, argues that given Darwinian evolutionary theory our beliefs are unreliable, since they are determined to be what they are by evolutionary pressures and could have had no other content. This papers surveys in turn deterministic and non-deterministic interpretations of Darwinism, and concludes that Plantinga's argument poses a problem for the former alone and not for the latter. Some parallel problems arise for the Cognitive Science of Religion, and in particular for the hypothesis that many of our beliefs, including religious beliefs, are due to a Hypersensitive Agency-Detection Device, at least if this hypothesis is held in a deterministic form. In a non-deterministic form, however, its operation need not cast doubt on the rationality or reliability of the relevant beliefs.

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Mary Midgley , ‘Gene-Juggling’, Philosophy 54 (1979), 438–58, at 456–8

Alvin Plantinga , Warrant and Proper Function (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 216237.

Alan Holland , ‘Darwin and the Meaning of Life’, Environmental Values 18.4 (2009), 503518

Herman Daly , ‘Policy, Possibility and Purpose’, WorldViews 6.2 (2002), 183197.

Jeffrey Schloss and Michael Murray (eds.), The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009

Theodore Brelsford , ‘Lessons for Religious Education from Cognitive Science of Religion’, Religious Education 100.2 (2005), 174191

David Wiggins , ‘Freedom, Knowledge, Belief and Causality’, in G.N.A. Vesey (ed.), Knowledge and Necessity (Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, 1968–1969), (London: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin's Press, 1970), 132154

John Lucas , The Freedom of the Will (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970).

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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