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Re: [evol-psych] A priori proof

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  • Jay R. Feierman
    Jeremy Bowman: A priori evidence depends on prior assumptions, but if they are good assumptions then a priori evidence is the best there is. Jay R. Feierman:
    Message 1 of 1 , May 20, 2007
      Jeremy Bowman: "A priori" evidence depends on prior assumptions, but if they are good assumptions then a priori evidence is the best there is.
      Jay R. Feierman: If by "best" you mean the most useful, then I agree. However, if by "best" you mean having the highest probability of being true, then I don't agree. Our a priori logical/reasoning algorithms evolved to adaptively bias our perceptual proclivities and behaviors to the specific environments in which these algorithms evolved. In other environments, yet to be encountered and to which they are not adapted, they could lead an individual to make maladaptive behavioral decisions. They are not absolute rules. Rather, they are adaptations to specific environments.
      Also, a "good" assumption is not necessarily a true assumption. Rather, it is a useful assumption. By useful I mean it leads to adaptive perceptual proclivities and behaviors. As an example most human being of the world possess behavioral biasing beliefs and values and execute various behaviors pertaining to supernatural powers (agents) to whom or to which submissive deference is shown and from which intervention in ones life is believed to be possible, especially if one follows certain prescribed and proscribed behaviors. These beliefs values and the resultant behaviors are quite compatible with their evolved, a priori reasoning algorithms. The religious narratives and salvation theologies of the various religions of the world are not incompatible with a priori reasoning. Theology justifies itself through a priori reasoning. It's reasonable, therefore it's true is what Theology is all about.
      The assumptions which underlie these beliefs, values and religious behaviors are "good" only because they are adaptive. Yet, most of the assumptions are not true. The evidence that a supernatural power exists is simply useful, which is all that is required for it to be compatible with our evolved a priori reasoning algorithms. Religious beliefs, values and behaviors were not acquired because they are compatible with our evolved a priori reasoning algorithms. Rather, our evolved a priori algorithms didn't interfere with them being acquired. 
      Whenever there is a motivational conflict between that which feels good (belief in a supernatural power, prayer, etc.) and our evolved, cognitive information processing system, our evolved, cognitive, information processing system will accommodate itself through rationalization, etc. Rationalization makes our a priori reasoning compatible with our behavior. Beliefs are units of information (that which reduces uncertainty and are used to make decisions) that adaptively bias our perceptual proclivities and behaviors. Whether a belief is true or not is not relevant, as long the belief adaptively biases our perceptual proclivities and behaviors. I know this is heretical for Philosophy but so be it.
      Philosophy, out of which Psychology evolved, is an archaic, self-contained, intellectual set of exercises. It is a nice, self-consistent map, which does not always fit the territory. That is especially true when the territory is human behavior. You should pay more attention to Robert Trivers famous quote, taken from Social Evolution (1984), which is, "Systems of animal communication never evolved to transmit the truth." That quote also applies to communication with self, which is the venue in which human a priori reasoning algorithms operate.
      Also, it does not sound as though you are familiar with Konrad Lorenz's Behind the Mirror, which he believed was his most important scientific work. The book stems from a still-surviving manuscript that he wrote with bird feathers and berry juice on cement bags, when he was a Russian, prisoner of war.  It is about how our a priori reasoning algorithm evolved by natural selection to be useful in adaptively biasing our perceptual proclivities and behaviors to the environment in which we (Homo sapiens) evolved. He won the Nobel Prize for this work, so it is important and worth reading.
      To join the Human Ethology Yahoo Group, go to http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/human-ethology/

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