An Evolutionary Sceptical Challenge to Scientific Realism

Erkenntnis 87 (3):969-989 (2022)
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Abstract

Evolutionary scepticism holds that the evolutionary account of the origins of the human cognitive apparatus has sceptical implications for at least some of our beliefs. A common target of evolutionary scepticism is moral realism. Scientific realism, on the other hand, is much less frequently targeted, though the idea that evolutionary theory should make us distrustful of science is by no means absent from the literature. This line of thought has received unduly little attention. I propose to remedy this by advancing what I will call an evolutionary sceptical challenge to scientific realism. I argue that, given standard evolutionary theory, our possession of sound innate metaphysical intuitions would have taken an epistemically problematic ‘lucky accident’. This, as I will show, entails that scientific realism is a self-undermining position. I discuss objections to my argument’s two premises, including ones that appeal to the success of the sciences and to the possibility that sound innate metaphysical intuitions evolved as an evolutionary ‘by-product’. I then draw out an advantage of my argument over a similar one recently put forward by Graber and Golemon. I finish by submitting that scientific realism, given the soundness of my argument, is faced with a new ‘Darwinian Dilemma’, and briefly address the significance of this for the debate between realists and anti-realists in the philosophy of science.

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