In a recent post about Plantinga’s argument against naturalism, John Wilkins quotes Plantinga as arguing:
If our cognitive faculties have originated as Dawkins thinks, then their ultimate purpose or function (if they have a purpose or function) will be something like survival (of individual, species, gene, or genotype); but then it seems initially doubtful that among their functions—ultimate, proximate, or otherwise—would be the production of true beliefs.
John Wilkins seems to think that this is an objection that deserves a response, arguing that selection for fitness will provide a perception that generates true beliefs.
I disagree. Plantinga is quite right. There is no basis for expecting that perception of an evolved organism will produce true beliefs. However, that’s a rather hollow “victory” for Plantinga. For there is also no basis for expecting that perception will produce false beliefs. Quite simply, truth or falsity is not a criterion for perception. As Al Gore might have put it, there is no controlling authority.
There is, however, a different issue. The evolved agent may use what he/she perceives to generate a description, and that description could be expressed as a verbal or written belief of the agent. There is a controlling agent for descriptions, namely the language community to which the agent belongs. And learning how to form such descriptions in a way that meets the truth requirements of that language community is part of the language acquisition that a child is expected to accomplish.