The Evolution of the Human Brain - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity


The Evolution of the Human Brain

If human beings evolved, than of course the human brain also evolved. It was part of this evolutionary process. Evolution necessarily implies that our brains, like the rest of our bodies, must be the result of a random, naturalistic process.

This leads to a paradox. If the brain is the result of random processes, how can we know that our reasoning is valid? How do we know that our logic and reason has anything to do with truth?

Evolution is constrained by natural selection. So one could argue that the workings of our brains must be advantageous to survival. But this doesn't mean that they reflect actual truth. One could theorize circumstances where believing things that are false would be more conducive to survival than believing things that are true. For example, if one overestimates danger, this could lead him to avoid situations that are marginally dangerous, where a more accurate reasoning would lead him to conclude that the risk was minor. But even with a minor risk, you could have bad luck and be injured or killed. If there's a one in a thousand chance of being killed, you could be that unlucky one in a thousand. The creature who overestimates the danger and so avoids even minimal risks would be more likely to survive.

It is difficult to see how abstract, theoretical reasoning would increase a creature's survivability and thus be favored by natural selection. Is a creature who believes that the world is round more likely to survive than one who believes that the world is flat? Is a creature who believes that stars are giant balls of gas many light-years away more likely to survive than one who believes they are points of light on a big crystal sphere a few thousand miles away? How would such analytical ability be favored by natural selection?

But this leads us to a paradox. We deduce the process by which the brain evolved using our brains. But that reasoning must lead us to conclude that our reasoning is unreliable. By reason we must conclude that reason cannot be trusted. Where does that leave us? If, by careful scientific analysis and deduction, we conclude that the brain is the result of random events, then we must conclude that our analyses are meaningless because they are just random electrochemical events and not any real appraisal of truth.

If evolution is true, then the reasoning we used to conclude that evolution is true is unreliable and worthless.

© 2022 by Jay Johansen


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