Philosophical Studies

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 411-429

First online:

Evolved cognitive biases and the epistemic status of scientific beliefs

  • Helen De CruzAffiliated withCentre for Logic and Analytic Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Email author 
  • , Johan De SmedtAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy and Ethics, Ghent University

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Our ability for scientific reasoning is a byproduct of cognitive faculties that evolved in response to problems related to survival and reproduction. Does this observation increase the epistemic standing of science, or should we treat scientific knowledge with suspicion? The conclusions one draws from applying evolutionary theory to scientific beliefs depend to an important extent on the validity of evolutionary arguments (EAs) or evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs). In this paper we show through an analytical model that cultural transmission of scientific knowledge can lead toward representations that are more truth-approximating or more efficient at solving science-related problems under a broad range of circumstances, even under conditions where human cognitive faculties would be further off the mark than they actually are.


Evolutionary arguments Evolutionary debunking arguments Intuitive ontologies Scientific knowledge Biased cultural transmission