, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 411-429
Date: 28 Nov 2010

Evolved cognitive biases and the epistemic status of scientific beliefs

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Abstract

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.