Philosophical Studies

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 411–429 | Cite as

Evolved cognitive biases and the epistemic status of scientific beliefs

  • Helen De CruzEmail author
  • Johan De Smedt


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 



We would like to thank Igor Douven, Krist Vaesen, and an anonymous reviewer, for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper, and Lesley De Cruz for help with programming in Mathematica. This research is supported by the Research Foundation Flanders and grant COM07/PWM/001 from Ghent University.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Logic and Analytic PhilosophyKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and EthicsGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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