Evolutionary biology and truth?
"What does this do to the notion of truth? I've recently been thinking a lot more about how truth is important, and how Christianity is a religion of truth, and how that's one of its unique qualities. I'm in agreement with everything you've written here, but it seems it could quite easily fall into relativism to me. Any thoughts on that?"
I thought this would make a good post, and I'll address it by first continuing along the philosophical path I started below. One of the stark differences between William James and Richard Rorty is their conflicting notions of truth.
James wants to (1) hold on to a version of the good ol' correspondence theory, but he also (2) wants to update philosophy for the 20th century and tie it to science. That's why people who read a broad range of his works note the tension between his assertion of classic correspondence formulas in some places and his use of slogans ("the true is what is good for us to believe") in others. Rorty, in contrast, wants to EITHER (1) completely dismantle the notion of truth by convincing us that the correspondence notion is incoherent and unworkable, OR (2) accept the Platonic definition (true, justified belief), and then get us all to shut up about it and work on actual concrete problems like poverty, free speech, Howard Dean, etc.
What's most fascinating to me is that you can appropriate lots of Rorty's points without giving up any ground on the correspondence theory. While he treats beliefs solely as indexes (see previous post), we can treat beliefs both as assessments of factual statements about the world AND as indexes. Why be parsimonious about our appropriation of the insights of great philosophers?
With that in mind, I don't see any worry about evolutionary biology leading us into relativism. Just as our stomachs have evolved to digest food and our hands have evolved to grasp and make tools, so our minds have evolved to make, assess and revise accurate statements about the external world.
The books to read: Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, for his take on evolutionary biology's impact on truth; and Hilary Putnam's Realism with a Human Face, which reconciles regular old objective truth with some of the insights of the post-modern philosophers.
redhurt, if you'd care to elaborate on specific concerns I'd be happy to address this issue further.