According to the theory of evolution, traits that increase survival are selected for. So for animals with beliefs, belief in truth should be selected for, since believing what is true confers advantages for survival. The theory thus neatly accounts for its own success, as our evolutionarily honed ways of knowing have finally resulted in belief in evolution.

A most telling counterexample to this smug synthesis is the eighteenth-century philosopher Bishop Berkeley, whose spectacularly false belief that the physical world does not exist secured him not only survival, but preferment. The Diocese of Cloyne to which he was appointed, which a naive physicalist geography would identify as a tract of land near Cork in Ireland, did not, in his view, consist of bogs, hovels, pigs, the bishop’s palace, and so on, but only of minds. Some of those minds, belonging to educated Protestant gentlemen...


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