[Taxacom] Re Teleology example

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Thu Mar 7 05:11:18 CST 2013

The solution is that if purpose is not intended, then do not use purpose.
So one ends up with the proposition that many evolutionists are extremely
sloppy, or it is like a footnote that reveals an actual reality - that many
evolutionists do indeed accept purpose (and there is nothing wrong with
that) and interject it into their science even if they do not mean to.

The ideas of 'cost' and 'benefit' often end up being represented in a
teleological frameword (even if not intended) because they are metaphors of
human experience where benefit is a future end point by which the present
'cost' is assessed (i.e. the present is tied to the as yet to happen

In contrast to focusing on cost and benefit one might look at the
underlying genetics and the role of molecular mechanisms of genetic origin
as Mike has pointed out.

John Grehan

On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 7:46 PM, David Winter <david.winter at gmail.com> wrote:

> John Grehan has said:
> At various times I have raised, in this and other lists, the continued
> presence of intelligent design theology in science in the form of
> explicit teleology. Often the response is "that is not what they
> really intended".
> Here's a nice explicit example: "it's hard to see how these hair-like
> processes would evolve if they didn't serve a purpose." This from
> David Winter, "a PhD student in evolutionary genetics who very
> occasionally thinks he has something that the internet simply needs to
> know..." See http://sciblogs.co.nz/the-atavism/tag/new-zealand/
> John, that is not what I really intended.
> In fact, it's fairly obvious from context there is no teleology in the
> argument I was making (for a popular audience, in an informal
> publication)
> "I try very hard to avoid the sloppy thinking that presumes there is
> an adaptive explanation for every biological observaton, but it’s hard
> to see how these hair-like processes would evolve if they didn’t serve
> a purpose. The larger hairs are presumably made from the same calcium
> carbonate minerals as the rest of shell, and calcium is a precious
> resource for snails (so much so that empty shells collected from the
> field often show signs of having been partially eaten by living
> snails). In those species with finer projections, the hairs are an
> extension of the “periostracum”, a protein layer that covers snail
> shells.  If we presume that snail hairs come at a cost, in either
> protein or calcium, what reward are they hairy snails reaping from
> their investment?"
> That is
> * Not everything in biology exists because it helps an organism
> * That being said, the hair-like processes many snails sport cost
> something (in terms of resources and energy)
> * It is unlikely that a costly feature will be maintained if it
> doesn't benefit the organisms carrying it (as mutants that don't have
> the trait could out-compete those paying the cost)
> * Given all of the above, it's reasonable to presume the hairs are
> helping their carriers to survive and reproduce, so let's find and
> tests hypotheses as to how that might happen.
> Short of an alarm bell which might go off upon seeing the word
> "purpose" in the widely-used phrase "serve a purpose" I can't see what
> you object to.
> I obviously need to update my biography, indidently, as I'm now a PhD
> graduate who quite frequently has things the internet needs to know.
> (BTW, I don't subscribe to taxacom - if anyone wishes to include me in
> replies to this email you'll need to reply-all)
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