[Taxacom] teleology example

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Thu Mar 7 08:00:58 CST 2013


I would agree that much of the language structure is teleological, but that
is different from explicit statments of purpose. On the other hand, one can
be aware of teleological implications and avoid them in science. The worst
kind of 'scientific' explanation, for example, is explaining the evolution
of a structure by saying what it is 'for' or what function it serves. For
example, in answer to "what is a leaf" the response is often that it is an
organ or structure for photosynthesis, or an adapation for photosynthesis
etc. It's not hard to say, instead, that a structure exists and in a
particular context a particulr functional relationship may be observed. For
a leaf one might say that a leaf is a structure where photosynthesis occurs
(in whole or part depending on the plant), but the function does not really
provide any deeper explanation of the structure itself.

Functional 'explanations' (which tend to be teleological by their nature)
are something that a creationist could do just as easily. An purely
evolutionary (and non teleological) explanation for a leaf might, for
example, be that it is the reslt of fusion between a bract and a branching
meristem. That is something a creationist could not come up with.

John Grehan



On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 5:38 AM, Jason Robinson <
jason.lesley.robinson at gmail.com> wrote:

> How much of the teleology "smuggled into" scientific explanation is a
> spandrel of the English language?
>
> I've had this discussion with a few linguist friends and they have
> indicated to me that they believe the syntactical structure of phrases and
> sentences in English are more or less pre-adapted to teleology (e.g. "the
> computer won't let me do this" is something we all say and all understand
> even though we deny the agency of a computer).
>
> I just don't have enough experience with other languages to be much
> convinced of this either way but it is an interesting hypothesis.
>
>
>
> On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 5:03 AM, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com>wrote:
>
>> But this was not a case of a figure of speech or of multiple meaning.
>> Purpose is purpose.
>>
>> John Grehan
>>
>> On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 7:01 PM, Curtis Clark <lists at curtisclark.org>
>> wrote:
>>
>> > On 2013-03-06 7:55 PM, Neal Evenhuis wrote:
>> > > Well ... that may be our future. We're not writing for humans anymore
>> --
>> > just for electronic signals
>> >
>> > Suddenly everyone is a critic. This is an example of synecdoche: using
>> > the whole for the part. It's no different from "The news America needs
>> > to hear"--of course the author doesn't mean the continent.
>> >
>> > All this reminds me of heretic hunting to root out the evil of
>> > teleology, discovered because teleologers don't drown when you toss them
>> > in the river. Or something. If I were an early-career scientist, I'd
>> > never write anything that could be read by Taxacomers unless I had
>> > removed all figures of speech and words with multiple meanings.
>> >
>> > --
>> > Curtis Clark        http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
>> > Biological Sciences                   +1 909 869 4140
>> > Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768
>> >
>> >
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