[Taxacom] Teleology Revisited
Robinwbruce at aol.com
Robinwbruce at aol.com
Mon Mar 11 12:51:21 CDT 2013
I think the idea was to try to be more precise in the choice of words both
by external criticism and internal self-constraint. The consensus would
seem to be that evolution and purpose do not go together like say horse and
carriage. I am not sure I am in that consensus. I do not think any words
have been offended in the writing of this thread and certainly none have yet
been banned, although the noisy profanities at the back of the room are on
their final warning.
As to where evolution exists, as for example in Popper's world one, I am
not sure I can answer you. I think I am comfortable with evolution, in some
form, existing in a joint world of organisms, time and space. Does
evolution exist in a purely physical/material world, i.e. a matter, time and space
conjunction? I do not know. We can make a narrative which we can feel
comfortable about, but it seems to me that humans can always make narratives
that they are comfortable with, until a more shiny narrative comes
In a message dated 3/11/2013 2:54:35 P.M. GMT Standard Time,
Nicholasa at ukzn.ac.za writes:
I am sorry I have not kept up with this thread. But the word BAN jumped
out at me before I hit the delete key. Are people really serious about
banning words!!!! Might as well ban freedom of thought as well then! This is a
slippery slope with razor blades at the end. Surely most scientists
(particularly taxonomists) try to be as precise as possible and if they feel some
ambiguity can be read into their use of words they define how they are using
Words exists in Poppers World three, the world of symbols. The meanings of
words exist in World two, the world of concepts. Both of these worlds are
constructs and so lack the objectivity of World one; the physical world
that can be measured and observed. The question is does evolution exist in
World one? I think it does (and that we have good evidence for it) and see no
problem. Possibly others disagree and believe it is only a hypothetical and
symbolic construct. Who is correct?
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Robinwbruce at aol.com
Sent: 11 March 2013 15:26
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] Teleology Revisited
For my part I have found this a fascinating thread.
The idea of banning words would have perplexed Alice. Just which
rabbit-hole did she go down she must wonder! And after banning words, do we ban
sentences? And then......?
The problem to me seems to be just what is the theory of evolution? Is it
science, belief or metaphysics, or a combination of two or three, or yet
more unstated categories?
Popper some time ago categorized evolution as a 'metaphysical research
programme'. This categorization did not last I believe, for reasons I do
not know, but I have not pursued its demise.
To me evolution seems to be a cosmology or a cosmogony, or perhaps more
precisely a geo-gony, as we have no empirical evidence for life beyond the
Earth. Life seems to be immanent on Earth. And how does life present itself
on Earth? Always, it seems to me, as organisms, not as liquids, gasses,
compounds, molecules, ideas, information or dreams, but as concrete organisms.
And organisms - what is their nature? Well they come into being from
previously existing organisms, and go out of being, hopefully leaving issue
in the form of... well you have guessed it........organisms. One can of
course take a gene-centric view of the organism, but equally one can take an
organism-centric view of the gene. The world of organisms revolves around
the exclamation of 'the king is dead, long live the king'; this is true for
royal houses but also kingfish and king snakes, otherwise no
kings........... no genes.............
It is easy (and fun) to parody excessive pan-selectionism, Dr. Pangloss
again. But what would excessive pan-structuralism look like? Would it be a
world where nothing changes? This suggests to me that we are looking at
the problem from the wrong viewpoint.
All of this reminds me of the conversation between Wittgenstein and
Anscombe, about the shift from a geocentric world view of the heavens to a
heliocentric one, based on analyses by three-dimensional geometry. What had
changed in the change of world view..........the heavens, or our perception of
In 1916, E. S. Russell wrote; 'It may well be that the intransigent
materialism of the 19th century is merely an episode, an aberration rather, in
the history of biology - an aberration brought about by the over-rapid
development of a materialistic and luxurious civilisation, in which man's
material means have outrun his mental and moral growth.' Form and Function, a
Contribution to the History of Animal Morphology. Well, 100 years on we are
in the same hole, and still digging..............time methinks to look
over the edge of the hole, perhaps?
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