[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?


-----Original  Message-----
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 
the heavens?

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?


Taxacom  Mailing  List
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu

The  Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched with either of these  

(1) by visiting http://taxacom.markmail.org

(2) a  Google search specified as:   
site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your search terms  here

Celebrating 26 years of Taxacom in 2013.
======= Please find  our Email Disclaimer here-->: 
http://www.ukzn.ac.za/disclaimer  =======

More information about the Taxacom mailing list