[Taxacom] teleology example

Michael Heads m.j.heads at gmail.com
Mon Mar 11 16:24:17 CDT 2013


I've found this topic intriguing for years! It's pretty fundamental to a
lot of biology. In practice, the problem with teleology is that it puts the
brakes on thinking, as Bacon recognised at the start of the scientific
revolution:



 ‘For the handling of final causes [teleology], mixed with the rest in
physical enquiries, have *intercepted the severe and diligent inquiry of
all real and physical causes, and given men the occasion to stay upon these
satisfactory and specious causes, to the great arrest and prejudice of
further discovery*. For this I find done not only by Plato, who ever
anchoreth upon that shore, but by Aristotle, Galen and others... For to say
that ‘the hairs of the eyelids are for a quickset and fence about the
sight’; or that ‘the firmness of the skins and hides of living creatures is
to defend them from the extremities of heat and cold; or that ‘the bones
are for the columns or beams, whereupon the frames of the bodies of living
creatures are built’... is well-enquired and collected in metaphysic, but *in
physic [i.e. science] they are impertinent. Nay, they are indeed but
remoraes [suckerfishes] and hindrances to stay and slug the ship from
further sailing; and have brought this to pass, that the search of the
physical causes hath been neglected and passed in silence*...  Not because
these final causes are not true, and worthy to be inquired, being kept
within their own province; but because *their excursions into the limits of
physical [material and efficient] causes hath bred a vastness and solitude
in that tract...* For the [final] cause rendered, ‘that the hairs about the
eyelids and for the safeguard of the sight,’ doth not impugn the cause
rendered, that ‘pilosity is incident to orifices of moisture...’ and so of
the rest: both causes being true and compatible, the one declaring an
intention, the other a consequence only.’ (Bacon, 1966, pp. 113-114).



Bacon, F. (1605 [1966]), *Of the advancement of learning* (second book).
Oxford U.P.

Michael Heads


On Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 9:54 AM, Neal Evenhuis <neale at bishopmuseum.org>wrote:

> Here's a definition for you...
>
> te·di·ous  (t[
> http://img.tfd.com/hm/GIF/emacr.gif][http://img.tfd.com/hm/GIF/prime.gif]d[http://img.tfd.com/hm/GIF/emacr.gif]-[http://img.tfd.com/hm/GIF/schwa.gif]s
> )
> adj.
> 1. Tiresome by reason of length, slowness, or dullness; boring. See
> Synonyms at boring<http://www.thefreedictionary.com/boring>.
> 2. Obsolete Moving or progressing very slowly.
>
>
> On 3/11/13 10:45 AM, "John Grehan" <calabar.john at gmail.com<mailto:
> calabar.john at gmail.com>> scribbled the following tidbit:
>
> I don't think it matters at all about how one comes to a belief. A belief
> is a belief is a belief - its just a statement of what we think is true,
> whether in science or in religion. I would go far as to say that what we
> believe is not science as such, for all that a certain belief may be a
> product of scientific investigation.
>
> John Grehan
>
> On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 1:14 PM, Dick Jensen <rjensen at saintmarys.edu
> <mailto:rjensen at saintmarys.edu>> wrote:
>
>
>
> Curtis,
>
>
>
> I think it depends on what one means by (i.e, how one defines) "belief".
> I believe that certain things will happen in the laboratory, and in nature,
> because there are sound scientific explanations for them.  This form of
> belief is not the same as what is generally accepted for religious belief;
> the idea that I accept, simply by faith with no empirical evidence, that
> something is true or can be explained.
>
>
>
> The same holds for "purpose".  Given John Grehan's position that
> definitions don't matter, it seems that another explanation is that Grehan
> and Winter are using two different definitions of purpose (at least one
> definition of purpose makes no reference to intent) .  If that's the nature
> of the problem, then there can be  no resolution until both provide a
> definition of what they mean  by "purpose".
>
>
>
> Cheers,
>
>
>
> Dick J
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
>
>
> From: "Curtis Clark" <lists at curtisclark.org<mailto:lists at curtisclark.org>>
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Sent: Monday, March 11, 2013 12:34:43 PM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] teleology example
>
> On 2013-03-11 3:30 AM, John Grehan wrote:
> > The real nature of the problem may be that there is this a
> > pervasive and explicit language of teleology in evolutionary biology
> > that is perfectly at home with theologically based approaches such as
> > intelligent design and creationism.
>
> I would go further and say that is is pervasive in English (and probably
> other natural languages as well), that we are biologically predisposed
> to seek teleological arguments, and that a different view of the world
> must be learned.
>
> > But in this case the teleological statement was so explicit and direct
> > that it was worthy of notice.
>
> And I contend that a single statement is not an accurate enough measure
> of the underlying state to be adequate for analysis (as contrasted to
> hand-waving). It seems that the best example is not one where an
> evolutionary biologist's thought processes *could* be explained by
> teleology, but rather one in which they cannot be explained any other way.
>
> > My personal view is that for many biologists, evolution has become a
> > substitute for traditional religious belief - which would explain a
> > lot of the hostility that arises in evolutionary biology when
> > certain fundamental 'truths' are challenged, and the sometimes deified
> > or saintified  state given to Darwin.
>
> I totally agree. I would never put a "Darwin fish" on my auto, because
> evolution isn't my religion. A relative told me that she "doesn't
> believe in science", and I responded that I don't, either: "belief"
> plays no useful role in science (beyond the belief that there is a
> consensus reality).
>
> --
> Curtis Clark        http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
> Biological Sciences                   +1 909 869 4140
> Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768
>
>
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-- 
Wellington, New Zealand.

My new book: *Molecular panbiogeography of the tropics. *
University of California Press, Berkeley.



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