Geneticist and science philosopher Gerard M. Verschuuren asks, “Can Darwinism survive without teleology?
|September 19, 2013||Posted by News under Philosophy, Natural selection, News|
We dunno. Right now, it survives by craziness like at Ball State U where profs can teach a course that slams design in nature but not one that provides evidence for it. Anyway, Verschuuren notes,
Somehow our universe has been designed in such a way that specific designs do work, whether it is for better or for worse. It is only due to this metaphysical notion of design and teleology that we can talk about biological designs; all biological designs are “design-based” designs. It is one of the most perplexing things about our universe that it allows for any kind of design to work the way it works.
Did Darwin ignore this part of the story? Or did he really discard teleology? Some keep stressing that he replaced teleology with the causality of natural selection. One of them was George Bernard Shaw who once said that Charles Darwin threw Paley’s “watch” into the ocean. Well, Shaw was wrong. If Darwin did throw something away, it was Paley’s “watchmaker,” but certainly not his famous “watch.” Darwin never threw away the design concept—it was actually essential to his theory.
The artifact analogy of design is as basic to Darwinism as it is to Paley’s natural theology. Since the heart is designed like a pump, it is a successful design “for” circulating blood. After Darwin, the heart still existed “for” circulation; the cause of its existence may have been different, but its teleology was not. However, Darwin ignored, or at least bypassed, the following question: How come that certain biological designs “work,” and are “successful” and “effective” in reaching their “goal”? What is it that makes them “goal-directed”? What carries them through the filter of natural selection?
It’s here that teleology keeps coming back. There is teleology in the biological world because the animate world is design-like—as much so as there is teleology in the technical world of designers because that world is design-like as well. Natural selection may explain that a fine working design has a better chance of being reproduced, but ultimately it cannot explain why such a design is working so well.
And that’s where teleology is needed—even in Darwinism. In that sense, Darwin did not change teleology from an “a priori drive” into an “a posteriori result.” Teleology is not a biological outcome a posteriori but a metaphysical given a priori. Natural selection does not create teleology, but its working is based on teleology.
Either natural selection can create or it cannot. Actually, it cannot. It can only filter. In which case, Darwin’s theory, as he envisioned it, is false; the universe could not throw up that many almost-working designs accidentally.
This guy seems to want to kind of dance around the point. We’ll see what happens. Interesting stuff. Note one really good thing: He admits that designs work for better or for worse. Some of us get tired of hearing from Christian Darwinists that there cannot be design in the universe because that would mean that God allows evil, or something. Like that was news or something.