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Sunday, December 9. 2007
A teleology is a basic component of most religions. As I understand it, Darwinian evolution contains no teleology and is based on random variation which "leads" nowhere.
However, even our non-scientific use of the word "evolution" connotes a sense of "progress." Philosophical naturalism cannot speak of progress, or "success" or "need" or "purpose" - only of temporary adaptations and maladaptations to conditions based on accidental genetic events.
As the very lame Wikipedia entry says correctly:
Auster discusses this in a short piece on the subject (The Intellectual Fraud which is Darwinism). Fact is, people have a tendency to fallaciously (via the pathetic, or anthropomorphic fallacy -or more specifically, personification) apply human notions like intent or direction to a Darwinian world-view which entirely lacks intent or purpose - but which does contain design (as humans comprehend it - eg snowflakes). Thus they impose a religious-like teleology upon a theoretically meaningless, purposeless and indifferent nature. This has no source in Darwin or in modern evolutionary theory, which reject any meaning or purpose in nature.
In fact, the source of the teleology in science is the human desire to impose human notions of purpose on nature.
Now one might argue that the use of animating figures of speech is nothing more that a way of making something dead feel more vivid and compelling - and that may be the case - but I believe that the figures of speech we use reflect how we really think about things.
Tropes, with repetition, aquire a sort of pseudo-substance - a mental substantiality in the absense of reality. This is termed "reification." Reified tropes may be the origins of religious ideas.
In that way, our animation of an indifferent nature with delusions of purpose and direction permits us to extend the notion of evolution to history, society, human activity, and even to the notion of human perfectability - as if "things" were "leading" anywhere: that is closer to religion than to Darwinism.
But is it even possible to talk or think effectively without using figures of speech, without tropes (outside of math and formal logic, which may also be tropes of a different sort)? And is it possible for a human being to not reify some of their tropes, resulting in a religious-like belief or faith in them? ("My raspberries like full sun," "The earth has a fever," "Mankind and society are stumblingly evolving towards better, kinder realities," "Species seek adaptation," and so forth. Doesn't such language form a teleological foundation for a primitive religion? I say "primitive" because based on a "Ghost in the Machine" category error.)
This is long enough, but these sophomoric musings could go on and on. (Mind you, this is written mainly from the standpoint of philosophical naturalism/materialism, as if that were the ground I stand on. It's not. When I hear the Messiah - or even listen to Alicia Keys, I cannot stand on that ground. And that's my point - no-one really can for very long unless they deaden their brain.)
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Whenever the ponderings of philosophy begin to weigh on the spirit's bouyancy, remember that everything that we know of life happens in the space from the bottom of the deepest sea to the tops of the highest mountains--a space of about ten miles--a nice gentle day hike, or a short hop in the old clunker.
Or, as I always say when I get in over my head, "What's for lunch?"
I thought spirituality involved relating to dimensions higher than those percieved by the five senses?
I recommend CS Lewis's collection of essays "God In The Dock" for the topics you touch on here.
While raspberry plants DO like sun, and not the Earth but flat-Earthers like Al Gore do have a fever, species seek not adaptation but survival. It's a matter of getting through the day, and economics can account for everything, as suggested in the publisher's blurb for blind paleontologist Geerat J. Vermeij's Nature: An Economic History:
From humans to hermit crabs to deep water plankton, all living things compete for locally limiting resources. This universal truth unites three bodies of thought -- economics, evolution and history -- that have developed largely in mutual isolation. Here, Geerat Vermeij undertakes a groundbreaking and provocative exploration of the facts and theories of biology, economics and geology to show how processes common to all economic systems -- competition, cooperation, adaptation and feedback -- govern evolution as surely as they do the human economy, and how historical patterns in both human and nonhuman evolution follow from this principle.
More here: http://sisu.typepad.com/sisu/2005/02/cracking_poppin.html
Me thinks, "Reified tropes may be the origins of religious ideas." may be a Marxist reification.
The utilization of natural selection is a tool, not a be-all, end-all to explain everything. As such it has extreme limitations as originally proposed and, like anything in science, needed work as we examined things more closely. As a scientific proposition it has extremely limited parameters for predictivity. It is a descriptive tool, so anyone purporting that 'thus and such species will become X' in the future is blowing smoke trying to extrapolate current views and trends in a field that is contingent-descriptive... just like history does.
Unlike most historians, however, those in the sciences feel free to offer 'what if' hypothesis to see if they have a decent understanding of what they are proposing. By doing so problems are found in hypotheses to test them and see if a proposed different way of looking at things is any better at describing the natural process. Darwin, himself, admitted he did not know the method of inheritance or even have a good description of it... the weakness of that part shows in the original text and would be replaced entirely with genetic theory. Genetic theorists, from early on, asked if there is a descriptive portion of life that is reflected in the record of life in the genetic code of different species. There was no question of genetic based inheretance working, but what it actually was would take over 60 years to finally nail down. Even then, genetic theory, itself, had weaknesses and could not explain RNA function well even with DNA based ineheritance: it obviously plays a role. Looking at RNA we would find, within each body of every living thing, a remnant of pre-DNA work. Each body that has DNA as an inheritance mechanism also inherited an RNA mechanism that serves as a line of defense against infectious diseases and viruses. Some of those still exist and that system still works... and it can also interfere, and catastrophically, with the DNA based mechanism.
Nuclear theory for radioactivity would also help out in some problem areas in the natural history record. The actual record, while it has overlapping series of strata and life forms, doesn't come with marker dates that are clearly visible, and early work was limited to the ordering of the record, but not understanding its length. Radioactivity and the theories that describe it, would change that and, for awhile, it was geologists who were working with a longer time-frame than astronomers, and that caused astronomers to look harder as radioactivity is also important to them. Radioactivity, itself, formed a basis for quantum mechanics along with electrons, which hands us concepts of non-determinism in outcomes and probabilities of certainty about events. That was used in mathematics before QM, but became a descriptive tool within it and started to allow all sorts of things that Einsteinian space-time theory could not explain or even allow. QM gave quantum entanglement and Einstein's 'spooky action at a distance' and that would serve as a basis for looking at the first generation of quantum computers... which we are still working on as they offer ways around looking at linear mathematical descriptions of things with a good quantum based tool.
All of this is descriptive of the way things work so that we can use our gift of reason to rational ends. That is not anti-thetical to any religion... if you trust that religion to describe a truth telling universe. Understanding how something works does not diminish, in any way, our ability to appreciate it and, instead, we marvel even more and deeper at the glory of it, the beauty of it. If we step from that into dogma, then we step into a realm of unreason... and that can happen to science, religion or any other endeavor of mankind.
I am a Christian, but I do believe in certain aspects of the theory of evolution. First of all, I don't think that earth/human beings just happened by chance. Dr. D. James Kennedy, the Presbyterian theologian, said once that the probability of our existence occuring by chance is the same as stacking dimes from earth to the moon.
However, in my opinion that doesn't mean that living creatures do not and cannot evolve. Who's to say that God stopped creating/changing creatures over time? If you were God, and you had the power and the opportunity to create, wouldn't you continue doing so?
The Bible says that God created man in His own image. I believe that to mean more then just form and shape. I think it relates to emotions and characteristics, such as curiosity and creativity. God continues to create new creatures, not only for us, but for himself.
I think it also explains why we are alone in the universe. In reality, God has created millions upon millions of species of plants/animals, etc. What need is there for more?
It is all so complex, and yet so simple. We are the one's that make it so complicated, when in effect God made it easy for us. Why is it so difficult for so many people to believe in God?
Take our eyes for example. Dr. Kennedy explained the other day that the human eye is thousands of times more powerful then the most sophisticated camera. Put your hand in front of you. Excuse my bluntness, by how could anyone in thier right mind think that human hands just evolved? I mean, how intelligent does one have to be in order to recognize intelligent design?
Look at the creatures we have recently discovered at the bottom of the seas. Some are equipped with their own light source. Does anyone truly believe that these capabilities just evolved? Why?
Some new words and concepts for me in this essay BD. Spent some time with the dictionary trying to follow along.
If I understand, the 'trope' of Darwin, (even though actually counter to the theory of evolution) does seem life based. Other tropes not so much, like saying books are 'best friends' or having pet names for cars or calling the planet "Mother Earth". Sayings seem harmless but do we really see books or cars as friends? Aren't real friends people? And unlike real mothers, the Earth has no care for us as individuals, Also, I think there is no proof of a species ever having evolved into a different species. Evolution is just theory but is now widely accepted as much more.
And 'reified tropes' are not the origin of my religion because of my own belief in God and belief in His manifestation in this world, in language, music, numbers, design, life, which all serve no purpose without His people.
"This is written mainly from the standpoint of philosophical naturalism/materialism, as if that were the ground I stand on. It's not. [...] No-one really can for very long unless they deaden their brain."
Actually I thought you were doing pretty well. An understanding of the theory of evolution is dogged by a Whig cultural expectation of "improvements" in the world over time, and it is a fallacy with respect to the theory. As for what you can believe about the real world - well, if the only purpose and progress in the world are the purpose that we choose and the progress that we achieve, if in five billion years' time the reddening sun will inflate and scorch away all evidence that we ever lived on this world - if that's the truth then I can live with it. Are you sure that you couldn't?
"The Bible says that God created man in His own image."
A spiritual form is, relative to us, everywhere all the time. Theoretically, physical things like space, mass and time would not matter to them. But do they simply know everything all the time without caring, since their survival doesn’t depend on anything material, and any “emotions” as we understand them are not processed through some electrochemical sack of junk? Or is a material anchor of some sort, like the one known as “Jesus”, or Joe, or Ishmael... required to 'care' about the material? Is there more to this “dying for our sins” stuff than meets our material eyes, or can be explained by words alone?