Oct 292005

David C. Stove, in his Darwinian Fairytales wrote about Teleology in Biology:

“Talk about certain things being done ‘for the sake of’ something or other, is plainly just as teleological as talk about ends, goals, or purposes.”
p. 190

“Darwinians have always owed their readers a translation manual that would ‘cash’ the teleological language which Darwinians avail themselves of without restraint in explaining particular adaptations, into the non-teleological language which their own theory of adaptation requires. But they have never paid, or even tried to pay, this debt.”
p. 191

“Nor have [Darwin or] any Darwinians ever given, to this day, any such reconciliation of their theory with the teleological language which they employ as freely as though they were disciples, not of Darwin, but of Paley. Presumably the reason that they have not, is the same as the reason Darwin did not.”

“I am not suggesting that Darwin should not have used, or that a Darwinian should not use, teleological language when trying to explain particular adaptations. That would be a hopelessly doctrinaire and impracticable suggestion. A biologist, whether of Darwin’s time or ours, can hardly frame a single thought, concerning adaptations, which does not involve intendedness on purposefulness. To ask him to purge his mind of all such thoughts, and never to use words like ‘purpose’, ‘function’, or ‘contrivance’, would amount in practice to telling him to stop thinking about adaptation altogether.”

“Darwinians, then, have never paid, or even acknowledged, the debt they have all along owed the public: a reconciliation of their teleological explanations of particular adaptations, with their non-teleological explanation of adaptation in general. And not only have they never paid this debt they have in fact become progressively less conscious, with time, of the fact that they owe this debt.”
p. 191

“In this respect, Williams is perfectly typical of present day Darwinians. He must have known, at the time he first became a Darwinian, that he used an expression like ‘was designed for’ with an invisible promissory note attached to it, saying something like ‘To be cashed at a later date in non-teleological terms’.”

“He [Williams] has simply forgotten what teleological words mean, or else has forgotten the fact that they are not really available to Darwinians engaged in explaining adaptations. In particular, he has forgotten that ‘was designed for’ implies ‘was intended to’. But unluckily for Williams, (though luckily for sanity and for non-Darwinians), ‘was designed for’ still means what it meant before the Revelation of 1859 [publication of Darwin’s book Origin of Species], and in particular, still implies ‘was intended to’. And that being so, Williams does still owe his readers the translation of his talk about design into non-teleological language which he, in common with all other Darwinians, has been promising for so long, and yet never performed.”

“”many philosophers” have discussed teleology in the last 50 years, and attempted to provide for Darwinians the translation manual which they have always needed, but never tried to provide for themselves “it must be admitted that all their results have been negative… It has turned out, in fact, to be far harder to translate teleological into non-teleological language than had been anticipated by philosophers; or at any rate, by philosophers friendly towards Darwinism… whether such translation is possible at all, is more than anyone knows.”
p. 192

“With Aristotle, even physics is teleological.”
p. 194

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