Didn't Darwin make Teleological obsolete?

You know, what the subject says. C.f. Human Nature After Darwin by Janet Radcliffe-Richards.

That old bean Darwin turned out to be a teleologist >:D. Aristotle would have been proud, that naughty boy…

tele, i have eventually pulled finger from butt, and decided to see what teleology is all about, and i think i have it now.

what you are basically saying is:
nothing happens by accident. it is either being manipulated right now for a particular end, or has been affected by an event put in motion however long ago (creation), in order to reach an end.

so, i go and buy a hammer, so i can use it to whack nails in my wall. so the design behind me earning a salary, buying a car, having a home with walls, and the mica down the road being there, is so that i can buy a hammer.

how then, does all these designs, satisfy billions of people’s needs? how can a design, from either long ago, or from a godly being, satisfy human nature?
does this mean, that the entire universe was created for the sake of human beings’ entertainment, so we can look at stars and come up with stories about gods and starsigns?
does it mean, that human beings are reacting to actions set into motion, that creates violence within human society? what is the purpose of this design? apart from suffering and heartache?
what is the end of this design, the purpose? what is the design leading to?
is it a particular, one goal? or is it a set of goals, known/unknown to us?
if this design has been set in motion long ago, where is the instigator now? has it/her/him dissapeared?
is the instigator still around? is he/she/it still tweaking, or sitting back and watching the dominoes fall?

i get the feeling, that the idea behind teleology, is basically one of these contraption projects with balls and dominoes, where one action sets off a whole bunch of other stuff, that eventually leads to fireworks being lit and going off.

if that’s the case, why the hell go through millenia’s worth of living and dying and suffering. just flip the switch and do whatever you want to do. it’s a bit of a sadistic being that makes his creations suffer for his/her/its entertainment.
teleology of course says, that intelligent design alludes to there being an intelligent superior mind, aka ‘god’.
what kind of god leaves his best living creations, with agonizing wisdom teeth, which i can attest to. or a pancreas that will kill you. or disease? or hatred, envy?

surely, if a superior mind set things in motion with an intelligent design, then the design isnt all that intelligent at all. it’s flawed. and if the intelligent design has been designed so that suffering and hardship is part of the design, then the end result better be one fucking awesome show. so millions of humans, animals, trees, must die in order for a grand ta-da! at the end.

isnt that a bit fucking masochistic?

You’re pretty much spot on, GCG…

The point is, until Darwin came along, the only explanation for the complexity we observe in nature was teleological, i.e. involved some kind of volition. (See: Paley’s watch analogy). Then Darwin came around… and made that teleological explanation superfluous.

Right, Tele?

With regards to Paley’s teleology (ID today if you want and very Platonic in essence), pretty much. Nonetheless, Darwin the old teleologist would have had a great time chatting to that chap Aristotle when it comes to teleology, even though Darwin loved his mechanistic-cum-Democritus-cum-Lucretius-cum-Descartes view of reality. Right, Michael?

No doubt. They were both deep thinkers. The really telling question, though, is what they would have made of one another’s views knowing what we know today, i.e. on an equal footing.

Sometimes you just gotta love the inventive BS. This is where the res extensae and res cogitans bifurcate into different species – violently, with blind, unthinking animal ferocity. :smiley: (I apologise in advance for the deep obscurity of this joke.)


Well, since they were both teleologists, I would put my money on both of them being utterly appalled by what materialists are still trying to do. That is, still trying to sell a coherent picture of reality despite having no coherent view of what materialism is in the first place and still calling themselves materialists and claiming it is vindicated by modern science.

Nah, I think rather that both of them would celebrate materialism’s essential humility, its parsimony and its very long list of impressive successes, and laud most of its proponents’ acknowledgement that while it has some looming problems, there is no good reason to suppose that completeness and consistency are necessarily unattainable. On the other hand, I think both of them would be seriously alarmed by, and gravely dismayed at the common tendency of certain teleologists to commit a wide variety of logical fallacies, in the main that of false dilemma.


Darwin was a teleologist? That’s news to me. (Though I’ve only read On the Origin and parts of Expressions of Emotions, so I’m no Darwin scholar). It seems somewhat unlikely, though. He discovered natural selection - the first (successful) entirely material explanation for biological complexity. And he was an agnostic (at least in later life). So, who, exactly, did he attribute the agency to?

I’m not sure there is such a thing as a non-theist teleologist (about non-animal artifacts). (Discounting aliens, etc.).

IIRC, you said:

There is only one materialist here (or anywhere else, for that matter), insisting that materialism is a complete and fully-developed metaphysical position, and that’s the one made of bubblegum, string and paper clips, mincing around with its put-on substantiality in the chief builder’s head.
So I am a bit curious how you think this incomplete metaphysical position can be credited with a list of successes. It's a bit like saying those incomplete RDP houses can be credited for successfully housing several well educated and rich families. Maybe you can make some sort of argument though...

Btw, I think you are looking for “mechanism” or a “mechanistic outlook of reality” if you want to laud something for the success of modern science. And by gosh I hope you don’t think (logical fallacy and all) the success of modern science does in any way impart any truth to the metaphysical foundations of modern science whether you think it is mechanism or an incomplete metaphysical position such as materialism (as you say). An incomplete metaphysical position that strangely enough resembles eliminative materialism, which if true, would mean no thoughts, no mental phenomena, and no thoughtful scientists or modern science, just stuff, or like your pal would like to say, “sh|t just happens”.

Every time you, muffles, refer to materialism as having “humility” or being “parsimonious” or having a long list of successes, could you perhaps describe what you think this mysterious, incomplete metaphysical position refers to in your mind. Quite frankly, I don’t think you have a clue and just like the sound of “materialism”. Perhaps you can surprise me.

Well, you should read more about Darwin and you don’t even need to be a Darwin scholar to understand it.

The argument is simply that certain observable phenomena presently have no convincing materialistic account but that that alone is hardly enough to invalidate materialism, a position that you seem hell-bent on taking. You keep insinuating that materialism has been exhausted, that it has run its course and is irreparably defective. Moreover, this insistence of yours is on the feeblest of grounds because you haven’t shown a single argument in support of materialism’s alleged bankruptcy. And you have yet to put forward any kind of alternative. In short, you’re sitting on a fence hurling mud.

Oy vey. I’m going to print out and frame the above as the most ill-informed statement about science and its metaphysical foundations I have seen so far, and I’ve seen a few corkers. Tell you what, why don’t you start a campaign to convince all those silly scientists and philosophers that, for example, the laws of motion (Newtonian and relativistic) say nothing about Aristotle’s metaphysics of motion? Let’s see how many of them buy into your idea, okay?


Well, you should read more about Darwin and you don't even need to be a Darwin scholar to understand it.

Link? Reference?

I ask you again, could you perhaps describe what you think materialism and the materialist position refers to in your mind in your words? Perhaps the reason you see no arguments against materialism (how certain phenomena such intentionality are IN PRINCIPLE incompatible with a materialistic account of reality) is that your understanding of it is severely lacking and/or you are unable to recognise them. I guess you can argue that materialism can’t be bankrupt since it is an incomplete metaphysics (sort of like materialism of the gaps) that just needs a bit of working out. Well, materialists have struggled for a 2000 or more years… guess what, no luck still.

Ooh, now I am curious as to what horrible straw man caricature of Aristotelian metaphysics about motion you are going to dredge up to desperately try and make an argument for why Aristotelian metaphysics are incompatible with modern science. Aristotelian physics, yes, there are examples which are obviously incompatible with modern science. But Aristotelian metaphysics… muffles, I am waiting for you to make an argument…
Try and support your assertion that Aristotelian metaphysics is incompatible with modern science with some form of an argument please.
While you are at it, give your understanding of this incomplete materialist metaphysics you talk about and think has so much humility and parsimony…

You can read the exchanges between Lennox and Ghiselin as a start. (Link, link, link)
Also read “Functions: new essays in the philosophy of psychology and biology By André Ariew, Robert Cummins, Mark Perlman”
Also read Natural Selection, Teleology, and the Logos: From Darwin to the Oxford Neo-Darwinists, 1859-1909.
And a new paper that might interest you: Darwin teleologist? Design in the Orchids

Heck, Darwin might have been an IDer today… Article: Was Darwin a creationist?, besides the point, but still fun to know…:P.

There you go, contradicting your own position once again, Teleological. On the one hand, paraphrased, you imply (twice) that the findings and successes of modern science hold no sway over the validity of the metaphysical theories that underpin science. On the other hand, you point (many times) to our present ignorance concerning certain aspects of some of those results (e.g. evolution, biochemical processes, studies in cognition, etc.) in an obvious and broad hint that an exclusively materialist foundational metaphysic is inadequate. You can’t, by your own assertions, have both.

Then you go off and fabricate new stuff (actually, it’s more of the same yawn-inducing old stuff) to dodge that which has been put before you. You can carry on wooing those little pigeonholes you are so besotted with, and I’ll let someone else respond for me with a small addition:

You are of course free to interpret my withdrawal whichever way you see fit.


you know, if darwin was alive today, he would bitchslap you tele.
do you think, this oke spent years travelling accross the globe, spending his years in the dust and much, researching evolution for an asshat like you to say he believed in intelligent design.
do you think he worked himself into illness and beyond, to get his works out, to publish his books, for you to say he actually believes that it all had a plan.
do you think he flew in the face of establishment, to have you, years and years after he died, decide you know him well enough to make decisions about his mental processes?

  • from around 1849 would go for a walk on Sundays while his family attended church.
  • in 1879 he wrote that “I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. – I think that generally … an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” (that means he will believe it when he sees it, in case you were looking for a loophole)
  • The “Lady Hope Story”, published in 1915, claimed that Darwin had reverted back to Christianity on his sickbed. The claims were repudiated by Darwin’s children and have been dismissed as false by historians
  • he (darwin)thought of religion as a tribal survival strategy
  • He (darwin)considered it “absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist”

stop trying to fit this genius man into your hokey pokey ideas of the world. he didnt work his ass off his whole life so people like you can abuse and misinterpret his work for your own gains.

Quote from: Jacques on Yesterday at 10:11:53 So, in short, thanks for confirming once more that it's a waste of time to engage with you further.
You are of course free to interpret my withdrawal whichever way you see fit.

Mefi, I’m confused. I think Jaques was talking about Teleological and not you - perhaps I’m reading it wrong??

you know, if darwin was alive today, he would bitchslap you tele.

@GCG, your replies always make me smile. ;D


I think you missed the point by miles… unsurprisingly. Now see if you can understand this:

  1. EVEN IF the successes of modern science are due in part or even as a whole to materialistic metaphysics, it still does not impart any truth to materialism and the same goes for others.
  2. I am arguing that materialism is IN PRINCIPLE inadequate (meaning, whatever science finds, materialism will be inadequate) at describing phenomena such as intentionality. That has been one of the stock standard objections (in various forms of course) since anybody tried to sell materialism thousands of years ago. Trying to find a square circle is like trying to find a materialistic explanation for certain phenomena in reality.
  3. You would like to acknowledge that materialism “might” have no convincing account for some phenomena at present, but you appeal to “materialism-of-the-gaps” type of argumentation by saying it is an incomplete metaphysics. You show no understanding of your own about materialism and what it is, yet still tout it as some magical metaphysics that helped science so much.

In essence, you like to ascribe the successes of modern science to materialism without having a (well, I am waiting for you to demonstrate any king of understanding) proper understanding of materialism and claim it is because it is an incomplete metaphysics. So, I’ll ask you again:
Could you perhaps describe what you think materialism and the materialist position refers to in your mind in your words?
Also, after articulating this, describe why you think this metaphysics and which particular elements of this metaphysics can be held responsible for the successes of modern science.

I am also waiting for an argument of any sort as to why Aristotle’s metaphysics is incompatible with modern science’s understanding of motion…

Was talking about Tele, yes.

I think you misunderstood my intent – I’m sorry for giving the wrong impression. I merely used Jacques’s reply to Teleological because I thought it succinctly captures all that is wrong here. I won’t engage any further with Teleological on the present matter because he is neither open to anything that calls his ideas into question, nor does he actually know his oats anywhere near as well as he would have his Punch-and-Judy act suggest.