Tuesday, January 12, 2010

“I think we're on the verge of a major philosophical shift in biology”

I have long complained that too many partisans in the debate between Darwinism and Intelligent Design theory do not realize that the recognition of teleological processes in nature does not necessarily hinge on whether one is willing to accept the existence of a “designer.” That may appear to be the case if one assumes William Paley’s conception of teleology, but not if one takes instead an Aristotelian approach to teleology. And attacks on the former conception do not necessarily have force against the latter conception.

To be sure, we Thomists do hold that teleology provides the basis for an argument for God’s existence, viz. Aquinas’s Fifth Way. But that argument is very different from Paley’s, and acknowledges – with Aristotle and against Paley and his successors – that the existence of teleology in nature does not directly entail an ordering intelligence. That requires further argumentation. (As the analytical Thomist Christopher Martin has noted, modern philosophers tend to assume that getting from natural teleology to God is easy, but establishing that there really is such a thing as teleology in nature in the first place is hard – whereas Aquinas’s view was that the existence of natural teleology was obvious, and the real philosophical work comes in showing that such teleology really requires an explanation in terms of God, as Aristotle thought it did not. See my book Aquinas for my most extended treatment of this issue.)

The philosopher of biology Andre Ariew is one contemporary thinker outside the Aristotelian-Thomistic orbit who has noted the difference between Paley’s understanding of teleology and Aristotle’s, and acknowledged that Darwinian criticisms of Paley do not necessarily show that there is no such thing as teleology in the Aristotelian sense. Another is physiologist J. Scott Turner, whose recent book The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges From Life Itself argues for the indispensability of the notion of unconscious “intentionality” in understanding certain biological phenomena.

Our friend John Farrell has just posted an interesting Q and A between himself and Turner over at his blog, wherein Turner expresses the view that “we’re on the verge of a major philosophical shift in biology.” Check it out, then go buy the book.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Teleology-of-the-Gaps. Yawn.

Edward Feser said...

Stock clueless naturalist response. Yawn.

You won't find any "gaps" arguments on this blog. And if you think you've seen one, you haven't been paying attention.

bgc said...

I'm not sure about this - but I would think that you cannot discover teleology in biology; but can only show instances which are compatible with teleology. It sounds like this is what J Scott Turner may be doing.

The same applies to natural selection. Biology can show instances compatible with natural selection but natural selection cannot be 'discovered' in biology.

e.g. Darwin's work was an open-ended series of examples of how some specific things could be explained using the theory of natural selection.

The comparative evaluation of teleology versus natural selection comes at a higher level (a meta-level) - comparing a whole system based on teleology versus a whole system from which teleology has been subtracted - such as non-teleological natural selection.

The comparison would be one of complexity and coherence - which of these enables the largest and least contradictory set of explanations?

The answer would probably be teleological 'Thomism'; mainly because it links biology (and science) with the other domains of knowledge, making overall a larger coherent system.

Subtracting teleology from biology, and from science in general, has the effect of making science incommensurable with everything else - unless you subtract teleology from 'everything else' which destroys 'everything else'. i.e. modernity.

But down at the level of practicising biology (which is mostly, nowadays, some kind of 'medical' research) natural selection is very seldom used. There is indeed a kind of casual and implicit teleology - but the specific fields of science mostly ignore natural selection.

My point is that most biologists (even eminent ones) are uninterested in, and ignorant of, meta-theory such as natural selection and teleology because this does not impinge on their work - and the reason meta-theory seldom impinges on their work is that the work of most 'micro' level biology is intrinsically incapable of differentiating between meta-theories - is equally compatible with teleology, natural selection and probably other meta-theories as well.

For me, the convincing argument for Thomistic teleology involves showing that when teleology is subtracted, then the overall explanatory meta-system becomes fragmented, becomes less complex, and becomes much less coherent.

Ilíon said...

"To be sure, we Thomists do hold that teleology provides the basis for an argument for God’s existence, viz. Aquinas’s Fifth Way. But that argument is very different from Paley’s, and acknowledges – with Aristotle and against Paley and his successors – that the existence of teleology in nature does not directly entail an ordering intelligence."

I'm sorry, but that really makes no sense; I've read TLS (I mean to read it again) ... and teleology which just pops into existence, all on its own, unconnected to a Teleologist, still makes no sense.

bgc said...

Incidentally, there is a major 'mathematical'/ geometric strand of theoretical biology which is based on the existence of 'forms' - not sure whether this counts as teleological or not.

Examples would include Goethe (the idea that everything was based on the leaf), D'Arcy Thomson, Conrad Waddington, and nowadays people like Stuart Kauffman and Bryan Goodwin.

See Science as a Process by David L Hull for a history of this non-Darwinian strand.

Edward Feser said...

bgc,

The teleological questions biology raises are of different sorts. There is the question of the adaptation of organisms to their environment; that's the one Darwinism claims to answer satisfactorily without teleological residue. Then there are questions like how to describle developmental processes, distinguishing aberrent cases from normal ones, etc., which is what people like Ariew and Turner are interested in.

Now, what the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosopher claims is that there is necessarily going to be some level of irreducible teleology in nature. One level at the very least. Probably much more than that, but at least one. As Aquinas puts it in a stock example, when the farmer plowing his field stumbles upon buried treasure, that's a chance event. But it is a chance event that presupposed two non-chance events, namely the farmer's activity of plowing and some other guy's decision to bury the treasure just there. In general, A-T says that whenever you succeed in describing something in terms of chance, you are always doing so in terms of something else that doesn't involve chance. Hence even if we accept that natural selection satisfactorly accounts for adaptation, that is only because it presupposes more basic physical processes that involve no chance at all. Even if we could take it down all the way to the level of basic physics, with everything above that level, everything at the various chemical and biochemical levels accounted for in terms of a ratchet-like series of chance historical events a la natural selection, that very bottom level itself would remain irreducibly teleological. For (as I've discussed in several places, including TLS and Aquinas) the A-T claim is that even a simple efficient-causal regularity like A's generating some effect B or some range B, C, or D is unintelligible unless we take the generation of B (or B, C, D, whatever) as the "end" or "goal" toward which A is inherently directed. Causal powers, in short, entail something like "physical intentionality" (as Goerge Molnar calls it) or "proto-intentionality" (as D.M. Armstrong calls it) or final causality (as Aristotelians and Thomists call it).

Edward Feser said...

(Continued)

So that's one point: Getting rid of (Aristotelian) teleology here or there might or might not be plausible, but it cannot even in principle be gotten rid of entirely. It's like the frog that stares up at you from the bottom of the beer mug, just when you'd thought you'd gotten rid of it (to borrow an image from J.L. Austin). This is why the anonymnous commenter above is clueless -- the argument has nothing to do with a "gap" that might in principle be filled with something else. A-T metaphysical arguments don't work like that; they try to show that the conclusion is inescapable, not merely probable or the best we can do 'til science progresses. (Another reason the anonymous commenter is clueless is that nothing said so far has anything to do with theism -- certainly writers like Molnar and Armstrong, and Ariew and Turner as far as I know, have no theological ax to grind.)

So, A-T is making a stronger claim than, it seems to me, you are characterizing it as making. That's one point. The other point concerns whether we can in fact eliminate teleology from every level apart from the bottom, and in particular whether we can eliminate it from our description of developmental processes etc. in biology. And the claim Aristotelians would make, and that Ariew and Turner are seriously considering, is that we cannot coherently describe such processes in an entirely non-teleological way -- cannot capture the objective biological facts apart from characterizing such-and-such characteristics as the natural end result of such-and-such a developmental process, for example. And here again, that is a stronger claim than it seems to me you're giving it credit for being, and certainly a stronger claim than a "gaps" argument would make. The claim may or may not be mistaken -- I'm not addressing that just now -- but the point os to get clear on teh kind of claim being made, and the A-T theorist wants to say that teleology is unavoidable in (at least some of) the phenomena biologists do have to deal with day to day. It isn't merely an issue that unavoidably arises when we get to the deepest level of metaphysical inquiry (though it is that too).

Edward Feser said...

teleology which just pops into existence, all on its own, unconnected to a Teleologist, still makes no sense.

Two points, Ilion:

First, no one claims it is even in theory possible for teleology to "pop into existence all on its own." I certainly don't. Aristotle doesn't either. He thinks it's just a basic, irreducible fact about a universe that has always existed.

Second, I (like Aquinas) think Aristotle was wrong even about that. Not only because the universe hasn't always existed, but because on analysis, even if things had always had final causes, there would have to be an infinite intellect ordering them to their ends. Or, for that matter, even if only a single finite object had ever had even an extremely simply final cause even for a second, there would have to be an infinite intellect ordering that thing to its end. (Again, see Aquinas for the details.)

The point, though, is that the defense of this claim has nothing to do with arguing from complexity or analogy a la Paley and ID theory, and requires laying out some complex metaphysical background concerning the problem of universals, the essence/existence distinction, etc. Not to mention the fact that we can at least describe the ends of things -- as Aristotle was perfectly capable of doing -- without asking what purposes a designer might have had in creating them etc. (something else that plays no role in Aquinas's argument). It is at least possible to wonder whether final causality -- rightly understood in Aristotelian terms as something immanent in nature -- requires an explanation in terms of God. Aristotle wasn't a fool, after all, nor did he have any atheistic bias, happy as he was to argue for God's existence on other grounds.

So, I agree that upon analysis, it turns out that teleology necessarily requires an infinite divine intellect. But the analysis is required, and that analysis takes considerable philosophical work -- it isn't a simple "Teleology? BOOM! therefore God" kind of argument.

Crude said...

Ed,

I have a couple question of my own, related to what I take part of bgc's point to be.

You talk about there being some levels (even if they're very fundamental/physical) where teleology is unavoidable, and how this - if I take you right - is sufficient to lead to a lot of important metaphysical conclusions. I'd agree.

But 1) if a teleological and non-teleological account can be given of the same thing, do you think this automatically renders the teleological view incorrect? I think bgc may have been driving at something like that. I ask because often the claim is "well we have a non-teleological account of X therefore the teleological account was wrong" - back to that 'all teleology must be some kind of gap' attitude.

And 2) can you think of another example of non-biological teleology? Oderberg's rock cycle comes to mind, but I'm curious of others.

bgc said...

@EF - Thanks for the comments. I'm sure you are correct. I'm really trying to understand the psychology of this - as implied by @Crude.

There is, in science, a definite assumption that it is better to do without teleology. This is also built into ordinary 'frequentist' statistics, which is based on a null hypotheses that we must assume no significant difference or correlation (hence no causal process at work) unless certain statistical criteria are met.

My feeling (and I know you would agree) is that this kind of 'eliminative' or subtractive thinking is unjustifiable as a general principle. It is merely a sort of populist misunderstanding of Occam's razor.

Often the move is demonstrably wrong, even on purely scientific grounds, and has thriven only because of the distorting effects of hyper-specialization/ compartmentalism and short-termism in science.

This means that people are able to claim that elimination/ subtraction of x 'makes no difference' and is therefore to be preferred on grounds of simplicity. However, all this usually means is that things don't immediately collapse when x is eliminated. Often things collapse after a while, or there are clear reductio ad absurdum consequences or incoherences just a couple of causal steps further down the line; or the elimination of x is obviously a bad idea when information from adjascent scientific domains is taken into consideration.

But none of this is of any interest to the hyper-specialist in a hurry to get their next grant. It is a matter of what you can get away with, rather than what is true...

So the eliminative/ subtractive assumption has thriven on the kind of narrow, short-termist, short attention span thinking which is leading Western culture into disaster in so many other ways.

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting, but I have some work to do before I understand what is being said. I clicked on the interview with Turner and didn't quite get what he was saying. Probably my Darwinian naturalist thinking is too deeply ingrained to get it at first. (I'm also a Christian, but have the basic 21st century scientific outlook on how the natural world is supposed to work and teleology doesn't compute--I can say that God ultimately is in control of everything, but I never thought of teleology being an absolute necessity for understanding how things work and while as a Christian I can make the leap and say, well, maybe naturalism isn't enough in science, I don't get how one does it without there being a God to provide the purposes.

But as I say, I have some work to do, I guess.

anonymous lefty lurker

TheOFloinn said...

There is, in science, a definite assumption that it is better to do without teleology.

More accurately, they deny it while surreptitiously relying upon it. Without a telos, how can there be scientific laws of nature?

Anonymous said...

For interested parties, a documentary on Aristotle as a biologist is due to be screened on BBC 4 at 9pm this Sunday, written by a biologist and a philosopher of biology.

The 27th Comrade said...

The ID people, as far as I know, who oppose neo-Darwinian evolution (the ones I listen to) are not arguing to preserve the recognition of teleology in biology, but to decry the continued glorification of an impoverished, and falsified theory.

Evolution, after all, can be all teleology. (It's just that the neo-Darwinian theory implies no teleology at the higher, functional level.) Like the evolution from the Ford Model T to the Maybach 62. Darwinian equivalents can prove that there is no high-level teleology in this evolution, and that it progressed by random changes to cars, and buyers favouring the changes that served them better, and people like Prof. Ed Feser would be glad to move the "Teleology Here!" signpost lower down to bottom levels.
Maybe that is fine, maybe it is not. It just happens not to be the concern of the people I listen to whether or not the teleology poster can be found lower down.

The opponents of neo-Darwinian evolution, on the other hand, are saying "No, there is no Ford Model U or Ford Model V. There is saltation in the car designs. While the theory you posit (see The Selfish Machene by Dichard Rawkins, 1976) is sufficient to explain the move from the Wright Brothers' plane to the Tupolev Tu-444, it is simply not how things work. Thank you for your vigourously-defended contribution. Let's now stop dreaming and get with explaining the universe as it is found to be."

(Paley may not have seen that his method was insufficient to prove that God is, but that's not a reason to throw his argument out. Just take what it proves as one of the things proven about/in the universe. A-T theory isn't all there is, is it? And modern ID learnt this, and stopped trying to prove God; it merely shows that these programs imply a programmer. This crime - theodicy! - implies a perpetrator. Here are the fingerprints.)

Anonymous said...

Edward,

I just stumbled upon a book 'God and World Order' by Leo R. Ward (a priest and professor at Notre Dame), I thought you may be interested. It is about the notion of final cause, esp. in biology but also in ethics, and about its history, about when it started to disappear and why.

Anonymous said...

"Without a telos, how can there be scientific laws of nature?"

Human beings observe and test regularities in the universe and create models to help us understand what's going on. Some of these models get labeled "laws" of nature. Although it is quaint that some folks think this implies a lawmaker, magical thinking is never part of the scientific enterprise.

Anonymous said...

Lawmakers are no more magic than laws. Then again, as Hume showed, plenty are skeptical of the latter too.

But then, atheists believe in more magic than even the most convinced animist. ;)

TheOFloinn said...

Initial comment
"Without a telos, how can there be scientific laws of nature?"

Anonymous 1
Human beings observe and test regularities in the universe and create models to help us understand what's going on. Some of these models get labeled "laws" of nature. Although it is quaint that some folks think this implies a lawmaker, magical thinking is never part of the scientific enterprise.

Yes, part of the gradual erosion of science has been this contraction from certain knowledge to mere educated opinion. That there are no "laws," only "regularities" is a meme that smothered science in Islam. The parallelism between Hume and al-Ghazali is... amusing.

I'm not sure where you get the notion that telos necessarily implies a lawmaker. Aristotle did not appear to think so. Whether is does is no more obvious than that motion implies a first mover. The arguments, as I understand them, are not trivial.

I understand that you have a strong faith and likely no more believe in the first mover than in the lawgiver. But does your belief that there is no fist mover result in your denying that motion exists in nature? Then why deny that finality exists in nature?

Nature obviously works toward ends.

A falling body will always move toward the point of minimum gravitational potential. It never flies off by itself; it does not hover. Obviously, there is something inherent in matter that directs it toward minimal gravitational potential.

Similarly, evolution results in a multiplication of species. It never results in one species or no species (that is: each individual sui generis). Obviously, there is something in evolution that is directed toward the end of multiplicity.

A tiger cub matures into a mature tiger. It does not grow up into a petunia. It does not continue growing without limit. Obviously, there is something in morphogenesis that is directed toward the end of maturity.

(End in fact has three meanings: a termination (as in the case of the falling body: "the end"), a perfection (as in the case of the tiger), and lastly a purpose (as in the case of evolution: living beings purpose to go on living, and so attempt new environments and niches and food sources until something works.)

This "directedness toward" is what is called "telos." It is not magic, but exists in natural.

Ilíon said...

27th Comrade: "The ID people, as far as I know, who oppose neo-Darwinian evolution (the ones I listen to) are not arguing to preserve the recognition of teleology in biology, but to decry the continued glorification of an impoverished, and falsified theory.
...
(Paley may not have seen that his method was insufficient to prove that God is ...
"

The IDists (as IDists) aren't trying to do philosophy, and they aren't trying to prove that there is a God; they're doing science, and they're doing it within the constraints that materialists/atheists have managed over the past couple of centuries to impose upon our societal understanding of what science is, and how it operates. The science they're doing happens to have philosophical/metaphysical implications; you know, just as "Darwinism" does. Further, the science that the IDists are doing functions to highlight that the "Darwinists" aren't doing science at all, but rather are doing very shoddy metaphysics/philosophy/theology, as, after all, has been the case since 1859.

Mr Feser's criticisms of the IDists seem to turn on faulting them for what they're intentionally trying not to do.


For instance, the IDists' claim/insistence that "the designer may be natural" is valid as science (as science is construed these days), but terrible as metaphysics -- modern science operates on a different level than, and isn't as robust as, philosophy/metaphysics. If "the designer" were "natural," then "the designer" remains unexplained-within-the system that is "nature." If "the designer" were indeed "natural," than all that has been accomplished is to shift the "Darwinism" to elsewhere; and that's no accomplishment at all.


27th Comrade: "(Paley may not have seen that his method was insufficient to prove that God is, but that's not a reason to throw his argument out. Just take what it proves as one of the things proven about/in the universe. A-T theory isn't all there is, is it? And modern ID learnt this, and stopped trying to prove God; it merely shows that these programs imply a programmer. This crime - theodicy! - implies a perpetrator. Here are the fingerprints.)"

Indeed; few good arguments, or theories, prove everything. Finite beings, such as we are, must build upon what they already know.

One of the problems with "Darwinism," one of the reasons it *is* a pseudo-scientific pseudo-theory (I mean, aside from its appeal as a quaint 19-century absurdity and its demonstrable falseness [*]), is that it "explains everything." Including everything and its opposite.

[*] Modern science isn't even about truth; and being false doesn't make a theory "unscientific."

Anonymous said...

"Obviously, there is something inherent in matter that directs it toward minimal gravitational potential."

No. There is nothing "in" the matter "directing" it anywhere. Your cartoonish model is false. Read a physics book.

"Obviously, there is something in evolution that is directed toward the end of multiplicity."

No. There is nothing "in" evolution directing anything. Read a biology book.

Brandon said...

It's pretty clearly a lost cause, Mike; when someone has reached the sheer magicism of insisting on regularities everywhere while simultaneously denying that anything is disposed to regularity, one has reached a surreal mindscape in which rational argument has no purchase.

TheOFloinn said...

No. There is nothing "in" the matter "directing" it anywhere. Your cartoonish model is false. Read a physics book.

My physics book says that matter is directed always toward the point of minimal gravitation potential. Why? Because matter contains a quality called "gravity" which creates a "potential field." Etc.

But physicists ignore the directedness of nature, taking the existence of natural laws for granted. Physics by definition cannot investigate its own assumptions.

If there were nothing inherent in matter directing it to move toward the minimal potential, then matter would not always move toward minimal potential, but would sometimes spontaneously fly up, or would sometimes float in mid-air, or would not move at all.

+ + +
No. There is nothing "in" evolution directing anything. Read a biology book.

That evolutionaries claim that there is no directedness in evolution reflects only their prior metaphysical commitments. But Darwin even titled his book "On the Origin of Species," so he seemed to think that that was what the whole thing was about. If evolution is not directed toward a multiplicity of species, then why is it called "the origin of species"? Why does evolution not produce the One Best Species? Or no species at all, with each individual being sui generis, as I suggested.

The answer that "It is all just one big coincidence" rings the death knell of science.

Anonymous said...

matter contains a quality called "gravity"

If that is what your physics book says, it must have been published prior to 1915. If you care whether what you believe is most likely true, you ought to stay more up to date.

That evolutionaries claim that there is no directedness in evolution reflects only their prior metaphysical commitments.

LOL! At least you acknowledge that those who know the most about evolution overwhelmingly agree that evolution is not directional. Take Feser's advice: Trust the experts.

I declare victory, and shall give you the last word.

Ilíon said...

What a fool. Pathetic, perhaps; but still he chooses his irrationality and illogic.

John Farrell said...

Ilion, well said. And there's nothing like the option of 'Anonymous' to bring out the dumbest statements in an otherwise engaging comment thread.

TheOFloinn said...

matter contains a quality called "gravity"

If that is what your physics book says, it must have been published prior to 1915. If you care whether what you believe is most likely true, you ought to stay more up to date.

The way it works according to current understanding is that space and time are metaphysical intrusions into empirical science. Einstein stated in his paper on the precession of the nodes of Mercury that general relativity had banished finally the last claim of space and time to objective existence.

This is because space and time are attributes of matter. Space exists because matter has extension; time exists because matter changes. Space-time is then defined as a certain state of the Ricci tensor defined by the very presence of matter itself. In popular parlance, matter "bends" space-time, and matter then travels along straight lines ("geodesics") that may appear curved to an observer. This curvature in the Ricci tensors induced by the very presence of matter is what we perceive as "gravity."

IOW, "gravity" is a property inherent in the nature of matter, qua matter.

The ironist may also detect peculiar echos in Einstein's theory of Aristo-Thomist philosophy. "Time is the measure of change in corruptible being" and all that. The natural motion is rectilinear.
+ + +

At least you acknowledge that those who know the most about evolution overwhelmingly agree that evolution is not directional.

Their lips say one thing; their other actions another. They will claim that evolution is not directional and at the same time claim that it directs species toward greater fitness for an ecological niche.

But this is no surprise. Your auto mechanic is not likely (nor competent) to discuss thermodynamics, even though the latter is crucial to how engines work. That scientists have no expertise outside their particular training is not jaw-dropper.

Your argument, Anonymous, would have been far more convincing if you had actually illustrated it with, you know, an argument. Given examples. Shown that Einstein was wrong. That sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

"I declare victory, and shall give you the last word."

Arrogant imbecile. So typical of the enlightened, "freethinkers" that populate so many of our universities today. They don't have to listen to anything you say, they can just deny it. They simply know everything. Bow to their solemn authority, how dare you question it! But no, it's not a "creed" or "dogma," it's "open minded" and "free thought." The hypocrisy makes me sick.

But this one's particularly cowardly. Note how he utters the same, stock naturalistic assumptions that were being used 200 years ago, and doesn't bother responding to the criticisms leveled against them. Maybe philosophers should stay out of science (maybe,) but scientists should definitely stay the hell out of philosophy.

Ilíon said...

Anonymous II(?): "So typical of the enlightened, "freethinkers" that populate so many of our universities today. They don't have to listen to anything you say, they can just deny it. ... Note how he utters the same, stock naturalistic assumptions that were being used 200 years ago, and doesn't bother responding to the criticisms leveled against them."

I call the tactic "deny and demand" -- no matter what evidence is presented, no matter how strong the evidence is, deny that it *is* evidence, and demand more evidence.

Sadly, far too many allow themselves to be suckered by the tactic. Then there are others, who imagine that civility is a moral absolute (until *they* wish otherwise, of course), who cannot help themselves but to viciously attack anyone who calls-out the person employing the deny-and-demand tactic.

Ilíon said...

E.Feser: "... we Thomists do hold that teleology provides the basis for an argument for God’s existence, viz. Aquinas’s Fifth Way. But that argument is very different from Paley’s, and acknowledges - with Aristotle and against Paley and his successors - that the existence of teleology in nature does not directly entail an ordering intelligence."

Ilíon: "... and teleology which just pops into existence, all on its own, unconnected to a Teleologist, still makes no sense."

E.Feser: "First, no one claims it is even in theory possible for teleology to "pop into existence all on its own." I certainly don't. Aristotle doesn't either. He thinks it's just a basic, irreducible fact about a universe that has always existed."

You're quibbling about the word "pops?"

In your first statement, you said, "[the Thomistic argument] acknowledges - with Aristotle and against Paley and his successors - that the existence of teleology in nature does not directly entail an ordering intelligence." Here, you acknowledge that Aristote asserts that teleology is "just a basic, irreducible fact about a universe that has always existed."

So, are Thomists with Aristotle, or not? And, what *exactly* is wrong with my very sensible statement that it really does make no sense to posit/assert "that the existence of teleology in nature does not directly entail an ordering intelligence"?

AND, after all, you are always faulting the IDists ... and they, too, like you, claim (for they are playing by the materialistic "rules" of modern science) that to identify real teleology in nature "does not directly entail [the existence of] an ordering intelligence" of nature. So, why are you always faulting them, when they're saying the same thing you are saying?


E.Feser: "First, ... [Aristotle] thinks [teleology is] just a basic, irreducible fact about a universe that has always existed. ... Second, I (like Aquinas) think Aristotle was wrong even about that. ..."

Again, what *exactly* is wrong with my very sensible objection that it really does make no sense to posit/assert "that the existence of teleology in nature does not directly entail an ordering intelligence"?

You're presenting direct philosophical/metaphysical claims and arguments; whereas the IDists are not, they're presenting scientific claims and arguments. Modern science isn't as rigorous, nor as robust, as philosophy, much less as theology.

[continued]

Ilíon said...

[continued]

E.Feser: "The point, though, is that the defense of this claim has nothing to do with arguing from complexity or analogy a la Paley and ID theory, and requires laying out some complex metaphysical background concerning the problem of universals, the essence/existence distinction, etc. ..."

One must speak to one's audience in the language it can ... and will ... understand. Certainly, the audience also has a responsibility to make the effort to understand (especially those who will argue against one's position), but to refuse to use the terms and concepts which one knows the audience understands and/or accepts and to insist upon using only those terms and concepts which one knows the audience does not understand and/or rejects is a fools errand.

AND, the IDists aren't really trying to prove the existence of God. They're using scientific methods and arguments trying to help everyone see that even by the current materialistic/atheistic construal of modern science "Darwinism" does not and cannot measure up. They're trying to help everyone see that the current materialistic/atheistic construal of modern science is itself a philosophical/metaphysical choice, and that it is a false choice.

You're faulting them for "going about it all wrong" when they're not going about it in the first place.


E.Feser: "Not to mention the fact that we can at least describe the ends of things -- as Aristotle was perfectly capable of doing -- without asking what purposes a designer might have had in creating them etc. (something else that plays no role in Aquinas's argument)."

Again, you fault the IDists for doing either that same thing, or something very similar to it.

E.Feser: "It is at least possible to wonder whether final causality -- rightly understood in Aristotelian terms as something immanent in nature -- requires an explanation in terms of God."

Few people are presently doing this wondering -- because they falsely imagine that 'Science!' has shown the wonderment to be pointless (or even false). Until that false conception of reality is breached, they will not wonder.

ID is science -- it uses the language the non-wonderers claim to be using -- with philosophical/theological implications.

[continued]

Ilíon said...

[continued]

E.Feser: "So, I agree that upon analysis, it turns out that teleology necessarily requires an infinite divine intellect. But the analysis is required, and that analysis takes considerable philosophical work -- it isn't a simple "Teleology? BOOM! therefore God" kind of argument."

Is there *anyone* arguing "a simple "Teleology? BOOM! therefore God" kind of argument?"

===========
Ilíon: "... and teleology which just pops into existence, all on its own, unconnected to a Teleologist, still makes no sense."

E.Feser: "... no one claims it is even in theory possible for teleology to "pop into existence all on its own." I certainly don't. Aristotle doesn't either. He thinks it's just a basic, irreducible fact about a universe that has always existed.

... final causality [is] rightly understood in Aristotelian terms as something immanent in nature ...
"

And you're quibbling about the word "pops?" Replace it with "comes" -- surely you understand English well enough to see, even upon first reading, that that is the sense of "pops" in that sentence.

===========
You'll forgive me, I hope, for this synopsis of "Philosophy Through The Ages:"

Plato: "Reality consists of unthought thoughts."

Aristotle: "Reality consists of unintended intentions" (or, alternately, of unproposed unpurposed purposes).
...
Dawkins, Dennett, the Churchlands, et al: "You only imagine that thought and purpose exist."

[continued]

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "... and teleology which just pops into existence, all on its own, unconnected to a Teleologist, still makes no sense."

Ilíon: "... And you're quibbling about the word "pops?" Replace it with "comes" -- surely you understand English well enough to see, even upon first reading, that that is the sense of "pops" in that sentence."

Alternately, remove "pops" altogether. Modify the objection to "... and teleology which just [exists], all on its own, unconnected to a Teleologist, still makes no sense" ... which has the added benefic of being what I was getting at.

Ilíon said...

Naturally, right after I posted it, I thought of a slightly better (in context) wording for the last point of my synopsis of "Philosophy Through The Ages" --

Dawkins, Dennett, the Churchlands, et al: "The reality is that you only imagine thought and purpose exist."

The Codgitator said...

My spider sense suggests the Anon is none other than ex-unBeguiled. He seems to have shut down his blog and given up his bloggish "firebrandry", but something about the tone and diction of this Anon's comments make me wonder if he couldn't help taking up the gauntlet just for old time's sake. :)

Ilíon said...

While is may be mildly entertaining to do a bit of "forensic liguistics," I question the over-all utility.

The Codgitator said...

Ilion:

Advisory heeded. unBe and I have some history so I'm actually curious how he's doing. Anyone going by Anon is a wax tongue so I figure it's not out of bounds to ponder the maker. ;)

Ilíon said...

I didn't say it was out of bounds; I just question the general utility; in some circumstances it may be helpful, in most I suspect it is not.

I wouldn't go so far as to say thay *all* persons who post as "Anonymous" are "wax tongues" ... but it is always anoying to everyone else, especially once there are multiple "Anonymoi" and "Anonymice."