Intelligent Design, the best explanation of Origins

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Intelligent Design, the best explanation of Origins » Theory of evolution » Darwin and Teleology

Darwin and Teleology

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1 Darwin and Teleology on Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:41 am


Darwin and Teleology 1

Teleological explanations have played a central role throughout the history of the life sciences. Biological textbooks invariably suggest that teleological explanations were expunged from the physical sciences in the seventeenth century and finally, thanks to Charles Darwin, from the biological sciences in the nineteenth. And yet the same textbooks often explain adaptations by reference to natural selection in language that sounds suspiciously teleological. “That color pattern is present in the males of that population of fish because it increases their attractiveness to female mates without increasing their visibility to predators.” Moreover, explanations that at least appear to be teleological are not restricted to the observable, phenotypic adaptations of vertebrate behavior. Notice the explanatory structure implicit in the following quotation from 

Albert Lehninger’s Bioenergetics: The Molecular Basis of Biological Energy Transformations (1971, 110; emphasis added). 

Thus photo-induced cyclic electron flow has a real and important purpose, namely, to transform the light energy absorbed by chlorophyll molecules in the chloroplast into phosphate bond energy.

A common response to passages such as this is to say that the use of the term “purpose” is merely a kind of shorthand for a more complicated mechanical explanation, not evidence of a commitment to teleology. Yet this passage is embedded in a detailed description of the mechanisms of photosynthesis, and historically the discovery of the process described led to a quest for its purpose. Biochemists did not feel that they understood cyclic electron flow until they figured out its biological function.

There is a concern that such explanations imply some sort of conscious, or anyway cognitive, agency – either in the form of an external, perhaps divine, agent, or in the form of an inherent drive or vital power. Much philosophical effort has been devoted in the past fifty years or so to making sense of natural teleology as a distinctive mode of explanation without accepting either of those implications.

At the most abstract level, three distinct positions have been defended regarding the legitimacy of teleological explanation in natural science, and all have their roots in ancient Greece.
Plato’s Timaeus and Laws argue that much about the natural world can be accounted for only by supposing the operations of an intelligent and beneficent God (in fact one with a penchant for mathematics), a view I refer to as “unnatural teleology.” Unnatural teleology takes the application of teleological explanation to natural phenomena to depend on the natural world being an artifact of a divine, extranatural, intelligent agent.

Aristotle’s Physics and biological writings defend what I term “natural teleology,” according to which the natures of living things act for the sake of their own development and preservation. On this view, there may be a place for the use of analogies drawn from human crafts in thinking about teleology, but teleology is an entirely natural phenomenon.

Finally, the Greek atomists argue against the legitimacy of teleological explanation in nature, the anti-teleology position. The unnatural “intelligent design” model found in Plato was melded to Christianity in the medieval period, and various medieval commentators on Aristotle attempted to downplay the differences between Plato and Aristotle on this score in the interests of integrating Aristotelian philosophy and
Christian theology.

The story gets more complicated in the early modern period, primarily because of three distinct, nonatomistic voices arguing against the legitimacy or value of teleological reasoning in natural science. René Descartes injects a new,
skeptical argument against the use of teleology in natural science – it is presumptive to think we can discern God’s plans by studying his creation. Francis Bacon argued that final causes are of value only in the study of human affairs; in the study of nature, they are “barren virgins.” Baruch Spinoza argued against teleology on grounds of a thoroughgoing determinism – natural events did not happen for the sake of some end but were inevitable manifestations of God’s nature.

But teleology was not without powerful allies in the seventeenth century. Robert Boyle in Disquisition about the Final Causes of Natural Things and John Ray in his The Wisdom of God as Manifest in the Works of Creation develop a Christian version of Platonic unnatural teleology into the form that comes to be known as natural theology, the form of teleological reasoning that Darwin studied carefully in the writings of William Paley in his years at Cambridge . In his unpublished autobiography, Darwin reports that as an undergraduate he did not question Paley’s premises and was thoroughly convinced by his logic (Plate XXII). By contrast, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries there were also defenders of teleology who aimed to distance their defense of final causes from an unnatural source, in particular in Germany (relying on Kant’s Critique of Teleological Judgment) and France (Georges Cuvier’s principle of “conditions of existence” is often associated with final causes in the literature of this period). Because the context for this entry is evolution, in the following section I focus on the interaction between Charles Darwin and those more or less explicitly influenced by natural theology.

Darwin described himself as engaged in a teleological enquiry, a search for the final cause of a particular feature of these two varieties of plants. And he refers to the different mechanisms to encourage intercrossing in different
plants as contrivances that are present for the sake of that end. Darwin (1862c) had earlier written a well-received study of the “contrivances” found in orchids to promote fertilization by insects. That work was much admired by Asa
Gray, a self-taught American botanist who in 1842 had been designated the Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard College. Darwin and Gray began corresponding on botanical topics in 1855, and in 1857 Darwin revealed to Gray, a reform Presbyterian, that he was working on a book that will present a new theory of species transformation – and was pleasantly surprised by Gray’s cautiously positive reaction. Emboldened, later that year Darwin sent Gray a brief sketch of his theory. This sketch was then incorporated into the material presented, along with Alfred Russel Wallace’s “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type,” to the Linnean Society in 1858 – Darwin’s first public presentation of his theory of natural selection.

A year later he was to publish the work that was to introduce evolution by natural selection to the biological sciences, On the Origin of Species. The Origin characterizes natural selection as a goal-directed, teleological force. In introducing the concept in chapter 4, for example, he speaks of it “daily and hourly scrutinizing throughout the world, every variation, however slight; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good” (1859, 84); and he goes on to tell us that “natural selection can act only through and for the good of each being.” And, in a later appreciation of Darwin, Gray (1874, 80) makes direct reference to the overtly teleological character of the botanical work published after the Origin, urging Darwin’s readers to “recognize Darwin’s great service to natural science in bringing back to it Teleology; so that, instead of Morphology vs. Teleology, we have Morphology wedded to Teleology.” We find similar language already in his 1862 review of Darwin’s monograph on orchid fertilization, in which Gray (1862b, 428–29) applauds Darwin for having “brought back teleological considerations into botany.” In response, Darwin (DCP, 9483, letter from Darwin to Gray, 5 June 1874) underscores his agreement with Gray’s characterization of his theory as teleological: “What you say about Teleology pleases me especially and I do not think anyone else has ever noticed the point.” And though “Darwin’s Bulldog,” Thomas Henry Huxley (1893, 86), is ambivalent about Darwin’s obsession with adaptation, he makes much the same point as Gray: “The apparently diverging teaching of the Teleologist and of the Morphologist are reconciled by the Darwinian Hypothesis” (on Gray and Huxley, see Ruse 2003, ch. 7).

1. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought, page 153

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2 Re: Darwin and Teleology on Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:19 pm


Death defies Darwins Theory of Evolution

Through philosophical naturalism, supernatural entities are excluded out of the picture of reality. But life has purpose and goals. While a lifeless Rock has no goal, has no specific shape or form for a specific function, but is random, and the forms of stones and mountains come in all chaotic shapes, sizes, and physicochemical arrangements, and there is no goal-oriented interaction between one rock and another, no interlocking mechanical interaction like proteins through co-factors and apo-proteins ( lock and key).   Life is inherently different.

Some atheists try to poke holes in the design inference by pointing to bad design in nature, or vestigial organs. Not only is the argument fruitless, because we can recognize that Newcomen's steam engine was far behind Watts steam-engine, less practical and efficient, but nonetheless, designed.

The few vestigial organs that are commonly mentioned, have been found to have a purpose as well, like the appendix or the Coccyx. Whenever scientists find a new creature or species, they try to figure out what kind of ecological function it has in its habitat. When they find a new organ in the body - same, they ask, what purpose does it have. There is a global interconnection and purpose from the micro, to macro.

Interdependence and irreducibly complex machines point to purpose, when one part needs the other in order to exist and fullfill a distant end goal.

Cosmology: Interdependence of the universe, with our milky way galaxy, solar system - sun - planets - sun - moon
Planet earth: Land - water - volcanoes - plate tectonics - earthquakes
Energy cycles on earth: water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, Phosphorus, Iron, and Trace Mineral cycles
Biology: Organism level - organ level - tissue level - cell level - molecular level

It is very common, that authors of scientific papers smuggle a teleological vocabulary into their write-ups, where it does not belong, because, in a world without God, purposeful design cannot and does not exist, or the naturalistic worldview breaks down. But describe the purpose of the heart, avoiding to mention why the heart is there, is oxymoronic. But natural selection has no goal to produce or select a heart, which has the purpose to pump blood into veins and keep a multicellular organism alive.

Even the very core of Darwins Theory of Evolution is an inference to a purpose-driven situation: survive. But also Darwin knew, that he had to avoid to smuggle teleology into his intended worldview, so natures SELECTION did not actually select in a goal-oriented manner, but it was portrayed as a passive process. What best adapts, is "selected",  survives, spreads in the population, and positive alleles take over, gain overhand. No action, just direction of more survivability.  

But the view of purposeless life finds its biggest problem in the fact, that lifeless matter and molecules do have no purpose to organize themselves and do not have the inherent drive to become alive. Iron becomes rust, oxidizes. Thermodynamic laws result in the tendency of dissipating energy. But life is exactly the opposite

Bill Faint brought it to the point in an epic sentence:.
life in any form is a very serious enigma and conundrum. It does something, whatever the biochemical pathway, machinery, enzymes etc. are involved, that should not and honestly could not ever "get off the ground". It SPONTANEOUSLY recruits Gibbs free energy from its environment so as to reduce its own entropy. That is tantamount to a rock continuously recruiting the wand to roll it up the hill, or a rusty nail "figuring out" how to spontaneously rust and add layers of galvanizing zinc on itself to fight corrosion. Unintelligent simple chemicals can't self-organize into instructions for building solar farms (photosystems 1 and 2), hydroelectric dams (ATP synthase), propulsion (motor proteins) , self repair (p53 tumor suppressor proteins) or self-destruct (caspases) in the event that these instructions become too damaged by the way the universe USUALLY operates. Abiogenesis is not an issue that scientists simply need more time to figure out but a fundamental problem with materialism

But once life was established, why would it "want" to remain alive and perpetuate through self-replication and reproduction? Self-replication is per se a mystery.

The process of self-replication requires ultracomplex processes of cell division,  orderly sequence of events, long and complex sequences of cell divisions, growth coordination, and controlling the timing of the cell cycle requires irreducible control checkpoints, namely:

Essential Cell-Cycle Regulators

CDK2 (Hs, Xl, Gg)    No reduplication, normal duplication, needed for duplication in absence of CDK1
Separase (Xl) No     centriole disengagement, impaired duplication
Spliced Sgo1 (Mm)  Precocious centriole disengagement
p53 (Mm, Hs)          Amplification
CHK1 (Gg, Hs)         No centrosome amplification upon DNA damage
PLK1 (Hs)                No reduplication in S phase-arrested cells
PLK2 (Hs)                No reduplication in S phase-arrested cells
MPS1 (Hs, Mm, Sc)  No reduplication (Hs, Mm; reports differ); normal duplication
(Dm);                     no spindle-pole-body duplication
BRCA1 (Hs, Mm)      Premature centriole separation and reduplication in S-G2 boundary (Hs); amplification (Mm)
Cdc14B (Hs)            Amplification
PP2 (Dm)                Centrosome amplification Overexpression: prevents reduplication Nucleophosmin/B23
(Mm, Hs)                Amplification
CAMKII (Xl)             Blocks early steps in duplication
CDK1 (Dm, Sc)        Amplification
Skp1, Skp2, Cul1,    Slimb (SCF Complex)
(Dm, Xl, Mm, Hs)     Blocks separation of M-D pairs and reduplication
(Xl);                        increased centrosome number (Dm, Mm)
Geminin (Hs)           Centrosome amplification
Overexpression:       blocks reduplication

Why would life adapt to the environment at all - if it is not goal driven? Why would it progress from single cells to higher and higher complexity, requiring a not small number of new genes and functions, if bacterias, arachea, and single-celled organisms like algae survive just fine? Why a sudden Cambrian explosion ?  

Why would life suddenly burst with new inventions, like

1.cell signaling,
2.cell movement,
3.cell proliferation, and
4.cell -cell adhesion proteins ?

Why would single-celled organisms suddenly evolve and begin to produce structurally new, complex and organized structures,  pluripotent somatic cells, and interdependent systems like the nervous system, muscles, connective tissue, skin, bones, blood, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, digestive and Excretory Systems, endocrine and immune systems? The endocrine and nervous system, directly and indirectly, regulate the cardiovascular system.  One depends on the other, and both had to emerge together. Both digestive and excretory systems are regulated with input from the nervous system and endocrine system, and the cardiovascular system is inextricably linked with bowel and kidney function on multiple levels. which means, these systems had to emerge altogether. The endocrine and nervous system may work together on the same organ, and each may influence the actions of the other system.

Not only that. Why does life die again, and bodies going their natural course, thermodynamically downwards, and disorganization into random chaotic existence of mere matter and basic building blocks, molecules, and atoms?

And why have organisms a program of cellular self-destruction to favor the survival and benefit of the whole organism? Why would Mr.Natural Selector have chosen that route of altruism, rather than selecting to make Cells that would, once aged, return back to be somatic? If Cells have a program of differentiation, to become specialized ( the human body has about 200 different, specialized cells ), why did Mr.Natural selection not select a program, which would , once the cell has reached its max age, replicate and produce cells that would return to its youngest age, and then began a new life cycle, and virtually live forever ?

You might think that is science fiction. But that is precisely what Jelly Fish do !!

The creature, known scientifically as Turritopsis nutricula, was discovered in the Mediterranean Sea in 1883, but its unique regeneration was not known until the mid-1990s. How does the process work? If a mature Turritopsis is threatened — injured or starving, for example — it attaches itself to a surface in warm ocean waters and converts into a blob. From that state, its cells undergo transdifferentiation in which the cells essentially transform into different types of cells. Muscle cells can become sperm or eggs, or nerve cells can change into muscle cells, "revealing a transformation potential unparalleled in the animal kingdom," according to the original study of the species published in 1996.

If Darwin's fancy idea where true, why would such amazing ability not have spread from Jelly Fish to ALL animal kingdom? Jelly Fish belong on Darwin's tree of life to the OLDEST species on earth. No wonder, a science paper reports that Clytia hemisphaerica, a member of the early-branching animal phylum Cnidaria, is emerging rapidly as an experimental model for studies in developmental biology and evolution.

The oldest known fossils of jellyfish have been found in rocks in Utah that are ( supposedly ) more than 500 million years old.

That puts them on Darwin's tree of life right in the beginning of animal development, which supports what I wrote above. Jellyfish could have been the precursor of a significant part of biodiversity, evolving and only dying by accident.
But only a small number of organisms is known to have inbuilt that feat. Why ?

The Bible gives a consistent report about why death entered our planet. Humans sinned, and brought death and destruction to the earth. And so, once more, giving a far more consistent and rational account of why there is death.

But God is life and the life giver. He has overcome death through the resurrection of Christ. And he will give eternal life to all who recognize, believe him, repent and surrender to his grace and love, and follow him. He is worthy of praise and worship because he is the author of life.  Do you belong to HIM ?!!

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