Evolution, functionalist teleology, and intelligent design (crypto-creationism)

Energy can neither be created or destroyed. It always has existed and always will, transforming in interactions through different states including heat, light, and matter. The most basic forms of matter combine to produce more complex ones. The table of elements shows this ‘evolution’. This process is spontaneous and continuous. Everything is in a process of change.

Gods would have to be the product of pre-existing things. They would be one level higher in the chain of being, rather than ‘creators’ of being. Positing their existence is superfluous to our understanding of anything.

No-one can claim to understand the nature of awareness. Today in laboratories living organisms are produced by combining what we conventionally define as inanimate molecules. This convention seems to be very problematic. It seems more compelling and in the spirit of Ockham’s razor to see all matter-energy as having the potential for awareness. What this potential for awareness actually becomes aware of is merely determined by the form it takes.

Otherwise we are left with the notion that somehow something that is not aware, can be combined to produce something that is.

Humans have tended to define other animal’s behaviours as instinctive compulsions. If you can recognise the deliberate, motivated, object-oriented motivations of animals, then perhaps you might also imagine that electrons experience their own motivations, rather than being merely compelled by electro-magnetic fields. Reflexively, you might be able to accept that you yourself are a mere puppet to your motivations, the equivalent of an electron being attracted and repelled.

Aristotle made the typical mistake of philosophers. He failed to continue his deconstruction of arguments into their most basic assumptions, usually those that are implicit rather than explicit. He stopped too soon. He asserted that the ‘first cause’ is mans will, his motivation. He just assumed this. He never interrogated this assumption. He never asked where these motivations come from. Of course Schopenhauer recognised that it is the will itself that is the master of the human animal. As such, in Aristotle’s terms, it is will that is prime cause, and not ‘man’.

Aristotle’s teleology is his most fundamental error. Combined with an anthropocentric mindset which places humans at the center of the universe, this teleology, where things exist to serve functions, propelled the evolution of the gods into the one God. If properties and things exist to serve functions, then something must have had that intention in their design of them. The logical conclusion of such faulty reasoning is the existence of a God with intentions and designs. This God is far removed from the original concept of gods with all the human weaknesses, themselves victims of, rather than the designers of, the universe.

When `Bear`on `Ultimate Survival`tells us that `Avacados grow on the top branches of the trees to protect them from predators`, or the star of `River Monsters` refers to a fish as `purpose-built`, they are continuing in a long tradition. Such popular language culture useages are ubiquitous and insidious. Does `Bear`really think trees either deliberately only grow fruit on their top branches, or that they were `designed`that way? Or was he merely speaking out of habit, without really thinking? And what habit was he expressing? The Stoic-Platonic-Aristotelian notion adopted by the Catholic Church that `all things serve some purpose`. Thus `all things are for the best`. They are all `part of some god`s plan`.

Birds do not have wings to fly, they fly because they have wings. Faculties do not evolve to serve functions. They evolve by chance, and accumulate as they increase their host organism’s chances of survival and reproduction. It is incredibly frustrating to hear even modern documentary narrators tell me how polar bears evolved their white fur as an adaptation, in order to be less visible to prey and predators. Evolution did not give our ancestors the power to walk on their hindquarters in order to wade through water, gain a better view of their environment, or free their hands to use tools.

When an Attenborough announces this in his t.v documentary he is reinforcing the same faulty, millenia old teleology of Aristotle. Our ancestors found at some point they could walk upright, and this they found useful, so they continued it. It conferred advantages upon them that allowed them to survive and reproduce. Of course other animals without this advantage also survived.

This completely misrepresents the passive, hit and miss, random nature of evolution. It is merely one step removed from creationism, implying some design, intention, or plan on the part of evolution. It merely, intentionally or otherwise, replaces a caring, personal, designing, active, planning, foresightful god with an evolution with the same characteristics and intentions. Polar bears are adapted because they have white fur. They did not evolve white fur in order to be better adapted. Evolution has no plan, no intention, no design, and no goal. It is a spontaneous and open-ended process .

Random mutations occur. If the organism that is produced survives and reproduces, the mutations are reproduced. Such random mutations occur now and then over millions of generations. They accumulate within the organisms.

Scarcity and the resulting competition for resources means that only some organisms survive and reproduce. This is negative selection. The most successful competitors are those whose accumulated mutations bestow a competitive advantage upon them.

Complexity and sophistication emerge as mutations accumulate over millions of generations. Evolution naturally moves in the direction of increasing complexity and sophistication without any intention, plan, or motivation. It is a hit and miss process.

Human creativity is also a hit and miss process. You must be willing to take chances, and accept that the price of hits is a lot of misses, the price of success is a lot of failure. Ask any creative person, inventor, scientist, musician, writer, or designer. The only difference is that we have motives. We have intentions.

Or to be more precise, motives and intentions have us.

Aristotelian teleology produced a planning, designing, all-capable, competent, creating god. Our englightenment made that god redundant. However the failure of most people to comprehend the true nature of evolution has maintained the original proposition for the existence, for the necessity of a creating, designing god. When supposedly enlightened people do the work of creationists we must question their integrity, or their competence.

Aristotelian teleology produced the logical need for a god, and provided the most fertile ground for that god’s evolution. That same logic is now contaminating the pure reason of evolution in an insidious and invidious way. It ‘created’ a god, and now , after that god’s death, it appears to be reviving him by indirect means. It is slipping him in by the back door while everyone is watching the front door. Remember all tricks are performed by distracting our attention from the magicians actions.


©Copyright 2009 Markus Heinrich Rehbach All Rights Reserved

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