Is Darwinian Evolution Teleonomic?

While many ID proposals are based on introducing teleonomy into evolution, I wanted to ask the question as to whether or not evolution, even by a Darwinian definition (i.e., natural selection and materialism) was already teleonomic.

The reason I ask this is because all sorts of things that Darwinian evolution has trouble explaining gets thrown into the basket of “sexual selection”.  Basically, the reason why an organism evolved feature X was because that feature was selected by mating.  In other words, the other organisms appreciated feature X, and therefore copulated and reproduced more with organisms showing more and more of feature X.

I find this interesting, because, especially if taken materialistically, this gives a teleonomic direction to selection, something that Mayr attempted to rule out.

Think of it this way.  If one is a materialist, then what is determining the desires of the organism?  It is the organism’s genetics!  If the organism is desiring a mate, that’s because its genetics is telling it to do so.  If an organism sees mates with feature X as being more desirable, that means its genetics are telling it to do so.  Therefore, the organism’s genes are, in a very direct way, directing the selection process themselves.

Mate selection, under materialism, seems to me to definitely fall under the umbrella of teleonomy.  And, since it governs a large component of the evolutionary process, it seems that one must then say that to a large extent the evolutionary process is teleonomic, even under Darwinian terms.

I’m curious to your thoughts on this.  I am not aware of this idea being discussed in the literature, but if someone has papers or links to other discussions of this, I would love to see them.

268 thoughts on “Is Darwinian Evolution Teleonomic?

  1. phoodoo:
    Robin,

    We are back to the start.A theory that says the ones who have the most offspring, are the most fit, and the ones who are the most fit have the most offspring.Unfalsifiable.Uninformative.Unimaginative.

    Haven’t you been corrected on your misunderstanding about a dozen times? Most fit isn’t defined as those who have the most offspring. It’s defined as those with the highest probability of reproduction. The most fit don’t always reproduce, the less fit don’t always die out, but on average that is what happens.

  2. Adapa,

    And if those with the highest probability don’t produce the most, that means they never had the highest probability to begin with. Very funny.

  3. phoodoo:

    And if those with the highest probability don’t produce the most, that means they never had the highest probability to begin with.Very funny.

    What an amazingly clueless thing to say.

    Let’s play a game with one die. If I roll a 1,2,3,4,5 you win. If I roll a 6 I win. Who has the higher probability of winning?

    Now I roll and a 6 comes up. Who had the higher probability of winning when the game started? Did the probabilty change because of my roll?

  4. Kantian Naturalist: I think that getting the top-down and bottom-up approaches to converge will require assigning a priority to neither. I think of the top-down approaches as “explicating the explanandum” and the bottom-up approaches as “explicating the explanans”.

    Thanks for that explanation. Rather than try to delve deeper into it, I think I’ll wait for the book to understand what your point in detail.

    I hope your research goes well. I’d be interested in reading about any of your ongoing conclusions, if you have the inclination to post about them.

  5. phoodoo,

    We are back to the start. A theory that says the ones who have the most offspring, are the most fit, and the ones who are the most fit have the most offspring. Unfalsifiable. Uninformative. Unimaginative.

    Yes, we’re back at the start because you actually never left it. It’s not a theory that the ones who have the highest mean offspring are the most fit, it’s a definition. But it doesn’t say anything directly about the relative performance of those genotypes in the current population, because the mean is the mean of a probability distribution over infinite trials. So the winner of any one finite contest is not necessarily the fittest. Which is why people say ‘detrimental alleles get fixed’. You say they have no grounds on which to say it, but they (including ID luminary John Sanford) say exactly that. So maybe your understanding is awry. Or have a word with Sanford.

    It is (stop me if you’ve heard this one) like throwing a die twice and determining that the average of those 2 throws is the expected value. That would be wrong. On many rolls, it would converge on 3.5, but on 2 rolls, the mean is significantly likely to be something else.

    Having the higher mean offspring number (mean of infinite runs, NOT that measured by current population status) has a probabilistic effect on finding that allele at a point in the future. Just as having an infinite expected value of 3.5 has a probabilistic effect on the counts of each face that emerge after a particular number of rolls. If it wasn’t there at the start, it’s hard to see how the individual rolls could converge on it, from every fresh start point.

  6. Richardthughes,

    Or I’ll give him even money on the last number that came up happening again. As many goes as he wants.

    Hey, I’ll take some of that action! Daddy needs a new … oh, dammit. OK, best of 3.

  7. phoodoo:
    Robin,

    Not a single one of these cut and paste diversions does as you claimed.Gee, what a surprise.

    Actually they do. Methinks you’re still attacking your ignorance-based strawman of “fitness” and you don’t understand the studies. Frankly, neither one of those is my problem.

    We are back to the start.A theory that says the ones who have the most offspring, are the most fit, and the ones who are the most fit have the most offspring.Unfalsifiable.Uninformative.Unimaginative.

    And we’re back to Phoodoo’s straw nonsense. Sorry Phoodoo, but you’re statements have been proven false.

    Surprise surprise.

    Not so much…it’s your standard MO…

  8. phoodoo:
    Adapa,

    And if those with the highest probability don’t produce the most, that means they never had the highest probability to begin with.Very funny.

    False.

  9. BruceS: I hope your research goes well. I’d be interested in reading about any of your ongoing conclusions, if you have the inclination to post about them.

    Thank you! I’m sure I’ll post some thoughts at TSZ here and there, as I very much enjoy and benefit from the criticisms I receive here.

  10. phoodoo:
    Robin,

    Sorry, they don’t encourage discussion to learn things here. Dumb post.

    You’re not obligated to make dumb posts like:

    I must believe in good faith all your shitty attempts are the best you can do.

    You could actually address the science instead. Your call…

  11. phoodoo:
    Robin,

    Sorry, they don’t encourage discussion to learn things here. Dumb post.

    Oh, you mean like you teaching us how a before the fact probability changes based on the outcome ? 😄

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