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.

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268 thoughts on “Is Darwinian Evolution Teleonomic?

  1. Erik: The distinction between teleology and teleonomy seems clear enough. Teleology affirms a purpose behind processes in terms of intent or wilful consciousness.

    So teleology = teleonomy + mind-reading

    Since I don’t read minds, I’ll just treat teleogy and teleonomy as if they are the same.

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  2. dazz: First off, there’s no reason to believe that genes “tell” organisms to do something.

    So you disagree with the opening post too, even though in a different way. Okay.

    dazz:
    Are you saying there’s intention and purpose in every cause-effect event?

    It’s getting clearer that teleology is a completely unknown concept to you. Briefly, causality implies regularity, and regularity implies differentiation from irregularity, i.e. causality implies a pattern-matching observer a.k.a. intelligence. This is one aspect of teleology. The other aspect is intentionality, i.e. conscious willpower/agency as a cause among other causes.

    Teleology is a holistic and profound explanatory model. Explanatory models is why we have discussions in the first place. If you are happy with limited explanations or even with non-explanations, stop asking questions right now.

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  3. petrushka:
    Moving right along, intention and purpose are labels applied to dynamic systems that learn via feedback.

    As such, a robot that learns has intention.

    Life, considered as a dynamic system, learns via variation and selection, and has intention. Not only does itchange, but it can improve its mode of change. evolvability can evolve.

    If we start with this operational definition of intention and purpose, we can move on to discussions of how it works, and how different systems exhibit intention, and at what level of behavior.

    There’s a rather important difference between systems — say plate tectonics or the hydrologic cycle, that cannot learn, and system that can learn. Until recently, only living things could be observed to learn. Now we have electronic devices that learn.

    Exactly. Machines can be programmed to make what Erik calls “contradicting decisions” based on cues of the environment in different situations. They can even be built to learn and improve their decision making on the fly.

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  4. petrushka:
    Moving right along, intention and purpose are labels applied to dynamic systems that learn via feedback.

    As such, a robot that learns has intention.

    Why would you call that “intention”? I don’t see how it resembles intention or purpose as normally understood.

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  5. Erik: Teleology is a holistic and profound explanatory model.

    That which can explain everything explains nothing.

    Evolution and learning theory explain how purposes and intentions evolve, and how they can become more complex over time.

    Learning is changing the behavior of a system in response to consequences. We say a system intends if its behavior produces a predictable outcome AND if its behavior changes when circumstances change.

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  6. Erik: Briefly, causality implies regularity, and regularity implies differentiation from irregularity, i.e. causality implies a pattern-matching observer a.k.a. intelligence

    OK. You lost me there. Let’s try with an example related to the original topic: mutations

    Mutations are unpredictable for all we know. What does that mean for the “cause” of mutations according to your definition?

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  7. dazz: Mutations are unpredictable for all we know. What does that mean for the “cause” of mutations according to your definition?

    More specifically, they are not correlated with fitness or function.

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  8. dazz:
    OK. You lost me there.

    Not really. You were lost all along. And you still are.

    dazz:
    Mutations are unpredictable for all we know. What does that mean for the “cause” of mutations according to your definition?

    Mutations may be unpredictable for all we know, but we seem to know that there are favourable mutations versus unfavourable, desirable versus undesirable, possible versus impossible. With this knowledge we can get somewhere. When we deny this knowledge, we will sure as hell get nowhere.

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  9. Erik: With this knowledge we can get somewhere. When we deny this knowledge, we will sure as hell get nowhere

    Well, guide us through your knowledge then. What does all that mean for the causes of mutation? What’s the causal distinction between unfavourable and favourable mutations?

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  10. phoodoo,

    Talk about bollocks! There is zero way to measure the role of luck in populations in the wild. Zero! That is the entire problem with your whole concept. You have no way of knowing why some individuals survived better than others. You have no way of knowing why one mate was chosen over another. You have no way of knowing why one animal was eaten and another wasn’t.

    Why do you need to know in such pathetic detail? For 3.8 billion years, there was not even a chance of knowing, and we can’t be everywhere even today, keeping track of every single birth and death in causal detail.

    Regardless, if there is a differential in mean offspring numbers, factoring in all the random effects, that will result in that with the higher value being more likely to fix. Do you disagree? If not, what’s the problem? If so, what do you think happens instead?

    Because EVERYTHING your theory of population does is measured after the fact, and then retro-explained. Whatever survived best is the most fit. Survival and fitness mean the same dam thing.

    You. Are. Wrong. The fixed allele is not labelled the most fit, and survival is not a measure of fitness (which is mean offspring number). You are talking shite.

    It is not a prediction of what is fit, it is an analyst of what survived, and thus labeled fit.

    Like I say, just plain wrong – but why does it even need to predict what will be the most fit? Are you running a book? “Tell us, evolutionists, what the next single-copy allele to become fixed in elephants will be”. So tell me, if prediction is the acme of science, what’s God going to do next, Design wise?

    Why is 13 percent of the population gay Allan?

    This statistic seems to bother you. Fundamental fitness theory can hardly be expected to answer your every last detailed question plucked from the entirety of Life. After all, what’s Design got to say on the matter, O Seeker Of The Detailed Explanation?

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  11. Allan Miller: Do you get extra credits at the Pearly Gates for not getting it?

    People with zero fitness and zero expected value are welcome at the pearly gates.

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  12. dazz: Machines can be programmed to make what Erik calls “contradicting decisions” based on cues of the environment in different situations. They can even be built to learn and improve their decision making on the fly.

    Let’s suppose so (even though I disagree). Would this prove that the machine operates purely based on (1) the circuits of the program and (2) cues of the environment? To me it somehow seems that the designer, programmer and the constructor of the machine may have a hand in all of this. Irreducibly so.

    dazz: Well, guide us through your knowledge then. What does all that mean for the causes of mutation? What’s the causal distinction between unfavourable and favourable mutations?

    My point is already well made. You have acknowledged the inevitability of teleological concepts in the discussion. You are asking questions because you have a purpose with them, so you have entirely conceded teleology. Any discussion, particularly scientific discussion worth the name, would be impossible without teleology.

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  13. I don’t see what would be problematic about saying that organisms have goals, even if they are unable to understand themselves as having goals.

    When a beaver gnaws down trees, it does so with the goal of building a dam, which in turn serves the goal of protection from predators, which in turn serves the goal of –ultimately — reproducing. That the beaver is unable to understand itself as having these goals doesn’t seem to affect whether or not it has them.

    When I come down in favor of teleology, all I mean is that organisms have goals, such that we can understand what they are doing in terms of why they are doing it. That seems like mere sanity and hardly controversial.

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  14. Erik: Let’s suppose so (even though I disagree). Would this prove that the machine operates purely based on (1) the circuits of the program and (2) cues of the environment? To me it somehow seems that the designer, programmer and the constructor of the machine may have a hand in all of this. Irreducibly so.

    My point is already well made. You have acknowledged the inevitability of teleological concepts in the discussion. You are asking questions because you have a purpose with them, so you have entirely conceded teleology. Any discussion, particularly scientific discussion worth the name, would be impossible without teleology.

    Huge amounts of fallacious stuff there.

    Would this prove that the machine operates purely based on (1) the circuits of the program and (2) cues of the environment?

    The machine operates based on the circuits and the program. It’s designed to emulate human learning to some extent, that doesn’t mean that humans were designed nor supports the notion that we must have been designed. We design nuclear reactors. Does that mean that stars are designed too?

    You have acknowledged the inevitability of teleological concepts in the discussion. You are asking questions because you have a purpose with them, so you have entirely conceded teleology. Any discussion, particularly scientific discussion worth the name, would be impossible without teleology

    I have acknowledged some teleology. Big deal. So automatically we need to assume everything is teleological… and also filter science through this vague thing you can’t even define properly. Nice try but no cigar

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  15. However, just because some entities are both organisms and intentional agents — capable of both having goals and understanding themselves as having goals — it certainly doesn’t follow that all organisms are the result of any intentional agency.

    One can happily acknowledge all of the following – that some organisms are intentional agents, that all organisms have goals, and that all intentional agents can understand themselves as having goals — without taking on any specific account of how goal-having organisms came into existence.

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  16. Kantian Naturalist:

    Do you think that it would not be possible to describe the what happens in a cell without recurring to teleology? (I won’t use beavers, because I think there’s a potential real goal of building a dam, but probably not of reproducing.)

    I think you can. My point is that teleology is more of a convenience of our descriptions than a feature of living (and even designed) things in general.

    Edit: deleted misplaced “the”.

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  17. dazz: Machines can be programmed to make what Erik calls “contradicting decisions”…

    And you accuse me of failing at logic?

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  18. nibbler,

    It’s a nice question. I think that cells are definitely autopoeitic, so it depends if autopoeisis is teleology. In my view, I don’t see a distinction to be drawn there. Cells are teleological because they are autopoeitic unities.

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  19. nibbler: Do you think that it would not be possible to describe the what happens in a cell without recurring to teleology?

    He moved the steering wheel .035 degrees to the right. He then drove 20 feet. Then he moved the steering wheel .017 degrees to the left. Then …

    It is far easier to say “he followed the road signs to the airport”.

    Teleological explanations are often far more useful and informative than mechanical explanations.

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  20. Kantian Naturalist:
    nibbler,

    It’s a nice question. I think that cells are definitely autopoeitic, so it depends if autopoeisis is teleology. In my view, I don’t see a distinction to be drawn there. Cells are teleological because they are autopoeitic unities.

    Could you elaborate on that? As I pointed out in my first post, Maturana and Varela did not agree.

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  21. dazz:
    Huge amounts of fallacious stuff there.

    Right back at you. Specifically:

    dazz:
    The machine operates based on the circuits and the program. It’s designed to emulate human learning to some extent, that doesn’t mean that humans were designed nor supports the notion that we must have been designed. We design nuclear reactors. Does that mean that stars are designed too?

    I didn’t say humans or stars were designed. I say that matter displays regular law-like behaviour and we can discern an orderly mind/talk/behaviour from disorderly. The design in the universe is all-pervasive (a different use of the word “design”, to be sure). If it weren’t, we should call it chaos, not universe.

    On your part, you seem to be saying that machines are NOT designed, even though they very much are. Or perhaps you think that designed and programmed machines serve as a perfect analogy to (undesigned) intellect – even as proof that intellect is not designed. Just to be clear, go ahead and say it so I know where you stand.

    dazz:
    I have acknowledged some teleology. Big deal. So automatically we need to assume everything is teleological… and also filter science through this vague thing you can’t even define properly. Nice try but no cigar

    I defined it. Maybe not to your satisfaction, but I defined it, as opposed to your absolute lack of definitions. All the definitions in our discussion have come from me, none from you. Science is done by first defining what you study. If you lack definitions, then by definition you are not doing science.

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  22. Neil Rickert: He moved the steering wheel .035 degrees to the right.He then drove 20 feet.Then he moved the steering wheel .017 degrees to the left.Then …

    It is far easier to say “he followed the road signs to the airport”.

    Teleological explanations are often far more useful and informative than mechanical explanations.

    Yes. That is what I meant when I said that teleology can be convenient in descriptions, but that doesn’t mean that the goals are really there in the phenomenon that’s being described. You can explain a car as a device with the purpose of releasing carbon dioxide just as well. The goal is not in the car itself, it is in your explanation of the car.

    ETA: Of course, in your example there probably is a real intention to go to the airport!

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  23. Kantian Naturalist:
    One can happily acknowledge all of the following – that some organisms are intentional agents, that all organisms have goals, and that all intentional agents can understand themselves as having goals — without taking on any specific account of how goal-having organisms came into existence.

    And the advantage of evading any specific account of the genesis of goal-having organisms would be…? Would it be a scientific stance? Would it be explanatory?

    To me it looks like it would be an admission of ignorance – and keeping oneself at that.

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  24. Erik:
    I didn’t say humans or stars were designed. I say that matter displays regular law-like behaviour and we can discern an orderly mind/talk/behaviour from disorderly. The design in the universe is all-pervasive (a different use of the word “design”, to be sure). If it weren’t, we should call it chaos, not universe.

    Well, we were discussing if the teleological behaviour of humans implied there was “something else”, and in response to the robot analogy you claimed:

    “To me it somehow seems that the designer, programmer and the constructor of the machine may have a hand in all of this”

    So I figured you were conflating that “something else” in humans with the hand of the designer. If I jumped the gun and that’s not what you meant, I stand corrected.
    You don’t seem to want to clarify what you mean exactly by that “something else”, and what you mean when you say one should have teleology in mind to do science.

    Erik:
    On your part, you seem to be saying that machines are NOT designed, even though they very much are. Or perhaps you think that designed and programmed machines serve as a perfect analogy to (undesigned) intellect – even as proof that intellect is not designed. Just to be clear, go ahead and say it so I know where you stand.

    I explicitly said machines are designed. Of course they are. All I’m saying is that AI attempts to emulate human intelligence.

    Erik:
    I defined it. Maybe not to your satisfaction, but I defined it, as opposed to your absolute lack of definitions. All the definitions in our discussion have come from me, none from you. Science is done by first defining what you study. If you lack definitions, then by definition you are not doing science.

    Well, you seem to conflate all causation with teleology and therefore science should somehow work on the basis that natural phenomena is teleological.
    Honestly I still don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know if your definition of teleology is some tautological “whatever cause-effect you observe, the purpose of the process was to produce that effect”. Or if you’re somehow trying to sneak in the idea that everything follows a grand plan by a Grand Planner…

    We agree defining our terms is important, but you haven’t provided an operational definition of teleology that any scientist could work with. Not sure what terms you want me to define, I haven’t suggested science needs to change it’s ways like you seem to have done

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  25. dazz:
    So I figured you were conflating that “something else” in humans with the hand of the designer.

    This refers back to this: “…genetics is telling contradictory things to the “organism” and you need some other thing than genetics to clear up the confusion.” The other thing here means intellect, not a designer. And intellect is not genes either.

    You affirm causality from genes to everywhere in the organism, whereas I affirm, in addition to the causality from genes, also causality from intellect, will and mind. When genetics or the senses are giving contradictory impulses, intellect is the ordering function, i.e. in case of conflict, intellect has priority.

    dazz:
    You don’t seem to want to clarify what you mean exactly by that “something else”, and what you mean when you say one should have teleology in mind to do science.

    If your analysis is not purposeful and orderly, is it scientific? But if it is purposeful and orderly, then it most definitely is teleological, by definition. Purpose and orderly design are at the very core of the concept of teleology.

    dazz:
    Well, you seem to conflate all causation with teleology…

    It’s not conflation. It’s so by definition. The only consistent way to get rid of teleology is to deny causality a la Hume. Whatever stance you adopt, better do it consistently.

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  26. Erik: You affirm causality from genes to everywhere in the organism, whereas I affirm, in addition to the causality from genes, also causality from intellect, will and mind. When genetics or the senses are giving contradictory impulses, intellect is the ordering function, i.e. in case of conflict, intellect has priority.

    I also recognize causality from intellect, will and mind, it’s your claim that those things require organisms to have something else than genes to specify those where I don’t follow.

    Erik: It’s not conflation. It’s so by definition

    In that case it’s sort of useless. If the study of “causation” in science is teleology, that’s still the same causation as before, you just rebranded it.

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  27. dazz:
    I also recognize causality from intellect, will and mind, it’s your claim that those things require organisms to have something else than genes to specify those where I don’t follow.

    This is the dispute between whether intellect is material or immaterial. But you are right: You don’t follow.

    dazz:
    In that case it’s sort of useless. If the study of “causation” in science is teleology, that’s still the same causation as before, you just rebranded it.

    No, I didn’t rebrand anything. Scientists have been trying to get rid of any notion of intentionality, i.e. teleology, including causality, for quite a while now, but you are not up to speed on the topic. Hume is probably the first to do it as thoroughly as possible. Another one is Alex Rosenberg. There are others, each one failing in some way or another.

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  28. Erik: This is the dispute between whether intellect is material or immaterial. But you are right: You don’t follow.

    No, I didn’t rebrand anything. Scientists have been trying to get rid of any notion of intentionality, i.e. teleology, including causality, for quite a while now, but you are not up to speed on the topic. Hume is one of the first to do it as thoroughly as possible. Another one is Alex Rosenberg. There are others, each one failing in some way or another.

    Finally. So you want science to acknowledge the “immaterial” and the “intentionality” of causation. Why not tell them how to go about it? Have you built an immaterialometer? Perhaps an intentionality radar?

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  29. Nibbler: Could you elaborate on that? As I pointed out in my first post, Maturana and Varela did not agree.

    You are correct that in their early work, they thought that “autopoeisis” was a different concept than “teleology”. However, towards the end of his life Varela changed his mind about that; see his Life After Kant: Natural purposes and the autopoietic foundations of biological individuality. (There’s a free PDF online but embedding the link to the PDF in this post didn’t seem to work.) On that basis I see Varela and Maturana’s work as giving a very precise specification to the notion of immanent purposiveness that we find in Kant and Jonas.

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  30. dazz: Finally. So you want science to acknowledge the “immaterial” and the “intentionality” of causation. Why not tell them how to go about it? Have you built an immaterialometer? Perhaps an intentionality radar?

    The problem with materialist (“naturalist”) scientists is that, as they presuppose the mind to be material, and dead matter has no intention, the explanation for intellect, intentionality, will, consciousness, etc. must be devoid of intellect, devoid of intentionality, devoid of any meaning and purpose. It’s a very tough position to defend, but don’t laugh when they try. It’s commendable when someone is actually doing one’s best to be committed to the implications of one’s own theory. It’s honest to face the consequences of one’s own thinking. “Teleonomy” is one of the toned-down positions from full-blown teleology.

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  31. Erik: The problem with materialist (“naturalist”) scientists is that, as they presuppose the mind to be material, and dead matter has no intention, the explanation for intellect, intentionality, will, consciousness, etc. must be devoid of intellect, devoid of intentionality, devoid of any meaning and purpose. It’s a very tough position to defend, but don’t laugh when they try. It’s commendable when someone is actually doing one’s best to be committed to the implications of one’s own theory. It’s honest to face the consequences of one’s own thinking.

    That’s not a theory, just a philosophical stance.
    Science by the way is not necessarily committed to methodological naturalism, but I think we all agree nature exists, therefore proposing theories that posit natural explanations is a perfectly valid scientific option.

    The problem with materialist (“naturalist”) scientists is that, as they presuppose the mind to be material, and dead matter has no intention, the explanation for intellect, intentionality, will, consciousness, etc. must be devoid of intellect, devoid of intentionality, devoid of any meaning and purpose”

    Nobody presupposes anything. You just don’t assume anything without sufficient evidence, and there’s no evidence that “immaterial” stuff exists or can even be dealt with scientifically. You essentially want pseudoscientific nonsense to be accepted a priori. Not gonna happen.

    You say “they presuppose the mind to be material, and dead matter has no intention” but the mind is not dead matter, and also it doesn’t follow that if a mind has intention, the explanation for intellect must involve intellect, or purpose.

    All you have is pure, unadulterated crackpotery that has no application in science

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  32. dazz: That’s not a theory, just a philosophical stance.

    When you define the distinction between the two, you will see that there’s no scientific theory without philosophical presuppositions. Namely, defining distinctions is a philosophical work – it’s logic, not empirical science. Without it, you will never get to empirical science. Scientists are shocked every time when they discover the truth of this.

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  33. Erik: When you define the distinction between the two, you will see that there’s no scientific theory without philosophical presuppositions. Namely, defining distinctions is a philosophical work – it’s logic, not empirical science. Without it, you will never get to empirical science. Scientists are shocked every time when they discover the truth of this.

    Sure, philosophy of science is crucial to understand science’s underpinnings. But a scientific theory still needs operational definitions, explanatory power and potential means to test and verify it. Your immaterial, intentional, teleological thing has none of that

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  34. Erik: The problem with materialist (“naturalist”) scientists is that, as they presuppose the mind to be material, and dead matter has no intention, the explanation for intellect, intentionality, will, consciousness, etc. must be devoid of intellect, devoid of intentionality, devoid of any meaning and purpose. It’s a very tough position to defend, but don’t laugh when they try. It’s commendable when someone is actually doing one’s best to be committed to the implications of one’s own theory. It’s honest to face the consequences of one’s own thinking. “Teleonomy” is one of the toned-down positions from full-blown teleology.

    There are two distinct questions here that need to be kept separate. One is whether intentionality can be naturalized; another is whether naturalism is true. This gives us four options:

    (1) Intentionality cannot be naturalized and naturalism is false;
    (2) Intentionality can be naturalized, but naturalism is false;
    (3) Intentionality cannot be naturalized and naturalism is true;
    (4) Intentionality can be naturalized and naturalism is true.

    I don’t see the point of holding (2), but it’s a coherent position.

    Alex Rosenberg is notorious for holding (3); he thinks that intentionality must be eliminated precisely because it cannot be naturalized and that naturalism is true.

    I myself hold (4). That’s the position I took in my book, though there two other books that develop a naturalized intentionality much better than I did there: Rational Animals: The Teleological Roots of Intentionality by Mark Okrent (review here) and Articulating the World: Conceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image by Joe Rouse. Both books improve significantly on previous attempts to naturalize intentionality — those of Millikan, Dretske, Davidson, and Dennett — in large part because both Okrent and Rouse take seriously, and respond to, criticisms of previous attempts to naturalize intentionality.

    I wouldn’t say that Rouse succeeds completely, but only because that would leave me with nothing to improve upon for my next book! For one thing, Rouse doesn’t engage at all with cognitive science — he naturalizes intentionality by telling a detailed evolutionary and ecological account of the evolutionary function of conceptual normativity, but he leaves the cognitive story of the subpersonal mechanisms out of it. That’s not a fatal objection — no one can do everything! — but it does leave his work disconnected from the growing work in enactive cognitive science by philosophers like Michael Wheeler, Tony Chemero, and Andy Clark. For another, Rouse doesn’t engage systematically with Tomasello’s work on giving us a rigorous psychological model as to how human collective intentionality differs from the kinds of intentionality we find in non-human primates.

    That said, I think there is a subtle and important difference between naturalizing teleology (as Varela et al. do) and naturalizing intentionality (as Okrent and Rouse do), even though a fully acceptable naturalism must do both. The former would give us an acceptable scientific theory of the origin of life; the latter would give us an acceptable scientific theory of the origin of mind, language, and culture.

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  35. Welcome, johnnyb! And thank you for posting this.

    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.

    I think the answer is yes, and indeed it’s the point that Monod makes in Chance and Necessity.

    Will try to read through the rest of the comments on the thread later! (Been away for a bit recently)

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  36. Allan Miller,

    The most fit will be fixed. That’s your explanation. It doesn’t actually matter if its the most fit that will be fixed, because by your definitions the one that becomes fixed is the most fit. That;s why being fat is fit. That’s why being thin is fit. That’s why being tall is fit. That’s why being short is fit. That’s why being straight is fit. That’s why being gay is fit. Its why having brown eyes is fit. Its why having blue eyes is fit. Its why having paisley colored eyes is not fit. Unless we find some group somewhere that has paisley eyes, then having paisley colored eyes is fit.

    Having a gene which gives you lung cancer is fit. Not having a gene for lung cancer is also fit. Being bald is fit. Not being bald is fit…

    That’s the stupidity of your fitness concept.

    Try to understand it.

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  37. Kantian Naturalist:
    (1) Intentionality cannot be naturalized and naturalism is false;
    (2) Intentionality can be naturalized, but naturalism is false;
    (3) Intentionality cannot be naturalized and naturalism is true;
    (4) Intentionality can be naturalized and naturalism is true.

    If by “naturalized” you mean “reducible to physics/completely explained in physicalist terms”, then the only sensible position to hold is (1).

    Kantian Naturalist:
    I myself hold (4).

    I see. A physicalist and reductionist, as I rightly suspected all along. Materialism is the historical term for such philosophical position.

    (“Naturalism” is not a good term. It implies that any other position would be somehow unnatural. But that which is often called “supernatural” is actually quite natural given some slightly different presuppositions and would have an equal right to be termed “naturalism”.)

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  38. Erik: If by “naturalized” you mean “reducible to physics/completely explained in physicalist terms”, then the only sensible position to hold is (1).

    I’m pretty sure that KN is not a reductionist.

    Personally, I can’t go with any of those 4. That’s because I don’t know what it means to say that naturalism is true or is false. I don’t see how naturalism can be a proposition. It seems more of a stance.

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  39. Neil Rickert:
    I’m pretty sure that KN is not a reductionist.

    By all the relevant signs he is, despite his refusal to accept the label.

    Neil Rickert:
    Personally, I can’t go with any of those 4. That’s because I don’t know what it means to say that naturalism is true or is false. I don’t see how naturalism can be a proposition. It seems more of a stance.

    And what does it mean to say “It seems more of a stance” as opposed to “proposition”? What’s the difference? You don’t have to elaborate your “stance” and you don’t have to defend it the way you have to with propositions?

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  40. Neil Rickert: I’m pretty sure that KN is not a reductionist.

    And you are a materialist who believes that nature is teleological.

    So sometimes what people call themselves is not logical.

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  41. phoodoo,

    The most fit will be fixed. That’s your explanation. It doesn’t actually matter if its the most fit that will be fixed, because by your definitions the one that becomes fixed is the most fit.

    That is not the case. I’ve said this a few times now. If you can find a definition in the literature, or in anything I have said, that argues that any given fixed allele was the fittest by virtue of the fact of its fixation alone, I will concede the entire argument. I’m happy to bet that you can’t, because I can see exactly where you are misunderstanding it. Nobody claims that a fixed allele must have had higher fitness than that rendered extinct. Feel free to prove me wrong.

    The definition of the fitter genotype is not ‘the one that will be fixed’, nor is it ‘the one that was fixed’. It remains pretty obvious that being the fitter genotype must make it more likely that it will be fixed, just as being the faster runner makes you more likely to win a given race. But you don’t define the faster runner on the strength of that one race. Well, you could, but it would hardly mean that positions could not vary on successive races, or that inherent relative speed was not a factor, simply because one chose a tautologous definition. This is the essential stupidity of your argument. Trying to deny that evolution occurs, on the basis of such definitional tap-dancing, is laughable.

    That;s why being [… gibber gibber gibber snip irrelevant list of things that may be fitter in various circumstances gibber gibber …]

    What is ‘fitter’ is that which tends to produce more offspring given a particular environmental circumstance. Clearly, not every environmental circumstance is the same, therefore that which succeeds is bound to vary. Earthworms that burrow are probably fitter than those that climb trees. Elephants that climb trees are probably less fit than those that don’t.

    This is one of the more pathetic criticisms of the concept of fitness, that it has relevance across the biological board. As if that is a weakness! It does not give you the causal reason for any given difference in offspring number, which obviously varies according to circumstance. But then that is not its job.

    That’s the stupidity of your fitness concept.

    Try to understand it.

    That’s the stupidity of your cartoon misunderstanding of selection. It’s stupid, you can see it’s stupid, but at no point does it occur to you that the stupidity might not actually be coming from the proponents of evolutionary theory.

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  42. Allan Miller,

    The wind turbine algorithm is a perfect analogy of why your concept is so flawed. There is no one solution, so there can be no good solution, if left to chance. Sometimes the lightest turbine would win. Sometimes the heaviest, sometimes the cheapest, sometimes the strongest, sometimes the one on the left of the screen, sometimes the one on the right. Without design, you can never have any coherence. Its like taking a left shoe a pitchfork, and a water balloon, and thinking this is the best way to build a ship. After all the balloon is great for holding water, and the pitchfork is the best for throwing hay, so heck since they are both the best, together they must be really good.

    Fat is fit and so is skinny in your scheme. Dumb is fit and so is smart. Mean is as fit as nice.

    You still don’t get it.

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  43. Erik: And what does it mean to say “It seems more of a stance” as opposed to “proposition”?

    A stance is a position that you follow as a guide to your behavior. A proposition should be something like a description.

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  44. phoodoo,

    The wind turbine algorithm is a perfect analogy of why your concept is so flawed. There is no one solution, so there can be no good solution, if left to chance.

    There does not have to be one solution. Why is an algorithm with one solution superior to one with many? Clearly, there are several million species on earth. Clearly, any thicko could infer from this that the explanation for that diversity is not going to come from a ‘one-solution-is-perfect’ process.

    Without design, you can never have any coherence.

    If there is replication with variation, differential reproduction of the type with the greater offspring numbers provides precisely that coherence. One is left (on average) with that type more often, as if, all along, that were the goal. No-one needs to get involved in killing the unwanted ones, or breeding from the desired. The differential in offspring numbers does that (although there is, in each case, a causal agency of some kind for the differential, be it cold, heat, drought, predation and so on).

    Its like … [snip something else that it’s not like at all]

    ???

    Fat is fit and so is skinny in your scheme. Dumb is fit and so is smart. Mean is as fit as nice.

    Not in the same species at the same time, it isn’t. Where do you get your ideas? Show me a reference that conforms to your ‘opposites-are-the-same’ in any one population.

    You still don’t get it.

    Because it’s horseshit.

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  45. Erik: If by “naturalized” you mean “reducible to physics/completely explained in physicalist terms”, then the only sensible position to hold is (1).

    But since I don’t think that “naturalized” means “reducible to physics or completely explained in physicalist terms,” I don’t hold (1).

    I don’t think that “reduction” makes good sense, philosophically, for understanding how the different sciences are related to one another. The only constraint that I think is justified in light of contemporary philosophy of science is this:

    Non-Violability of Fundamental Physics: none of the sciences which are not part of fundamental physics should contain explanatory models that violate any principle that belongs to a theory of fundamental physics.

    Some qualifications:

    (1) By “fundamental physics” I mean “a theory which contains hypotheses that can be confirmed or disconfirmed by any measurement taken at any point or interval anywhere in the history of the universe”.

    (2) By that criterion, contemporary fundamental physics consists of quantum mechanics, general relativity, and maybe thermodynamics.

    (3) “Materialism” is an antiquated notion, and there is no room for it in my conception of things. Nor is there room for “physics” without specification whether we’re talking about a theory of fundamental physics (general relativity, quantum mechanics, or thermodynamics) or a theory of non-fundamental physics (fluid dynamics, for example).

    My version of pragmatic naturalist consists of the following claims:

    (1) Anti-Supernaturalism: within the domain of phenomena that have spatial, temporal, causal, and explanatory relations with each other, theories that contain empirically confirmed models are more epistemically reliable than other forms of understanding (myth, tradition, folk-tales, intuition, “common sense”).

    (2) The Linguistic A Priori: All a priori claims are best treated as meta-linguistic expressions that explicate features of some conceptual system that guides human conduct. No a priori claims refer to states of affairs other than purely formal truths (i.e. claims that are true in all possible worlds, or in none of them).

    (3) The Interdependence of Metaphysics and Epistemology: (i) all claims about reality must be grounded in terms of how we can know what we reality is; (ii) all claims about our cognitive powers must be explained in terms of the metaphysics brought into view by means of those powers. In other words, we not only need to know how we know what reality is, but we also need to know what knowing really is.

    (4) Continuity Explains Discontinuity: the real differences in kind between the semantic, epistemic, and moral powers of normal mature human beings and other animals should be explained in terms of differences in degree at other levels of description (e.g. developmental psychology, neuroscience, ecology , and evolution).

    (5) The Moderate Analytic/Synthetic Distinction: Within any conceptual system it is always possible to distinguish between statements that explicate the constitutive rules of the system and statements that are made by using those rules, but the rules are revisable as the language is used. There is no absolute distinction between meanings and facts and there is no absolutely correct, single, and universal conceptual system.

    (6) No Cognitive Privilege: There is no uniquely reliable source of information about the world or about ourselves that cannot be called into question by information acquired through other means. No claim is immune from the on-going process of dialogical correction in the space of reasons, which means that no claims are “self-evident”.

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  46. dazz: What is Intentionality , what does naturalizing mean and how can one know whether Intentionality can be naturalized and naturalism is true or false?

    Intentionality is the ‘aboutness’ of thought and talk — that our thoughts, utterances, and inscriptions can be about something, whether real or not.

    Naturalizing means giving an account of a phenomena that draws upon the natural sciences and rejects any sharp ontological break between the phenomena under examination and other phenomena studied by the natural sciences.

    I think that intentionality can be naturalized by adopting both a socio-linguistic explication of the concept of intentionality and by drawing on contemporary work in cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary theory, and ecology to explain how intentionality evolved from older kinds of animal cognition.

    As for the truth of naturalism: to use the terms I introduced here, I see the rejection of cognitive privilege as entailing anti-supernaturalism, and I see a linguistic treatment of the a priori and a moderate version of the analytic/synthetic distinction as giving us what was true in the rationalist tradition but in terms that are fully consistent with naturalism.

    Once the epistemological enterprise is fully ‘democratized’, any claim can be put into jeopardy (but of course not all at once!). That undermines all pretenses to self-evident truths, all claims putatively grounded in revelation, intuition, mystical experiences, the lore of the ancestors, pure reason, and so on. There’s a flatness or horizontality to the space of reasons, it becomes a smooth and open space in which everyone is entitled to move, and that undermines all assertions about the supernatural as well as every other kind of cognitive or political privilege.

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