Purpose and Desire

Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It is the new book by physiologist J. Scott Turner, author of The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself.

The book may make some “skeptics” uncomfortable, but maybe they should read it anyways.

From the book:

I have come to believe that there is something presently wrong with how we scientists think about life, its existence, its origins, and its evolution.

Without a coherent theory of life, whatever we think about life doesn’t hold water. This applies to the major contribution we claim that the modern science of life offers to the popular culture: Darwinism.

… there sits at the heart of modern Darwinism an unresolved tautology that undermines its validity.

… do we have a coherent theory of evolution? The firmly settled answer to this question is supposed to be “yes” …

I intend to argue in this book that the answer to my question might actually be “no.”

Darwinism is an idea of intoxicating beauty, and yet there has been for many years a muddle at the heart of it, at least in its modern form.

… what it cannot explain is coming into stark relief, making it impossible any longer to ignore the muddle.

The problem for modern Darwinism is, I argue, that we lack a coherent theory of the core Darwinian concept of adaptation.

This type of reasoning is known formally as a tautology…

For Darwinism to make sense (and I want deeply for it to make sense), the tautology somehow needs to be resolved.

… the obstacle to resolving the tautology is not that we know too little — far from it — but that we aren’t thinking properly about what we do know. In short, the obstacle is largely philosophical, and the stumbling block is the frank purposefulness that is inherent in the phenomenon of adaptation.

… the uncomfortable question is this: what if phenomena like intentionality, purpose, and design are not illusions, but are quite real — are in fact the central attributes of life? How can we have a coherent theory of life that tries to shunt these phenomena to the side? And if we don’t have a coherent theory of life, how can we have a coherent theory of evolution?

– Turner, J. Scott. Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It. HarperCollins. 2017.

Biology, we have a problem. He wants Darwinism to make sense, but the book just doesn’t start out well for the Darwin disciples. Maybe someone else here will actually read it and explain how misguided this poor author is. He’s a Christian. Maybe he’s just lying for Jesus.

Another nail in the coffin.

430 thoughts on “Purpose and Desire

  1. Mung,

    He who calls bullshit last calls bullshit best.

    I think Dean Martin said that. Or was it, “All you are is a dollar sign to me Jerry.”

    Whatever.

  2. I really would like to see someone demonstrate that the theory of evolution is incoherent.

    After Mung shows that he knows the meaning of the word in this context.

  3. Pedant: After Mung shows that he knows the meaning of the word in this context.

    I think, in this context, “the word” means the visual representation of the symbols you typed on the computer, which appear on our screens, intended to convey the mental concept of “the word”. What you have done is convert meaning into an image (electronic in this case, thus it doesn’t really exist in a true visual form, but what does exist mean anyway, and as KN would tell you, what does to know mean, other than we have to trust our senses, even though we have no empirical way to know if we can, but setting aside the physicality of electronic conversions of meanings…), which we, in turn, convert back into a thought, thus through symbols you manipulate our (those who chose to be manipulated, which is another story) brains.

    Is that right?

    Question: If I chose to allow you to manipulate my brain, who is doing the manipulating?

    That might be one for Keiths, because he doesn’t want that choice. He wants his brain to be manipulated without his choosing. And not just his brain, everyone’s brain. He wants to choose for everyone to not let them choose-which is tough to wrap your head around if you choose. I think he secretly has a crush on Mother Teresa. He wants to be cared for.

  4. Mung,

    Since you lack the ability to explain why Turner thinks evolutionary theory is incoherent, at least provide a quote from the book in which Turner himself does so.

    You’ve been hiding behind Turner’s words throughout the thread. Surely you can do so one more time.

  5. That might be one for Keiths, because he doesn’t want that choice. He wants his brain to be manipulated without his choosing. And not just his brain, everyone’s brain. He wants to choose for everyone to not let them choose-which is tough to wrap your head around if you choose. I think he secretly has a crush on Mother Teresa. He wants to be cared for.

    Phoodoo seems to be bad at everything, including putting words in other people’s mouths.

  6. Pedant,

    They can’t put up.

    And they won’t shut up.

    LOL

    It’s easy to tell that they’re bluffing. If either of them could actually demonstrate that evolutionary theory was incoherent, he’d seize the opportunity instead of fumbling around for excuses not to.

  7. Mung running away from backing up one of his endless line of trollish and mostly contentless assertions? Say it aint so.

  8. Rumraket:

    Mung running away from backing up one of his endless line of trollish and mostly contentless assertions? Say it aint so.

    Stalling, squirming, and skedaddling: a Mung specialty.

  9. keiths: Phoodoo seems to be bad at everything, including putting words in other people’s mouths.

    And of all people Mother Theresa is among the last people I would have caring for me. She deliberately prolonged and intensified the sufferings of the sick because she thought suffering brought you closer to God.

  10. Rumraket,

    And of all people Mother Theresa is among the last people I would have caring for me. She deliberately prolonged and intensified the sufferings of the sick because she thought suffering brought you closer to God.

    Yep. This comment is why phoodoo felt compelled to mention her.

  11. Mung: Pedant: I call bullshit. Prove me wrong.

    I call bullshit on your calling bullshit! Prove me wrong!

    And people wonder why Lizzie left.

  12. keiths: Phoodoo seems to be bad at everything, including putting words in other people’s mouths.

    But you don’t do that. Oh no. Or if you do it, you do a good job of it, not a bad job of it, like phoodoo.

    #MoteBeam

  13. keiths: If either of them could actually demonstrate that evolutionary theory was incoherent…

    Do you know yet what incoherent means?

    We demonstrate that evolutionary theory is incoherent every day by our obvious ignorance of it. 🙂

  14. keiths,

    Your are so shy about stating your feelings about what a loving God would be like, so we just have to assume based on your complaints.

  15. Mung: Do you know yet what incoherent means?

    We demonstrate that evolutionary theory is incoherent every day by our obvious ignorance of it.

    Evidently, derisive, inane bluffing is all these three stooges are able to do.

  16. Pedant: Evidently, derisive, inane bluffing is all these three stooges are able to do.

    No, that’s not true. For one, I can find authors who agree with me. See the OP.

  17. Mung,

    No, that’s not true. For one, I can find authors who agree with me. See the OP.

    Side step a burden shift, extract a weak claim, and slay it. Priceless 🙂

  18. Mung:

    No, that’s not true. For one, I can find authors who agree with me. See the OP.

    Then this should be no problem for you:

    Mung,

    Since you lack the ability to explain why Turner thinks evolutionary theory is incoherent, at least provide a quote from the book in which Turner himself does so.

    You’ve been hiding behind Turner’s words throughout the thread. Surely you can do so one more time.

  19. colewd,

    Side step a burden shift, extract a weak claim, and slay it. Priceless

    Wha? I could find ‘authors who agreed with me’ if I said the earth was flat. You are easily impressed.

  20. Mung,

    You provide one. You’re the one who is calling for quotes.

    That’s pitiful, Mung. You don’t even know why Turner thinks evolutionary theory is incoherent, do you?

  21. Mung: You provide one. You’re the one who is calling for quotes.

    All Mung and his altar boys are asked to do is demonstrate that evolution is incoherent.

    It appears that they haven’t because they can’t.

    Pitiful fail.

  22. Pedant:

    Pitiful fail.

    Here’s the most pitiful part:

    a) not only can’t Mung explain why evolutionary theory is supposedly incoherent, or

    b) explain why Turner thinks it’s incoherent;

    c) he can’t even supply a quote from Turner explaining why it’s incoherent.

    In other words, Mung saw the word “incoherent” and barked like a trained seal. That’s the extent of his understanding.

  23. I was sampling from Purpose and Desire over dinner and came across this cringeworthy quote near the end of the book:

    Could it be that birds fly, not because they were the beneficiaries of lucky exaptations that enabled them to fly, but rather because, in a deep sense, the ancestors of birds wanted to fly? They wanted to glide from tree to tree, or chase after a tasty lunch, or launch themselves up trunks of trees to avoid being lunch themselves. And those wants have dragged the genes into the future in their tumultuous intentional wake. And this makes evolution at root a phenomenon of cognition, of intentionality, of purpose, of desire –of homeostasis.

  24. Mung:
    What the Darwinian consensus has brought us, therefore, is more dogma than science.

    – J. Scott Turner

    J. Scott Turner said it, so it’s true by default.

  25. The weird thing about Turner’s book is that part of the time he asserts that cognition, intentionality, homeostasis, etc., are somehow magical and beyond the reach of “mere mechanism”; yet at other times he deflates them to the point where they are easily explicable in terms of mechanism.

    Here’s an example of the latter:

    I will make a bald assertion: bacteria (or any living system, for that matter) can be agents because they are cognitive beings. Now, before going any further, I need to insert two disclaimers. The first is that I am using “cognition” in the broadest possible sense I can get away with — to mean simply the mapping of information about the external environment onto the cell’s internal workings. The second is that I am distinguishing cognition sharply from consciousness. I feel compelled to do so because the two are often conflated, with the result that neither can be spoken of sensibly. While the two arguably are related to one another, cognition is relatively straightforward compared with consciousness, which is deep, perhaps unfathomably so.

    So why on earth does Turner think that cognition, which he defines in this case as “the mapping of information about the external environment onto the cell’s internal workings,” is out of reach for “mere mechanism”?

    Here’s another quote:

    Homeostasis demands certain things, however — among them at least rudimentary forms of cognition and intentionality. This leads to the very strange thought that the origin of life is tantamount to the origin of cognition and intentionality. Even stranger, cognition and intentionality had to have actually preceded the origin of cellular life.

    We can rescue this idea from the loony bin by defining cognition very broadly and generally — as informing a state or process about its environment… An individual nerve cell is cognitively aware of the fluid environment in the brain in which it bathes, and of the chemical signals flung at it by the myriad other nerve cells communicating their own cognitive states, and very likely many other features of its little world. Outside of brains, individual cells are cognitive entities in the same way. A photosynthetic algal cell maps the presence or absence of light onto its encapsulated catalytic milieu, altering the cell’s physiology in accordance with its environment.

    Again, with such a deflated view of cognition, where’s the magic? Why does Turner believe that it’s out of reach for “mere mechanism”?

    Turner appears to be bamboozling himself. He starts out by convincing himself that cognition is magic and cannot be reduced to mere mechanism. He then deflates cognition so that he can “find” it in relatively simple systems. Then he concludes that the simple systems must be magic since he “found” cognition in them!

  26. keiths,

    (Turner): We can rescue this idea from the loony bin […]

    It’s quite happy where it is.

    My fridge magnets ‘want’ to stick to the fridge – except when I knock ’em off, and then they ‘want’ to fall to the ground – a ground that my body wants to stick to as well. My desire in that regard is proportional to the product of my mass and the earth’s. I wanted it a bit more a couple of months ago, but lost a few pounds over the summer.

  27. Mung,

    What the Darwinian consensus has brought us, therefore, is more dogma than science.

    – J. Scott Turner

    Can we have a show of hands on that? Anyway, even dogma can be coherent.

  28. keiths: Again, with such a deflated view of cognition, where’s the magic? Why does Turner believe that it’s out of reach for “mere mechanism”?

    And has he heard of a thermostat?

    Another IDiot trying to conjure magic through the misuse of words.

    Glen Davidson

  29. GlenDavidson: Another IDiot trying to conjure magic through the misuse of words.

    Let’s be fair here: Mung took some effort to find somebody who fell in the evolutionist camp:

    Some immediate disclaimers, in anticipation of the reflexive distortions that are likely to arise. I’m still a staunch evolutionist: I just no longer find the conventional Darwinian explanation for evolution to be plausible. I’m also not coming out in favor of Intelligent Design Theory (IDT). I will have more to say about that topic in future posts, no doubt. Finally, I am not abandoning modern Darwinism in favor of a form of natural theology.

    That being said, I agree that his ideas are not very persuasive.

  30. Corneel:

    Some immediate disclaimers, in anticipation of the reflexive distortions that are likely to arise. I’m still a staunch evolutionist: I just no longer find the conventional Darwinian explanation for evolution to be plausible. I’m also not coming out in favor of Intelligent Design Theory (IDT). I will have more to say about that topic in future posts, no doubt. Finally, I am not abandoning modern Darwinism in favor of a form of natural theology.

    That being said, I agree that his ideas are not very persuasive.

    So he’s, uh, not coming out in favor of Intelligent Design Theory. What’s that supposed to mean? And how does one distort his rambling nonsense?

    How is he an evolutionist, with cognition and intentionality preceding cellular life? Behe’s something of an “evolutionist,” if you’re willing to throw in strategic magical poofs that somehow fail to think beyond evolutionary lineages. Is he not IDist, since he just sort of throws observable “mechanisms” in with magic, seeming not to care about the difference?

    I don’t concern myself especially with his disclaimers. He’s doing everything he can to use his biases to pretend that the science is inadequate (could be, but not because of his conflations), sans any sort of useful insight coming out of his prejudices. I don’t see any reason for him to avoid the ID label other than the fact that it has a well-deserved reputation as pseudoscience. He wants to be considered better than that. If he wants to be seen as better than that, perhaps he should be better than that.

    Glen Davidson

  31. He seems to plough a similar furrow to Denis Noble, of whom the absent Lizzie is a fan.

    It’s always odd to see gene-centrism portrayed as ‘Darwinian’ – Darwin with his pre-Mendelian ideas on where variation came from.

  32. Allan Miller: It’s always odd to see gene-centrism portrayed as ‘Darwinian’ – Darwin with his pre-Mendelian ideas on where variation came from.

    Yes, somehow “Darwinism” is whatever bias the teaching of evolutionary theory took (due to limitations in technique) when they were learning.

    They thought neo-darwinism was the culmination of “darwinism”?

    Glen Davidson

  33. Tom English,

    I’ve made it through only 30 minutes of the documentary. I was interested in knowing whether you were familiar with Del Tackett and The Truth Project.

    I have heard about it and watched the trailer. I don’t know what type of following these guys have.

  34. keiths: In other words, Mung saw the word “incoherent” and barked like a trained seal.

    No, silly person, that is not correct. Please go back and review what has been posted.

    Without a coherent theory of life…

    … do we have a coherent theory of evolution?

    The problem for modern Darwinism is, I argue, that we lack a coherent theory of the core Darwinian concept of adaptation.

    How can we have a coherent theory of life that tries to shunt these phenomena to the side? And if we don’t have a coherent theory of life, how can we have a coherent theory of evolution?

    …but there are, in fact, dozens of “biologies” out there, with new ones coming along annually. Faced with this proliferation, it is reasonable to ask: is there such a thing as a coherent science of life anymore?

    Without adaptation, natural selection cannot work. Darwinian evolution therefore relies upon a coherent theory of adaptation.

    …we do not presently have a coherent theory of adaptation, nor a coherent theory of life, nor a coherent theory of evolution.

    The path to a coherent theory of life, and hence a coherent theory of evolution, therefore depends upon there being a coherent theory of adaptation.

    Please stop making things up. It makes it look like you’re not really interested in reasonable discourse. Unless that’s your goal.

  35. phoodoo: Its useful for every person who wants to cling to atheism. Because without it, you have nothing. So for sure its useful. And for sure its not true.

    Every person who wants to cling to that old time religion has to defeat evolution because otherwise God didn’t do it.

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