Mind or Randomness?
(Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (2010)
XXII, 1/2, pp. 32-66)
Dennis F. Polis, Ph.D.
claim macroevolution shows order emerging by pure chance. This
claim is incompatible with accepted physical and biological
principles. The present state of the universe is implicit in
its initial state and the laws of nature. Logical principles
essential to science require these laws to be maintained by a
self-conserving reality identifiable as God. Further, the laws
share a common dynamic with human committed intentions. Both
are logical propagators seen to be intentional by theists and
naturalists alike. Mechanism and teleology project a single
reality into different conceptual spaces. Statistically,
evolution is only possible given predefined goals. For fitness
to be explanatory, it must be prior to survival events,
entailing immanent goals verified by convergent evolution,
toolkit genes and evolutionary stasis. Aristotle's falsifiable
claims for teleology are confirmed by evolution. Evolution is
not random, but fully intentional, evidencing mind in nature.
Evolution is a principal battleground in the culture wars. For
naturalists it definitively answers the design argument for
God. (Richard Dawkins 1996; Dennett 2003; Stenger 2008.) For
Intelligent Design advocates, it glosses over insurmountable
problems. (Behe 2008; Dembski & Wells 2010; Meyer 2009).
The question arises does evolution, as outlined by Stephen Jay
Gould (2002), Dawkins and others, supports randomness or Mind,
naturalism or theism? Historically, the debate began with Charles Darwin's
opposition to William Paley's design argument for the
existence of God. Paley opens his Natural Theology:
"In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my
foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came
to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I
knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it
perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But
suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it
should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place;
I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that
for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there."
(1809:1) Paley argues that as a watch implies a watchmaker, so nature,
exemplified in the eye, implies a Designer. Darwin opposed Paley's argument on based
the theory of evolution he and Alfred Russel Wallace presented
in 1858. Darwin later wrote to Asa Gray:
cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd
wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides
of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I
cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God
would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the
express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of
caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. Not
believing this, I see no necessity in the belief that the
eye was expressly designed. On the other hand I cannot anyhow
be contented to view this wonderful universe & especially
the nature of man, & to conclude that everything is the
result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as
resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good
or bad, left to the working out of what we may call
chance. (1993: 224)
points are often passed over. (1) Darwin's prime reason for
rejecting Providence is not chance, but the problem of evil,
which became acute with his daughter's death. Chance only
rationalizes his preexisting doubt. (2) Darwin holds "designed
laws" and rejects "brute force." et, holding that everything results from
"designed laws," while the details are due to "what we may
call chance" was inconsistent with the accepted idea of
probability articulated by Pierre LaPlace in 1820:
intelligence knowing, at a given instant of time, all forces
acting in nature, as well as the momentary positions of all
things of which the universe consists, would be able to
comprehend the motions of the largest bodies of the world and
those of the smallest atoms in one single formula, provided it
were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis; to
it nothing would be uncertain, both future and past would be
present before its eyes. (In Lindsay & Margenau
Darwin understood this, and
remained perplexed and conflicted. His claim is
theological. It is that while God designed the laws, He does
not intend their all their effects. Wallace goes further,
seeing evolution as evidence for mind in nature:
life development – all organic life forces – are due to
mind-action, we must postulate not forces, but guidance; not
only self-acting agencies as are involved in natural selection
and adaptation through survival of the fittest, but that far
higher mentality which foresees all possible results of our
cosmos. That constitution, in all its complexity of structure
and of duly coordinated forces acting continuously through
eons of time, has culminated in the foreseen result.
contemporary atheists' rejection of design in both the laws
and their effects is an interpretation of evolution unknown to
its founders. Naturalists reject Mind by projecting the
science into a mechanistic conceptual space excluding ends.
Teleology provides a complimentary projection of the same
reality. This can be
resolved using the projection paradigm outlined by Polis
(1993). It sees knowledge as a relationship in which subjects
interact with objects to experience a subset of their possible
acts. By mapping experience into a circumscribed conceptual
space, abstraction discards experienced notes of
intelligibility. Thus, knowledge consists of projections, or
dimensionally diminished maps, of limited experience into
restricted conceptual frameworks. These limitations can be
ameliorated by diversifying our experience and extending our
conceptual space. The tensions outlined can be resolved by
integrating diverse projections into a worldview in which
randomness is a function of human ignorance and mechanisms are
means to ends.
come Darwin's "designed laws"? The stone Paley dismissed
betokens more than he imagined. Its structure and situs
evidence geological processes. Its isotopic ratios may yield
the age of the earth. Its elements reflect cosmic
nucleosynthesis. Similarly, its persistence manifests God's
existence. If we ask why our stone continues as it is, a
physicist will cite conservation laws: conservation of
mass/energy for its not disappearing, and conservation of
electric charge, baryon number, etc. to maintain its
constituents. Examining this explanation, we find:
explain things by immaterial laws of nature. Asking,
"What is the law of conservation of mass/energy made of?"
betrays a category error. Natural laws are not made of
particles or fields, but are immaterial principles
operating throughout the cosmos.
These laws are immanent, operating in matter, and
transcendent, depending on no single species or instance of
matter, but controlling all matter regardless of constitution
(3) The laws explain things here and now because they act
here and now. If laws did not act, we could never experience
their effects. For energy to be conserved here and now, the
law of conservation of energy must act here and now. The
explanation is a concurrent, co-existing cause, not a Humean
prior event. "Explanation" has two meanings. One is a word
string describing a causal structure. The other is the cause
so described. We are discussing causes in nature.
Conservation laws are aspects of reality, not fictions.
Laws of nature are not invented, but discovered. The
laws of physics are human products, but the realities
they describe antedate humans by eons. These realities, not
our descriptions, maintain the stone.
(5) Since the laws explain why energy, momentum, and
electric charge remain constant, science requires
explanations not only for changes, but also for constancy.
events just happened, science would fail. Any experiment could
have "just happened" for no reason. Thus, the fundamental
principle of science is that all phenomena have
explanations. This point is pivotal. Either (a) some phenomena
require causes, or (b) every phenomenon requires a cause.
Imagine Antoine Becquerel, the discoverer of radioactivity,
presenting his finding that an image appeared on a
photographic plate exposed not to light but to uranium ore. He
claims to have discovered a new phenomenon because the image
requires an explanation. Someone in the back says, "My dear
Professor Becquerel, only some phenomena require an
explanation. This could well be one requiring none. You have
not made your case." What is Becquerel to say other than,
"every phenomenon requires an explanation"? It is inadequate
to say the phenomena we typically explain require
explanations, but those we are not used to explaining require
valid to ask why a stone continues in being. Scientists are
used to such questions, answering that natural laws explain
it. If our question is valid, it is valid to pursue it to a
conclusion. Iterate and ask, "Why do conservation laws
continue to operate?" As the constancy of energy requires a
law of conservation of energy, so the law's constancy requires
a conserving meta-law. Iterating yields a meta-meta-law. An
infinite regress of meta-meta-meta-laws leads nowhere. The
only way to satisfy the scientific requirement for an
explanation is with a self-conserving source of law, God.
Unless some reality holds itself in existence, the principle
that all phenomena have explanations fails. We must either
accept God's existence and on-going operation, or abandon
resolves several issues. First, it sidesteps David Hume's
(1777: 50) critique of causality. He treated time-sequenced
causality; we used concurrent causality. Second, it avoids
problems with the Kalam cosmological argument, which
requires a beginning in time. We focused on the here and now.
Third, God is not a hypothesis (Stenger 2008), but is entailed
by the logic of science. Fourth, ID proponents argue that
"theistic evolution offers no compelling reason for thinking
that nature is a divine creation." (Dembski & Wells 2010:
6). The laws of nature evidence continuous creation. Fifth,
deism is untenable, for if God stopped acting, the cosmos
would cease to be.
MIND IN NATURE?
course, we have not shown the laws evidence design. That
something called "God" sustains the laws of nature does not,
it itself, entail mind in nature. Mind is a separate question.
When theists see natural order, we see divine purpose. When
naturalists see it, they see only mechanistic laws.
Fig. 1 Self-Organization
molecules on graphite self-assembled into
Frank Trixler GNU Free Doumentation
his beautifully illustrated book The Self-Made
Tapestry, Phillip Ball gives many examples of pattern
formation in nature that should provide a strong antidote for
those who still labor under the delusion that mindless natural
processes are unable to account for the complex world we see
around us. Stenger (2008: 61)
Stenger does not bother to
justify "mindless" before "natural processes." Instead, he
follows Dennett (1987) in illustrating emerging order with
cellular automata. These are programs transforming patterns of
geometric cells based on the state of neighboring
cells.Dawkins likewise discusses patterns arising from
simulated evolution based on simple rules(1996a: 84). All
three illustrate order emerging from rules imposed by minds.
It is hard to see how this advances their case. Dawkins'
surprise bears particular reflection:
I wrote the program, I never thought that it would involve
anything more than a variety of tree-like shapes. I had hoped
for weeping willows, Cedars of Lebanon, or Lombardi poplars,
seaweeds, perhaps deer antlers. Nothing in my biologist's
intuition, nothing in my 20 years' experience of programming
computers, nothing in my wildest dreams, prepared me for what
actually emerged on the screen. (1996a: 84)
Because he cannot foresee
where even deterministic processes lead, their end state
cannot motivate him. Although Dawkins programmed the
computer and selected a mutant to survive at each step, he was
surprised. This would be irrelevant were he not comparing
himself to God. Dawkins' surprise gave him the feeling
that the process is mindless. That does not imply natural
processes are. Because he did not anticipate his
results, they were unplanned. An omniscient God would hardly
be surprised. Does
sustaining the laws of nature make God a lawgiver? Lawgivers
act intentionally. We found God as a terminus for lines of
action, not a source of intentionality. Are the laws of nature
"designed" as Darwin believed, the "will of God"? Analyzing
propositional types will help answer this.
propagators are propositions or judgments allowing information
about one space-time point to be applied to another. Using
conservation laws to explain a stone's existence required our
premises be true at the time and place of their application.
It is inadequate for a law to be true at another time or
place. To be effective, an explanation must be operative
when and where applied. Consider an argument whose premises are only true
sometimes. For a conclusion to follow, the major and minor
premises must be true simultaneously. If one premise is true
now and the other later, the conclusion is unsound. For
All now in the room can hear
John will be in the room
John can hear
This is invalid because of the
temporal mismatch. There is nothing profound here.
we routinely draw conclusions true at one time from data true
at another. Scientists and engineers make predictions, and we
base our lives on past experience and future expectation.
Whenever we do this, we rely on logical propagators.
All in the room when Mary speaks can hear
Mary now intends to speak in the room
John will be in the room
John can hear Mary
The second premise uses a fact
today to make an assertion about tomorrow. It is because Mary
now intends to speak tomorrow that we can
validly draw the conclusion. Absent her committed intention,
the conclusion would be as unsound as before. Logical
propagators link information at two times.
propagator propositions are in the logical order, they express
a reality transcending a single time. In asserting existence
("There is a ball") or a property ("The ball is rubber"), we
are saying something true at one time. A committed intention,
however, points to future information. It is a present
tendency with a path to fruition. If we are careful, we can
call real tendencies "logical propagators." They control the
development of earlier material states into later ones, but
are not material states. They are logical because they
transform information. They are propagators because they
propagate information from one time to another.
are two species of logical propagators: committed intentions
and natural laws. If Mary commits to speaking tomorrow, she
will speak tomorrow. If billiard balls or quanta are in state
S1 at t1, then, by the
laws of nature, they will be in state S2 at
time t2. Both predictions are true
ceteris paribus (other things being equal), because
unforeseen factors may intervene. Mary could die. An
earthquake could upset the billiard table. A cosmic ray could
disrupt a quantum system. Humans are more complex, so more
things can intervene, but the principle is the same.
intentions and natural laws are two species in the same
dynamic genus, this is not a metaphor, but a shared dynamic.
The time-development of human behavior under committed
intentionality and that of physical systems under natural laws
equally play out immanent dispositions or logical propagators.
Both allow us to predict future information from present
information. Both express immaterial principles in observable
the observable sign of intentionality? Is it not a systematic
time development ordered to ends? This is how naturalists
understand intentionality. Eliminativists' theory-theory is
based on human intentions and natural laws having a common
dynamic so that intentions become theoretical constructs for
behavioral prediction. (Goldman 1993: 351-). Dennett
(1987) argues that physical systems behave exactly as though
expressing intentions. Dawkins (1989) writes of the selfish
intent of genes. Shared dynamics is a fact relied upon
Hume's critique of causality, our grasp of time-sequenced
causality is not adequately based on observing physical
events. However, it is warranted by our experience of willing.
Being aware of our own committed intentionality and its
subsequent incarnation, we expect analogues in nature.
Contrary to determinists who give time-sequenced causality
priority over volition, will is the prime analogue and
causality derivative. Association plays a role, but, as Hume
noted, association does not warrant necessity. The idea
of causal connection over time derives from our experience as
The Principle of Causal Openness:
Principle of Causal Closure is a linchpin of
naturalism. It posits that only physical states and processes
can cause physical effects. Jaegwon Kim defends it thus:
"If you pick any physical
event and trace out its causal ancestry or posterity, that
will never take you outside the physical domain. That is, no
causal chain will ever cross the boundary between the physical
and the nonphysical" (1998: 40). This must be wrong because we found a
causal chain leading to God. What is Kim missing?
perennial and Eastern philosophy distinguish two kinds of
efficient causality. In Posterior Analytics ii, 12,
95a14-24, Aristotle differentiates what were
subsequently called essential and accidental
causality. The Buddhist logicians similarly distinguish
ultimate and empirical causation. (Theodor Stcherbatsky 1960:
vol. 1, 125f). While time-sequenced or accidental causality
continues to be discussed, contemporary philosophy neglects
essential causality. It is the concurrent causality used
above: for energy to be conserved here and now, the
conservation law must be operative here and now. Kim traces
chains of causal events in time and finds only temporal
events. As he projects reality into a space of event concepts,
events are all he finds.
Accidental, or Humean-Kantian, causality is the time
sequence of events according to rule critiqued by Hume and
puzzled over by Kant. It is accidental because, as Hume
observed, it lacks necessity. Essential causality is
quite different. Sosa & Tooley realize that Aristotelian
causality differs by not involving events and that causality
first became problematic with Hume, but miss the connection
(1993: 31f). In his Metaphysics, Aristotle reflects
on a builder building a house (1941, xi, 9,
1066a27). He notes an identity of
cause and effect: the cause (the builder building the house)
is identical with the effect (the house being built by
the builder). The only difference is the focus of our
attention. Unlike accidental causality, we have a single
event viewed in two projections, not two events. One
projection focuses on the agent, the other on the effect. As
with conservation of energy, the operation of the cause and
the realization of its effect are simultaneous and
there is one event, essential causality has a necessity
impossible with accidental causality's disjoint events. This
is not to say that conservation of energy or building a house
is metaphysically necessary, but that, given these events, it
is impossible to separate the operation of the cause from the
realization of its effect. Every happening is a doing, and
every doing is a happening. This Aristotelian analysis
underpins the fundamental principle of science used
earlier. In extreme
cases, e.g. in some theories of quantum gravity, the
concept of time can break down, and with it, Humean-Kantian
causality. Essential causality, by which the laws of nature
operate, survives, as it is independent of space-time
structure, and thus more fundamental.
Naturalists like Kim are trapped in a single causal dimension.
They look for causality only horizontally, in temporal
sequences, missing the vertical dimension of ontological
dependence. The house being built depends on the builder
building. The builder building depends on laws of nature
maintaining him in operation. The laws of nature depend on
God's sustaining will. Since the vertical line of causation is
atemporal, it is missed by a mechanical projection looking
solely to time-ordered events for explanations. No prior event
can explain a later, disjoint, event. It is simply not
there when the later event occurs. Physics reflects this
insight in quantum field theory's locality or contiguity
postulate, which rejects action at a distance or, more
precisely, action at a space-time separation. Information from
an earlier event is only present later because a logical
propagator has brought it forward in time. Logical propagators
operate on information, acting in the physical theater of
operation via intentionality. Immaterial entities are
not only causally effective, but are causes par excellence.
Without them, events would be disjoint monads.
essential and accidental causality are distinct, they are
related. Accidental causality's regular sequence of events is
the integral effect of natural laws' essential causality. This
is seen in quantum field theory, a paradigm of fundamental
physics. A system's Hamiltonian gives its energy and also
generates changes. It enters the Schrödinger equation, which,
integrated over time, gives:
Equation 1 describes the development of a state,
|?1>, at time t1 into a
later state, |?2>. The states each
represent every field, particle and physical property.
They exhaust the materiality of their events. Those events
affect each other only through
exp-iH(t1 - t2),
where H is the Hamiltonian operator expressing the
local, immaterial laws of nature.
Exp-iH(t1 - t2),
the S-matrix, is a logical propagator carrying
information from time t1 to time
t2. Thus, mechanistic laws produce
reflects the causal ineffectiveness of material states.
The answer to "how can immaterial entities be causally
effective in physical systems?" is by being the laws
transforming information in time. The real question is
"How can disjoint material states cause one another?" They
cannot absent an operative intentionality. There is a subtle
interplay here. Essential causality expresses present
intentionality, which may be formulated locally and
mechanistically by the Schrödinger equation. Integrated over
time, the Schrödinger equation yields an S-matrix formulation,
which formulates both accidental causality and finality. Thus,
intentionality, mechanism and finality are inexorably bound.
We conclude with Albertus Magnus, Opus naturae est opus
intelligenia. ("The work of nature is the work of
intelligence." Guy Guldentops 2001: 199.)
Final Causality: Human intentionality and
natural laws are the foundation in reality of the concept of
final causality or teleology. (Greek telos = end or
goal.) There is a muddled idea that final causality means the
future acts as a magnet reaching back in time to pull present
states into future states. What acts here and now is
present here and now. Mary's goal of speaking tomorrow
does not pull her from the future. It acts now because
she is committed to it now. Finality reflects a
present tendency ordered to a future state. We have
just seen that this idea is integral to
physics. As with
Dawkins' simulation, the outcomes are implicit in the initial
state and in the rules or intentions transforming it, the laws
of nature. These jointly dictate the genesis of species.
Still, many biologists reject teleology. Ordering to a final
state involves means-ends relationships. Spiders make webs to
catch insects and feed themselves. The contradictory is "webs
are not a means of catching insects to eat." Once we see webs
are a means to catch and eat insects, this hypothesis is
falsified. So, there are end-means relationships in nature
and, a fortiori, ends or final causes.
co-evolution of species results in extrinsic finality or
interdependence, so that pollen is partially for the
sake of bees, and bees are for the fertilization of
plants. The web of interdependence in ecosystems makes each
species be for the sake of the others. Species
diversity increases the number of feedback loops and so
ecological stability (Eugene Odum 1971: 149f, 257; Anthony R.
Ives & Stephen R. Carpenter 2007). So, from our
perspective as part of the ecosystem, each species is
for our sake – as well as for the sake of other
may object that seeing intentionality in biological end-means
relationships is anthropomorphic – projecting human
intentionality into nature, where it does not occur. This is a
perilous objection for naturalists. For eliminativists, intent
is theoretical posit, so there is no intent to project. For
naturalists holding our consciousness to be physically
evolved, intent necessarily occurs in physical processes. They
cannot object to mental principles in nature. It is not being
asserted that rocks are conscious, but that naturalists cannot
consistently object to teleologic intentionality as
anthropomorphic. For a naturalist, if there is mind at all,
there is mind in nature. There is no place else for it to
Classic Arguments for Mind in Nature:
The argument from design has two main flavors:
Paley's watchmaker argument based on biological data, and the
fine-tuning argument based on physical constants having the
exact values required to make life possible. While these
arguments are mutually supportive, fine tuning is beyond our
present scope. St
Thomas Aquinas' fifth way is related to design arguments, as
both focus on mind in nature. Yet, design arguments are based
on form (an ordered relationship of parts), while
Aquinas is concerned with function seeking goals and so
is a teleological argument, not an argument from design.
fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see
that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies,
act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always,
or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best
result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but
designedly [ex intentione], do they achieve their end.
Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end,
unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and
intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer.
Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural
things are directed to their end; and this being we call
God. (1981: I, q. 2, art. 3).
While some may object that
"best" is subjective, the argument is adequately based on
means-ends relationships. As the arrow example shows,
Aquinas's claim on the relation of ends to minds is factual
and experiential. Ends betoken minds because only minds can
presently hold future ends.
Dawkins' (1996: 103) speaks for most naturalists when he
criticizes the fifth way based on the claim that evolution is
an example of apparent design independent of mind. Yet,
Aquinas was familiar with the concept of natural selection
from Aristotle: "Wherever then all the parts came about just what they
would have been if they had come be for an end, such things
survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way;
whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to
perish" (1941: ii, 8, 198b29-32).
It is hard to imagine
Aquinas forgetting something so well-known to him. So, perhaps
natural selection is not the decisive defeater Dawkins
Evolution rests on three points. (1) The existence of variant
genotypes. These result from "random" mutations and
transcription errors. (2) A selection mechanism favoring
variations enhancing reproduction and survival. (3)
Inheritability – the capacity to pass on variations that lead
to enhanced survival and reproduction. Our critique also has
three points: (1) Evolution depends on the same natural laws
we have just seen to be intentional. (2) Its randomness is not
objective, but subjective – due to human cognitive
limitations. (3) The idea of fitness is either vacuous or it
requires a pre-existing standard which itself evidences
evolution results from "designed laws." Dawkins (1996a: 17)
says, "There is no reason to think the laws of physics are
violated in living matter." Physical states develop over time
due to the intentional laws transforming earlier into later
state information. The mutations causing to genetic variants
express these laws. They likewise control natural selection
and the expression of genotypes (genetic codes) in phenotypes
(observable traits). Finally, they provide for the inheritance
of genetic information. Thus, intentional laws of nature guide
evolution at every point.
objects that quantum theory violates causality either does not
understand the theory or has not followed the argument
closely. Natural laws operate by essential, concurrent
causality. Quantum uncertainty militates against
accidental, time-sequenced causality. It precludes
gathering sufficient data on an earlier state to predict
a later state deterministically. Quantum uncertainty does
not attack the laws' essential causality, but presupposes it.
Further, evolution is logically independent of quantum
indeterminism. It was born in the era of Laplacian
determinism, sixty-nine years before Werner Heisenberg's
uncertainty principle . Heisenberg published two years after
the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial." Random and determinate are
contradictories. If something is truly determinate, it cannot
be ontologically random. If it is ontologically random, it
cannot be determinate. Since evolution is compatible with
determinism, we need to analyze "what we may call
Probability and Randomness: Statistical
probability seems straightforward. Its foundation is equal
likelihood. Place 50 white balls and 50 black balls in an urn
and mix them. The probability of picking a black ball without
looking is 50%. Roll a six-sided die. The probability of any
side coming up is 1/6. This is because we have no
reason to believe one outcome is more likely than another.
Yet, as LaPlace implies, if we look at a die roll in detail,
specifying its exact angle of initial contact, velocity,
angular momentum, coefficient of friction etc., we could
calculate the outcome. Nothing is intrinsically random
about a dice roll. Since we are ignorant of these
details, the outcome is random for us. Again, suppose
that the top layer in our urn has all white balls. Mary knows
that, so for her the probability of picking a white
ball is 100%, and the outcome is determinate. For John, who
has not looked, the draw is random (his information allows no
prediction). The probability is 50% for him. Why is it
50% for John and 100% for Mary? The only difference is their
Shannon (1948) defined information is a reduction in
possibility – that is logical possibility, not possible
existence. Once a message is sent, it is what it is, and no
longer possibly something else. At the receiving end, we do
not know what it is. As we receive each bit (0 or 1), our
ignorance is reduced, and with it, the logical probability
that the message could be other than it is. When there is just
one bit left, there is a 50% chance (to us) that it could be
the real message and a 50% chance that it could be like the
real message with the last bit different. All the while, the
message remains unchanged. The probabilities we calculate have
nothing to do with the real message and everything to do with
our knowledge and ignorance.
Probability is not an objective property of nature, but
describes the subject-object relation of knowledge. To be
relative to knowledge is to be relative to ignorance. So
probability is a function of ignorance. When our ignorance
ceases, probability becomes certainty. Physical processes are
random to the degree that we cannot calculate a
determinate outcome. If we can calculate it, the outcome is
deterministic for us. If we cannot, it is random for
us. Being deterministic or random is not an ontological,
but an epistemological property. There will always be a
definite outcome. The next ball will be white or black, the
atom will decay in the next minute or it will not. We are
rarely able to predict this, so for us, it is random. This is
as true in quantum theory as in classical physics. The
difference is that in quantum theory we cannot determine the
initial conditions, while in the classical case we
believe quantum theory is ontologically random and
argue that while the original theory of evolution did not
depend on ontological randomness, the present theory does.
Bohm's (1952) quantum theory refutes this. It makes the same
predictions as standard quantum theory, but is deterministic
with a probability based on ignorance. Genetic mutations have
the same chemistry whether or not quanta are ontologically
random. Thus, evolution is logically isolated from ontological
randomness. Further, quantum theory restricts probability to
observations and asserts states evolve deterministically
between observations (Paul A. M. Dirac 1958: 108). The
unpredictable disturbances in quantum measurements entail
indeterminism (Heisenberg 1930). There is no evidence it is
ontological. We have more than enough known ignorance to
explain quantum randomness: ignorance of the initial state of
quantum systems, of the detectors used to observe them, and of
the vacuum fluctuations perturbing quantum events.
(1989) claimed that if you rewound the tape and played it
again, evolution would come out different, and we would not be
here. His thesis has been criticized by paleontologist Simon
Conway Morris (1998), who discusses its evidentiary basis in
the fossils of the mid-Cambrian Burgess Shale. Gould's claim
is also incompatible with physics. Since unobserved
processes are deterministic, however many times we run them
backwards and forwards in time, they turn out the same
(Susskind 2008: 182). If we take "random" to mean that
rerunning evolution will give different results, then either
evolution is not random, or quantum physics is
we have seen: (1) The natural laws controlling genetic
mutation are not mindless, but intentional, having an
intrinsic finality. (2) There is good reason to believe that
quantum randomness is not ontological, but due to ignorance.
(3) Even if it is not, the theory of evolution is insensitive
to whether or not quantum randomness is ontological,
and unobserved processes, like those of evolution, are
deterministic. So, "random genetic mutations" depend on divine
intentionality. They are random because we cannot predict
them, not because they are mindless or indeterminate. They
are the product of logical propagators morphing the universe's
initial information into its present information.
Is God Inefficient? Let us offer an
objection on naturalists' behalf: mutations seem not to be
ordered to the species that finally evolve, as many mutations
lead to either a quick death or an evolutionary dead end.
Thus, they do not evidence intent. It is very inefficient to
throw away millions of mutations to get a few
keepers. How does God
measure efficiency? The question reaches beyond our ken, but
we can make some observations. First, God need not scrimp on
being because He is not sure where His next entity is coming
from. So, the idea of God being miserly with being has no
appeal. Second, is not it smarter to have a few simple laws
play out in limitless diversity than to create myriads of
ad hoc designs? This is a common view among religious
scientists. Nobel physics laureate Arno Penzias
God created the universe, he would have done it elegantly...
The absence of any imprint of intervention upon creation is
what we would expect from a truly all-powerful Creator. You do
not need somebody diddling around like Frank Morgan in The
Wizard of Oz to keep the universe going. Instead, what you
have is a half a page of mathematics that describes
everything. In some sense, the power of the creation lies in
its underlying simplicity. (In Slack 1998)
A heavy design hand is the mark
of a kludging engineer, not an omniscient and omnipotent
Creator: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. 'As the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than
your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah
55: 8-9). Further, considering mutants in abstraction is Alfred
North Whitehead's fallacy of misplaced concreteness, which
involves treating abstractions as realities (1927: 11).
Mutants are part of an ecosystem. They compete for resources,
may be predators and prey, enter symbiotic relationships and
contribute to ecosystem dynamics in other ways. Thus, they
affect not only the evolution of their own genetic line, but
that of every species in the ecosystem.
Evolution and Improbability: The idea that
evolution is fundamentally random raises an insurmountable
problem: the odds against hitting on a workable genetic code
randomly are impossibly high. Fred Hoyle and N. Chandra
Wicramasinghe (1981) calculated the chance of getting the
enzymes required by the simplest cell as
1:1040000 (1 followed by 40,000 zeros).
Thus, a completely random process has virtually no
chance of explaining it. This type of calculation has been
criticized because the initial self-replicating forms may have
been much simpler, and protein assembly is not random, but
guided by the laws of nature.
Mushegian & Koonin (1996) tell us that the simplest known
genome, that of the Gram-positive parasitic bacterium
mycoplasma genitalium, has 468 protein-coding genes,
while the simplest known Gram-negative bacterium,
haemophilus influenzae has 1703. They compared these
genomes and found 240 genes with orthologs, leading them to
posit a common ancestor. However, the orthologous genes cannot
support all the essential pathways, and so 16 additional genes
are required. They conclude that a modern-type cell needs at
least 256 genes. The probability of getting this sequence
randomly is about 1 : 10179. Thus, while the
first organisms may have been simpler, the odds of randomly
assembling one are still impossibly high. Further, if
subsequent mutations occurred randomly, a simple staring point
does not resolve the improbability of more evolved successors.
It remains improbable to move from the starting point to more
advanced forms randomly.
eminent French mathematician Émil Borel discussed the
application of probability theory to self-organizing systems.
Writing of crystal formation, he noted that
would not be possible to treat this as a problem of
probability without taking account of certain properties of
matter, properties that facilitate the formation of crystals
and that we are certainly obliged to verify. We ought, it
seems to me, to consider it likely that the formation of
elementary living organisms, and the evolution of those
organisms, are also governed by elementary properties of
matter that we do not understand perfectly but whose existence
we ought nevertheless admit (Borel 1963:
In brief, we
cannot calculate accurate probabilities without considering
the laws of nature guiding the processes. For evolution
to work, we must abandon the idea of complete
randomness. Further, putting aside free will, equation 1
tells us that the present state is fully immanent in the
initial state and the laws of nature. Given the actual
initial state of the universe, all variations are not equally
likely. The probability of the present state is 100
selection or survival of the fittest plays a role in
overcoming improbability. We need not quarrel with this
principle for it does not support, but militates against,
mindless randomness. For fitness to have explanatory power, it
has to be prior to what it explains. If we simply say
the surviving species are "the fittest," what have we
explained? A real explanation requires objective survival
criteria prior to survival. Being harder for predators to
see, able to exploit open ecological niches, or having higher
reproductive rates leads to species success. These advantages
reflect objective, nomological features of nature.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) often employs a
"generate-and-test" strategy. One process generates possible
solutions to a problem, while another tests their viability
(Avron Barr & Edward A. Feigenbaum 1981: vol. 1, 30ff).
The generation process need not be directed. In fact, the less
directed, the better. Good generation processes yield a great
variety of possible solutions. On the other hand, the testing
process must be rigorous so only viable solutions are
accepted. The scientific method does the same. We generate
many theories, then test them experimentally.
Evolution uses this strategy. Genetic mutation is the
generation process. Dawkins describes the testing
nature, the usual selecting agent is direct, stark and simple.
It is the grim reaper. Of course, the reasons for
survival are anything but simple – that is why natural
selection can build up animals and plants of such formidable
complexity. But there is something very crude and simple about
death itself. And nonrandom death is all it takes to select
phenotypes, and hence the genes that they contain, in nature.
(Dawkins 1996: 87f).
Random death does not suffice.
The death must be end-directed for natural selection to
work. Also, the probability of generating an acceptable
solution in a reasonable time must be near 100 percent. Thus,
generation-and-test alone can not solve the improbability
makes our case (1996: 66-71). Addressing the improbability
problem, he considers computer programs randomly generating
the string "ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL." He calculates the
chance of getting this string in one try as 1 in
1040. He agrees that, on average, even the fastest
computer would need many times the age of the universe to
generate it randomly. If evolution acted that way, it would be
virtually impossible. To solve this, Dawkins argues for
cumulative step selection. In it, the computer
generates a random 28-character string and compares it to "ME
THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL." If it has the right character in
some position, it locks that character down and generates
random characters only for the other positions. Dawkins'
program took only 43 steps to generate the target string this
vast difference? Because Dawkins put the answer in at the
beginning! He explicitly told the program when it
generates the right character in a given position, stop
diddling with that position and concentrate on the others.
This is AI's generate-and-test strategy. It works only if we
have a criterion to test against – a target we put in
at the beginning. We are not twisting Dawkins' point, as is
clear from the summary on his last page:
However improbable a large-scale change may be, smaller
changes are less improbable. And provided we postulate a
sufficiently large series of sufficiently finely graded
intermediaries, we shall be able to derive anything from
anything else, without invoking astronomical improbabilities.
We are allowed to do this only if there is sufficient time to
fit all the intermediaries in. And also only if there is a
mechanism for guiding each step in some particular
direction, otherwise the sequence of steps will career off
in an endless random walk (1996: 453; emphasis
Simply taking many small steps
does not suffice. Guidance is essential. While the probability
of each step may be smaller, the overall probability is the
product of the step probabilities, and so no lower. William
Dembski & Johathan Wells (2010) analyzed Dawkins' WEASEL
program and showed that when a strategy increases the
probability of success, it must supply information, here
admitted to be guidance. Borel argued that the guidance of the
laws of nature ameliorates a priori
Dawkins had an explicit target, nature has
implicit targets. Simple examples of implicit targets
are self-assembling physical systems involving: "the
spontaneous formation of organized structures from many
discrete components that interact with one another directly
(e.g., electrostatic interactions between charged objects)
and/or indirectly through their environment" (Fialkowski 2006:
2484). Just as in
equation 1, local interactions governed by the laws of nature
generate an implicit outcome. While they are called
self-organizing or assembling, in fact, the laws of
nature organize these systems.
that the laws of nature are essentially intentional,
naturalists' examples for the efficacy of mechanism support
finality. Paley's watch clarifies a critical point. Having a
complete mechanical explanation does not preclude it from
serving a purpose. Naturalists have no viable argument against
teleology. Instead, they offer mechanisms as though given a
mechanism, no end is possible. Theists often commit the same
error, thinking finality and mechanism incompatible. For
example, the famous apologist Frederick Tennant wrote:
"the multitude of interwoven adaptations
by which the world is constituted a theatre of life,
intelligence, and morality, cannot reasonably be regarded as
an outcome of mechanism, or of blind formative power, or aught
but purposive intelligence" (1928, 2: 121).
recently, Dembski & Wells (2010) failed to see that the
laws of nature entail teleology. Mechanism is not "blind
formative power." Mechanism and finality are not
contradictory, but complementary. Finality entails ends.
Mechanism describes means. Means do not exclude ends. They
imply them. Ends do not exclude means. They require them.
If Dawkins is
right, evolution has objective, preprogrammed targets!
This is an incredible claim, so let us be precise:
determinate tendencies are essential to natural
selection's operation. Tendencies must operate
concurrently to be effective. We saw this in the
concurrent or essential causality of the laws of nature.
Saying the targets are objective does not mean they require an
incarnate archetype, prototype, or any other palpable design.
It means there are observable tendencies to determinate
biological ends in response to ecological challenges.
Explicit targets are spelled out, while implicit ones are
encoded in rules giving the same result. Both contain
identical information. Three lines of evidence support
predefined targets in evolution: (1) convergent evolution or
homoplasy, (2) toolkit genes and (3) evolutionary stasis.
Plants and animals in different evolutionary lines (not
monophyletic) converge on objectively similar forms to fit
similar ecological niches (Figure
Figure 2. Convergent Plant Evolution
Euphorbia of Africa and
southern Asia, and the Cactaceae of
the Americas evolved
independently, but converged to similar
Frank Vincentz, GNU Free Documentation (2010)
& David Midgley,
Creative Commons Attribution
Dawkins (1996: 133) notes the
similarity is not total, but shows traces of diverse origins.
Still, as Simon Morris (1998) argues,
there are objective target forms fitting organisms to niches.
Hundreds of examples of the same target form being arrived at
from different origins have been observed, just as would
happen if you ran Dawkins' text generation program many times.
Similar leaf forms, skull forms, tongue forms, pheromones,
antibodies, etc. have evolved at widely separated
locales from different genetic stock among birds, reptiles,
fish, spiders, and plants. In each case, objectively similar
forms evolved. Joseph
T. Gregory (1951) documented convergently evolved
lower jaw structures in hesperornis, a toothed bird of the cretaceous
and the mosasaurs, a group of giant marine
lizards. Some even involve different phyla. Joel
Berger and Jerry L. Kaster (1979) investigated the similarity
of caddisfly larvae to snails and ruled out mimicry to avoid
Australasia, marsupials diversified to fit niches filled by
placental mammals elsewhere. Marsupial and placental mammals
are quite independent, having split in the late Mesozoic.
Their oldest known fossils, sinodelphys szalayi
(marsupial) and eomaia scansoria (a placental ancestor)
both come from the early Cretaceous (c.125,000,000 BC) in
China (Qiang Ji et al. 2002). Nevertheless, the
marsupial Tasmanian wolf evolved into nearly the same form as
placental canid wolves (Figure 3):
Figure 3. Convergent Animal Evolution
Skulls of the
unrelated Tasmanian wolf (left) & gray wolf
Fritz Geller-Grimm, Creative Commons Attribution
Similarly, saber-tooth tigers
had two distinctly evolved analogues. One,
thylacosmilus, a saber-toothed marsupial lion, even
evolved catlike retractable claws. The Dactylopsila of
New Guinea have the same stripe pattern and odoriferous
defense as skunks (Dawkins 2004: 164n). Madagascar's tenrecs
evolved to converge with hedgehogs and with water shrews
(Dawkins 2004: 166).
similarities arrived at by convergent evolution are hard
evidence of goal seeking. Another goal sought by natural
selection is vision. Its preexistence as a goal is shown by
forty independent evolutionary paths (Dawkins 1996b) using
eight different optical plans (Fernald 2000), all supporting
the same end. (Goals are defined by ends, not by means. Means
are subordinated to ends.) Science focuses on common features
to explain diverse cases. In explaining gravity, we fix on
mass as the common feature and neglect color, shape, etc.
In evolution, hundreds of targets, revealed by convergent
form and function, are common despite divergent origins.
naturalists explain convergent evolution? Some say the
environment causes it to happen. If so, the riddle causes its
solution. Riddles and the environment occasion solutions, but
solutions do not occur absent an intentional response. The
environment poses an opportunity the generate-and-test
strategy can exploit. Rudolf A. Raff offers a more
sensible answer: "Convergences keep happening because
organisms keep wanting to do similar things, and there are
only so many ways of doing them, as dictated by physical
laws." (In Angier 1998: 7). In brief, biological forms are
implicit in the laws of nature. Gould reached the same
conclusion: "These physical laws are formal causes or
blueprints of optimal adaptive design for given circumstances
of size, materials or ecology. The laws give us insight into
the adaptive values, or final causes of organic designs"
branch of biology, evo-devo, studies the evolution of
developmental mechanisms. It has discovered a series of
toolkit genes whose expression can be modulated to vary
structural forms. The same toolkit genes can yield different
embryogenesis, depending on their regulation. Thus, BMP4
controls beak and jaw configurations (Kevin J. Parsons and R. Craig
Albertson 2009). Modifying its
expression produces parrots' nut cracking beaks of or humming
birds' long thin beaks. It is thought that many phenotypic
changes in species branching result from mutations to the
codes (homeobox genes) controlling the expression of
toolbox genes rather than to toolbox genes themselves. A major
goal of evo-devo is to identify and describe the functions and
interactions of all toolkit genes.
Contrary to Dawkins' claim that we can "derive anything from
anything else," evolution is far less random. Given that forty
independent evolutionary paths with eight different optical
plans all yield vision and Dawkins' thesis, we would expect
any random mutation might eventually produce vision. In
fact, one toolkit gene, Pax6, controls vision in organisms as
diverse as vertebrates, mollusks, and fruit flies (Gould 2004:
83). Is convergence on the goal of vision explained by sharing
Pax6 genes? Mechanistically it is, but explaining how goals
are attained does not refute their reality, or explain why
Pax6, BMP4, and similar toolkit genes are in the shared
genome. They are not random, but necessitated by
pre-established tests, implicit in the laws for gene
winnowing. Gould Admits that: "Our
former best examples of full efficacy for the functional force
of natural selection exist only because the internal
constraints of homologous genes and developmental pathways
have kept fruitful channels of change open and parallel, even
in the most disparate and most genealogically distant
bilateralian phyla" (2002: 1069).
recent evo-devo discovery further supports intentionality.
Neil Shubin, Edward B. Daeschler & Farish A. Jenkins
(2006) reported the discovery of Tiktaalik roseae, a
375 million year old fossil land-exploring fish, on Canada's
Ellesmere Island. It had a startling feature, wrists. Wrists
were thought confined to fully land-based animals, because
fish do not need them. Shubin explains, "This was telling us
that a piece of the toolkit, to make arms, legs, hand and
feet, could very well be present in fish limbs... Lacking were
the environmental conditions where these structures would be
useful." (In Yoon 2007: 1). This is supported by genetic
studies of a living relative of Tiktaalik, the
paddlefish Polyodon spathula (Davis 2007). Without
conditions making these structures useful, there is no
evolutionary pressure to develop a gene to form them. Thus,
the capacity to form the limbs needed for land survival
evolved before the need for them, and without specific
selection pressure for the unexpressed potential.
Evolution is a forward-looking process. Preparing means in
advance of ends is a strong indicator of intentionality
(Aristotle 1941, ii, 8, 199a10). Thus, evolution
involves prior, immanent intentionalities.
may require re-thinking the idea that genes develop in
response to environmental pressure. It now appears that
specific capabilities, such as the ability to develop vision,
wrists or specific beak and jaw forms, are latent in the
genetic toolkit, but unexpressed until needed. In other words,
genes seem to develop adaptive flexibility before the
environmental pressure to express the available alternatives!
This is evidence of the forward-looking dynamics described by
Aquinas in his teleological argument. One surprising result of evo-devo is that
toolkit genes themselves are evolutionary targets. Once
evolved, the coding sequences of toolkit genes are
conserved so that nearly identical tool kit genes are
found in different phyla. The genes are so stable against
evolutionary changes that fruit flies can function with genes
taken from chickens replacing their own (Lutz
cause non-repeating orbits confined to a target
Source:Alex Fufatt,GNU Free
Evolution's target forms are dynamically similar to
chaos theory's strange attractors, which are dynamic
traps eventually enthralling nonlinear systems. Attractors
occur in "phase spaces" whose dimensions are the value and
rate of change of each state descriptor (Ruelle 1989; Baker
& Gollub 1990). When a system is enthralled, it stays near
a central point, oscillating in fascinating, non-repeating
trajectories. Systems trapped by the same attractor are
objectively similar. As with convergent evolution, the final
patterns are implicit in the governing laws. This is more than
an analogy, for René Thom (1975) developed nonlinear
mathematical models for the evolution of organic forms. While
the exact final state depends on the exact initial
conditions, a wide range of initial conditions will eventually
be enthralled by the same attractor. One might imagine
attractors as black holes trapping everything in a certain
region of space, where the "space" is defined by initial
conditions. Thus, as convergent evolution shows, objectively
similar forms can derive from a wide variety of initial
states. This may explain the "clumping of taxa in morphospace"
noted by Gould (2002: 82).
relative stability of the strange attractor model accords with
Eldredge & Gould's the pivotal punctuated
equilibrium theory (1972). In it, species' forms remain
stable for long eras, punctuated by periods of branching
speciation. This contrasts with Darwin's (1857: 238-63)
gradualism and was unexpected by most evolutionary biologists
(Mayr 1992). Niles Eldredge found that Paleozoic
trilobites remained unchanged throughout their occurrence in
the geologic record, while new species appear suddenly. "Most
species, during their geological history, either do not change
in any appreciable way, or else they fluctuate mildly, with no
apparent direction. Phyletic gradualism is very rare."
(Eldredge & Gould 1972: 115). Geology provides evidence of
stable floral and faunal assemblages followed by mass
extinctions and the geologically rapid evolution of new
species. E. g., species were stable before an
astronomical impact caused the KT boundary extinction and the
evolution of new species. Dawkins impugns punctuationism's
import, but not its validity (2004: 605). Indeed, he suggests
the great lakes of Africa experienced rapid speciation
followed by equilibrium (2004: 338).
support the inadequacy of paradigms which exclude
teleology. Ernest Mayr notes that: "Teleological thinking requires
continuous evolutionary change, but Darwin rejected teleology
and accepted stasis" (1992: 28) This is curious because
teleology requires the opposite. Recall that telos
means "end." An endless teleological process is an oxymoron.
Aristotle, the founder of scientific teleology, is clear that
being goal-directed implies a completion:
things are natural which, by a continuous movement originated
from an internal principle, arrive at some completion
[telos]: the same completion is not reached from every
principle; nor any chance completion, but always the tendency
in each is towards the same end, if there is no impediment
(1941, ii, 8, 199b15-18).
Gould objects, "Darwinian natural selection only
produces adaptation to changing local environments, not any
global scheme of progress" (1993: 43) Yet, there is no
empirical difference between adapting to "local
circumstances" and a "global scheme of progress," when the
local response produces global progress. Consider rain falling
on a watershed. The water flow is directed by the local slope,
but still ends in a river determined by the global topography.
Global topography and local slopes are alternate descriptions
of the same reality. As equation 1 shows, local mechanistic
descriptions differ from global teleologic ones only by the
conceptual space used – not by any reality. This reflects
the relation of essential to accidental causality. The
cumulative effect of concurrent action is a causal connection
between separate events. Integrating the response to local
circumstances yields global progress. No rational person can
deny an observed "global scheme of progress" leading from
prokaryotes (unnucleated organisms) through unicellular
eukaryotes, colonial organisms, simple invertebrates, and on
to Homo sapiens. Some might object to "scheme," with
its intentional overtones, but the global progress is
undeniable. The fact is that the integral effect of
adapting to local circumstances has been global
(1996) had argued that our perception of progress is due to a
misapprehension. While the statistical diversity of organisms
is increasing, the average organism is still a bacterium, so
there is no goal seeking. Human beings are an aberration on
the fringe of a statistical distribution. This shows the
importance of the conceptual space into which we project data.
In the space of statistical concepts, human beings are an
anomaly. In the space of teleological concepts, human beings
result from means evolved over eons. Which projection is
right? They both are. Consider the pyramids. The capstone is a
statistical outlier is the distribution of elevations, but it
is still supported by what lies beneath it. The statistical
view is not wrong, it is incomplete. All the data of evo-devo
and of ecological support, all the history of progressive
elaboration, are projected out of it. We are a statistical
anomaly, but that anomaly is pinnacle supported by means
evolved over eons. The statistical projection does not
militate against goal-seeking, but is just what we would
expect for a capstone.
put aside the question of God, it is generally agreed that
goal-seeking signifies intelligence. For example, a primary
object in modeling human intelligence is goal-seeking
behavior. James Reggia's artificial intelligence group at the
University of Maryland is clear that "the executive functions
of planning and goal-seeking are high-level cognitive
operations that bestow capabilities often thought to be
uniquely human." (Reggia et al. (2006)) Yet, when God
is mentioned, the significance of goal-seeking becomes
problematic – not because of any logical change, but because
God is socially unacceptable in naturalist circles.
Naturalists resist seeing nature as ordered to ends because
they are trapped in an obsolete paradigm. While science is not
just another postmodern cultural narrative, naturalism is.
Naturalists bow to peer pressure and reject teleology as a
author has found six lines of objection to
- It assumes vitalism, some extra life force beyond
the laws of nature.
- It involves backwards causation: the future
reaches back in time to pull a system to its end.
- It is incompatible with known mechanistic
- It is "mentalistic," assuming mind in nature when
there is none.
- It is empirically untestable.
- Teleology is a metaphor, not an
analysis shows no vitalistic principle. On the contrary,
we have recommitted ourselves to explaining events by the laws
of nature.Thus, objections to vitalismare irrelevant. The
future does not "pull" the present forward. Teleology acts via
present intentionality, viz. the laws of nature.
The same is true of human striving: we act out of our present
intentions. Finality and mechanism are not
opposed, but are related as ends and means. Mathematically,
they are convertible representations of the same phenomena.
Mechanisms can serve ends and ends require means. Mind in
nature is a conclusion drawn from the data of
teleological processes, not a premise in deriving them. Thus,
the "mentalistic" objection is question begging. Rather than
engaging the evidence, it uses an a priori denial of
the conclusion to reject data.
The assertion that teleology is "empirically untestable" is
baseless. Aristotle made falsifiable claims: (a) Means-ends
relationships exist in nature (1941, ii, 8,
199a8) – confirmed whenever behavior is a means to
an end such as communication, propagation, or nutrition; (b)
There are target forms (1941, ii, 8, 199b15-18) –
verified by convergent evolution, the stability of toolkit
genes and evolutionary stasis in stable environments. (c)
Means are prepared in advance of need (1941, ii, 8,
199a10ff) – confirmed by toolkit
genes. Metaphors have no predictive power, but teleology
does. Many biological processes are too complex to calculate
mechanically; however, their ends are clear. We cannot
calculate how a spider will respond to a fly caught in its
web, but its ends predict its behavior. Rejecting teleology's
predictive power is irrational. Thus, the standard
objections to teleology are either a priori or fail
under empirical scrutiny. In fact, arguments of one of
the most militantly atheistic naturalists, Richard
Dawkins, confirm the underlying intentionality of
evolutionary processes. It is not a "spin." It is knowing how
to look at the evidence. The evidence supports the mechanisms
of evolution and in doing so, shows prior intentionality at
Is this "Intelligent Design"? Not
if ID is understood as a replacing evolution. We have
rejected neither the data nor the theory of evolution, but
have shown that it entails intentional control. We know, not
a priori, but in light of experience, that God's
general will for matter is given by the laws of nature that
physicists have spent the last few centuries elucidating.
Lacking omniscience, we cannot know that the actual laws
follow our generalizations in precluding miraculous
exceptions. Nor can we rule out emerging multi-body effects.
Such exclusionary claims confuse generalization with
Science requires openness. The
laws of physics only approximate the laws of nature.
Similarly, the data tell us that divine intentionality for
life is described by evolution. We may quibble over details,
but would do better to focus on evolution's finality and
intentionality. Its randomness stems neither from mindlessness
nor ontological indeterminacy, but from our inability
to predict outcomes. To enshrine human ignorance in ontology
is ultimately anthropomorphic. It is irrational to model our
subjective cognitive limits as objective, ontological and
It is deprecating to say God is
incapable of willing laws and initial conditions to achieve
His ends for nature. Equation 1 allows the calculation of an
initial state from any final state consistent with the laws of
nature. We may not know the exact Hamiltonian and state
variables, or be unable to calculate the result, but God is
omniscient. What kind of theology demands that He diddle with
biological evolution? Surely not biblical theology, for
Jeremiah 33: 25 speaks of the Lord's "covenant with day and
night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth."
Whether it is design depends on
its definition. "Design" often bears the connotation of
separate planning and implementation phases. Stenger (2007:
67) defines "design to refer to the act of an agent, be
she divine or human, stupid or intelligent, to draw a
blueprint – so to speak – of some artifact that is later
assembled from that plan." No theologian worth his salt would
say God has designs which He later implements. There is
no sooner or later in God, Who is unchanging and timeless.
(Aquinas, 1981, I, q. 9.)
Temporal and eternal happenings are
often confused. We in time see a before and after: laws
operating on initial conditions to produce later effects,
toolkit genes evolved before they are needed. This appears to
be prior design and later implementation, but for God, all
space-time is present simultaneously. God is not a designer in
Stenger's sense, for He uses no temporally prior plans,
Platonic forms, exemplar ideas or species archetypes.
Universal ideas are abstractions humans use to reduce
complexity to our mental capacity, and so incompatible with
omniscience. Positing species exemplars leads to thinking some
individuals are more perfectly realize the exemplar than
others, justifying prejudice. God wills reality in its full
diversity and uniqueness.
Still, there is design. Dawkins'
idea of design differs from Stenger's. While the index of
The Blind Watchmaker promises us a definition of
"design" on page 29, what we find is a test for being well
designed: "A living body or organ is well designed if it has
attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer
might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible
purpose." Implicit is the idea that design is evidenced by
attributes ordered to sensible purposes. By this
definition, biological organisms are designed. The only
question is: are they well designed?
Dawkins argues that they are not
because human engineers can improve on their design. However,
he neglects systems engineering. Evolution's target forms are
implicit in the laws of nature. To judge whether nature is
well designed, we need to understand that God is not merely
"designing" an optimal eye, knee, or back. He is "designing" a
consistent and harmonious universe capable of evolving
organisms able "to achieve some sensible purpose." Dawkins
fails to show that any superior system design is
available. Optimizing isolated subsystems is the error of
suboptimization and generally degrades system efficiency.
Thus, his charge that God is guilty of faulty design simply
reflects Dawkins' unfamiliarity with systems engineering.
In conclusion, the claim that
"what we may call chance" dispenses with the need for mind to
explain the order of nature fails under scrutiny. The
theory of evolution was posited in the era of determinism and
is logically independent of ontological randomness. Quantum
theory says that unobserved processes, such as evolution, are
deterministic. Randomness is not an objective property
of reality, but reflects our inability to
predict. Statistically, completely random
evolution is impossible. Evolution uses
generate-and-test, an end-means strategy also used in
artificial intelligence and in the scientific method.
Mutations depend on intentional laws of nature. Fitness
requires prior objective tendencies to be explanatory
instead of tautological. Its criteria express intentionality
implicit in the laws of nature. Random natural
selection cannot advance evolution. So, evolution is
only possible if it involves predefined targets.
Convergent evolution, genetic toolkits and punctuationism
confirm the existence of objective target forms in
evolution. Finally, Aristotelian teleology makes
falsifiable predictions that have been verified.
Contrary to the claim that evolution
dispenses with mind in nature, it depends on on-going
intentionality at every turn. As with chaos theory, low-level
order yields intermediate processes too complex for our mental
capacity. Later, at higher levels organization, recognizable
order reemerges – as shown by strange attractors and
convergent evolution. Both in chaos theory and in evolution,
order in is transformed into order out. The
process seems random only because of our inability to
follow it in detail; however, ends provide explanatory
invariants when even when detailed calculation is
The argument from design sees the
hand of God in nature, but naturalists do not see past the
laws of nature to their Source. To convince them, we must
clarify the source and character of those laws. They are
intrinsically intentional, and evolution only works if natural
selection involves objective, preprogrammed targets. The
entire evolutionary process depends on predefined
intentionality. As the Neoplatonists recognized long ago, you
cannot have intentions without an intending mind. So, the
intentionality of evolution implies an intending mind, viz.
God. That is the essence of Aquinas's fifth way. It
depends only on the existence of intentionality or means-end
relationships in nature. They can be found from garden spider
webs to physics lab experiments, and are impossible to
deny.In sum, this analysis rejects no principle or
datum of science. Rather, the projection paradigm has enabled
one to see science in a new light. It accepts the laws of
nature, but looks beyond them to their Source. It accepts
mechanistic explanations, but sees them
as means-ordered-to-ends. It accepts the randomness
of evolution, but recognizes it as a measure of human
ignorance, not an objective property of nature. Applying the
projection paradigm to integrate multiple perspectives of the
same reality has allows one to see further than our
1. I wish to
acknowledge my latr brother, ecologist Gary Polis, for many
discussions on evolution and naturalism; the anonymous
contributors of Wikipedia for background and reasearch leads;
those who have posted naruealist arguments on the Internet,
especially Kenneth Himma, Ian Musgrave, and Colin Allen; as
well as the contributors of Fingures 1-4. This essay is part
of a larger study God, Science and Mind: The Irrationality
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