Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Modern Science Rejects Teleology

So I'm picking on my ethics teacher again, which may turn into quite a habit for the next 12 weeks or so. This statement (the title of this post) was one of the supposed problems with Thomas Aquinas' natural law theory. My teacher really didn't argue for this assertion. How has Science done this?

Is it because it can now explain how things work? What does that have to do with whether they have an end they were designed for?

It seems to me that this is just an assumption that flows from, at least, methodological naturalism. But even if you accept that science can't access the reason for which something was created, but can only tell us how it was created/works, it certainly doesn't follow that it wasn't created for some reason.

Not to mention that this seems to be patently untrue anyway. Certain fields of science seem to make their living on detecting teleology. Archaeologists do this often.

I must say, some things my prof. states don't seem very well thought out, and when I challenge him he seems incapable of 1) listening without interrupting and 2) understanding what I'm talking about (though I suppose this could be my fault). He's not a dumb guy in the least. I don't get it. I thought this stuff I talk about all the time was pretty well known in philosophy departments...I guess not.


Heuristics said...

It has been my experience that a lot of people in academia has an extraordinarily difficult time understanding teleological thinking, their brains just don't work that way. This can be contrasted to how more neurotypical people think, ie with a metric boatload of teleology. There can be quite a bit of ground for misunderstandings here.

I often find it best to try and zero in on the ground for the oddness in non-teleological thinking by bringing up problems of causality (since it is very hard to understand why causes exist if the system is not directed towards anything).

Seth said...

Perhaps he doesn't want to understand your point?

Tony-Allen said...

1) listening without interrupting...

That's a pet peeve of mine. If you disagree with me, fine, but at least let me state my case, especially if I've been gentle enough to let you state your case. That's the only thing I like about internet discussion - the other person can't interrupt while you're typing your response.

Anonymous said...


I think the equivalent of this is responding to a post without bothering to read it all the way through. You know, someone rebutting without having fully read the post they are arguing against.

Your right though, at least one can write without furtive interruptions and annoying body language.

Tony-Allen said...

To thechemistscorner:

That's very true. I have a certain someone who keeps trying to respond to my blog posts, and I can tell that he hasn't read the full thing, or if he has he just kinda glanced at it and responded with whatever suited his fancy. That's one reason I never let his comments through. As you suggested, it's just as bad as interrupting someone.