The Danger of Teleological Accounts of Evolution

It's important to remember that arguments over evolutionary mechanisms often depend on the deeply held convictions of evolutionary biologists—after all, biologists are people, too! Almost everyone is reluctant to let go of deeply held convictions. Many biologists, in particular, are still attracted to teleological accounts of evolution. Teleology is the idea that all activities tend toward the achievement of some sort of goal. "Everything as to its purpose" is the undercurrent of teleology, a philosophical worldview championed by the ancient Greeks. From this perspective, t^ the goal of a species is to reach the hilltops in the fitness landscape I described earlier. If a species does not attain this ideal, then must be fixed by natural selection or eliminated lest it suffer i suboptimal life. Many biologists assume that most of the variation seen in a given species is maladaptive and that only a small subset of a population attains optimality. But this is the opposite of what we see in nature. Variation dominates in all species. If all traits were optimized by an ever-watchful natural selection, variation would quickly be eliminated in nature. For example, plant breeders have removed almost all of the variation in most of the fruits and vegetables we eat, which has resulted in predictable, market-ready (and often tasteless) food. But natural populations have none of the uniformity of conventional products.

he moment a biologist opens the discussion to optimality. all of the seemingly maladaptive, anarchic, and random features of life stand as stark counterexamples. Biologists committed to the supremacy of natural selection seem to want to replace God the designer with Nature the designer. And, in that case, why can't Nature, in its wisdom, simply be a manifestation of God? In that regard, teleology (and its handmaiden optimality) plays right into the hands of intelligent design creationists. An optimum is an ideal, an abstraction, just like the theological explanation of God's purpose for everything in the universe. If we aren't performing to our potential, we are committing a sin against God, or a sin against natural selection.


The idea that evolution has a purpose and that natural selection works efficiently are erroneous.

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Evolution (0.950401): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Natural selection (0.838227): dbpedia | freebase
Charles Darwin (0.657948): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Biology (0.635084): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
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 Anarchy Evolution
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Graffin , Greg and Olson , Steve (2011-10-18), Anarchy Evolution, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2013-01-08
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  • Folksonomies: evolution science punk rebellion counter culture