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Is teleology scientific?

  1. Nov 30, 2006 #1

    In teleology, form follows function, implying that the concrete follows from the abstract.

    In philosophical naturalism, function follows form, implying that the abstract follows from concrete.

    Natural laws are abstract and what they attempt to describe is concrete. That the concrete follow according to the abstract laws implies teleology. Therefore, when we use natural law to determine physical events, we are using teleology.

    On the other hand, in philosophical naturalism, the abstract follows from the concrete. What follows from the concrete is the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. It is scientific to give possible answers to these questions.

    If we call the present universe the "form" and natural law the "function", according to philosophical naturalism, the natural law (the abstract) would follow from the universe (the concrete). Applying philosophical naturalism, the concrete must preceed the abstract. In fact, humans begin their lives perceiving the concrete before perceiving the abstract.

    However, if we apply teleological thinking, we would say that the universe (concrete) would follow from the natural law (abstract). At least, we expect it to. But this is the approach widely used by philosophers, not of scientists.

    Nevertheless, we attain the concept of natural laws (abstract) based on the concrete, our physical interactions with society and the environment. So ALL of our thinking is based on the concrete, not the abstract. The abstract parts of our knowledge domain are like the "branches" of our understanding.

    This implies that teleological thinking (the branches of our knowledge) is as secure (if not less secure) than our experience with the concrete. Since education strives for more abstract knowledge, its stasis depends on the statis of concrete experience.

    To say something is ______(adj.) because of _______(law, principle) is more suitable as a hypothesis than a fact, for it is based on a law or principle, which is abstract, whose structure is based on the array of concrete memes that have been available for synthesis. However, the nature of the law or principle is that it is implied by more than what it implies. They are justified by more than they themselves can justify.

    The abstract meme is nothing more than synthesized concrete memes. A combination of abstract memes (designated "laws" and "principles") cannot justify the concrete as much as the concrete can justify them.

    To say teleology is scientific is to say that "form follows function" is a schema by which science can explain. This is like saying that ________(noun) is _________(adj.) because _________(noun) ________(verb), implying that (concrete) states are the result of (abstract) events. The abstract event must by a synthesis of concrete states, but what are these states in particular? We must resort to the particular concrete states which generate these abstract events. The complete abstract rule, composing of who, what, when, where, why, and how, needs to be addressed for the proper concrete states to be sought. Even worse, we cannot by thought arrive at the abstract rule without synthesizing concrete memes. But these memes can be very different than the states we should be looking for. Teleological thinking, would therefore be an exercize in perversity (and diversity, hence, divergence). Teleological thinking is used to explain states, not functions. When in learning mode, it begins by looking at stills (concrete objects) and not activity, and then decides that it must look for activity to explain it. "Why is the spaghetti on the floor?" "Why is the periodic table the way it is?"

    Philosophical naturalism assumes that "function follows form". This is like saying that ______(noun) ________(verb) because ________(noun) is _________(adj.), implying that (abstract) events are the result of (concrete) states. Philosophical naturalism is used to explain functions, not states. When in learning mode, it begins by looking at activity and not states, and then decides that it must find stills (concrete objects) to explain it. "Why did I slip?" "Why did these molecules combine to form those molecules?"

    Comparing both pairs of questions, ask yourself, "Which questions are the more scientific questions?" If you say the latter pair, then you have just answered a not-so scientific question [wink].
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2006 #2
    Oh geez...both of these views of nature are pragmatic and quite snasy. I think science, as a thinking process, oringinally developed to answer the "why" questions (teleology). Today, however, common science is limited to "how" questions that govern human life (philosophical naturalism). Both are scientific, thanks to QT we can see both points of view are actually valid and both seem to be pragmatically correct in their own views. A better debate question would be which came first teteology or naturalism? That may be something answerable on some level of degree.
  4. Nov 30, 2006 #3


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    The two unscientific things about teleology, it seems to me, are assuming that everything has a long-term purpose, and assuming you know what that pupose is. These are prescientific modes of thought, which Aristotle was as immersed in as any medieval witch.
  5. Dec 1, 2006 #4


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    Teleology can only be scientific if
    a) you have some INDEPENDENT way of establishing the "intent" aside from "deducing" it from its effects


    b) You have some effect which NECESSARILY implies an intent, i.e, could not be realized unless some intent was present in the first place

    As for the b)-type, I don't know about any such effects.

    As for the a)-type, the condition may hold in the study of, say, human behaviour.
  6. Dec 2, 2006 #5
    See this link on topic of syntropy, dealing with final cause:
    http://www.sintropia.it/english/2006-eng-3.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
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