Darwin Re-troped

Birddog at Maggie’s Farm restates and elaborates very intelligently on my discussion of how Darwinians resort to teleological tropes into order to make the non-teleological world view of Darwinism meaningful and acceptable to themselves.

(I hate to explain puns, because that spoils the fun, but it also spoils the fun if a pun is too obscure for anyone to understand. “Darwin Re-troped” is a play on Darwin Retried, a good critique of Darwinism written by lawyer Norman Macbeth in 1971.)

Here is Birddog’s article. I’ve edited it slightly for spelling and punctuation.

Sunday, December 9. 2007

How Darwinian evolution evolves into a religion

A teleology is a basic component of most religions. As I understand it, Darwinian evolution contains no teleology and is based on random variation which “leads” nowhere.

However, even our non-scientific use of the word “evolution” connotes a sense of “progress.” Philosophical naturalism cannot speak of progress, or “success” or “need” or “purpose”—only of temporary adaptations and maladaptations to conditions based on accidental genetic events.

As the very lame Wikipedia entry says correctly:

Teleology would argue that a person has eyes because he has the need of eyesight, form follows function, while naturalism is the reverse of this position: it would say that a person has sight simply because he has eyes, or that function follows form (eyesight follows from having eyes).

Auster discusses this in a short piece on the subject (The Intellectual Fraud which is Darwinism). Fact is, people have a tendency to fallaciously (via the pathetic, or anthropomorphic fallacy—or more specifically, personification) apply human notions like intent or direction to a Darwinian world-view which entirely lacks intent or purpose—but which does contain design (as humans comprehend it, e.g. snowflakes). Thus they impose a religious-like teleology upon a theoretically meaningless, purposeless, and indifferent nature. This has no source in Darwin or in modern evolutionary theory, which reject any meaning or purpose in nature.

In fact, the source of the teleology in science is the human desire to impose human notions of purpose on nature.

Now one might argue that the use of animating figures of speech is nothing more that a way of making something dead feel more vivid and compelling—and that may be the case—but I believe that the figures of speech we use reflect how we really think about things.

Tropes, with repetition, acquire a sort of pseudo-substance—a mental substantiality in the absence of reality. This is termed “reification.” Reified tropes may be the origins of religious ideas.

In that way, our animation of an indifferent nature with delusions of purpose and direction permits us to extend the notion of evolution to history, society, human activity, and even to the notion of human perfectibility—as if “things” were “leading” anywhere: that is closer to religion than to Darwinism.

But is it even possible to talk or think effectively without using figures of speech, without tropes (outside of math and formal logic, which may also be tropes of a different sort)? And is it possible for a human being not to reify some of their tropes, resulting in a religious-like belief or faith in them? (“My raspberries like full sun,” “The earth has a fever,” “Mankind and society are stumblingly evolving towards better, kinder realities,” “Species seek adaptation,” and so forth. Doesn’t such language form a teleological foundation for a primitive religion? I say “primitive” because based on a “Ghost in the Machine” category error.)

This is long enough, but these sophomoric musings could go on and on. (Mind you, this is written mainly from the standpoint of philosophical naturalism/materialism, as if that were the ground I stand on. It’s not. When I hear the Messiah—or even listen to Alicia Keys, I cannot stand on that ground. And that’s my point: no-one really can for very long unless they deaden their brain.)

Posted by Bird Dog in Our Essays, Religion, The Culture, “Culture,” Pop Culture and Recreation at 16:20 | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 11, 2007 09:43 AM | Send

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