A teleological view of evolution

The below is a comment posted by me in a VFR discussion in 2003. A more precise word than teleological in this context would be holistic, meaning that the whole is drawing the parts of which it is the whole toward itself. Thus a planet with a pressurized atmosphere brings forth organisms with wings. Thus God, the ultimate whole, brings forth beings who are made in his image and likeness and who can know him.

I think Unadorned has stated accurately the Darwinian view of randomness. The problem is that there is no plausible scenario by which discrete, tiny, random mutations selected for their survivability can lead to the appearance of vastly complex organs (the eye is the classic example), or of whole new life forms. So the Darwinian theory of evolution is unsustainable even on its own terms. However, the specific issue we’ve been exploring here is not the truth of Darwinian evolution in itself, but whether Darwinian evolution is reconcilable with the existence of a loving God who created the universe and created the human race as his (potential) sons.

Teleology means that something is directed toward a particular end. In the present context, it means in part that the appearance of new organs and organisms is directed toward higher and higher forms, and ultimately toward man, the one being who is capable of knowing God. Teleological is the opposite of random.

Here’s an example of teleological thinking. The phenomenon of winged flight has appeared independently in several unrelated evolutionary lines—insects, birds, mammals. Even the structure of the wing in these unrelated species has fundamental similarities. The Darwinian view would be that this all happened by chance. A teleological (or, if you like, wholistic) view is that the very nature of a planet with a pressurized atmosphere tends to bring forth the capacity of winged flight—that’s why flight appears over and over in unrelated species. In other words, there is some property in the system as a whole which tends to draw some of the individual components of that system into a certain form that corresponds with that property. The whole is the end that draws the parts to it.

In the same way, God is the whole of existence, he draws forth out of existence a being who will correspond most closely with God’s own qualities, a being who can know and love God and become, in his limited sphere, like him. God is the end of man. God is the reason, the purpose, why man came into existence. And if that is true, then God, in some manner we can only speculate on, guided the evolution of life so as to lead to the human form, because only in the human form can God be consciously known and loved.

However, my own sense of it is not that God “guided” evolution, which is a very anthropomorphic way of understanding it, but that, since all things come from God, evolution is an unfolding of higher potentialities that are within life from the beginning.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 9, 2003 02:38 PM

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 07, 2008 09:29 PM | Send

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