November 23, 2010

We weren't "built for" anything.

Living beings are products of evolution – that is, random mutation & natural selection – they were not "built for" or "built to do" anything. The false belief that organisms are made for a purpose is known as teleology, from "the Greek τέλος - telos, root: τελε-, 'end, purpose.'"

And the same holds for the components of living things. It is true that you walk on your feet, but that does not mean that feet were "made for" walking. It is true that your brain is a prediction machine, but that does not mean that brains were "made for" predicting.

This distinction is important, because if we mistakenly adopt the teleological view, we deprive ourselves of the insights that come from an evolutionary perspective – in fields as different as ecology, comparative anatomy, & medical genetics.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Blog Archive