New Criticals

I would list Monod and Ghiselin as the best proponents of this position, and I have great respect for these men's accomplishments as biologists. There's another, more famous smarty-pants who sells A LOT of books that is also associated with Neo-Darwinism but I'd rather not say his name. Mayr also deserves mention because he got so sick of the argument that he made up two new words: teleonomic and teleomatic, to describe things that behave “as if” they had a purpose but which we know don’t really because “blind, dumb matter” isn’t special like we very privileged thinking, intentional things. Teleomatic referred to the most basic level of dumb-matter trying to deceive us and turn us into animists: stones falling to earth and other phenomena that the theory of elements made seem purposive (the earth element "seeks" more earth element) which the theory of gravity “reduced to mechanism.” Teleonomic was supposed to cover the intricately organized processes of development (the “plan” of organismal development is another very thorny metaphor in these debates) as well as some “instinctive” behaviors, while teleological could finally be preserved exclusively for those things with brains which are out to get their way. Obviously the line between the three is a bit blurry on every side (pick the boundary on either side of “teleonomic” and try and identify that line for yourself). I’m sympathetic to the approach because it’s a sincere attempt to think clearly about a difficult problem, but it sidesteps the real difficulties by not seeing the nature beneath the linguistic morass.

Meanwhile, Monod’s famous dictum that evolution represents “chance caught on the wing” has become the de facto public understanding of the “metaphysics” of evolution: Blind, purposeless accidents that happily provide some greater chance of survival (at least long enough to reproduce) slowly accumulating against a backdrop of random variation. Life is unquestionably historical and chance has surely played a deep causal role in determining many of the particularities of evolved organisms, but I believe this view commits two errors.

The "Plan" of embryonic development