Re: [asa] Re: On the Barr-West exchange and ID/TE

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Tue Nov 17 2009 - 21:07:40 EST


I don't think I grasp your distinction between teleology and purpose.

Teleology, as I understand it, explains why something takes the form
that it takes. The notion is that say something like an acorn, its form
and properties, is explained by its end: an oak tree. It would not have
the particular properties that it has were its end not to grow into an

In the example you provide, a "useless" addition is made to a drive.
This the ultimate end of this addition was to detect who was copying
their drives. However, those that copied the drives didn't know that.
In fact, they didn't know its end, or even if it had one. They simply
slavishly copied the drive. They know nothing of the teleology of the
drive. Instead, they acted blindly.

So can you clarify the distinction you are making between teleology and



On Tue, 17 Nov 2009, Rich Blinne

>> Rich,
>> I asked you if questions of "design, guidance, and teleology is a question
>> science *can* address", with the additional questions "If so, how?" and "If
>> not, then why won't the NCSE, Ken Miller, and the rest of the science
>> defenders state explicitly that for all they know, evolution and nature can
>> be rife with teleology, guidance, and purpose"?
>> Your response? Again, mostly evasions. I'm starting to see a pattern here.
>> But at least you're apparently saying that detecting "design, guidance,
>> purpose and teleology" in the natural world is a scientific question.
>> Wonderful, let's run with that.
>> I asked how. And I'm waiting to hear it: What would "scientific evidence"
>> for "purpose" or "teleology" even *look like*? To say nothing of guidance
>> and design at the level of an omnipotent, omniscient deity - much less
>> teleology.
> I think we agree here. Depending on the phase of the moon and cosmic rays I
> bounce between category 2 and 3. Personally, I don't think you can find
> scientific evidence for teleology but I am not going to preclude somebody
> who is really clever coming up with something. So, you'll have to ask those
> who think it's possible what the scientific evidence would look like. Note,
> though, my reasoning here is more theological than it is scientific. Thus,
> my ambivalence to the whole ID enterprise -- at least the non-culture wars,
> non-ideological part.
> BTW, I didn't say there is no scientific evidence for purpose. I said there
> is no scientific evidence for teleology. They're different. The former is
> completely inscrutible to science. In other words, what ID is trying to do
> is a legitimate scientific enterprise but their and our greater goal of
> proving purpose is beyond science even if they end up succeeeding in their
> lesser goal of teleology. Still, they should stop pretending that they have
> already succeeded with their lesser goal because they tarnish all Christians
> who are scientists. It's the pretending more than anything else that gets
> the scientific community upset.
> Here's another example. In engineering parlance, there's a requirements
> specification and a functional specification. You can sometimes reverse
> engineer the latter but not the former. In the early 1980s the Rochester MN
> division of IBM was concerned that other companies were copying their
> Winchester drives. So, they put a useless curved piece of plastic just
> outside the platters. Other companies dutifully copied it. The other
> companies understood the teleology but completely whiffed on the
> purpose. The only way for you to know the purpose was to do what I did and
> talk to the engineers. In the end, the only way to purpose -- and possibly
> teleology too -- comes from Special and not General Revelation. (This is the
> theological reason I mentioned above.)
> Rich Blinne
> Member ASA

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Received on Tue Nov 17 21:08:23 2009

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