Early stem cells were set aside to create new featuresto guide motor behaviors” and that vertebrate nervous systems, in general, “have flexibly adapted to accommodate anatomical specializations for flight.” The infinitive form is the key. Evolutionary theory is supposed to have rejected teleology. Whereas Aristotle explained natural phenomena as a consequence of final causes, modern science, so the textbooks state, is free of such mysteries. After Bacon it was all about empiricism, mathematical descriptions and natural laws. There was no appeal to goals or end-directed action. Right? Wrong.
Evolutionary theory is Aristotelian. Practitioners use teleological language to describe how evolution works, ad nauseam. When evolutionists explain that the bat’s specialized airflow sensors evolved in order “to guide” motor behaviors, they are invoking an end- or goal-directed process. If nervous systems evolved “to accommodate” various capabilities such as flight, then evolution is Aristotelian.
Now the usual explanation for the teleological language, which is rampant amongst evolutionists, is that “we didn’t actually mean it, we’re just being lazy.”
In peer-reviewed papers?
No, evolutionists are not being lazy. Not this lazy. This is how they think about the evolutionary process. It performs actions in order to achieve goals.
Consider this week’s example, a study of embryonic development in vertebrates and how neural crest cells maintain their flexibility or pluripotency. The mystery is that these cells are able to give rise to various types of cells past the embryonic stages where most cells have lost that capability and instead are committed to a particular cell type such as skin, muscle or bone.
The explanation is that these cells evolved that way. Such explanations are given as though they advance the science.
But this adds nothing to the science. Explaining away an unexpected observation as “well evolution did it” is a cheap short-circuiting of the scientific method. It is a meaningless multiplying of entities which Occam warned us never to do and introduces explanations which themselves are in need of explaining.
As Descartes put it: “If you find it strange that … I do not use the [Aristotelian] qualities called ‘heat,’ ‘cold,’ ‘moistness,’ and ‘dryness,’ as do the philosophers, I shall say to you that these qualities appear to me to be themselves in need of explanation.”
This evolutionary reasoning—if it can be called reasoning—shuts off the search for how nature works—the main duty of science. Instead of figuring how embryonic development works it is simply ascribed to the contingencies of history. The underlying reasons for the design, which in its inexorable march of progress science will eventually uncover, are ignored. Evolutionists are, as they say, being lazy.
But that’s not the worst of it.
The constant teleological drumbeat in evolutionary theory not only obviates the scientific method, it replaces it with cacophony of serendipity. The evolutionary literature is chocked full of intricate, complicated, just-so stories that would put any soap opera to shame. All kinds of intricate events take place, leading to complex new creations which are then crucial to the next step in the plot.
This week’s paper on neural crest cells, for example, finds that after these fascinating and incredible cells were produced by evolution, they then became the crucial player in evolution’s construction of major new vertebrate designs. Here is how evolutionist Carole LaBonne, the study leader, explained it:
Neural crest cells never had their potential restricted at all. We believe a small population of early stem cells were set aside, so that when the time came, their immense developmental potential could be unleashed to create new features characteristic of vertebrates.
Early stem cells were set aside so that when the time came their immense developmental potential could be unleashed to create new features? This is Aristotelianism on steroids and the serendipity is deafening.
When you see a theory consisting of a long sequence of special explanatory devices you know it isn’t about science.