Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Unavoidable Teleology

Evolution is constantly force-fit into roles it was not designed for. We often see explanations such as: “Evolution uses strategy X to create fantastic design Y.” Such design language is not merely convenient shorthand or sloppy thinking. It is the only way to imagine how evolution could work, in many instances, but of course it makes no sense. Consider this latest teleological description of evolution’s creation of the amazing squid’s vision systems, provided by Margaret McFall-Ngai:

Evolution has a “toolkit” and when it needs to do a particular job, such as see light, it uses the same toolkit again and again. In this case, the light organ, which comes from different tissues than the eye during development, uses the same proteins as the eye to see light.

How clever of evolution to create a “toolkit” that it could then use when the need arises.