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New! Speakers/topics for the Linnean Society’s meeting on teleonomy vs. teleology, May 28 and 29 online


Program and abstracts here:

Evolution ‘On Purpose’:
Teleonomy in Living Systems
Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th June 2021
2 Day Online International Meeting Organised by
The Linnean Society of London

Register here.

Although it is now widely accepted that living systems exhibit an evolved purposiveness, or teleonomy, the theoretical implications of this distinctive biological property have yet to be fully explored. Here I will briefly discuss the origins and history of the concept, along with its scope and meaning and some of its many forms and facets. I will also attempt to clarify the often-misunderstood concept of natural selection. However, I will focus especially on the causal role of purposeful behaviors in shaping natural selection, and on how teleonomy and functional synergy (combined or co-operative effects of various kinds) have together influenced the rise of biological complexity in the natural world. An important example is the evolution of humankind, which the zoologist Jonathan Kingdon, in his book-length treatment of the subject, characterized as the “Self-Made Man.”

The lineup includes faves like Eva Jablonka, Stuart A Kauffman, Eugene Koonin, James Shapiro, and others we should doubtless know better.

This sounds like the best thing since that 2016 meet, the Royal Society: Public Evolution Summit.

How about this, for example: Denis Walsh on Teleophobia:

ABSTRACT: Teleology—the explanation of phenomena by appeal to the goals that they subserve— is widely thought to have been expunged from biology. The reasons generally offered for the putative banishment of teleology are numerous and varied—historical, conceptual, theoretical, metaphysical—and they are all wrong. There is no defensible reason for the teleophobia that holds contemporary biology in its grip. Furthermore, teleophobia has had a demonstratively deleterious effect on the development of evolutionary theory. It has aided and abetted the marginalisation of organisms from evolutionary thinking. Organisms, I argue, are natural purposes. The pursuit of organismal purposes makes a difference to the dynamics of evolution that can only be fully explained teleologically. Teleology must thus form an indispensable part of the evolutionary biologist’s methodological toolkit.

Come to think of it, how come every life form avoids or flees predators but life as a whole is not supposed to show any sense of purpose?

Um… Can we TALK about this?

See also: Linnean Society is sponsoring a meeting on teleonomy in living systems 28th – 29th June 2021. Linneans: “Although it is now widely accepted that living systems exhibit an internal teleology, or teleonomy, the full implications of this distinctive biological property have yet to be explored.” Are the Linneans trying to come to grips with design in nature within a framework they can handle?


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