Culture Darwinism Intelligent Design Naturalism

At Mind Matters News: Can we eliminate the idea of function from the study of life?

Spread the love

The question is, can biology journals take away what they did not give, without harming their own enterprise?:

We tend to assume that our values come in part from the careers we follow. In part, that’s true. If a given mindset works well at work, we may try it at home. But that process can work in reverse. We can start with a mindset and try to graft it onto our work.

That seems to have happened in some quarters in biology. For example, the term “function” in life forms is linked historically with the idea that life forms show evidence of design. Therefore, philosopher Emmanuel Ratti and molecular biologist Pierre-Luc Germain argue, biologists shouldn’t use it

The trouble is, biologists did not invent either function or the concept of function in human language. Life itself and the language we use to describe it literally run on function — and on purpose as well. We have things — shovels, feet, thoughts — to fulfil functions associated with our purposes. And so do all life forms. The lives of cats and dogs are full of function and purpose. So are the lives of slime molds in pursuit of food. Bacteria are purpose-driven. So are plants.

The problem with their position is not that it is opposed to intelligent design theory but that it is in conflict with the self-evident nature of life forms.

Denyse O’Leary, “Can we eliminate the idea of function from the study of life?” at Mind Matters News (July 3, 2022)

What difference would it make if we said that these ants’ legs and mandibles “function” to build a bridge or that they “fulfill a biological role” to build a bridge – except that the latter lards up the prose?

Takehome: A philosopher and a biologist propose to eliminate terms from biology that imply that there is evidence of purpose in life. But would that make sense?

You may also wish to read: Why do many scientists see cells as intelligent? Bacteria appear to show intelligent behavior. But what about individual cells in our bodies?

2 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Can we eliminate the idea of function from the study of life?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Biological life is full of functional components and systems requiring precise parts, properly arranged and coupled thus organised. This is highly informational. In addition, D/RNA is full of alphanumeric, algorithmic code.

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    We see here the obvious at work.

    The specific obvious here is that emotions rule our beliefs not logic and evidence. We then get absurdities. Look around at the recent political debate for things that no one a few years ago thought possible that are being considered as reality.

Leave a Reply