Richard Dawkins has been back in the U.S.touring college campuses and giving lectures on the Purpose of Purpose. I use this link because it appears that Darwinian Wes Elsberry has done a pretty fair job of taking notes and reporting on Dawkins’s lecture at Michigan State in East Lansing. I did not attend the lecture, but will assume Elsberry’s accuracy in capturing the gist of Dawkins’s lecture. The main theme of the talk is summarized here:
Then Dawkins got to the essential framework of the rest of his talk, making a distinction within purpose between the purpose that comes about as adaptation via natural selection, which he called “archi-purpose”, and the purpose that comes about through the intent of a planning brain, which he called “neo-purpose”. Archi-purpose, then, resembles an intentional purpose, but is not such: the resemblance is an illusion. Neo-purpose, as Dawkins views it, is itself an evolved adaptation.
If both archi-purpose and neo-purpose are evolved adaptations, why bother to make a distinction between the two? There’s seems to be some confusion on Dawkins’s part on this. But what choice does he really have. On the evolutionary view, all aspects of our mental functions must be evolved adaptions of one sort or another. The very fact that Dawkins feels compelled to lecture on the subject of purpose seems to indicate that there is something about our human ability to have intent and purpose (that is our will to make something happen) that runs counter to what we would expect from evolution. Dawkins must think he’s being clever in devising the “archi” vs “neo” distinction, but in the end he has to explain them both as “evolved adaptions”, thus blurring the distinction entirely.
I also found the Q&A portion rather interesting, especially the question about whether or not Dawkins sees himself as an “evangelial atheist” (he says no). Note Elsberry’s first comment in the blog on that question. I totally agree with his assesment on that point.
That aside, I would argue the opposite of Dawkins. Our human capacity to independant intent and purpose, planning and so forth, are strong indicators of a mind independant of matter, and thus are better explained by intentional design.