In David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge University Press (2007)
Teleology in biology is making headline news in the United States. Conservative Christians are utilizing a teleological argument for the existence of a supremely intelligent designer to justify legislation calling for the teaching of "intelligent design" (ID) in public schools. Teleological arguments of one form or another have been around since Antiquity. The contemporary argument from intelligent design varies little from William Paley's argument written in 1802. Both argue that nature exhibits too much complexity to be explained by 'mindless' natural forces alone. We need to postulate the existence of an intelligent designer, a creator with forethought and purpose. The inference to an intelligent creator harkens back to Plato’s teleological argument for the order of the cosmos. Plato’s demiurge is a creator that imposes order on the cosmos. Yet, as we shall see when we analyze the distinctly biological form of the more contemporary teleological arguments we will find remanants of Aristotle’s distinctive argument from functional arrangement, but without his distinctive form of telos which is unconscious and immanent rather than intelligent and creative from on high. The aim of this article is to survey various teleological arguments since Antiquity. Since a variant on Paley's argument—ID—is getting so much recent press I will start with a discussion on the nature of Paley’s teleology.
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