Back    All discussions

2016-09-30
The Nature of Selection
    Hello, I am a third-year undergrad in the States and was wondering about this forum. I am studying ecology, evolutionary, organismal biology (e.e.o.b) and possibly might double-major with molecular, cellular, and developmental biology (m.c.d.b) since there is only a small set of differing classes. Unfortunately, these are heavily experimental and lately over the years, I am become more interested in the theoretical/philosophical implications of the life sciences. So I am turning over to this forum to help get some perspectives on issues within particularly the evolutionary sciences (evolutionary population, quantitative, and molecular genetics, evolutionary ecology, paleontology, etc.).     One thing that I have been thinking about as I learn about the foundations of evolutionary theory is this notion, among many other ones, about selection. To explain further, in pop. genetics selection is represented by this coefficient, s, found commonly in places like the breeder's equation. This coefficient is further represented as the slope of a regression line as trait's propagation or degeneration over time. This regression line is for me a oddity since this is seems to me to be descriptive in nature, showing us the either the increase/decrease of trait frequencies over time in a interbreeding population. However, the traditional view is selection is just shorthand of saying that some physical phenomenon within the environment of the organism/gene/protein/biochem. pathway which acts a filter to optimize some mean trait of the population. 

    But here lies the problem, If the goal for at least adaptation is to have optimized traits by increasing the trait frequencies, is it the selection coefficient being a statistical concept, the cause of adaptive change in a population or should we abandon statistical talk for more a narrative approach which often can be misconstrued as just-say-so stories. What should evolutionary theorists be concerned about when considering some encapsulation of the concept of selection, the environmental pressures that create differential reproduction or the probabilistic summation of a long temporal process. Is there even a debate to be had since, possible these pictures are reconcilable? 

2016-10-03
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said
You might be interested in this paper: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/516805. Bruce Glymour (the author) teaches at Kansas State, and would probably respond to e-mails too!


2016-10-03
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said
Hi Rouny,
please have a look at my recent article "From Sexuality to Eroiticism: The Making of the Human Mind" http://www.scrip.org/journal/AA/  There you find a more narrative approach to selection which I have called "emotional selection". Maybe it fits with your interest in the more philosophical implications of the life sciences and the long temporal process of hominization.
FF

2016-10-04
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said

The selection coefficient is not the “cause” of adaptive change in a population, it measures the rate (in the evolutionary time scale) at which the frequency of one trait increases (or decreases) in the population. It is descriptive, although its magnitude depends on the organism-environment physical relations. One species trait persists (is selected) as long as environmental pressures result in positive selection coefficient, higher than alternative or none trait, otherwise it is eliminated. This results in a set of selected traits allowing the adaptation of the species population to the environment.

Key questions are the organism-environment physical relations determining the magnitude of the rate of the selection coefficient. For the related question of the selection of organisms, you may consult my article: “Are organisms committed to lower their rates of entropy production? Possible relevance to evolution of the Prigogine theorem and the ergodic hypothesis. Biosystems 83: 10-17 (2006).”


2016-10-05
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said
Hello Roundy - and kudos for questioning beyond the information presented in your classes.

One of the most important applications of philosophy to science is perhaps how to interpret scientific observations and how to design experiments to probe critical issues in science. I seriously regret not having a better understanding of these issues as a student (not even being introduced to them, other than a brief discussion of Popper). If you are considering an academic career, I strongly recommend Lee Smolin's unfortunately named book, The Trouble with Physics. The title and its suggested focus on string theory fails to reflect Smolin's remarkable insight into the pursuit of scientific knowledge and the unfortunate "selection pressures" on career scientists. It also provides a good grounding in scientific method and provides a modest bibliography of philosophers of scientific method that will undoubtedly provide a sound foundation for an academic career - even if not in experimental sciences.

As to the issue of selection. The variable s represents a CORRELATION. It is important to understand that CORRELATION does not imply CAUSATION. The correlation merely offers a signpost toward fruitful ground for exploration of causation and is thus, as you say, merely descriptive. Popper would argue that it is impossible to prove the causation and your investigative effort should go toward finding circumstances where the hypothesized causation breaks down. Unfortunately, this can be very challenging in complex situations like evolution. An alternative way to express the "science" is to ask how reliably the correlation predicts something useful. Science is really about coming up with reliable predictions. Any hope of discovering "the truth" is a vague and distant notion. Nevertheless, properly executed, science offers a bit more than a "just-say-so story".

Your narrative seems to suggest that you see the environment as an active participant in selection. (It is often hard to find the right words to unambiguously express yourself - Darwin even came to regret using "survival of the fittest"). The environment simply IS and presents a (constantly changing) challenge for the creativity of our reproductive mechanisms which include incessant genetic modifications. Does adaptation have a "goal"? - or is it simply something that has become an integral part of living systems that has eventually resulted in a system that can even ask the question? We are here in part as a result of adaptation, but I doubt that "adaptation" had us in mind billions of years ago when life first adapted.

Environmental pressures or environmental opportunities? Does space, or Mars exert environmental pressures or do we recognize them as potential opportunities for new ecological niches for us to expand into and in the process evolve?

Can traits ever be "optimized" in a constantly changing world - environmentally and with co-evolution going on? The target is always moving.

My personal sense of an immediate goal for evolutionary theorists is more related to memetics and how cultural traditions/decisions impact the evolution of society. For example, (as Smolin hints), the current measures used to identify potentially good scientists (published papers, peer recognition, high level of grant funding etc.) increases the chances of success for individuals who focus on networking, publish many papers and write many grant proposals and not necessarily those who are good scientists (Einstein was an example in his early life). Similarly, the capitalist view of money as a sole measure of success is being increasingly questioned, quite possibly because of an epidemic malady triggered by marketing efforts that result in serious miscalculations of perceived value. The value of questioning such efforts at "optimizing" criteria would be to help design better criteria and monitor their outcomes. Perhaps most importantly the influence/value of cooperation/cooperativity versus competition in the rating of survival fitness - perhaps even how tension between these two apparent conflicting strategies may result in an evolution which is most beneficial to its participants. (I was tempted to use "optimal" but must remembered my previous paragraph).

2016-10-05
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said
By performing regression analyses on 'evolved' traits (those, at this late date in 'evolution', associated with beautiful people/ capitalistic definitions of success), you can average optimized-to-the-cutthroat-environment features and manufacture amazing "evolved" clones with terribly irritating voices.  Have you ever seen and heard Paula Faris from the View on ABC?   If 'they' really wanted to replicate women like her and market them, they should have worked on their voices, as well as computer-simulated soul, unless they or their elitist families who manufacture people have stock in Viagra.

Good luck with your studies and academic and career decisions.   I personally would work on looking at the bigger picture as you seem to be attempting to do.  In my view, formulae are great ultimately to the extent that they show something that helps fortify individuality and collective collaboration, thus combatting agenda-driven fascism.  There is a place for large scientific studies that result in a robust average of "what is" and also a place for small "n" longitudinal studies, case studies and anecdotal real life data about the individual snowflakes that comprise the kingdom of flora and fauna (apologies for the mixed metaphor).  All organisms (were originally created) as different.  You can average them and their "evolved" traits measuring numbers and learn something (especially to the extent that you aren't measuring man-made replicants, which still, sadly, I believe you would be) and you can look at them in smaller numbers and individually and learn something different.  

Your post, including your final question about how the more precise i.e., scientifically and quantitatively mechanistic approaches conflict with the more difficult to define, less tangible and I believe equally important elements of evolution and life that get demoted to "just so stories" is spot on as they say across the pond.  Definitely a career challenge, scholar!  Again, good luck and God bless. I think I might know you. 

Sincerely, Tami WIlliams, Formerly of Golden Triangle Mental Health, Great Falls, MT. AKA Maria. PS. Are you possibly Peter Jennings, the news commentator's child?  I may be way off base.


2016-10-05
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Tami Williams

Hi Tami Williams,

your "associated with beautiful people/capitalistic definitions of success" first read "Trump-type definitions of success". I am not interested why you changed your text. My question relates to the traits/profile of Trump. Here in Germany most intellectuals are afraid of Trump because they take his statements literally. I do not. I guess that Trump is a representative of the American or better of the Yankee humor. Am I right? Please give me your opinion. It would help me for my next newspaper article about the American election campaign.

Thanks, FF


2016-10-05
The Nature of Selection
Hi Dr Fellman/ Ferdinand :  
I recently wrote on another thread within a different branch of PhilPapers about Trump whom I am hoping is a "benevolent psychopath" showing metaphorically in a manner that has dark integrity an extreme view of how warped ethics have become in America particularly.  I feel that his approach (if my hypothesis is true) can reverberate with some positive impact just due to the extent that his message, however scary, has internal consistency to this scientist. 

I believe in a sense he is a walking skit that stirs controversy and productive dialogue about racism, misogyny and other conceptual profiling that results in us/them fear mongering and division, rather than individuals unified for a common cause.  He has brazenly highlighted his exploitation as a rich American businessman of the loopholes that serve the elite and is not suggesting that in that role he will discontinue doing so, even if he serves as president who should act to reduce through appropriate leadership the possibility of such exploitation by the few at the top. Allowing this has never worked for the populous, that is, the 99%+, the rest of us.   Sincerely, Maria

2016-10-10
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Trevor Pearce
I second this recommendation. 

2016-10-11
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said
Dear Rouny,There is no goal for adaptation. I think if you use that sort of language you are lost forever. Evolution is goalless. Every 'adaptation' is just as much a 'maladaptation' to something else. I find EO Wilson's approach clear. You just have to understand the maths well enough and forget any teleology. The maths can deal with theories of causation but the causation involves no goals, no optimising, just further procreation or not.

I would warn against going in to philosophical aspects at your stage. Hard experimental slog is what teaches one how things actually work. And it is what gets employment, and rightly so because jobs need to go to people who will do the spadework. That may sound harsh advice and I would not want to discourage deep thinking but get some practical work done so that you can judge whether or not the thinking was really that deep!

Best wishes

Jo E

2016-10-11
The Nature of Selection
Yes!  Adaptation, natural selection, evolution is inherently a passive process driven by instinct. The process is not goal-oriented other than each creature navigating a given day, including procurring necessary resources to survive and even thrive and otherwise meeting the various challenges they face, as well as being in some type of relationship with the other fauna and flora.  Symbiotic, commensalistic etc relationships work better than parasitic because if you kill your population of host organisms, you die. Dumb.

Over-emphasis on competition beyond procuring necessary resources to survive in a community both in theory and practice is misguided and lends itself to dangerous misapplication of this most elegant theory. Of course, also having an impact on evolution are genetic alterations with various possible etiologies and a bit of good old "right place, right time" Irish luck. 





2016-10-16
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said
Hi Rouny-- 

I will add in agreement with Dr. Edwards that you are probably wise occupationally and just responsibly, predominantly to steer clear of philosophical analyses of the science of Darwin... until you have thoroughly studied his theory and data and decide how you feel about the various aspects of it given careful study, dialogue, etc. Although, there is nothing wrong with taking a 'stab at it'.' 

You needn't agree with specific others or generalizable (the various 'popular') depictions of a given area of study, but I believe a scholar needs to decide with integrity what he or she believes about different works (albeit it is always a process in progress), which is what I perceive you are attempting to do at your particular stage of professional development, including reaching out to learned others for guidance and support (Good!).  

In other words, I believe that one needs initially to thoroughly understand the underpinnings of an area at a fine-tuned data driven level before we analyze it with higher level (of abstraction) philosophical paradigms, concepts, etc. (I find the concepts of inductive vs. deductive analysis helpful in this context).  

I'm a scientist, a psychologist with a heavy emphasis in biological and systemic analyses who is communicating with some level of felt inadequacy and trepidation with professional philosophers, kind of an analogous challenge loosely, if you understand.  None of this is "cut and dried," but through the process of respectful intra- and inter-disciplinary dialogue we all expand our individual and collective horizons. 

Good luck.  Maria






2016-10-17
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Tami Williams
Favoring a scientific/experimental foundation for philosophical progress as Jonathan and Tami note is very appealing to me also. However, I get the impression that many philosophers are successful in the absence of a scientific background. Perhaps philosophers would not necessarily favor the scientific background. Perhaps the optimum would be a strong background in both philosophy and science, hinting at those 2 subjects as a more fruitful double major. I'm not sure if the possibility exists and it would surely be a bigger challenge than the "few extra classes" Rouny is contemplating. Perhaps contact philosophers in your university (you may find they don't have an interest in your topic) and follow up the suggestions in your thread here to contact others in other institutions (you may even be able to transfer). It comes down to YOUR career choice Rouny. As academia evolves, selection pressure (success) include perceived qualities enhanced by signs of hard work (such as double majors and extracurricular activities) which are made to feel very attractive options for students. Science, however, is more about searching for unfamiliar territory and repurposing the (intellectual) tools that we have been trained to use. "Out of the box" skills that may not be easily recognised as good career foundations by "the establishment", but which may add to a more satisfying and potentially more fruitful career. It's your choice Rouny - and that depends on the future you want to have. Even with the best laid plans you will face unanticipated decisions ( your own and others) that will force the evolution of your life. Certainly one career advancing option is to select what you think others may find most appealing. You may also opt for a less glamorous or approved path that appeals to a different kind of personal satisfaction.
On the topic of scientific background, Tami, evolution is not necessarily"driven by instinct" and to judge any surviving and highly successful organism as "dumb" seems to be a very anthropomorphic position based upon a poor understanding of evolution. Besides, many, many parasites do not kill their hosts. Of those that do, the host survival may not be critical beyond the reproductive cycle of the originating parasite (or maturation of the offspring - depends on the parasitic lifestyle). Provided some of the parasite offspring move on to invade other hosts, the death of the original host is irrelevant. The classic predator-prey interaction must surely fall into a similar category as the parasite "dumbness" where predator animal survival is challenged by the depletion of the prey they are killing. Are human populations (think climate change, for example) any more removed from "dumb"?


2016-10-17
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Trevor Pearce
The reference given to Glymour's article requires a subscription. Here is a publicly available pdf version.

2016-10-17
The Nature of Selection
Reply to John Hodgson
Re: your last question.  No.  :-)  

2016-10-18
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Rouny Said
I think this was an excellent observation.  Biological "selections" for adaptation are made by the use of each biological creature's intelligence.  No choice making creature could operate itself otherwise.(I wrote a book that touches on this subject some time ago, but I won't try to sell it here.)  There are molecular biologists with "philisophical" brains that you might want to study, such as James A Shapiro at the University of Chicago.
To argue that adaptation is governed by the luck of accidents is about as illogical as one can get, and yet you've been shot down here by "philosophiles" whose first duty should have been to study the logical systems that have been used by human creatures to evolve themselves to be the most creative and self adaptive thinkers of the biological world (although there are some pretty smart ones in the ocean that recreate themselves at will).
However, it seems that you're preaching to the largely neo-Darwinistic crowd here, so good luck with that.  And by the way, someone should remind them that instincts are strategies that biological beings have inherited from those in the past who had learned those strategies through a trial and error process, another thing that neo-Darwinists have failed to comprehend.

2016-10-18
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Roy Niles

What is going on here reminds me of The Glass Bead Game of Hermann Hesse. Hesse describes in his novel a kind of synthesis of human learning in which themes, such as a philosophical thought, are stated. As the Game progresses, associations between the themes become turned to satiety. Although the Glass Bead Game is revealing it lacks evidence. Philosophers must stop talking about selection ad nauseam. What we need is a new way of seeing how malleable human nature is. Most anthropologists believe that biology and society play an essential role in shaping the human mind. But I think there is a third force beyond selection for adaption: a force that is called emotional self-validation that has made us excentric and human.  


2016-10-19
The Nature of Selection
I appreciate your last three sentences.  Group processes summarized as theory, research findings, anecdotal observations across time... with the associated generalizations, are important but lose something-- individuality, choice and the responsibility of each individual for the same, all of which are impacted by the emotions generated by the results of one's chosen interactions with their environment across their history,  Each organism's individual body, mind and self, I believe, are a cumulative result of their choices and reactions to the same. 

Malleability can be perceived as manipulation by one's environment and one's associated plasticity, but more aptly, I think, should be viewed as an individual's ability to either stay or change course as a result of their 'mindful' attention to the results of their various efforts, which acknowledges the volitional nature of created beings.  

While I believe the process of selection as depicted by Darwin is inherently passive and does involve luck and random mutation, yet is not predicated upon it; the role of individual organisms is active and involves responsibility to oneself, one's proximal group as well as the overall community if that creature, their proximal and collective community are ultimately successful.  

It possibly sounds like I'm making a value judgment, but if you ponder my statements carefully, I'm just capturing reality of individuals in the context of a group.  We cannot exist in a vacuum.  This is a closed system ultimately predicated upon cooperation and collaboration at some level or we are misinterpreting the process of adaptational success as mindless, selfish, mechanistic consumption, satisfaction, reproduction etc. which to me is a frightening recipe for pathological narcissism in human beings.  We would not have survived this long...



2016-10-19
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Tami Williams
"cooperation and collaboration at some level or we are misinterpreting the process of adaptational success as mindless, selfish, mechanistic consumption, satisfaction, reproduction etc. which to me is a frightening recipe for pathological narcissism in human beings.  We would not have survived this long..."
It seems quite common to compartmentalize "fitness" into the random, unmotivated processes of "evolution" and an apparently more directed or "active" (in your words) group of processes that somehow arise by a different means. Yet the sentiment of your statement implies a high "fitness" score for cooperation and collaboration (a sentiment with which I heartily agree) otherwise those qualities flirting with "pathological narcissism" would have prevailed. An anthropogenic bias leaves many understanding cooperation and collaboration as functions of a conscious mind rather than simply beneficial interactions between even non-sentient entities. Cooperativity is a well recognized physical property where reaction product is facilitated by multiple interaction of identical participants (e.g. oxygen/haemoglobin reaction). Even atoms are (non-sentient) "collaborations" between subatomic particles, themselves collaborations between fundamental particles. We humans - remarkable collaborations between multiple cell types and also in essential collaborations with other humans and a multitude of other components in the world around us. The universe is built upon collaboration which humans seem to have wrongly co-opted as their own invention rather than recognized as something that has existed throughout the duration of the universe as we know it.

The brain is a computer, wired by evolution and programmed by circumstance. We are blinded by the illusion of our own intellect and fabricate notions of a more "magical" mechanism than reality suggests. You probably accept the inherited wiring of a monosyllabic reflex and the inherited complexity of something like an eye, but most people fall far short of accepting an inherited neural complexity sufficient to underpin behavior or even emotions or morality. All of these are essential to our survival. As such, they are perfect candidates for evolution.

Built upon those genetic foundations is another world of memes. The sum total of current knowledge. Inheritance and mutable - just like genes. Many of them human discoveries and inventions, continuously modified and selected. Not because humans "thought they were good" but because experience selected (evolved) those that helped their adherents to thrive.

2016-10-20
The Nature of Selection
Ah, but what is self validation's purpose?  Or what purposes might it serve?

2016-10-20
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Roy Niles
Hmmm.   In my mind 'self validation's purpose' is to reify our 'self'- that is our individual developed being (history, current circumstances, cumulative emotional reaction to the same), that which both distinguishes you as your own individual (pardon the redundancy) under one unifying element (in my belief system the Creator and Jesus Christ-- our brother he sent to walk amongst us), and also facilitates your ability to be a whole (;-) [whole}ly/ holy productive contributor) to the big family/community.  

When we retain our integrity, our wholeness in the context of the family, we can communicate, interact reciprocally with and thus join with others in the community without losing ourself, i.e., engulfing, feeding upon or otherwise harming others to any significantly detrimental degree.  In that circumstance, we leave the interaction(s) knowing more about ourselves and about each other and thus fortifying the strength and harmony in the community.  This process greatly enhances our emotional intelligence and allows for more fulfilling and existentially present individual and family homeostasis.  It is safe, so we can be more fully present/aware, which allows for individual and community growth toward ever better individual and collective health.  

Please be thoughtful about pulling the "theological card."  I am originally Maria of Capernaum and, of course, have my own history and perspective, which informs my writings.   


2016-10-21
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Tami Williams
I agree with your way of seeing the human condition. You should not be afraid of making value judgements. They are necessary to avoid naive realism. Individual Personality is shaped by society but the malleabilty is not boundless, we are not a blank slate. Our task is to get a right balance of opposed tendencies such as primordial, personal, civil and sacred ties. This endeavour will never come to an end because values are changing. That is our fate and our chance.

2016-10-21
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Roy Niles
Self validation purpose is to become a responsible social self. In this I agree with Tami Williams' nice answer. I only would like to point out the paradox of intersubjectivity. To understand the other you must take distance to yourself. When two persons interact, the relation between them represents a combination of nearness and distance. Thus, the inner consciousness of value reveals to be the ultimate source of the self.

2016-10-21
The Nature of Selection
Reply to Tami Williams
Maria, this sounds good. In my view self validation is the highest form of justification. We are all supposed to think of reasons to live. But epistemic justification is not sufficient. We are bound to existential justification in the context of a pair bond and the nuclear family, In my last book: The Couple. Intimate Relations in a New Key (2016) I try to transform the Paulinian justificatio sola fide into the social social pattern of erotic love. The schema of Eros is the core of human being-in-the-world and connects faith and belief.  In this I follow William James' The Will to Believe which reminds me of the inscription on old sundials: Pereunt et Imputantur. "Theological card"?

2016-10-22
The Nature of Selection
Thank you so much for your generous feedback Dr. Fellman. I am honored that you took the time to review my post and craft several very helpful responses. I am studying your responses and look forward to reading your works, which will, I'm certain, greatly inform refining and expanding my work. Again, thank you. What a wonderful forum this is. A true God send. Sincerely, Maria

2016-11-11
The Nature of Selection
I understand what you are saying, but if adaptation were not "for" something, it would not be adaptation at all. I get that its teleology is not artificial, i.e. there is no conception of goal in the mind of a maker. However Aristotle never claimed that there were; he repeatedly claims that natural processes essentially have the forms in the organisms themselves rather than in an other. That is what nature means for him:

All the things mentioned present a feature in which they differ from things which are not constituted by nature. Each of them has within itself a principle of motion and of stationariness (in respect of place, or of growth and decrease, or by way of alteration). On the other hand, a bed and a coat and anything else of that sort, qua receiving these designations i.e. in so far as they are products of art-have no innate impulse to change. But in so far as they happen to be composed of stone or of earth or of a mixture of the two, they do have such an impulse, and just to that extentwhich seems to indicate that nature is a source or cause of being moved and of being at rest in that to which it belongs primarily, in virtue of itself and not in virtue of a concomitant attribute.  ("Physics" II.1)
Forgive me for quoting Aristotle, but I only do it because nobody else does.

In my view, purely teleological arguments are already accepted in standard biology: Fisher's Principle being a good one. You do not need to know about the material implementation of the principle to accept it; it shows that in most cases, equal numbers of males and females serves the purpose of maximizing fitness. Of course, the fact of teleology does not magically make the matter take form; everything is implemented by standard physics and chemistry. And of course these material causes fall within biology, but so does the final causes, especially the FINAL final cause: maximizing fitness.

In my view, the first step in understanding anything "x" about any living creature is to ask "How does x serve the purpose of maximizing inclusive fitness?". Fitness is clearly a purpose that can be served by a means; in fact ALL means used by all living creatures either serve this purpose or fail to, meaning that they are either adaptive or not.

I hope that this makes sense to you and seems worthy of a response; I am very conscious of the fact that I am not a biologist and am furthermore not up on the latest journals relating to the topic. Therefore I am keenly interested in any sources that conflict with my views. Thanks for reading thus far - Adam.

2016-11-11
The Nature of Selection
I understand what you are saying, but if adaptation were not "for" something, it would not be adaptation at all. I get that its teleology is not artificial, i.e. there is no conception of goal in the mind of a maker. However Aristotle never claimed that there were; he repeatedly claims that natural processes essentially have the forms in the organisms themselves rather than in an other. That is what nature means for him:

All the things mentioned present a feature in which they differ from things which are not constituted by nature. Each of them has within itself a principle of motion and of stationariness (in respect of place, or of growth and decrease, or by way of alteration). On the other hand, a bed and a coat and anything else of that sort, qua receiving these designations i.e. in so far as they are products of art-have no innate impulse to change. But in so far as they happen to be composed of stone or of earth or of a mixture of the two, they do have such an impulse, and just to that extentwhich seems to indicate that nature is a source or cause of being moved and of being at rest in that to which it belongs primarily, in virtue of itself and not in virtue of a concomitant attribute.  ("Physics" II.1)
Forgive me for quoting Aristotle, but I only do it because nobody else does.

In my view, purely teleological arguments are already accepted in standard biology: Fisher's Principle being a good one. You do not need to know about the material implementation of the principle to accept it; it shows that in most cases, equal numbers of males and females serves the purpose of maximizing fitness. Of course, the fact of teleology does not magically make the matter take form; everything is implemented by standard physics and chemistry. And of course these material causes fall within biology, but so does the final causes, especially the FINAL final cause: maximizing fitness.

In my view, the first step in understanding anything "x" about any living creature is to ask "How does x serve the purpose of maximizing inclusive fitness?". Fitness is clearly a purpose that can be served by a means; in fact ALL means used by all living creatures either serve this purpose or fail to, meaning that they are either adaptive or not.

I hope that this makes sense to you and seems worthy of a response; I am very conscious of the fact that I am not a biologist and am furthermore not up on the latest journals relating to the topic. Therefore I am keenly interested in any sources that conflict with my views. Thanks for reading thus far - Adam.