Foundations of biology: On the problem of “purpose” in biology in relation to our acceptance of the Darwinian theory of natural selection [Book Review]

Foundations of Science 4 (1):3-23 (1999)
For many years, biology was largely descriptive (natural history), but with its emergence as a scientific discipline in its own right, a reductionist approach began, which has failed to be matched by adequate understanding of function of cells, organisms and species as whole entities. Every effort was made to explain biological phenomena in physico-chemical terms.It is argued that there is and always has been a clear distinction between life sciences and physical sciences, explicit in the use of the word biology. If this distinction is real, it implies that biological phenomena can never be entirely satisfactorily explained in terms of extant physicochemical laws. One notable manifestation of this is that living organisms appear to -- actually do -- behave in purposeful ways, and the inanimate universe does not. While this fundamental difference continues to be suppressed, the purposiveness (or teleology) which pervades biology remains anathema to almost all scientists (including most biologists) even to the present day. We argue here that it can, however, become a perfectly tenable position when the Theory of Natural Selection is accepted as the main foundation, the essential tenet, of biology that distinguishes it from the realm of physical sciences. In accepting this position, it remains quite legitimate to expect that in many but not all circumstances, extant physical laws (and presumably others still to be discovered) are in no way breached by biological systems, which cannot be otherwise since all organisms are composed of physical material
Keywords teleology  purpose  function  cause-effect  natural selection  biology
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1009634718370
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 30,300
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Causality, Teleology, and Thought Experiments in Biology.Marco Buzzoni - 2015 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 46 (2):279-299.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Towards a Model of Life and Cognition.Nagarjuna G. - forthcoming - In B. V. Srikantan (ed.), Foundations of Science. Center for Studies in Civilizations.
What Darwin Got Wrong.Jerry A. Fodor - 2010 - Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Natural Selection and Self-Organization.Bruce H. Weber & David J. Depew - 1996 - Biology and Philosophy 11 (1):33-65.
The Functional Perspective of Organismal Biology.Arno Wouters - 2005 - In Thomas Reydon & Lia Hemerik (eds.), Current Themes in Theoretical Biology. Springer. pp. 33--69.
Added to PP index

Total downloads
43 ( #124,150 of 2,193,087 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #290,277 of 2,193,087 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature