We saw in an earlier post3 that George Gaylord Simpson identified three theories on the forces acting throughout the history of life: (1) materialistic, (2) vitalistic, and (3) finalistic.
The materialistic theory argues that the evolution of life is simply an extension of the evolution of all matter with only the difference of the organization of life. The vitalistic theory suggests the possibility of forces peculiar to and inherent in life. The finalistic theory assumes a force that brings progression toward foreordained goals or a transcendental purpose. Scientists typically affirm the materialistic theory. He does not see progress as an essential feature of evolution. Man is a new kind of animal with a second order of evolution – the ‘inheritance of learning’ or ‘societal evolution.’4 This phase of evolution does involve purpose and plan unlike organic evolution. Teleology then is an outgrowth of societal evolution not vice versa.
Bernard Rensch concedes an upward trend in organization of some animals, for example, mammals as compared to reptiles or fish, and considers it one of the “distinctive characteristics of life.”4 He also considers as fact their “capacity for progressive evolution.”5 But he is clear in a later chapter, that given the regular biological and biochemical laws that can explain evolution and the finite expectancy of life on any planet based on modern cosmology, science “can offer no proof of an ultimate aim of existence for the organisms which emerge and vanish again as life rolls on in a continuous stream, nor a purport of existence for the highest species, Homo sapiens. We humans too are no more than temporary, finite, highly complex systems of the protophenomenal ‘matter’ of which the world is composed, a ‘matter’ representing a system of certain relationships subject to universal laws… the ‘purport of existence’ can therefore be looked for in finite aims alone.”6
Natural selection then leads to a denial of design behind the appearance and variation of living things and of particular species, but does allow a directiveness and an internal teleology. Through man, a second order of ‘societal evolution’ leads to a novel teleology.
1Fadiman, Clifton, Editor, The Treasury of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Viking Penguin, New York, 1992. ISBN 0-670-83568-4, page 434-440.
2Russell, E.S., The Directiveness of Organic Activities. Cambridge University Press, Great Britain, 1946. Page 1-9.
3See Post on this site September 4, 2019, Human Destiny – Part III – Biologic.
4Bernhard Rensch, Biophilosophy, Columbia University Press, New York, 1971. ISBN 0-231-03299-X, page 53.
5Ibid. Page 65.
6 Ibid. Page 314.