I read the most interesting excerpt this weekend. In the Esquire Culture Blog entitled “Deep Thought For Sunday” the author talks about the uproar in the scientific community around last years publication of Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos.
It may help to know that the subtitle of Nagel’s book is “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”.
The post – quoting from a Aeon article – says:
In ancient science (or, as it used to be called, natural philosophy), teleology held that things — in particular, living things — had a natural end, or telos, at which they aimed. The acorn, Aristotle said, sprouted and grew into a seedling because its purpose was to become a mighty oak. Sometimes, teleology seemed to imply an intention to pursue such an end, if not in the organism then in the mind of a creator. It could also be taken to imply an uncomfortable idea of reverse causation, with the telos — or ‘final cause’ — acting backwards in time to affect earlier events. For such reasons, teleology was ceremonially disowned at the birth of modern experimental science.
This, of course, was not received well in the scientific community.
The ideas in the book were berated as ‘outdated’. Steven Pinker complained about ‘the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker’.
The Guardian newspaper trumpeted it as ‘the most despised science book of 2012’.
The Aeon article introduced it this way :
Science can’t stop talking in terms of ‘purposes’, but if the universe cares about us, it has a funny way of showing it
I know that there are many in the Homebrewed network are are far more up on science than I am. So – even though I am very interested in the subject – I thought it would be a good idea to ask the Diaconate.
What do you make of the controversy surrounding purpose or teleology in contemporary science?
It there a way that we, as a theological community, can contribute to the conversation?
Is it inherently problematic to attempt to do so?
Is there a silver lining to this ongoing controversy for those of us who want to hold onto faith?
Looking forward to your insights and responses!