Monday, October 10, 2005

Teleology, ID, and the Singularity

Most evolutionists hold to a view of evolution wherein the emergence of an intelligent and conscious species on this plant was nothing more than a very fortuitous occasion which just as easily might not have been.


This was not always the case however. During the later nineteenth century and the early twentieth many of the greatest minds had a teleological view of history in which they understood mankind and all of history to be moving toward some inevitable goal. Some of these thinkers were materialists, such as Marx and Nietzsche, but most of them would be classified as philosophical idealists. These thinkers would include, among others, Schelling, Fichte, Hegel, Bergson, and Whitehead.

Now at some point in the early twentieth century the idea of teleological history went very much out of style and was eventually condemned and ridiculed by most of the academic community as nothing more than a vestigial remnant of medieval theology.

However, over the last ten years the pendulum has swung all the way back in many of the more interdisciplinary circles and there have been some convincing voices calling for another look at the enormous evidence that has been amassed which seems to point toward the inevitability of intelligent life given certain conditions.

The reason I am writing about this is because I believe that The Law of Accelerating Returns, when properly understood, necessitates an understanding of the universe as teleological (at least in a weak sense). For this very reason I think that many singularitarians (spikers) enjoy a sense of optimism because they see that the universe is unfolding according to an order. In other words singularitarians are likely to beleive that the initial conditions of the universe were such that intelligent life would inevitably emerge and that from out of that intelligent life there would inevitably arise the process of technological evolution leading to the singularity. This teleological/developmental perspective of the history of the cosmos implies that there is intelligence behind the most fundumental laws nature.

In future posts I will discuss some other related matters in greater detail but for now I will direct those readers of mine who are sufficiently interested to a couple of good papers.

ID as a Theory of Technological Evolution

The compatability of teleology and natural causation

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By Blogger Johnny, at 26/10/05 07:25  

Whitehead has been my "hub" philosopher for many decades. Of his many tidbits I often remind myself of this:

"The teleology of the universe is directed towards the production of beauty."

It's quite weak and non-specific, but would be very effecive over long periods of time.

My own take on this is rather stronger: "Every story has a happy ending."

By Anonymous woccam, at 26/10/05 13:49  

I prefer the anthropic interpretation. If the universe was deliberately fine-tuned for life, the question then becomes why was it fine-tuned, and who did it? So it just creates another layer to the problem. But it would make sense if there are many universes, and this one happens to have certain properties that contribute to the formation and complexification of life - hence that's the one we live in!

:-)

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