Kant famously argued that we simply cannot make sense of life without the notion of teleology -- it is a transcendental a priori category in respect to biology, or, as Oakeshott might call it, a presupposition of the discipline. Now, those recently asserting he was correct here have been ridiculed by, for instance, Ernst Mayr, for ignoring the fact that Darwin did away with the need for all that rubbish. Besides the fact that Mayr seems to be confusing philosophical and scientific argument, there is the remarkable inability of any biologist I have read to stop talking teleologically. I'm re-reading Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale (well worth reading, despite what an annoying dweeb Dawkins can be at times), and find the typical situation: We have 99% teleological talk, leavened with 1% "of course I don't mean it!" For instance, he quotes Darwin, with approval, telling us to "Never use the words higher and lower." But a couple of pages later, he again cites Darwin, this time mentioning that one branch of the Ascidians "retrograd[ed] in development... [while the other rose] to the crown and summit of the animal kingdom..." Then a few pages later Dawkins himself calls something "a highly degenerate bivalve mollusc."
He also claims, at one point, that it is "snobbish" to speak of any animal as "primitive." But he has no problem referring to atheists like himself as "brights," implying, of course, that theists are "stupids." Now, that's not snobbish, unlike the insult you might deliver to a tapeworm by referring to it as primitive.
(Bonus quiz: The post title is a reference to a comedy skit. What one?)
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