Evolution and Goal-Directedness: How Darwin Re-Invented Teleology

Father Mariusz Tabaczek, O.P. will deliver an open lecture on evolution and teleology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The conviction that Charles Darwin got rid of teleology and replaced it with a new way of thinking about adaptation, concentrating predominantly on the notion of chance, is most likely still a predominant view among both biologists and philosophers of biology. At the same time, a declared Darwinian naturalist and agnostic, Thomas Huxley, stated already in 1887 that “Perhaps the most remarkable service to the philosophy of biology rendered by Mr. Darwin is the reconciliation of Teleology and Morphology.” Hence, a number of researchers claim Darwin was in fact a “teleologist,” who re-invented teleology (i.e. goal-directedness of living creatures). In his lecture, Fr. Tabaczek will define and explain the differences between teleology, design and function, and vitalism, in Darwin’s time and later. He will analyze Darwin’s attitude towards teleology and trace the role of this metaphysical category both in the twentieth-century evolutionary synthesis and its most current developments.

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