Every age commits evils it cannot see. The Confederacy thought slavery was right, even as it was a reprehensible practice; the ancient Aztecs believed human sacrifice was the only way to keep the earth alive.
Today, we are ignorant of many sins; one of them is the widely held belief that evolution is random, and that man is no different and no better than the beasts, but just another animal.
But evolution is not random, it is teleological.
But wait- what is Teleology?
It’s the opposite of randomness. It is purpose.
The classic example Aristotle used for teleology was the acorn. An acorn is teleological because it is meant to be an oak tree. The oak tree is not something that occurs randomly in acorns- in each acorn, the oak tree is latent within it. For a human child, the telos is the adult.
We are not surprised when this acorn does not become a cheetah, or a Mercedes. We just know that the oak tree is latent in the acorn, just as we know every child will grow into an adult.
In our intellectual era, teleology has gone out of fashion. But intellectual fashion, we know, says little about the true nature of reality. It was intellectual fashion to assume the sun revolved around the earth 1,000 years ago. It was intellectual fashion to assume women inferior to men at the same time. Intellectual fashion is a collective group think, collective dogmatism- not an indicator of Truth.
Why has teleology gone out of fashion? Only God knows- or if you don’t like the term God, we can say only the Truth knows. But we can make some guesses. First and foremost is this: the theory of evolution arose in a time when religions still held sway over the minds of the people. At that time, the emerging scientists and the religious leaders were competing for the same cultural niche: those who know the true nature of reality; those who the people should trust. And that is a cultural niche that can be occupied only by one.
And so, the rise of science was not purely the rise of objective knowledge, but a battle for a position in society. It was political. And we in our age have enough first hand experience in politics to realize that in politics, the truth counts for little.
With this in mind, it becomes clear: the scientists had every reason to deny and invalidate the Christian point of view whenever possible- even when the Christian view of things made sense. Claiming evolution was random offered a chance to attack Christianity and its social structures. If one says evolution is random, it takes away the legitimacy of Christianity, which believed all animals come from a telos- in this case, God’s will.
If this true? I believe it was a factor. Whether you believe this story or not, however, is irrelevant to the main question of this post:
Is evolution random?
I believe the answer is no.
What is randomness? Lets take a dice. Dice have 6 sides- 6 possibilities. You roll a dice, and there is a 1/6 chance that any one possibility will come to pass. Meaning, randomness is the equal possibility of every possibility.
Well, is every possible evolution equally possible? Of course not.
Lets imagine a ‘random’ animal- a mammal that is nothing more than a stomach, lungs, and sex organs- a ball of flesh with no adaptations to out compete other animals, only the most basic organs for continued survival. We could probably, in a few centuries, make this creature in a lab.
But could it come about by itself? Could it come about in the natural world, in the competitive world of beasts and natural disasters, red in tooth and claw?
Absolutely not. It would never survive.
Animals can only exist if they had competitive abilities at their disposal. An animal needs not only to continue its existence- reproduce, respirate, digest- it must also earn its existence against all other existing creatures. It needs to fend of predators and catch prey. It would need teeth, or claws; it would need appendages, which demand a skeleton. It would need so much more than the mere ability to survive and reproduce.
Remember now the definition of randomness- the equal possibility of every possibility. This creature is a possibility- but its evolution is an impossibility. How then could evolution be random?
Evolution is not random. It is teleological.
Where then is the teleology? The teleology of evolution lies in the fundamental nature of reality. For example- what qualities does a predator have? Lions and gators, bears and eagles? There are a few consistencies: forward facing eyes; sharp claws and teeth; an aggressive hormone profile. How in a world of randomness could such consistencies come about? They couldn’t.
Predators have sharp teeth and claws because they are good at rending flesh; they are good at rending flesh, because the laws of pressure and the geometry of triangles make sharp claws effective at cutting through soft materials like flesh.
Why the forward facing eyes? Won’t they be vulnerable to attack in their blind spots?
Because a predator need not fear attack- apex predators like lions rarely need to fear attacks at all, and sub-apex predators like jackals and dogs benefit more from the focus of forward facing eyes than they would from the safety of a broad field of vision.
Why the aggressive hormone profile? Because the predators, the strong and dangerous, need not fear being aggressive.
This has only scratched the surface- but its clear that every evolution, every creature, every being- is what it is because of some reason. And reason is not random.
Think of the alternative- if evolution was random, and predators could be anything. Can you imagine a lion with blunt teeth being a danger? With blunt claws? With a cowardly psychology, afraid to tackle a gazelle? Its impossible. Such a predator would die out.
Why is this question, whether evolution is random or teleological, important?
It is important because it changes the way we look at mankind. If evolution is random, and man just another creature, we too are animals. We are no better, we are simply different.
But if nature is teleological, it, like the acorn, is growing towards a goal. And if nature is growing towards a goal, man is not just another animal- man is the closest being to the purpose of evolution. Man is the pinnacle of all existing creatures on earth.
Not all possible creatures, though- there may be in 1,000 years some creature that came from the men we are, which is more intelligent, more moral, more empathetic, more capable of doing good. But of all the living creatures today, man is the pinnacle. He is the pinnacle in morality, the only creature capable of abstaining from meat because harms other beings. The only creature capable of hating itself for not being better. The only creature that can see a better world which isn’t, and strive to manifest it in this world which is.
The teleological viewpoint does not make man superior to nature, it makes him its salvation. Only man can see that he should be better than his instincts; only man can create a world that serves creatures other than itself.
Man is not merely homo sapiens the animal. Man is existence’s best chance at a better world.
It is high time we respect our position, and bear our moral responsibility for the good of the world.