The word ‘teleology’ (from Greek τελος ‘telos’ – meaning ‘goal’, ‘end’, ‘purpose’ or ‘that toward which things tend’) is not a street-level term. However, the concept of a purpose, goal, function or ‘end’ to things most certainly is. It’s a common as anything. Teleology is blindingly relevant.
Why does existence exist?
Answering the question by reference to any particular ‘thing’ that exists (a ‘force’, ‘singularity’, ‘multi-verse’, ‘string’, etc.) is to completely not pay attention to the question. The answer cannot be in terms of any merely-existing thing, but must be in reference to some ‘more-than-existing’ kind of ‘more-than-thing’. Phrases like ‘ground for existence’ or ‘foundation of the universe’ are appropriate attempts here.
The fact that these are metaphors shouldn’t surprise us. (After all, even the most ‘technical’ and ‘precise’ terminology is metaphor at bottom anyway…) It’s quite obvious that the universe doesn’t have a ‘foundation’ like a house; and it would seem obvious that ‘existence’ isn’t on top of some ‘ground’ in the same way that we might be at times. But it remains that answering a question about why existence exists demands reaching for a category larger (or more ‘foundational’) than existence itself. If asked ‘what is supporting that house’, could we really be satisfied with an answer that was in terms of house-ness?
Mark your calendars and register!
TANSA (Theology and the Natural Sciences Aotearoa) presents:
The Theological Meaning of Evolution
Conference to celebrate and interact with Darwin.
Thursday June 25th at 7pm to Saturday June 27th at 6pm
Key Note Speaker: Dr. Christopher Southgate, author of The Groaning of Creation University of Exeter
Local Speakers: Assoc. Prof. Ruth Barton (Auckland), Assoc. Prof. John Stenhouse (Otago), Assoc. Prof. Peter Lineham (Massey), Dr. John Owens (Good Shepherd), Dr. Grant Gillett (Otago), Prof. Neil Broom (Auckland), Dr. Stephen Downs (Flinders), Rev.Hugh Bowron (Holy Trinity) and theologians from Laidlaw Carey.
Contact Nicola @ nicolahc (at) laidlaw (dot) ac (dot) nz for details
Please click here for poster, and registration form.
(copied from here)
Whether or not one agrees with Gould’s famous dictum that Religion and Science are Non-Overlapping Magisteria, it occurs to me that unless a given Religion says absolutely nothing at all about the things which Science also investigates, then at least they will be related.
A far better question, of course, is how they might be related.
-you can’t say something is ‘evil’ if you’re not already assuming some concept of ‘goodness’
-you can’t say something is ‘poorly designed’ unless you’re assuming what ‘good design’ looks like
-you can’t say something is ‘chaotic’ unless you know what ‘order’ is
-and you don’t have goodness, design or order without some idea of teleology
- if the time we spend is to be at all worthwhile, we need to accept that words matter enough to use them and work at our use of them (some key words in science/faith include: ‘knowledge’, ‘evidence’, ‘explanation’, ‘natural’, ‘reality’, etc).
- it occurs to me that aiming for mutual understanding is infinitely more helpful than aiming to ‘win’.
- it seems a good idea to avoid the trap of straw-man argumentation, or presenting someone else’s perspective in its worst form – which is often (mostly?) done with little quips or with sarcasm (often the more sustained an argument is, the less ‘straw-man-ish’ it is).
- don’t post a comment while you’re angry/frustrated (and this obviously does not mean that comments should be –or even could be– totally void of emotion).
- that is all for now (and I don’t claim to do all these all the time)…
The term ‘teleology’ comes from the Greek term ‘telos’, meaning a ‘goal’, an ‘end’, or that toward which a thing tends.
We often skip over or assume (or ignore?) the notion of teleology. But without it, we cannot say that something is ‘wrong’ with anything. We cannot speak of anything functioning ‘poorly’ or ‘well’, or of somthing having been ‘poorly’ or ‘well’ designed. If things don’t tend toward any goal or end, we have no reason to be either pleased or disappointed with any given thing.
In this imaginary conversation, James Chastek cleverly points out how science cannot speak of whether or not the forces in nature are ‘blind’ or of some other kind. All we can do is measure the result of these forces/causes – of whatever sort(s) they are.
I’ve checked out a book from the Carey Baptist library that’s proving to be very interesting:
It’s essentially a written copy of a 2007 conference including the McGrath/Dennett debate and the other papers presented – plus a few additional chapters and an introduction by the author/editor, Robert B. Stewart.
What I particularly like about it (conference and book), is that it gives space for both sides to lay out their perspective. Contributors include: Paul Copan, William Lane Craig, J.P. Morland, Keith M. Parsons, Ted Peters, Hugh J. McCann and others…
I look forward to reading as much of it as I can (probably late night reads while waiting for Thomas to feed, etc.!).