Does Evolution Have a Telos?

Or is it a dumb process that if it could be said to prefer anything to anything prefers cockroaches to peacocks?

And truth be told prefers empty space spattered with dust to either?



7 thoughts on “Does Evolution Have a Telos?

  1. Evolution does not have a telos (as I understand that word, which is new to me) any more than gravity or the process of evaporation have a telos. Evolution is a natural process of life, and it will continue as long as life continues in any form (with which we are familiar) and never produce a final product. You could, however, say that the environment in which any given life form exists “prefers” creatures with certain traits over others, and so evolution will make more of those creatures.

    I, and I think most scientists, would disagree that environments “prefer” empty space to life. The majority of evidence indicates that life — and therefore evolution — tends to emerge anywhere that its the most rudimentary requirements exist, including in all sorts of places we previously thought couldn’t support life. Our failure to as of yet find life beyond Earth is a consequence of our inability to properly search for it.

  2. Matt Leibowitz says:

    ” Our failure to as of yet find life beyond Earth is a consequence of our inability to properly search for it.”

    Although I also believe this, it ultimately seems like wishful thinking. Calculating the probability that life exists elsewhere in the universe requires many assumptions, none of which are provable in any way. It is terrifying to think that we may be alone in the universe.

    • Sean F says:

      That’s not what he wrote, exactly. It is pretty terrifying to think that I’m alone in the universe, but it’s only a thought that arises when I start to think of myself as a discrete solipsistic unity rather than as a mode, or nexus of ceaselessly weaving relational forces. It’s comforting to think that what might seem to be alien, or what I feel alienated from, is just a different wave of the same ocean.

      “Every person I will ever meet has a piece of who I am hidden inside them, and until I know them I don’t know myself except crudely and sketchily.
      I need to take you seriously to open up the treasure chest of who I am. And I am the same for you.”

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