View by:  Subject  Theme  Question  Term  Person  Event

The Compatiblity of Teological and Causal Explanations

Teleological explanations are fully compatible with (efficient) causal explanations.See my "Teleological Explanations in Evolutionary Biology," Philosophy of Science 37 (1970), pp. 1-15; and "The Distinctness of Biology," in Friedel Weinert (ed.), Laws of Nature. Essays... It is possible, at least in principle, to give a causal account of the various physical and chemical processes in the development of an egg into a chicken, or of the physicochemical, neural, and muscular interactions involved in the functioning of the eye. (I use the "in principle" clause to imply that any component of the process can be elucidated as a causal process if it is investigated in sufficient detail and in depth; but not all steps in almost any developmental process have been so investigated, with the possible exception of the flatworm Caenorhabditis elegans. The development of Drosophila fruitflies has also become known in much detail, even if not yet completely.) It is also possible in principle to describe the causal processes by which one genetic variant becomes eventually established in a population by natural selection. But these causal explanations do not make it unnecessary to provide teleological explanations where appropriate. Both teleological and causal explanations are called for in such cases.

Paley's claim that the design of living beings evinces the existence of a Designer was shown to be erroneous by Darwin's discovery of the process of natural selection, just as the pre-Copernican explanation for the motions of celestial bodies (and the argument for the existence of God based on the unmoved mover) was shown to be erroneous by the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. There is no more reason to consider anti-Christian Darwin's theory of evolution and explanation of design than to consider anti-Christian Newton's laws of motion. Divine action in the Universe must be sought in ways other than those that postulate it as the means to account for gaps in the scientific account of the workings of the Universe.

The Copernican and Darwinian revolutions have jointly brought all natural objects and processes as subjects of scientific investigation. Is there any important missing link in the scientific account of natural phenomena? I believe there is, namely, the origin of the universe. The creation or origin of the universe involves a transition from nothing into being. But a transition can only be scientifically investigated if we have some knowledge about the states or entities on both sides of the boundary. Nothingness, however, is not a subject for scientific investigation or understanding. Therefore, as far as science is concerned, the origin of the universe will remain forever a mystery.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Francisco Ayala

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.