This Is a Title: Or Why the Universe Is Not Completely Random

Jul 29, 2011 by

This is an introduction.  The purpose of an introduction is to introduce a topic.  Many things have purposes; a lot of them are actually named according to their purpose.  Teachers teach, builders build, and introductions introduce.  You could say that what a thing does defines that thing.

Teleology is the study of things in nature according to their purposes.  Many modern philosophers have abandoned this study, believing that occurrences in nature are coincidental.  For instance, it is merely by chance that rainfall allows corn to grow; the rain does not fall for the purpose of growing corn.

Aristotle, arguably one of the most important ancient philosophers, discusses this in Book II of his Physics.  He says that it is impossible that things in nature happen merely by coincidence.  He notes that the definition of coincidence is that something happens ‘by chance.’  The whole point of something being ‘by chance’ is that it does not happen in the usual way.  But this is not how nature works.  Take the human jaw for example:  the teeth are usually arranged in a certain way, the sharp teeth in the front and the molars in the back.  The jaw has so many different parts that must work together, that were they to come together through chance, it is impossible that teeth would function consistently in animals.  We of course don’t observe this; each animal of each species has a specific arrangement of teeth.  This and countless other examples show that things in nature happen in a certain way, not by coincidence.

After proving this point, Aristotle claims that if something is not the result of chance, then it must have a purpose.  And wherever there is a finished product, all the steps that lead up to it are for the purpose of making that product.  This means that all the steps in our physical development that lead to a human jaw are for the sake of producing a human jaw.  Aristotle’s conclusion is that things are defined by their purpose, which is action.  Therefore, we are what we do.  A boat is a boat because it does boat-like things.  Boats do not always look alike, but they all have similar characteristics that allow them to fulfill their function.  In the same way that a boat has a purpose, man also has a purpose.

Now the question is:  what is man’s purpose?  Or to phrase the question differently:  what is man’s responsibility? 

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2 Comments

  1. Gerber

    The main problem with this article is the definition of the word ‘chance’. To say that you will pull a red sock out of a drawer of 4 red and 1 blue socks is ‘chance’ would be false according to this definition. It is not chance, it usually happens that way. No matter how many socks there are, most people would accept it to be ‘chance’. ‘Chance’, in reality, does not have anything to do with the usual manner in which things occur, it has more to do with something happening strictly by probability without any outside influences intended to affect the outcome. Thus, the question for whether rain waters corn is a coincidence is not: Does it usually happen that way? But, is an outside influence what is causing it to happen that way? I do not disagree with the result, that events in nature are not a cosmic coincidence, but I disagree with the manner in which it was proved here.

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