Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/841

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EVOLUTION AND TELEOLOGY.

and matter, and all the phenomena which can come under our observation to the action of force on matter, or to the fortuitous clash of atoms and molecules. They wish to eliminate from their discussions all reference to a creative, directive and intelligent Mind, for, as they contend, such a mind is not only unnecessary but is something which is absolutely unknowable and unthinkable. Eliminating mind from the universe means eliminating purposiveness from Nature, and carries with it, of course, the destruction of all forms of teleology.

Herbert Spencer's works, for instance, are remarkable for their undisguised attempt entirely to eliminate all teleological language and eschew all teleological implications. But, strive as he may, the great corypheus of agnosticism is utterly unable, even in the simplest definitions, to find language that does not, directly or indirectly, imply aim and purpose, and, consequently, an intelligent designer. Thus, in his Principles of Biology, he says that "physiology, in its concrete interpretations, recognizes special functions as the ends of special organs; regards the teeth as having the office of mastication; the heart as an apparatus to propel blood; this gland as fitted to produce one requisite secretion, and that to produce another; each muscle as the agent of a particular motion; each nerve as the vehicle of a special sensation or a special motor impulse."[1]

All this, however, is teleological language of the most pronounced character. It is seen in the word "function," which implies adaptation and, consequently, preparation and purpose; it is seen in the word "end," which here signifies "aim"; it is seen in the word "apparatus"—ad-aparatus—which means a mechanism contrived for a specific purpose or operation—a means devised for obtaining some special end, for accomplishing something which has been foreseen and intended. Similarly the words "office," "agent," "fitted to," "recognizes," are all teleological, and replete with the idea of mental purpose. In spite, then, of all agnostic philosophy, in spite of all abstractions which would distort the original signification of words, we have in this simple definition of Spencer's words which are positively surcharged with teleology. But they do no more than express what the observer actually sees and what actually takes place in the economy of Nature. In spite, therefore, of all his attempts to avoid teleological terms, Spencer, like others of his school, is forced, by the very nature and structure of language, to employ them and to make use of expressions which indicate aim, preparation, purposiveness; which imply intelligence, foresight, design, a designer.


  1. Pages 155 et seq.