Is There Purpose in Biology?  The Cost of Existence and the God of Love. By Denis Alexander, Chapter 1: The Historical Roots of Purpose in Biology

internetmonk.com | 4/10/2019 | Mike the Geologist
reantes (Posted by) Level 3
We are reviewing the book: Is There Purpose in Biology? The Cost of Existence and the God of Love. By Denis Alexander. Chapter 1 is The Historical Roots of Purpose in Biology. Alexander thinks, and I agree, it is most always useful to examine the historical roots of an idea; to put it in perspective and realize how ideas develop through culture and history. Of course “biology” is the combination of two Greek words bios, life, and logos, the study of—or the discourse about. In earlier centuries the “study of life” would have been part of “natural history” as distinguished from “natural philosophy”, which was deemed, until the 17th century, to be superior because it provided causal and logical demonstrations while natural history was merely descriptive. The word biology itself doesn’t appear until the 18th century Swedish natural philosopher, Carl Linnaeus, famous for his classification system of plants and animals, used it.

By the late 19th century science was becoming more professionalized, and biology developed further as a distinct discipline in the early 20th century with its own journals and professional societies. But the “study of life” goes all the way back to the Greek philosophers. Alexander mentions Aristotle, who taught there were four causes of things: material, formal, efficient, and final. The “efficient cause” maps most closely to what modern science focuses on. But Aristotle would have included the telos, the final cause, which asks the question, “why”. From telos we get the word teleological, which means “having and end or purpose”.

Stoics - Acts - School - Greek - Philosophy

The Stoics, mentioned in Acts 17:17-19, were a school of Greek philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. One of their best known expositors was the Roman lawyer, Cicero (106-43 BC) who said:

When we see a mechanism such as a...
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