As humans, we have invented lots of useful kinds of lie. As well as lies-to-children ('as much as they can understand') there are lies-to-bosses ('as much as they need to know') lies-to-patients ('they won't worry about what they don't know') and, for all sorts of reasons, lies-to-ourselves. Lies-to-children is simply a prevalent and necessary kind of lie. Universities are very familiar with bright, qualified school-leavers who arrive and then go into shock on finding that biology or physics isn't quite what they've been taught so far. 'Yes, but you needed to understand that,' they are told, 'so that now we can tell you why it isn't exactly true.' Discworld teachers know this, and use it to demonstrate why universities are truly storehouses of knowledge: students arrive from school confident that they know very nearly everything, and they leave years later certain that they know practically nothing. Where did the knowledge go in the meantime? Into the university, of course, where it is carefully dried and stored.
In the discoveries of science the harmony of the spheres is also now the harmony of life. And as the eerie illumination of science penetrates evermore deeply into the order of nature, the cosmos appears increasingly to be a vast system finely tuned to generate life and organisms of biology very similar, perhaps identical, to ourselves. All the evidence available in the biological sciences supports the core proposition of traditional natural theology - that the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as a fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality, from the size of galaxies to the thermal capacity of water, have their meaning and explanation in this central fact.Four centuries after the scientific revolution apparently destroyed irretrievably man's special place in the universe, banished Aristotle, and rendered teleological speculation obsolete, the relentless stream of discovery has turned dramatically in favor of teleology and design, and the doctrine of the microcosm is reborn. As I hope the evidence presented in this book has shown, science, which has been for centuries the great ally of atheism and skepticism, has become at last, in the final days of the second millennium, what Newton and many of its early advocates had so fervently wished - the defender of the anthropocentric faith.
The ultimate foundation of spirituality is the recognition that there can't be such a thing as a purposeful life in a purposeless universe.
The great cognitive shift is an expansion of consciousness from the perspectival form contained in the lives of particular creatures to an objective, world-encompassing form that exists both individually and intersubjectively. It was originally a biological evolutionary process, and in our species it has become a collective cultural process as well. Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself.
I am drawn to a fourth alternative, natural teleology, or teleological bias, as an account of the existence of the biological possibilities on which natural selection can operate. I believe that teleology is a naturalistic alternative that is distinct from all three of the other candidate explanations: chance, creationism, and directionless physical law. To avoid the mistake that White finds in the hypothesis of nonintentional bias, teleology would have to be restrictive in what it makes likely, but without depending on intentions or motives. This would probably have to involve some conception of an increase in value through the expanded possibilities provided by the higher forms of organization toward which nature tends: not just any outcome could qualify as a telos. That would make value an explanatory end, but not one that is realized through the purposes or intentions of an agent. Teleology means that in addition to physical law of the familiar kind, there are other laws of nature that are biased toward the marvelous.
It looks as if the offspring have eyes so that they can see well (bad, teleological, backward causation), but that's an illusion. The offspring have eyes because their parents' eyes did see well (good, ordinary, forward causation).
Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.
Leibniz combines Aristotelian teleology in the notion that the nature of a thing provides for its unfolding in a certain fashion with the modern idea that the nature of a thing is within it. Because the forms are internal in the way that they are not with Aristotle, the harmony of the world has to be pre-established by God.
Only by intertwining these two perspectives, the biological and the phenomenological, can we gain a fuller understanding of the immanent purposiveness of the organism and the deep continuity of life and mind.