10 June 2015

Nonteleological World Machines?

There are two kinds of machines. A teleological one is a system where its “parts are so arranged that under proper conditions they work together to serve a certain purpose.” It seems to be self-evident for the first sight that every machine can be interpreted as a teleological system, since all of them serve certain purposes. What is more, a complex machine’s part can be regarded as teleological systems as well. A car is a teleological system, and, similarly, its engine, carburetor etc. has a purpose. (William L. Rowe: Philosophy of Religion, p. 57)
Teleological systems have two interpretations in theology: We can argue either that the Universe itself is or only some of its parts are teleological. (ibid, p. 59) Examples of biological teleological systems (e. g. eyes) are used to verify the existence of a Creator. But even accepting the teleological nature of the eyes (or human body, or planetary systems, etc.), we wouldn’t get answered whether He created the whole Universe as a machine to achieve a purpose and its parts serves His will or only our Universe’s parts are created to fulfil a task. In other words: even the verification the created nature of the eyes wouldn’t verify that we live in a created Universe.
Applying this distinction between the created (and teleological) parts and the created system as a whole, we get the following variants:
1. Both the World and the human race (and every part of the World) are created. Both the whole system and its parts have purposes (=ad analogiam a car). It can be regarded as the traditional theological point of view.
2. Opposite to it, we can state that neither the Universe nor its parts are teleological. It is the traditional atheist approach.
3. The World is created by a mighty entity, but the development of this World’s parts is regulated by laws independent of the Creator: For example, He constructed the Universe including the laws of evolution, and then the evolution resulted us. This it can be interpreted as a machine where the whole system (supposedly) has a purpose, but it is not true for its parts (and it cannot be true, since the Creator cannot be able to affect the results of the evolutionary process. Obviously, there are theologians who support this approach). It is another question whether the Creator would be able to find another solution for intelligence creation instead of the use of evolution. A parallel can be drawn between this model and the internet. According to Hubert L. Dreyfus, Ford’s automobile was a tool to support human mobility, and although it had some unintended effects (e.g. the liberalization of sex), it was a teleological machine. But because of its protean nature, the internet doesn’t have a “purpose”: It is a framework of opportunities. (On the Internet, p. 1-2)
4. The (or some) parts of the Universe are teleological systems, but the Universe itself isn’t. This model presupposes a Creator who is not outside his Universe, but a part of it. It seems to be the more exciting variant, since it introduces an inferior (Demiurge-like) Creator. To give an example, Polish SF-writer and thinker Stanislaw Lem played with the idea of a Cosmos in his book entitled Fantastyka I Futurologia (1970) where the actual state of our Universe observed by us was influenced by cosmoengineering activities of an intelligent race lived billion years ago. According to this story, their aim was to influence the density of intelligence in the Universe, thus our World satisfies the criteria of a system with teleological parts but without an overall teleological system.

And what is even more exciting: originally it was held that a machine (either a mechanical construction or a world) can be a teleological system which contains teleological parts (=car-like machine), but we have another metaphor now: An internet-like system where the teleological considerations aren’t valid on the level of its parts. The ultimate question is given: What other kind of machines and worlds can be imaginable?

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