Pierre Teilhard de ChardinPierre Teilhard de Chardin trained as a Jesuit priest and became a notable, if controversial, scientist, especially as a paleontologist who helped discover Peking Man. But most important, Teilhard was a theologian and Christian philosopher. Under the influence of Henri Bergson, Teilhard synthesized his scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge to create a view of evolution as purposeful (teleological) and directed at a future state he called the noösphere (mind-sphere), similar to Immanuel Kant's noumenal realm. Both are named for Greek nous (νους), the mind. Teilhard introduced the term noösphere in a 1922 publication on his theory of cosmogony that he called "Cosmogenesis." David Layzer chose Teilhard's word as the principal title of his 1990 book Cosmogenesis: The Growth of Order in the Universe. Teilhard's most important book, The Phenomenon of Man, was banned by the Catholic church in the 1940's and Teilhard was forbidden to teach his radical and increasingly influential ideas. In this book, Teilhard described a cosmic evolution that includes the evolution of primordial particles to explain the development of life, the development of human beings and then of the noosphere. Teilhard's noosphere includes an "omega point" in the future, which he sees "pulling" all creation towards it, ultimately to a theological reunion with Christ, which another Teilhard coinage described as "Christogenesis." Aristotle's notion of a fourth cause (after material, efficient, and formal causes), which we translate "final cause," Aristotle called the telos (τελος). It is the root of teleology, the idea that the purpose of life can be found in a final cause that existed before life itself began. The idea of teleology is not taken seriously by biological scientists today, but biologist Colin Pittendrigh proposed the term "teleonomy" to distinguish the appearance of purpose in biological evolution, specifically Darwinian natural selection, from the ancient idea of "teleology," from Aristotle's "telos" or "final cause," a cosmic purpose supposedly pre-existing the appearance of life. Jacques Monod made use of the term teleonomy in his great 1971 work, Chance and Necessity. without mentioning Pittendrigh. Ernst Mayr provided the Pittendrigh reference in a 1974 article in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. But Mayr thought the uses of "teleology" needed clearer definitions.
The teleological dilemma, then consists in the fact that numerous and seemingly weighty objections against the use of teleological language have been raised by various critics, and yet biologists have insisted that they would lose a great deal, methodologically and heuristically, if they were prevent from using such language. It is my endeavor to resolve this dilemma by a new analysis, and particularly by a new classification of the various phenomena that have been traditionally designated as 'teleological'.Pittendrigh wrote to Mayr explaining his concept of teleonomy. Mayr reported Pittendrigh's view: I wanted a word that would allow me (all of us biologists) to describe, stress or simply to allude to – without offense – this end-directedness of a perfectly respectable mechanistic system. Teleology would not do, carrying with it that implication that the end is causally effective in the current operation of the machine. Teleonomic, it is hoped, escapes that plain falsity which is anyhow unnecessary. Haldane was, in this sense wrong (surely a rare event): we can live without teleology. The crux of the problem lies of course in unconfounding the mechanism of evolutionary change and the physiological mechanism of the organism abstracted from the evolutionary time scale. The most general of all biological 'ends', or 'purposes' is of course perpetuation by reproduction. That end [and all its subsidiary 'ends' of feeding, defense and survival generally] is in some sense effective in causing natural selection; in causing evolutionary change; but not in causing itself. In brief, we have failed in the past to unconfound causation in the historical origins of a system and causation in the contemporary working of the system… You ask in your letter whether or not one of the 'information' people didn't introduce it. They did not, unless you wish to call me an information bloke. It is, however, true that my own thinking about the whole thing was very significantly affected by a paper which was published by Wiener and Bigelow with the intriguing title 'Purposeful machines'. This pointed out that in the then newly-emerging computer period it was possible to design and build machines that had ends or purposes without implying that the purposes were the cause of the immediate operation of the machine.
In his Metaphysics, Aristotle himself introduced the idea of an entity that has developed an internal purpose. He called it "entelechy," which has confused many modern thinkers. But is is very close to the idea of teleonomy. Aristotle combined three Greek words - εν (in), τελος, and εχειν (to have), so εντελεχεια has the meaning of "having the telos/purpose within." This is what Pittendrigh and many later biologists see going on in all living things, clearly their "'ends' of feeding, defense, and survival generally." Normal | Teacher | Scholar