Why are so many people drawn to conspiracy theories in times of crisis?
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The words “purpose” and “teleology” act like a red rag to a bull to the less thoughtful in the scientific and secular community who have difficulty resolving context.
The basic instinctual proclivity for our species to ascribe purposeful interpretations of natural phenomena is rooted in the anthropocentric mindset which is a legacy of our genetic and cultural histories.
Sometimes this is justified. Certainly within biology this is generally so.
The seeking of prey by an organism can be viewed in this way. All organisms can be said to seek the goal of self replication. For the simpler species alternative descriptions suffice and are to be preferred. At the other extreme the immense behavioral complexity of we snoutless apes often merits teleological description.
This is because of the evolution of the prodigious imagination required by our technological niche. Giving reflexive consciousness and the ensuing ability for extensive forward planning. A version of purposiveness which is not shared by inanimate objects or to any great degree other organisms. Or evolutionary processes!
However, there is a quite distinct meaning of the word “purpose”. We can, for instance, quite properly say that the purpose of the heart is to pump blood. In this sense purpose equates to function. And in this context we can, to some extent, justifiably attribute purpose to evolutionary processes.
But we must be careful not to fall into the very common trap of conflating purpose with directionality.
Directionality is a salient and well established feature of biology, especially in the field of the evolution of species by natural selection. The latter providing a specific mechanism by which direction is imposed upon stochastic inputs by the pertaining environmental conditions.
But this directionality is by no means limited to biology. Biology is but one phase of an evolutionary continuum that can be traced back at least as far back as the formation of chemical elements in the first stars!
A consistent increase in gross intricacy with time. You will find many here who subscribe to the popular dogma that evolution is random. Which, very observably, is nonsense. It is is highly directional and while largely effected by random inputs, the structure if our universe is such that the randomness is rectified so as to produce the observed directionality.
Not only is are the evolutionary processes directional but gross outcomes can be said to be predetermined. A simple example is the radioactive decay of the isotope of an element. Here, there is no way to predict when any particular atom will fission. These events are entirely random. However the half-life of the isotope is precisely predetermined.
1, “Purpose” is a very tricky word. Take care in its use!
2, Directionality characterizes evolutionary processes.
3. That does not mean that there is some guy with “purpose” planning it.
It is just the way nature’s machinery happens to work.
There's what people want to hear.
There's what they want to believe.
Then there's the truth.
For background on all this check out my "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill".
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