Reasons in Nature
“There are Reasons in Nature!” says philosopher Dan Dennett. A hawk exists because it is more successful at survival and reproduction through its ability to fly. That is its “justification”, and the origins of the Practice of Justification, itself. In general, Dennett calls theses kinds of reasons “free-floating rationales” because they are reasons without a reasoner; reasons not Represented in a Mind but are discernible in the design of the creations of Mother Nature.
In this sense, Natural Selection is “a reason finder” and has filled this planet with a splendid array of living things operating for, or by, one reason or another. And interestingly, since these are Reasons, there are more and less effective and efficient ways — rational ways — of accomplishing them. Natural Selection is not only “a reason finder” but also “developer”. This is the implication of Darwin’s “Dangerous” (read Profoundly Revolutionary) Idea, argues Dennett.
(Natural Selection has discovered Powered Flight four times; first in insects, then dinosaurs, birds and finally bats. It is a “reason-finder” and “developer”. The Reason these creatures survived was, in part. their ability to fly. That is there Justification.)
(Nature is full of Reasons. Gliding is A Reason these animals exist. Only Persons have Reasons AND are sometimes aware of them. But these creatures “do not do badly” in there own way: Bluntnosed Flying fish, Flying Squirrel, Paradise snake, Borneo Flying Frog, Gliding Ant, Flying Dragon Lizard are just a few of Nature’s gliding creatures. I do not know the approximate number of species that Glide, but each of the classes above have several different species that do. And this is not to mention animals that “parachute”.)
(A “ballooning” spider! Note the thin thread coming from its abdomen. Another way Mother Nature has designed a creature to “fly”. Natural Selection, through its mechanical process of trial and error, has sought and discovered this Opportunity too, and perfected it. It justifies this creatures survival.)
Objects that have a purpose exhibit design. They are —by definition — interrelated and interacting with “their” environment, Not just caused. Some biologists become nervous here, and insist that Design in Nature is only “apparent design”; it is “seemingly designed”. It is, as if, they say, “Things are not really put together that well.” They fear that a design needs a designer, or that “adaptionist” thinking and talk of “purposes” is Teleological — as if nature is striving for some goal. They think this kind of talk places the creature and its environment in too tidy a package. It give the Creation too much “say” in relation to Its Creator, ‘the environment’. It is insufficiently causal, contingent, and, therefore, ‘unscientific’.
But, there are many things that are really well connected: their parts are defined by the point of their design, and design ‘flows out’ into the environment! (“Huston, the Eagle has landed!”) We can say ‘designed objects are Caused by their environment’, but in our broadest attempt to understand our world and our situation in it, we must recognize that that is only a half truth and the seed for significant confusion. It is better to say, “The two Inform each other!”
Now I know some of you are finding this idea strange — reasons in nature –— but part of its point is to establish Reasons in Persons and then having a basis for it Naturally! What scientist does not respect good reasons? So let’s give them a natural foundation!
That is what we do when we think in the widest context; we want a lot of things to fit together. The reasons for our behavior and the reasons ‘in’ our consciousness MUST come from nature but also be true to themselves at there own Level of Complexity. To think that thinking is really a chemical or neural or physic’s process, that “thinking” is primarily caused by these, is what the famous American philosopher John Dewey called, “the modern one-sidedness.”
So, this world of ours, and this planet Earth is Not Devoid Of Rhyme or Reason. As lonely and foolish as it all may seem, sometimes; some of that is our fault. It is a failure of Our Vision and Thought and Heart. Reasons abound around us. As smart as we are, in some ways; oh, how far we need to travel!
Getting really wide and two-sided, here, at The Nature Religion Connection! Enjoy!
(Well, that is the first dose! I better ‘pick up some steam’ fore I only have nine more to go. But, you must admit, it was short! Looking to gain some momentum and to nailing down “The Meaning Of Life, in ten easy doses!”)
4 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life: “Dose 1”; There are Reasons in Nature”
If this my essay I would define reason, in that it could mean a cause, a purpose, or perhaps a logical thought process. The juxtaposition of “reason” and “because” implies “cause” as the meaning. The cause of the hawk existing because it is more successful, while likely true, is misleading as well. It could be argued as convincingly that the environment selects the existence of the hawk. One is saying there is a niche for the hawk and the other is saying the environment had a hole for the hawk. Both by themselves are not quite accurate.
The hawk and the environment are not separate.
First, I really liked all the cool photos and what they showed, the many ways to fly that Nature, including us has discovered. That gliding snake and “ballooning” spider are imagination stretchers!
Mother Nature is quite a Designer and Creator.
And, as the Original, and still unsurpassed, Designer, She knows better than anyone that a design is always Intimately connected to ITS Environment. It is not misleading to say the success of the hawk is its reason for existing. That is basic Adaptionist Evolutionary theory. It –the hawk– functions better. It is a marvelous design that works well.
“Causation”, as displayed on a pool table is too contingent; it does not explain Good and better and Better Design. Natural Selection explains the variety and success we see around us and us, in the bio world. These are all Functioning and designed objects AND they are connected to there environ as much by INFORMATION as by causation. A designed object is Informed by its environment when it responds PROPERLY to Its Input.
“The Eagle,” the landing craft, was not caused into existence and it did not perform well in ‘the’ environment. It was designed and built to plan; it did well in ITS specific environ. Just as the hawk does. So, yes, you are right; the hawk and its environ are not separate. The hawk Defines/Specifies its environment as all designed objects do.
Teleological Explanation can not be ultimately escaped! You and I Justify each of our statements and beliefs by siting their Good Form, Good Design. My thoughts and yours are only Caused in a secondary sense! They are informed!
I know you won’t get my point. I’m resigned to that (I understand how that fits together) .
As usual you don’t address the point I made. Your two essays use the different meanings of reason without care.
Oh, Rom, why do you get so mean? (And didn’t you like all those neat photos of Kinds of Flight? or something Nice about my post?)
And I did address your point but maybe not as clearly as necessary.
“Reasons” are not all causes. The reasons for the behavior of Designed things are in the design. Those reasons are called Information, or are information To the designed thing, from its P. of V. From more Objective P. of Vs, info becomes Causes.
It is important to recognize the difference between Info and Causes because —– well, for example right now we are communicating and to communicating creatures Meaning exists. I am not trying to cause you to change your belief; I am trying to Convince you to change them. That means, I am trying to get you to Re-Interpret your Design and behave differently. When the Blue Jays in my backyard start squawking and other birds scatter, We can say the calls caused them Or the calls had meaning to those birds—“Danger, neighborhood Kestrel Falcon is coming.” Now to the birds, it probably doesn’t matter what We call it, but to us it does. “Meaning” is a more subjective thing, and that is good because philosophically I want Points Of View to exist in nature and reality. Logically (it seems to Compatiblists), a p. of v. does not/ should not exist for Hard Determinism (well only one).
For example: If all I cared about was Causing you to change your belief, more options would be open to me. I could lie to you; I could slander you; I could threaten you; I could capture you and torture you, But all that I will not do because it would be Wrong, Morally wrong. At the level of design of Persons that is not permitted (probably because in the end, such behavior is destructive of the organization of behavior at that level — it leads to a war of all against all, a lower level of design).
So, in the end, I guess I should say that A Reason has two important forms. It can be a Cause and it can be a Meaning. If all the world was causes, then I think the most real (P. of V.) is physics. Here all the universe is so tightly tied together as particles or a quantum wave (as Carroll called it: “a very sparse universe”) that the only way to “see/”understand” it as such is from outside the universe from the aloof —God-like— position of the scientist. Compatiblist philosophies want to try to get Points of View into the universe so that you and I can have a chance to talk and disagree even if that is all that it ever comes to. We are dealing in meanings, here; those kind of Reasons.
That seems to be a much clearer response to your comment. Once again, thanks for the opportunity that allowed me to freely and meaningfully respond (no dig intended, well, just a little!). GWW