The Effects of Aristotelian Teleological Thought on Darwin's Mechanistic Views of Evolution

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The Effects of Aristotelian Teleological Thought on Darwin's Mechanistic Views of Evolution

     The need to understand organisms has been a much sought goal of science since its birth as biology. History shows Aristotle and Charles Darwin as two of the most powerful biologists of all time. Aristotle's teleological method was supported widely for over 2,000 years. One scientist remarks that the Aristotelian teleology "has been the ghost, the unexplained mystery which has haunted biology through its whole history" (Ayala, 10). If Aristotle's approach has frightened biology, then Darwin, who actually nicknamed himself the "Devils Chaplain," and his idea of natural selection has
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Aristotle thought it was both ridiculous and impossible that chance, which is not linked with order, could be used to explain occurrences in biology. In one of his writings, he criticized Empedocles for the use of chance to describe biology. Aristotle believed that Empedocles, then, was in error when he said that many of the characters presented by animals were only the results of incidental occurrences during their evolutionary growth.
     As a vitalist, Aristotle's philosophy also had a powerful influence on what he wrote. His beliefs are described in On the Soul and On the
Generation of Animals. These thoughts can be epitomized into four main areas of Aristotle's vitalistic belief:

1. He connects the life of an organism with its psyche.

2. He finds purposefulness and organic unity as the most significant sections of vitalism.

3. He debates that the entire body, rather than the parts, should be taken into account. 4. He emphasizes the soul as the final goal.

Looking at these four traditions, it is not shocking that Aristotle thought that single limbs, such as an arm, was a good description of
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