2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:40 AM


GHISELIN, Michael T., Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, California Academy of Sciences, 875 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, mghiselin@calacademy.org

It is widely recognized that Darwin discredited the argument from design. Less well known is the history of a related notion, the argument from law, according to which there cannot be a law without a legislator. Both rested upon the more fundamental assumption that we can interpret the world on the basis of privileged knowledge of the Deity, supposedly an anthropomorphic one. Given that the same Being both created the universe and ordained the laws of nature that govern it, viewing geological history and the fossil record as teleological is much easier. Pre-Darwinian scientists invoked both design and law in explaining the history of the world. In either case the result was a tendency to view the fossil record as if it were, like a developing embryo, headed in a particular direction. Those who have attempted to salvage design in the face of Darwin's contribution have generally put more causal burden upon laws of nature. The English anatomist and paleontologist Richard Owen (1804-1892)provides a good example.