Design in Nature

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 at 2:30pm

Future Event

Though human ingenuity may make various inventions…it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting, and nothing is superfluous…

– Leonardo da Vinci, The Da Vinci Notebooks, Vol. II, XIV: Anatomy, Zoology and Physiology

When we employ the term ‘design’ to describe the seeming aesthetic perfection of what we observe in nature, we summon—ineluctably—historical notions of teleology linked to a transcendent or immanent divinity. Regarding a seminal pagan’s ideas about nature, German scholar Eduard Zeller wrote in his 1883 Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy,”The most important feature of the Aristotelian teleology is the fact that it is neither anthropocentric nor is it due to the actions of a creator existing outside the world or even of a mere arranger of the world, but is always thought of as immanent in nature.” Grounded as we are in our Darwinian adaptationism, can we recast previous versions of that immanence in terms of physical first principles that may lie beneath our understanding of the functional and adaptational design in (or of) nature?

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