Darwin, Natural Theology, and the Principle of Natural Selection

John O. Reiss

in Not by Design

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780520258938
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944404 | DOI:
Darwin, Natural Theology, and the Principle of Natural Selection

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This chapter discusses Cuvier's influence in Britain, in particular the way in which his views were perceived in the intellectual environment that provided the intellectual background to Darwin's theorizing. It first examines the implicit assumption underlying the use of the concept of “adaptedness” in natural theology, and then examines the role played by the principle of conditions for existence in Darwin's theory. The chapter also argues that by separating the concept of adaptedness from its empirical base in existence, and then basing his evolutionary theory on this disembodied adaptedness, Darwin introduced a teleological determinism. This teleology is expressed in two related conceptions: (1) that evolution is a process going from a less-adapted to a better-adapted state and (2) that natural selection is a deterministic force, or agent, which directs the evolutionary process toward this better-adapted state.

Keywords: Cuvier; Darwin; adaptedness; natural theology; conditions for existence; teleological determinism; evolution; natural selection

Chapter.  14509 words. 

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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