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cthulette's avatar

Which scientist said that humanity was the goal of evolution?

Asked by cthulette (163 points ) April 23rd, 2012

Who, in the early days of evolutionary theory, thought that evolution happened towards a goal of humanity and that parasites had “evolved” backwards on the scale?

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11 Answers

ro_in_motion's avatar

I didn’t find the quote – my google fu is weak.

However, evolution is blind.

ragingloli's avatar

I do not know. I do not know that it was said at all, or that the one who said it was a scientist.
But what I do know is, that if it was said, whoever said it is a colossal idiot.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know if a scientist said it, but it seems that theosophists think mankind is the goal of evolution.

Of course, the famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, said the opposite: “Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.” source

tom_g's avatar

Wasn’t he that dullard that – following a screwdriver lobotomy – used to clean Darwin’s toilet and call himself a “scientist”? I forget. His other popular quote is, “Poo….in my hands.”

Qingu's avatar

LOL, parasites are like the champions of evolution.

Most living things are parasites.

flutherother's avatar

I don’t know who said it but I know he wasn’t a scientist.

SavoirFaire's avatar

You might be thinking of Herbert Spencer, who made such claims when attempting to merge evolutionary theory with his egoistic theory of ethics. The result of this attempt was the conservative political and sociological theory that came to be known as “social Darwinism.” Spencer was not a scientist in the way that term is used today, but he was a polymath who contributed to the field of biology (among others).

It is worth noting that social Darwinism is fundamentally incompatible with Darwin’s actual observations. This was not known at the time, however, and perhaps could not have been known. After all, it was not until Darwin’s research was synthesized with Mendel’s that evolutionary theory solidified into its modern form. Prior to this modern synthesis, there were several alternative theories of inheritance (including Spencer’s preferred theory, Lamarckism).

gasman's avatar

@SavoirFaire Great answer! It was Spencer who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.”

ratboy's avatar

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, possibly?

Thulenord's avatar

Google the words: “humanity is the goal of evolution.” and the fourth entry I found is a work, Progress, put out by the Univ. of Wisc. in 1899. This particular quotation may be attributed to H. H. Powers, Stanford Univ. in “Sociology and Evolution.” It is actually the words before “Humanity….” that are quite pertinent, “But evolution may as easily be retrogressive as progressive as these words are commonly understood. Nor is it legitimate to assume that humanity is the goal of evolution.” Powers continues, “Humanity is one of the products of evolution….” Also cited are Christian de Duve (Nobel Laureate) and Steven J. Gould, both ‘Darwinian,’ but both reject any ”strict teleological argument” [or ‘rightness’] associated with evolution.
As for Chardin, like Ratboy, I remembered reading The Phenomenon of Man in a Seminar at St. Olaf College (c 1971) on “Christian Anthropology” [or ‘How Christians go about understanding themselves as men or mankind and must respond to those outside the Faith’...for those of you in Rio Linda.] and I followed up with some of his others. His key word for goal is “Omega Point.” It’s worth Googling, for the info, but learning about Chardin’s bio & his ‘answer, if it is that, was one for a question no one was asking, seriously, at least at that time. The pope called him naughty, confusing, and forbad him to teach or publish, and he thus became a hero to the Left, hippies, and “Liberal Theologians” in the English translation if not the French world. He’s too flakey for me, but a good example ex generis.
As to parasites, or Fred Hoyle’s “panspermia” the same negative to the teleological aspirants may be be applied convincingly. Further the introduction of the parasite argument puts us back at square one with nowhere to go. “Oh, Damn!” the crowd murmurs.
For differing reasons I side with Issac Assimov. Darwinists, have a theory, strictly by definition is only a hypothesis, not a fact at their disposal which they elevated by unscientific method to an article of faith. In all likelihood we are as an intelligent race quite alone in this galaxy sez Assimov, and in the universe sez I. Darwinism an aesthetic, not a scientific, solution to the conundrum of loneliness. Sursum corda, lift up your hearts, human life is an inalienable right so let’s everyone go pursue some happiness.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Thulenord Unfortunately, @cthulette was looking for a scientist who endorsed the view that humanity is the goal of evolution, not someone who merely had that string of words somewhere in their published works. Powers, as your quote clearly demonstrates, rejected this sort of teleological view (that being the force of denying the legitimacy of the assumption). And indeed, everyone these days rejects that sort of teleological thinking in regards to evolution.

I am also unsure why you bring up the old “evolution is just a theory” red herring in connection with the question of life on other planets. Leaving aside that a scientific theory is most definitely not just a hypothesis, the more important point is that evolutionary theory makes no statements regarding the existence or non-existence of life elsewhere in the universe. As such, the implicit criticism you have weaved into your bizarre homily does not stick.

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