Concepts of Biology (BIOL115) - Dr. S.G. Saupe (; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321

Philosophies of Science

    Scientific inquiries are based on mechanism.  This idea, that originated with the Greeks, states that the universe is rational, orderly and governed by predictable laws.  This contrasts with the idea of vitalism that states the universe is controlled by supernatural processes.  Vitalism also contends that living systems possess "vital forces" that distinguish them from inanimate objects.   Religions are vitalistic and science is mechanistic.

    A related set of ideas are causalism and teleology.  According to teleology, the events in nature occur according to a predetermined plan or purpose.   In contrast causalists deny that events have a predetermined plan.  Rather, events occur in a stepwise fashion, each event setting the stage for the next.   Science, obviously, operates from a causalistic perspective.

    The following are some questions to test you understanding of these ideas.

1.  My Most Frightening Moment - by Tom Jones (published in the National Enquirer, Oct 15, 1985).  In this story, Tom relates a story that while swimming on vacation in Acapulco Mexico an undertow pulled him out to sea.  He was sure he was going to die but he was miraculously saved, almost "as if God had actually lifted me up and placed me [on the beach]".

2.  Two friends who haven't seen each other for several years meet in a crowded bar in Chicago.

3.  This is a true story:  The night before my wife Linda went to the obstetrician to see if she was pregnant with our second daughter Amy (she was), Linda's mother called.  Mom said that she was calling because the night before she had a dream that Linda was pregnant and that she was going to deliver the baby on Erin's (our first daughter) birthday (Nov 19).  She wanted to know if Linda as pregnant.   (PS Amy was born on Nov 15).

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