Teleonomy is a term invented to describe the study of goal-directed functions which are not guided by the conscious forethought of man or any supernatural entity. It is contrasted with Aristotle's teleology, which has connotations of intention, purpose and foresight. Evolution is teleonomic; adaptation hoards hindsight rather than foresight. The following is a definition for its use in biology:
- Teleonomy: The hypothesis that adaptations arise without the existence of a prior purpose, but by the action of natural selection on genetic variability.
The term may have been suggested by Colin Pittendrigh in 1958; it grew out of cybernetics and self-organising systems. Ernst Mayr, George C. Williams and Jacques Monod picked up the term and used it in evolutionary biology.
Philosophers of science have also commented on the term. Ernest Nagel analysed the concept of goal-directedness in biology; and David Hull commented on the use of teleology and teleonomy by biologists:
- Haldane can be found remarking, "Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public". Today the mistress has become a lawfully wedded wife. Biologists no longer feel obligated to apologize for their use of teleological language; they flaunt it. The only concession which they make to its disreputable past is to rename it ‘teleonomy’.
Other articles related to "teleonomy":
... One is teleonomy which Monod defines as the characteristic of being "endowed with a purpose or project"(Monod, 9) ... leaving two essential properties of living beings reproductive invariance and structural teleonomy ... In chapter two "Vitalisms and Animisms" Monod states that invariance must have preceded teleonomy, a conclusion reached by the Darwinian idea that teleonomic structures are due to variations in ...
... Teleonomy is closely related to concepts of emergence, complexity theory and self-organizing systems ...