Join us for our theology discussion group at The University Church between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 23, 2014 as we discuss teleology.
In his inaugural lecture delivered on taking up the Andreas Idreos Professorship of Science and Religion at Oxford University on 20 October, 2014 (here), Alister McGrath said:
“The best picture of reality is that which weaves together coherently the greatest number of explanatory threads. The distinguished geologist Frank Rhodes made this point back in 1965, using the analogy of a boiling kettle. So why is the kettle boiling? Rhodes notes that two types of explanation might be given. At the scientific level, energy is being supplied, which raises the temperature of the water to its boiling point. Yet another answer can be given. “The kettle is boiling because I put it on to make a cup of tea.” Rhodes makes a point which some of you may find predictable, but is none the less important. Here is what he says: “Now these are different answers . But both are true, both are complementary and not competitive. One answer is appropriate within a particular frame of reference, the other within another frame of reference. There is a sense in which each is incomplete without the other.”
In teleology we think about ideas such as, “The kettle is boiling because I put it on to make a cup of tea.” Is the potential to become tea an inherent property of the water, just like its boiling point, density and so on? After all, water doesn’t have the potential to become a block of cast iron even though it does have the potential to become a cup of tea, so there seems to be some directedness in the possible futures that a kettle full of water can actualize. How about your possible futures? Are they inherently part of you? Is there directedness that is a real property of your being?