Intention & Direction

Before Michael Dowd‘s presentation last Wednesday, an elderly man came up to me and was obviously ambivalent about whether to stay for it or not. He mentioned that he had trouble with the “intentionality” assumed in the Universe Story.

This was a reminder for me of one of the many differences between a traditional mechanistic view and a systems view.

In a mechanistic view, it may be difficult to explain any directionality to evolution. For instance, biological evolution is the product of the interplay between random mutations and survival of the fittest (both accurate). Any directionality is easily interpreted as intentionality, as a naive view of a “goal” of evolution, almost as if determined from “outside” of the world. When we operate with a mechanistic view, which is poorly equipped to deal with any form of directionality, we tend to dismiss it outright.

In a systems view, it looks very different. We see the Universe as a holarchy of nested systems, and that any system, from the largest whole down, is self-organizing. We also see that the Universe definitely seem to have a direction in its evolution, from simplicity to complexity, and from a systems view, we can even explain why it would be so. Of course, this does not mean that there is any “intention” going on, nor any “goal”. It is just an unfolding process moving in a certain direction. In contrast to the older Christian view of an outside creator, we now see that the Universe itself is creatitivity.

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