Ernst MayrIn existographies, Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) (CR:8) was a German-born American evolutionary biologist noted, in hmolscience, for his antireductionism stance, a line of argument that seems to have started amid 1985 public debates, in Nature, with reductionist Steven Weinberg.

Evolution | Teleological drives
In 1982, Mayr, in his The Growth of Biological Thought, outlined the so-called "drive toward perfection" religion-reconciling evolution theories. [4] In circa 1985, Mayr penned a similar article in Scientific American, as cited by Robert Pirsig in his famous 1991 chemistry professor paradox discourse, in which he says the following: [5]

“Those who rejected natural selection on religious grounds or philosophical grounds or simply because it seemed too random a process to explain evolution continued for many years to put forward alternative schemes with such names as: orthogenesis [Chambers, Nageli, Eimer], nomogensis, aristogenesis [Osborn], or the ‘omega principle’ of Teilhard de Chardin, each scheme relying on some built-in tendency or drive toward perfection or progress. All these theories were finalistic; they postulated some form of cosmic teleology or purpose or program.

The proponents of teleological theories, for all their efforts, have been unable to find any mechanism (except supernatural ones) that can account for their postulated finalism. The possibility that any such mechanism can exist has now been virtually ruled out by the findings of molecular biology.

Evolution is recklessly opportunistic: it favors any variation that provides a competitive advantage over the other members of an organism’s own population or over individuals of different species. For billions of years this process has automatically fueled what we call evolutionary progress. No program controlled or directed this progression. It was the result of spur of the moment decisions of natural selection.”


Mayr argued that entropy does not apply to biological systems. In his 2004 What Makes Biology Unique?, to exemplify, he states: [1]

“Biological systems are open systems; the principles of entropy therefore are not applicable. Owing to their complexity, biological systems are richly endowed with capacities such as reproduction, metabolism, replication, regulation, adaptedness, growth, and hierarchical organization. Nothing of the sort exists in the inanimate world.”

The logic of this perspective, for course, is incorrect: but is classified as the "unbridgeable gap" model. Whatever the case, Mayr’s general motto, which he appends to some of his chapter subsections, is: “physicalist ides not applicable to biology”.

Mayr, supposedly, was openly an atheist, stating "there is nothing that supports the idea of a personal God". [2] Though, to note, the blurry term "personal God", leaves a certain amount of dis-clarity in the Dawkins scale, possibly putting Mayr at the Dawkins number 6 range. This, of course, makes his objection all the more puzzling; possibly he held in his view some type of god = nature view, and held a special place for humans in the big scheme of the universe, according to which, somehow, humans are exempt from the laws of the universe, the laws of physical science, the laws of thermodynamics, etc. There would seem to be a "categorical name" for people of this mindset, but one that does not yet seem to be coined or labeled?

Quotes | By
The following are quotes by Mayr:

Descartes's grossly mechanistic interpretation of life, and the logical extreme to which his ideas were carried by Holbach and de la Mettrie, inevitably provoked a reaction leading to vitalistic theories which have been in vogue, off and on, to the present day. I have only to mention names like Driesch (entelechy), Bergson (elan vital), and Lecomte du Nouy, among the more prominent authors of the recent past. Though these authors may differ in particulars, they all agree in claiming that living beings and life processes cannot be causally explained in terms of physical and chemical phenomena. It is our task to ask whether this assertion is justified, and if we answer this question with ‘no’, to determine the source of the misunderstanding.”
— Ernst Mayr (1961), “Cause and Effect in Biology” [6]

“When it comes to developing a truly comprehensive science of science, it can be done only by comparing the generalizations derived from the physical sciences with those of the biological and social sciences, and by attempting to integrate all three branches. I rather suspect that the raw material for such comparisons and for an integration is already available and that it is only necessary that someone adopts this as the objective of his research.”
— Ernst Mayr (1982), The Growth of Biological Thought [7]

1. Mayr, Ernst. (2004). What Makes Biology Unique? (pg. 29). Cambridge University Press.
2. Shermer, Michael and Sulloway, Frank J. (2000). "The Grand Old Man of Evolution." Skeptic, 8(1): 76–82.
3. Weinberg, Steven. (1992). Weinberg, Steven. (1992). Dreams of a Final Theory: the Scientist’s Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature (pg. 53). Random House.
4. Mayr, Ernst. (1982). The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance (drive toward perfection theories, pgs. 360-61). Harvard University Press.
5. (a) Mayr, Ernst. (c.1985). “Article”, Scientific American, Vol(#):pgs.
(b) Pirsig, Robert M. (1991). Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (pgs. 141-42). Random House, 2013.
6. Mayr, Ernst. (1961). “Cause and Effect in Biology” (jst), Science, 134(3489):1501-06.
7. (a) Mayr, Ernst. (1982). The Growth of Biological Thought. Harvard University Press.
(b) Smith, H.A. and Welch, G.R. (1991). “Cytosociology: a Field-Theoretical View of Cell Metabolism” (part B) (pdf); in: Molecular Theories and Cell Life and Cell Death (editor: S. Ji) (pgs. 298-323) (Mayr, pdf. pg. 21). Rutgers University Press.

Further reading
● Mayr, Ernst. (2000). “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought” (pdf), Scientific American, Jul:79-80.
● Deacon, Terrence W. (2011). Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (pg. 115-16; 199-21). W.W. Norton & Co.

External links
Ernst Mayr – Wikipedia.

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