Debate: Immanuel Kant and Evolution ("creation or rather development")
By Wolfgang G. Gasser
Interesting quote from 'Evolutionary Theory and Kant's Critique' :
"The theory of the descent of the species is fully developed (in the Critique of Judgment), even including, as an explanation for the current fixity of the species, a theory of the former, now extinct, fertility of the productive force, such as Georges Cuvier was to advocate subsequently. Nineteenth-century theories of evolution, especially Darwin's, added factual details to Kant's theory and improved it by removing many objective difficulties, but they changed nothing in the basic framework. On the other hand, compared to Kant's theory, the theories of the nineteenth century actually represent a huge step backward on account of the decline of theoretical culture and the consequent naiveté with which relatively insignificant details are considered important and lauded as progress in treating the question, while the crucial speculative-theoretical basic questions are overlooked."
Inspired by Buffon (1707-1788), Kant wrote , :
"Perhaps a succession of millions of years or centuries has passed before the sphere of the developed nature in which we find ourselves grew to the perfection inherent in it [*]. And perhaps an even longer period will elapse before nature will take such a wide step into chaos: yet the sphere of the developed nature is ceaselessly occupied with expanding itself.
Creation is not the work of a moment. After creation made a beginning by producing an infinity of substances and materials, it is efficacious with constantly increasing degrees of fecundity throughout the total succession of eternity."
Many years later Kant wrote :
"It is praiseworthy by the aid of comparative anatomy to go through the great creation of organised natures, in order to see whether there may not be in it something similar to a system and also in accordance with the principle of production. [...]
The agreement of so many genera of animals in a certain common schema, which appears to be fundamental not only in the structure of their bones but also in the disposition of their remaining parts, — so that with an admirable simplicity of original outline, a great variety of species has been produced by the shortening of one member and the lengthening of another, the involution of this part and the evolution of that, — allows a ray of hope, however faint, to penetrate into our minds, that here something may be accomplished by the aid of the principle of the mechanism of nature (without which there can be no natural science in general).
This analogy of forms, which with all their differences seem to have been produced according to a common original type, strengthens our suspicions of an actual relationship between them in their production from a common parent, through the gradual approximation of one animal-genus to another — from those in which the principle of purposes seems to be best authenticated, i.e. from man, down to the polype, and again from this down to mosses and lichens, and finally to the lowest stage of nature noticeable by us, viz. to crude matter.
And so the whole Technic of nature, which is so incomprehensible to us in organised beings that we believe ourselves compelled to think a different principle for it, seems to be derived from matter and its powers according to mechanical laws (like those by which it works in the formation of crystals).
Here it is permissible for the archaeologist of nature to derive from the surviving traces of its oldest revolutions [...] that great family of creatures [...]. He can suppose the bosom of mother earth, as she passed out of her chaotic state (like a great animal), to have given birth in the beginning to creatures of less purposive form, that these again gave birth to others which formed themselves with greater adaptation to their place of birth and their relations to each other; [...]
We may call a hypothesis of this kind a daring venture of reason, and there may be few even of the most acute naturalists through whose head it has not sometimes passed. For it is not absurd, like that generatio aequivoca by which is understood the production of an organised being through the mechanics of crude unorganised matter.
It would always remain generatio univoca in the most universal sense of the word, for it only considers one organic being as derived from another organic being, although from one which is specifically different; e.g. certain water-animals transform themselves gradually into marsh-animals and from these, after some generations, into land-animals.
A priori, in the judgement of Reason alone, there is no contradiction here. Only experience gives no example of it; according to experience all generation that we know is generatio homonyma."
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[*] "Perhaps a succession of millions of years and centuries is to flow by before the sphere of developed nature in which we find ourselves grows to the perfection inherent in it"  is in my opinion not a clear enough translation of the German "Es ist vielleicht eine Reihe von Millionen Jahren und Jahrhunderten verflossen, ehe die Sphäre der gebildeten Natur, darin wir uns befinden, zu der Vollkommenheit gediehen ist, die ihr jetzt beiwohnt."
 1755, Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven, Part Two, Section Seven, Concerning Creation in the Total Extent of its Infinity Both in Space and Time
 1790, The Critique of Judgement, § 80, Of the necessary subordination of the mechanical to the teleological principle in the explanation of a thing as a natural purpose. http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1217/97628
Kant knew nothing of:
- Common descent
- Sexual selection
- Natural selection
- Adaptation by natural selection
Extracts from the Kant quotes of 1790 of my previous posting :
"— so that with an admirable simplicity of original outline, a great variety of species has been produced by the shortening of one member and the lengthening of another, the involution of this part and the evolution of that —"
"This analogy of forms, which with all their differences seem to have been produced according to a COMMON ORIGINAL TYPE, strengthens our suspicions of an actual relationship between them in their production from a common parent (Urmtter), through the gradual approximation of one animal-genus to another —- from those in which the principle of purposes seems to be best authenticated, i.e. from man, down to the polype, and again from this down to mosses and lichens, and finally to the lowest stage of nature noticeable by us, to crude matter."
"[The archaeologist of nature] can suppose the bosom of mother earth [...] to have given birth in the beginning to creatures of less purposive form, that these again gave birth to others which formed themselves with greater adaptation (angemessener) to their place of birth and their relations to each other;"
"We may call a hypothesis of this kind a daring venture of reason,"
"[Such a hypothesis] only considers one organic being as derived from another organic being, although from one which is specifically different; e.g. certain water-animals transform themselves gradually into marsh-animals and from these, after some generations, into land-animals."
- Populational variation
- and so on.
Already Maupertuis (1698-1759) had considered "animals in terms of variable populations, in opposition to the natural history tradition that emphasized description of individual specimens." 
Kant famously said of the living world that it inevitably seemed to be driven by final causes and thus there would never be a Newton "who shall make comprehensible by us the production of a blade of grass according to natural laws which no design has ordered" (Critique of Judgment, §75)
Darwin destroyed that claim.
There are lots of intelligent and serious persons who deny that Darwin found the explanation of the mystery of life. However, who denies that the motions of a planetary system can be explained (and easily computer-simulated) by mutual attraction and momentum conservation?
Kant actually understood why Newton's laws do work, and thus he also knew the limitations of such laws.
Mechanistic laws essentially can be reduced to attractive and repulsive forces under the validity of conservation laws. In this way explanations can obviously be found for e.g. temperature and Brownian motion, but the case of living systems is fundamentally different. See for instance: DNA Wrapping And Replication.
Such an extremely complex and purposeful behaviour is a prerequisite for the existence of a simple "blade of grass" .
Kant was not a forerunner of evolution. If anything, he was playing, rather incompletely, with ideas that preceded him by many years.
There was a continuous evolution of 'evolution', and Kant, as a rather consistent advocate of the old principle 'natura non facit saltus', was part of this development, in the same way as Maupertuis, Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck and many others.
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The German originals of the above quotes from Kant :
"wo bewunderungswürdige Einfalt des Grundrisses durch Verkürzung einer und Verlängerung anderer, durch Einwickelung dieser und Auswickelung jener Teile eine so große Mannigfaltigkeit von Spezies hat hervorbringen können"
"Diese Analogie der Formen, sofern sie bei aller Verschiedenheit einem gemeinschaftlichen Urbilde gemäß erzeugt zu sein scheinen, verstärkt die Vermutung einer wirklichen Verwandtschaft derselben in der Erzeugung von einer gemeinschaftlichen Urmutter, durch die stufenartige Annäherung einer Tiergattung zur andern, von derjenigen an, in welcher das Prinzip der Zwecke am meisten bewährt zu sein scheint, nämlich dem Menschen, bis zum Polyp, von diesem sogar bis zu Moosen und Flechten, und endlich zu der niedrigsten uns merklichen Stufe der Natur, zur rohen Materie"
"[Der Archäologe der Natur] kann den Mutterschoß der Erde
[...] anfänglich Geschöpfe von minder-zweckmäßiger Form, diese wiederum andere,
welche angemessener ihrem Zeugungsplatze und ihrem Verhältnisse untereinander
sich ausbildeten, gebären lassen;"
"Eine Hypothese von solcher Art kann man ein gewagtes Abenteuer der Vernunft nennen;"
"Sie wäre immer noch generatio univoca in der allgemeinsten Bedeutung des Worts, sofern nur etwas Organisches aus einem andern Organischen, obzwar unter dieser Art Wesen spezifisch von ihm unterschiedenen, erzeugt würde; z. B. wenn gewisse Wassertiere sich nach und nach zu Sumpftieren, und aus diesen, nach einigen Zeugungen, zu Landtieren ausbildeten."
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Original post: http://groups.google.li/group/alt.atheism/msg/0f56e4af99831f42
 "In a system explainable by causality the further development depends only on present states and effects. Neither the past, provided that no causal effects reach to the present, nor the future affect the system. ... If the development of a system does not depend solely on present states and effects, but the present behaviour of the system can only be understood by relating it to a higher order, it is an example of final laws of nature. The higher order can be a (non-causal) relation of the system to the (own) past, it can appear in the system in the future or in a higher system in the present or future." (from)
 Immanuel Kant; Kritik der Urteilskraft; Anhang: Methodenlehre der teleologischen Urteilskraft; § 80, Von der notwendigen Unterordnung des Prinzips des Mechanismus unter dem teleologischen in Erklärung eines Dinges als Naturzwecks; http://www.thorsten-reinicke.eu/kant/kuk/kukp801.htm
Kant held to a great chain of being view, like so many others did. Also, note that this doesn't imply common ancestry of species, merely of forms.
Kant's hypothesis implies:
- gradual development of the world over millions or hundreds of millions of years
- continuity from man, down to crude matter
- actual (not only a formal) relationship between the species
- common parent (primordial mother, "Urmutter") all species derive from through gradual change
- the gradual change results from always better adaptation of living beings to their habitat and to their relations to each other
- e.g. certain water-animals transform themselves gradually into marsh-animals and from these, after some generations, into land-animals
So I think it is quite evident that Kant took this to be "a temporal process" and not "just a formal one" as you assume.
It is true that Kant formulated this transformation-of-all-species-from-a-common-ancestor hypothesis in a rather hypothetical way and did not claim to believe himself in it. He wrote:
"A priori, in the judgement of Reason alone, there is no contradiction here. Only experience gives no example of it; according to experience all generation that we know is generatio homonyma."
My interpretation is that this was an attempt to provoke opposition in his readers (i.e. he wanted to stimulate their critical thinking), because the contradiction between the "Urmutter" hypothesis and experience is only apparent (if we assume as Kant a development of millions of years).
And yes he gave no mechanism or account by which such adaptations occur other than "purposive form", which merely restates the problem.
Darwin explained "such adaptations" by calling the whole process 'natural selection'. Whereas Kant had started with the teleological concept 'adaptation' (Angemessenheit, adequacy, aptness, suitability), Darwin derived this concept from differential MORTALITY (due to different degrees of adaptation).
Because 'mortality' in the same way as 'decay' is a concept considered to be free of any form of teleology, Darwin (superficially) succeeded in resolving the problem of (evolution of) life without resorting to teleology. However, insofar as 'adaptation' is explained by 'differential mortality', life is essentially explained by death!
The real problems of life, Kant had dealt with, i.e. ontogenesis and reproduction, are completely ignored by Darwin. Reproduction, defined by the result of a very similar copy, is per se a teleological respectively finalistic concept.
To sum up, instead of marveling at the fact that organisms reproduce, as Kant did, Darwin took reproduction for granted and explained evolution by 'differential mortality'.
Living things do not confound, break, or ignore temperature, Brownian motion, or any of the expected behaviors of physics and chemistry.
If we observe under a microscope a bacterium-sized particle which does not obey the laws of Brownian motion, we conclude that it is living. In a similar way as bacteria can move to where they expect to find nourishment, cell organelles are able to move to where they are needed. It is generally accepted that such movements do not conform to Brownian motion.
But do proteins and other (smaller) organic molecules conform to Brownian motion? And if organic molecules did conform to Brownian motion, could a living cell actually survive?
According to panpsychism, purposeful behavior of a whole results from purposeful behavior of its parts. Darwinism (insofar as it is based on reductionist materialism) however claims that purposeless movements of the parts (organic molecules) can lead to purposive behavior of the whole.
Such an extremely complex and purposeful behavior is a prerequisite for the existence of a simple "blade of grass".
Watch this wonderful visualization!