Evolution and the Purposes of Life

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BQO ROUNDUP

Flickr Tibor Nagy (CC)

When your dog takes a stick in its mouth, drops it at your feet, and then looks expectantly at you while signaling eagerness to run and retrieve the thrown plaything, you have no difficulty recognizing its intentions. Your dog’s behavior is blatantly purposive, even if its “state of mind” — whatever that might mean — is very different from yours and mine.

Similarly, if your cat is “telling” you it wants to go outdoors (cats, unfortunately, are always on the wrong side of the door), or if you have watched a bird building a nest, or an amoeba engulfing a particle of food, or the fish in a still pool darting toward the shelter of an overhanging bank upon your approach, you accept what you see without great puzzlement. While we do not expect such behaviors from rocks, clouds, or volcanoes, they seem normal for living things.

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