F. A. Hayek ~ The Counter-Revolution of Science
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
If we survey the different fields in which we are constantly tempted to describe phenomena as "purposive" though they are not directed by a conscious mind, it becomes rapidly clear that the "end" or "purpose" they are said to serve is always the preservation of a "whole," of a persistent structure of relationships, whose existence we have come to take for granted before we understood the nature of the mechanism which holds the parts together. The most familiar instances of such wholes are the biological organisms. Here the conception of the function of an organ as an essential condition of the persistence of the whole has proved to be of the greatest heuristic value. It is easily seen how paralyzing an effect on research it would have had if the scientific prejudice had effectively banned the use of all teleological concepts in biology and, for example, prevented the discoverer of a new organ from immediately asking what purpose or function it serves.