I understand more or less why

To get to the other side.

can be considered to be a valid answer to the question: Why did the chicken cross the road?

I don't understand why Aristotle's final cause has become controversial in modern science. Of course, there may be more than a single valid answer to a "why" question, possibly subjective, or there may also be no valid answer at all. But claiming that those questions are meaningless seems to imply that there is no way to distinguish valid from invalid answers.

Can the answer above be distinguished from an invalid answer like the one below?

Deregulation of the chicken's side of the road was threatening its dominant market position. The chicken was faced with significant challenges to create and develop the competencies required for the newly competitive market. Andersen Consulting, in a partnering relationship with the client, helped the chicken by rethinking its physical distribution strategy and implementation processes. Using the Poultry Integration Model (PIM), Andersen helped the chicken use its skills, methodologies, knowledge, capital and experiences to align the chicken's people, processes and technology in support of its overall strategy within a Program Management framework. Andersen Consulting convened a diverse cross-spectrum of road analysts and best chickens along with Anderson consultants with deep skills in the transportation industry to engage in a two-day itinerary of meetings in order to leverage their personal knowledge capital, both tacit and explicit, and to enable them to synergize with each other in order to achieve the implicit goals of delivering and successfully architecting and implementing an enterprise-wide value framework across the continuum of poultry cross-median processes. The meeting was held in a park-like setting enabling and creating an impactful environment which was strategically based, industry-focused, and built upon a consistent, clear, and unified market message and aligned with the chicken's mission, vision, and core values. This was conducive towards the creation of a total business integration solution. Andersen Consulting helped the chicken change to become more successful.

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    Final causes have become controversial because they're against the evolutionary dogma that causes ultimately act for no end (i.e., randomness causes everything).
    – Geremia
    Feb 14 '16 at 1:01
  • @Geremia So you mean because a final cause is not actually causing an ordered chain of events in time, its status as a cause has become controversial in modern science. So the controversy boils down to a misinterpretation of language? But would the wrong interpretation imply that there is no way to distinguish valid from invalid answers? Feb 14 '16 at 1:28
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    Even saying "randomness causes" is highly problematic. Nothing can give what it doesn't have. Randomness doesn't have order (by definition). Therefore, randomness cannot cause (give an (ordered) form to something).
    – Geremia
    Feb 14 '16 at 1:52
  • @Geremia although 'randomness' does, after a fashion, give rise to order. I'm thinking of the clever little paper by Ramsey. See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsey_theory
    – M. le Fou
    Feb 14 '16 at 4:54

I don't understand why Aristotle's final cause has become controversial in modern science.

Science has no place for teleological 'explanations'. Science is in the business of finding causal relationships. Science doesn't attempt to 'explain' in any other sense. An intention to do something may accompany an action but provides no mechanism in any causal sense. Intentions aren't even observable so they cannot be part of any observable description of a causal chain.


If you ask "why soap bubbles are round/spheric?" science would tell you that they are round because the sphere is the surface that minimizes the potential energy/maximizes the entropy. These are explanations that point to a final goal and they can be found in several physical topic, would they count as "final causes"?


If the chicken gains an advantage by not staying on one side of the road (say access to more corn) that is a perfectly reasonable answer in at least one science, right? So you have overstated your facts. Individual deciding agents are perfectly free to have 'final causes' to their actions in evolutionary biology, economics, sociology, psychology, zoology, even botany sometimes.

But if one is to apply 'final cause' more globally one needs to answer questions like 'What is the ultimate cause of matter existing?" or "What is the ultimate purpose of evolution?" or "What is the point of a man's life?" Such questions cannot be framed in a way that can be tested, or even reasonably compared.

So it is not the concept of final cause that is questionable, it is any one person's attribution of final cause to a non-thinking being.

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