I almost forgot: there was another comment in the Karen Armstrong interview that I found irksome…but my complaint is mainly with the interviewer. Here’s one question he asked her, and her answer.
But certainly there are a lot of people — both scientists and religious people — who speculate about whether there’s some cosmic order. For the evolutionary biologists, the question is whether there’s some natural progression to evolution.
Her answer is a kind of weak cop-out, but it’s acceptable…avoiding a question on which you are ignorant is not a problem. The question, though…jebus.
For evolutionary biologists, that isn’t the question at all. We have a darned good mechanism that doesn’t involve teleology, and while some may speculate, there’s no supporting evidence for any kind of purpose or progress (in the sense of change towards a goal) in evolution. Biologists don’t even ask that kind of question.
Note that this is not the same as saying we avoid the issue: it’s that there hasn’t been any reason to invoke teleology in evolution. Explanations are thought up to explain observations, not the other way around, and there aren’t any observations yet that require purpose in an explanation. All I can imagine here is that the interviewer has some weak and muddled view of the Intelligent Design creationists having some legitimacy, and that kind of dribbled out into his question.