One need not embrace a transcendental master plan or nature moving toward a unified single goal (e.g., God, or the end of history) to see purposeful activity deeply embedded in living things, and emerging often in diverse, unpredictable ways.
Pre- Uexküllian ignorance of animal Umwelten should be seen in terms of the history and methodology of science: focusing on one aspect of the environment, as science does to isolate objects for study, presents an abstracted, truncated version of the elements under study that eventually comes back to haunt those who over-generalized on the basis of an incomplete sample. For example, Max Delbrück’s decision to investigate life’s molecular mechanism by studying bacteriophages (bacterial viruses that do not have their own metabolism, making them easier to study) helped lead to an overemphasis on genes as the all-explanatory secret of life (Dyson, 1999). So, too, particle physics discovered the necessity of including the observer, her apparatus and measurements to fully account for observed behavior. And in thermodynamics, the initial simplified studies of matter and energy in thermally sealed systems was prematurely extrapolated to suggest that all natural systems inevitably become more disordered, even though most systems in the universe, including those of life, are not isolated in experimental boxes but open to material and energy transfer.
The phenomenon might be described as the return of the scientifically repressed: what is excluded for the sake of experimental simplicity eventually shows itself to be relevant after all. Behaviorism, explaining animals in terms only of their external behavior, is a logical development of the expeditious exclusion of the dimension of living perception, methodologically bracketed by a Church-savvy Descartes, and swept under the rug by a Faustian science drunk on the dream of an all- encompassing materialistic monism (Jonas 1979).
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