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Table 1 The main types of causal explanations and their features

From: Students’ “teleological misconceptions” in evolution education: why the underlying design stance, not teleology per se, is the problem

“Why?” questionCausal explanationTemporal dimensionLevel of referenceCausesType of causal explanation
“Why do we have a heart?”Because there was selection for this organ that thus became prevalent in our ancestorsBackward-lookingPopulationUltimate causes (evolution)Evolutionary explanation
Because the cells in that area of the body of the individual were differentiated to become heart muscleBackward-lookingIndividualProximate causes (development)Developmental explanation
In order to pump bloodForward-lookingPopulation or individualFinal causes (function)Teleological explanation