Wednesday, February 8, 2017

William Paley's Watch Analogy in 5 Minutes

An overview and explanation of William Paley's watch analogy including some key quotes.

Key Point
  • Based on the way the world is, God logically exists.
Presumptions
  • God exists
  • The world has been created by God
  • Complex and ordered things do not simply appear by chance
Note: These presumptions need to be accepted in order for Paley's argument to work.

Photograph of the opening line of Genesis 1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth".
Photograph of the opening line of Genesis 1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"
(Copyright Stephen A Richards, 2017)

Key Argument
  1. Things which are complex do not appear by chance
  2. Complex things are created by someone
  3. The world is complex
  4. The world must have been created by someone
  5. The only person capable of creating a world is God
  6. Therefore God exists!
Paley's Watch Analogy
  1. Watches are complicated things (we observe their many parts)
  2. Watches are ordered things (we observe that the many parts work together to tell the time)
  3. Watches are designed and made by people who make watches (something we know from our experience)
  4. Watches are made by intelligent people (based on 1&2)
  5. Watches do not simply appear out of thin air (based on points 1, 2 & 3)
  6. Just like a watch, the world is complex and ordered
  7. Complex and ordered things are designed and made (based on points 1&2)
  8. A complex and ordered world cannot have appeared out of nowhere (based on point 3)
  9. The only person capable of making a complex and ordered world such as ours is God
  10. Therefore as the world exists, so must God!
Internal mechanism of a pocket watch
Internal mechanism of a pocket watch
(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Watch-aiguilles-open_hg.jpg)
Paley's Supporting arguments
  • If we had never seen a watch being made, we could still infer from the nature of the watch that it had been designed and made
  • If the watch did not keep good time or didn't even work, we could still infer from the nature of the watch that it had been designed and made
  • If we did not know how the watch works or what all its various parts did, we could still infer from the nature of the watch that it had been designed and made
  • No-one would reasonably argue that the watch appeared by itself as one random manifestation of all the possible things these parts could make
  • No-one would reasonably argue that all the watch parts randomly fell into place of their own accord, thus leading to the creation of an intricate time piece
  • Material things cannot organise themselves without some external power moving them, or acting upon them
Photograph of LEGO pieces being held in the hand
(Copyright Stephen A Richards, 2017)
Key quotes

"In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever... But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there."

"This mechanism being observed... the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use."

"A law [of nature] presupposes an agent... it implies a power; for it is the order, according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing; is nothing." [Bracket mine]

Key Text

Review

1 comment:

lshulman58 said...

" for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever..."

Paley ' s statement about the rock, ironically fails his point from the very start. His assumption in that statement is that the rock (something natural) did NOT need a creator ('has lain there for ever"). Then he proceeds to attempt to compare a complex MAN made object (a watch) with a NATURAL object (the rock) and ASSUMES (rather than proves) that the natural object (and by extension, the natural world) needs a creator just as the watch does. The analogy falls short due to the attempt to compare nature to a man made object.

A counter argument to Paley's argument is that, given enough time (an eternity, for all we know, prior to success), the process of evolution could randomly, through trial and error, result in something as complex as an eye that allows it to function as it does. That simple light receptors also exist (in mire simple brinfs like ameoba, plants and worms) suggest that Darwin ' s  theory of evolution us just as valid as is paley ' s attempt to prove an intelligent  Designer of the universe. The more complex human eye could have developed piece by piece over billions of years through random mutations that proved more beneficial to the bearer of such an eye.