William Paley’s Excellent Argument

[note: the author formatted this is a way that did not leave space for a page break. So I am inserting the break at the top — NR]

  1. Paley’s teleological argument is: just as the function and complexity of a watch implies a watch-maker, so likewise the function and complexity of the universe implies the existence of a universe-maker. Paley also addressed a number of possible counterarguments:
    1. Objection: We don’t know who the watchmaker is. Paley: Just because we don’t know who the artist might be, it doesn’t follow that we cannot know that there is one.
    2. Objection: The watch (universe) is not perfect. Paley: Perfection is not required.
    3. Objection: Some parts of the watch (universe) seem to have no function. Paley: We just don’t know those functions yet.
    4. Objection: The watch (re universe) is only one possible form of many possible combinations and so is a chance event. Paley: Life is too complex and organized to be a product of chance.
    5. Objection: There is a law or principle that disposed the watch (re universe) to be in that form. Also, the watch (re the universe) came about as a result of the laws of metallic nature. Paley: The existence of a law presupposes a lawgiver with the power to enforce the law.
    6. Objection: One knows nothing at all about the matter. Paley: Certainly, by seeing the parts of the watch (re the universe), one can know the design.
  2. Hume’s arguments against design:
    1. Objection: “We have no experience of world-making”. Counter-objection: We have no direct experience of many things, yet that never stops us from reasoning our way through problems.
    2. Objection: “The analogy is not good enough. The universe could be argued to be more analogous to something more organic such as a vegetable. But both watch and vegetable are ridiculous analogies”. Counter-objection: By definition, no analogy is perfect. The analogy needs only be good enough to prove the point. And Paley’s analogy is great for that limited scope. Hume’s followers are free to pursue the vegetable analogy if they think it is good enough. And some [unconvincingly] do imagine the universe as “organic”.
    3. Objection: “Even if the argument did give evidence for a designer; it’s not the God of traditional Christian theism”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding.
    4. Objection: “The universe could have been created by random chance but still show evidence of design as the universe is eternal and would have an infinite amount of time to be able to form a universe so complex and ordered as our own”. Counter-objection: Not possible. There is nothing random in the universe that looks indubitably designed. That is why we use non-randomness to search for extraterrestrial life and ancient artefacts.
  3. Other arguments against design:
    1. Darwin: “Evolution (natural selection) is a better explanation”. “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.” — The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. Counter-objection: “Natural selection” would be an alternative hypothesis to Paley’s if it worked. But it demonstrably doesn’t, so there is not even a point in comparing the two.
    2. Dawkins: “Who designed the designer?” Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    3. Dawkins: “The watch analogy conflates the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves with the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes”. Counter-objection: Paley is aware of the differences between the living and the inert and is not trying to cast life into a watch. Instead he is only demonstrating that they both share the property of being designed. In addition, nothing even “arises”. Instead everything is caused by something else. That’s why we always look for a cause in science.
    4. Objection: “Watches were not created by single inventors, but by people building up their skills in a cumulative fashion over time, each contributing to a watch-making tradition from which any individual watchmaker draws their designs”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    5. Objection: In Dover case, the judge ruled that such an inductive argument is not accepted as science because it is unfalsifiable. Counter-objection: Both inductive and deductive reasoning are used in science. Paley’s argument is not inductive as he had his hypothesis formulated well before his argumentation. Finally, Paley’s hypothesis can absolutely be falsified if a random draw can be found to look designed. This is exactly what the “infinite monkey” theorem has tried and failed to do (see counter-objection to Hume).
    6. Objection: Paley confuses descriptive law with prescriptive law (i.e., the fallacy of equivocation). Prescriptive law does imply a lawgiver, and prescriptive laws can be broken (e.g., speed limits, rules of behavior). Descriptive laws do not imply a law-giver, and descriptive laws cannot be broken (one exception disproves the law, e.g., gravity, f = ma.). Counter-objection: Of all the laws with known origin, all (100%) have a lawgiver at the origin. The distinction between descriptive and prescriptive laws is thus arbitrary and unwarranted.
    7. Objection: It is the nature of mind to see relationship. Where one person sees design, another sees randomness. Counter-objection: This ambiguity is present only for very simple cases. But all humans agree that organisms’ structures are clearly not random.
    8. Dawkins: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Counter-objection: Just a corollary: since organisms indeed appear designed, then they are most likely designed according to Occam’s razor.
  4. In conclusion, Paley is right and his opponents continue to be wrong with not even a plausible alternative hypothesis.

Links:

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/paleys-argument-from-design-did-hume-refute-it-and-is-it-an-argument-from-analogy/

https://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/paley.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmaker_analogy

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1,308 thoughts on “William Paley’s Excellent Argument

  1. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: How do they contextualise phylogenetic or molecular relationships without regard to past connections? They can disregard the past if they don’t mind getting answers that just float in mid air.

    Gee, Charlie, how does anyone contextualise anything without regard to the past? That’s quite the bromide.
    If you had written

    Anyone who studies evolution must look to the past for context.

    then you would have a point. A mind-blowingly mundane one, but at least you would not be wrong.
    Instead, you wrote

    Anyone who studies evolution must look to the past for answers.

    Still wrong.

    Okay, I get your point. There are many objects, artefacts and such like that we study in the present and they can give us important information about the past.

    Careful examination of a watch will give us clues about the manufacturing processes and the thinking of the designer. Fossil evidence reveals details about the habits and lifestyle of extinct organisms. Owen Barfield studies words and language in order to get an understanding of human societies in the distant past. He noticed that language contained fossilised metaphors which could reveal their past in a similar way that fossilised bones reveal their past.

    As for my use of the word, ‘evolutionist’, in hindsight, I should have written, ‘orthodox evolutionary biologists and those who agree with their theories as to how life evolved’; but that would have been a bit long winded and I was a bit pushed for time.

    Although I can now foresee objections to my use of the word ‘orthodox’ with its religious connotations 🙂

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  2. Nonlin.org:

    CharlieM: Because if we are designed from without with no inner creativity to call our own then we are automatons.

    Why? Who told you? How would you know?

    I know because I am a thinking being. If there is one thing I am sure of it is that my thinking is my activity and it is through this that I gain knowledge. Automatons have no inner experiences, no inner life. Humans have a measure of self-determination.

    CharlieM: A God who is within you, within me and within nature has no need to sit in some remote heaven creating a separate material universe.

    You’re making up stuff. All you need to understand is that your (and my) intelligence is inadequate to fully understand God. Book of Job is clear on that.

    I agree with the last two sentences.

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  3. Nonlin.org: Alan Fox: And yet his book was called:
    Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity

    That’s fine and in agreement with what I said. You wouldn’t understand. Don’t insist.

    What an odd remark. Up to you whether you attempt to address what is in Paley’s writings that should concern biologists. And you have pointed out several times that no-one has bothered to address Paley’s watch analogy. Well, why would they? As I said, Paley wrote in 1802 and died in 1807. Darwin’s Origin of Species wasn’t published till 1859. Paley has no relevance to evolutionary biology. That’s a refutation good enough for me.

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  4. Entropy:

    CharlieM:
    The origin of life is only considered to have an infinitesimal chance of happening by those who believe that it was a fortuitous event.

    I don’t see the connection. It could be a fortuitous event with a high likelihood to occur. I’d say I don’t know if it was very likely or very unlikely. It could have happened more than once, but, obviously, only one prevailed, as far as what we’ve sampled indicates. UCD means that the life we see around us has a single origin, not that life originated only once.

    Then your argument is with Alan Fox, not me. He wrote that the origin of life “was so unlikely that the chances of it happening more than once are infinitesimal”

    CharlieM:
    For those of us who believe that life produces matter and not that matter produces life, then it is to be expected that there is life on earth. It is not just down to chance.

    That’s a beliefs-first/evidence-who-the-hell-cares-but-maybe-later position to me. It also seems convoluted and incoherent. No wonder our conversation was going nowhere.

    I have said that it is my belief which means that I do not have certain knowledge of it. But that does not mean that I arrived at this belief without good reason. In other words it is a conclusion I have reached after a great deal of thinking.

    The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle may look like an incoherent, jumbled mess until the observer takes the time and effort to fit the pieces together. Not until then will the coherent picture begin to emerge.

    The conversation may be going nowhere from your perspective but perhaps it’s a different story from where I am. You are not in a position to say.

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  5. CharlieM: I should have written, ‘orthodox evolutionary biologists and those who agree with their theories as to how life evolved’;

    “Biologists” would suffice.

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  6. Corneel:

    CharlieM: So I’m not the only one who regards evolutionary biology as an historical science.

    So you found somebody shares your use of “historical science” (and “evolutionist”) in the renowned evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr. Well done. In my opinion, and contra Mayr, that use of the term turns a lot of physics and chemistry into historical sciences as well.

    But let me accept your use of the term as “trying to explain past events”. So how does that involve “some measure of belief”? For example, in the Sci Am paper Ernst Mayr refers to the Alvarez hypothesis as an explanation for the K–Pg extinction event. If I recall that story correctly, that involved zero faith, but instead required months of painstaking experimental analysis of iridium levels in sedimentary samples. You know, hard work to gain objective experimental evidence that will either support or falsify your hypotheses. THAT is the nature of the beast.

    Yes coming up with the Alvarez hypothesis took a great deal of effort mainly from the combined minds of a geologist a physicist and a couple of nuclear chemists. And that’s as it should be, a collaborative effort.

    Of course then the question becomes: Why did some types of organism survive this drastic change in the global environment while others could not cope? The organisms that became the victims had become so narrowly specialised, so confined within a particular niche, that they had no way of adapting to any major change in conditions.

    The lesson is that if you want to continue on this evolutionary journey, stay on the middle road and do not veer off down some narrow side road.

    To attribute the death of the dinosaurs to the results of the meteor impact is like putting the cause of death as Covid-19 on the death certificate of someone who was already in the latter stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In my opinion with or without that particular impact, it was only a matter of time.

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  7. CharlieM:
    Then your argument is with Alan Fox, not me. He wrote that the origin of life “was so unlikely that the chances of it happening more than once are infinitesimal”

    Alan might think that the chances are infinitesimal. But it was you who connected “infinitesimal” with “fortuitous.”

    CharlieM:
    The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle may look like an incoherent, jumbled mess until the observer takes the time and effort to fit the pieces together. Not until then will the coherent picture begin to emerge.

    I very much doubt it. You imagine that life is what makes matter, yet I have never produced matter myself, and I doubt you have done such a thing yourself. I doubt you have seen any life form producing matter either. Therefore your “conclusion” is anything but a conclusion.

    Above you claimed that life makes matter (or something to the effect), and then that because of such belief, that there’s life in the Earth should be expected. I cannot make sense of such a thing. There’s no evidence of life on the moon, or in meteorites, or on the sun. If most of what we see around are exceptions to your rule that “it should be expected.” and since the “exceptions” seem to be more abundant than the “rule.” Then why should we expect life in Earth from believing that life makes matter?

    Then, are you saying that life was floating around and then decided to make a planet for itself to dwell in and feed from? What was it eating before doing that? Why eat if we can make the matter ourselves instead?

    I can think of many more things that would be pretty hard to reconcile with your belief. So, I doubt it’s a conclusion. I suspect it’s belief-first/convoluted-post-facto-justifications-as-needed-later. I suspect you fix one and that the one contradict another, but you fail to notice because the post-facto justifications are so messy that you’re lost in the details, unable to put them together and notice the many problems.

    I’s expect nothing but twists and retwists as “answers”, besides some quotes to “Serlin,” or whatever his name, or Goethe, and such. What I don’t expect is coherence.

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  8. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: I really didn’t think by slipping in the word, ‘evolutionist’, I would have touched a nerve in this way.

    Honestly? It’s quite frustrating, I think, that “evolutionist” is used to undermine scientific theories and facts as though evolution is akin to religious fervour. “We don’t need no stinkin’ facts, evolutionist”. This thread is witness to the paucity of thought given to alternative explanations for what we observe. Religious stories don’t fit the facts? Then facts are fake news.

    Well I can see a lot of parallelisms between entrenched believers in ‘evolution’ and fundamental creationists.

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  9. CharlieM: To attribute the death of the dinosaurs to the results of the meteor impact is like putting the cause of death as Covid-19 on the death certificate of someone who was already in the latter stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In my opinion with or without that particular impact, it was only a matter of time.

    I guess that to blindly accept that narrative one does require some measure of belief. But with all respect Charlie, this is your story, not that of the practitioners of “historical sciences”, however defined.

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  10. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: I should have written, ‘orthodox evolutionary biologists and those who agree with their theories as to how life evolved’;

    “Biologists” would suffice.

    I don’t think so.

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  11. Entropy:

    CharlieM:
    Then your argument is with Alan Fox, not me. He wrote that the origin of life “was so unlikely that the chances of it happening more than once are infinitesimal”

    Alan might think that the chances are infinitesimal. But it was you who connected “infinitesimal” with “fortuitous.”

    No Alan did when he used the word, “chances”.

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  12. CharlieM: He wrote that the origin of life “was so unlikely that the chances of it happening more than once are infinitesimal”

    I confess! I wrote that. If life got going on Earth more than once, the other occurrences failed to keep a foothold against the version that won out, the version that is us. If origin-of-life events are rare, this is what we would expect to see and what we do see.

    Sure, what would be neat is if we had more evidence to support the many hypotheses. That could be more experiments after the fashion of Miller and Urey, finding unrelated life somewhere on Earth would contradict my “infinitesimal” supposition as would finding evidence of unrelated life on Mars (or elsewhere in the universe), if that were to happen. What would finding related life on Mars indicate? An origin elsewhere that seeded Mars and Earth or one seeding the other.

    Speculation is fun but idle without more evidence.

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  13. CharlieM: No Alan did when he used the word, “chances”.

    No, you did, because “chances are infinitesimal” doesn’t mean “it’s infinitesimal because it happened by chance.”

    The word “chances” doesn’t make it unlikely. Someone could have written “chances are high” instead, and that is also intelligible. The word “chances” doesn’t imply any magnitude.

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  14. Corneel,
    My best explanation is that when I wrote

    You do understand that cats and guppies share a more recent common ancestor than guppies and whale sharks, right?

    nonlin, in a fit of confirmation bias, read me as making the (to him obvious) claim that sharks and guppies group together, to the exclusion of cats. Because similarity, that’s why.
    Hence his subsequent confusion.

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  15. CharlieM:

    Honestly? It’s quite frustrating, I think, that “evolutionist” is used to undermine scientific theories and facts as though evolution is akin to religious fervour. “We don’t need no stinkin’ facts, evolutionist”. This thread is witness to the paucity of thought given to alternative explanations for what we observe. Religious stories don’t fit the facts? Then facts are fake news.

    Well I can see a lot of parallelisms between entrenched believers in ‘evolution’ and fundamental creationists.

    There you go again! 😱
    Evolutionary theory is central to biology because it fits the facts. There is no competing theory.

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  16. CharlieM: The lesson is that if you want to continue on this evolutionary journey, stay on the middle road and do not veer off down some narrow side road.

    The saying around here is is the middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.

    I think the best bet is to have a great diversity of life, sometimes side roads go to the best places.

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  17. CharlieM: To attribute the death of the dinosaurs to the results of the meteor impact is like putting the cause of death as Covid-19 on the death certificate of someone who was already in the latter stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In my opinion with or without that particular impact, it was only a matter of time.

    That is ,of course, true of us all, it is only a matter of time. Generally, it is the first thing that kills you that gets the credit.

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  18. CharlieM:

    “Biologists” would suffice.

    I don’t think so.

    Why do you say that? Are you suggesting there is a significant (or even infinitesimal) number of biologists working today who reject evolution? That there are competing paradigms? Other theories with scientific merit?

    If you do, I suggest you are mistaken.

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  19. DNA_Jock,

    UCD has been tested (read Theobald).
    If you want to argue probabilities, you will need to learn the math involved.
    Here’s a tip: despite what gpuccio, kairosfocus et al might think, P(A∩B) ≠ P(A) x P(B)

    Tested against what? Random separate origins. You are debating against the design hypothesis not other random explanations. Theobald’s paper was highly criticized for very good reasons.

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  20. Entropy,

    You haven’t shown any proof that the spliceosome is unevolvable.

    This not up to me. If you think evolution is true it is up to you to show it is. The complexity and amount of genetic information to build this machine is counter to your claim of “massive amounts of evidence supporting the theory”. Explaining the origin of this machine is just the first step of UCD.

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  21. newton,

    Maybe he was simply asking for you to clarify your claim. I thought the scientific fact was that organisms have changed over the history of the Earth.

    The original discussion was challenging that universal common descent was a fact. Which a knowledgeable person would not claim unless he was practicing Scientism.

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  22. colewd: The original discussion was challenging that universal common descent was a fact. Which a knowledgeable person would not claim unless he was practicing Scientism.

    Taking a broad view of science and scientists, what alternative sources of knowledge are there for the reality we experience?

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  23. Alan Fox,

    Taking a broad view of science and scientists, what alternative sources of knowledge are there for the reality we experience?

    Whats your working definition of science in the broad view?

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  24. colewd: Whats your working definition of science in the broad view?

    First observe, measure, hypothesize and test. Then if hypothesis fits results of observation, measurement, experiments, work with that until a better explanation presents itself.

    Have you ever tested any hypothesis? Anyone can do science. It doesn’t have to involve the Large Hadron Collider.

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  25. Alan Fox,

    Have you ever tested any hypothesis? Anyone can do science. It doesn’t have to involve the Large Hadron Collider.

    I have used the Scientific method for the last 30 years in all the businesses I am invested in. I believe in its value deeply but to say it is the only source of knowledge is not reality.

    Based on your criteria universal common descent is not a scientific claim as it is too broad to test without identifying a specific mechanism causing the diversity of life. The mechanism of reproduction and variation does not explain innovation such as sight and flight.

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  26. colewd: based on your criteria universal common descent is not a scientific claim as it is too broad to test without identifying a specific mechanism causing the diversity of life.

    The mechanism is a separate issue. Common descent is a fact. Evolutionary theory presents an explanatory mechanism.

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  27. colewd: sight and flight.

    Sight and flight have both evolved multiple times. Flight in insects, flight in pterosaurs, flight in birds, flight in bats, flight in fish*…

    Light sensitivity is even more deeply embedded in living organisms.

    *OK that maybe a stretch as motive power requires dipping your tail in water

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  28. colewd: Based on your criteria universal common descent is not a scientific claim as it is too broad to test without identifying a specific mechanism causing the diversity of life.

    Bill,
    This is wrong, as Alan has already noted. What is revealing to me is that if you had given Theobald even a cursory glance, you would not make such an ignorant statement.
    So, clearly, when you write things like “Theobald’s paper was highly criticized for very good reasons.” you are just parroting something you heard somewhere. You have no clue as to the quality of any criticisms.

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  29. colewd:
    newton,

    The original discussion was challenging that universal common descent was a fact.

    Is this the claim?

    Alan to nonlin “ However the concept (UCD) exists. It is accepted as a fact among biologists and the wider community. “

    Which a knowledgeable person would not claim unless he was practicing Scientism.

    Could you define scientism?

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  30. colewd:
    Alan Fox,

    I have used the Scientific method for the last 30 years in all the businesses I am invested in.I believe in its value deeply but to say it is the only source of knowledge is not reality.

    The question is not whether it is the only source of knowledge but whether in the case of biological features whether it is the appropriate one.

    Based on your criteria universal common descent is not a scientific claim as it is too broad to test without identifying a specific mechanism causing the diversity of life.The mechanism of reproduction and variation does not explain innovation such as sight and flight.

    Does multiple origins of life explain those innovations?

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  31. colewd:
    This not up to me. If you thinkevolution is true it is up to you to show it is.

    There’s enough evidence to understand that evolution is true, and that there’s plenty of potential paths towards the evolution of complex systems. We see evidence everywhere for systems sharing homologous proteins, for example, and where such proteins show the kind of divergence expected if they parted ways before they specialized into their respective functional roles.

    It is therefore your role to show evidence that there’s a barrier against divergences leading towards new functions and systems. Without a barrier, there’s no reason to think that things that seem to have happened didn’t happen.

    colewd:
    The complexity and amount of genetic information to build this machine is counter to your claim of “massive amounts of evidence supporting the theory”.

    No it isn’t. The existence of simpler systems, the sharing of homologous parts from one system to the other, etc, point clearly to paths towards the more complex systems from previous versions and from other systems. The amounts of information are nothing compared to the available energy to sustain the processes. If that energy wasn’t available there would be no life to talk about. Life itself is evidence that the energy necessary for evolving the systems exists. Otherwise there would be no life at all.

    colewd:
    Explaining the origin of this machine is just the first step of UCD.

    Not at all. The first step to think that there was UCD is understanding what evolution means. It’s an obvious consequence that playing the process backwards should lead to fewer ancestral species, which is why Darwin finished his book speculating about the possibility of a single or a few original life forms. “From so simple a beginning …” That’s a guess for at least semi-UCD.

    The next step is figuring out if there’s data supporting either the single or the few. Whether we know the specific evolutionary histories for each and every life form, or each and every feature of each and every life form doesn’t matter. What matters is whether there’s data supporting UCD. Guess what? There is data supporting UCD. That’s life.

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  32. Entropy:

    CharlieM:
    The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle may look like an incoherent, jumbled mess until the observer takes the time and effort to fit the pieces together. Not until then will the coherent picture begin to emerge.

    I very much doubt it. You imagine that life is what makes matter, yet I have never produced matter myself, and I doubt you have done such a thing yourself. I doubt you have seen any life form producing matter either. Therefore your “conclusion” is anything but a conclusion.

    If we hold the anthropocentric view that life can only exist in the form we judge to be life then the point I am making will appear nonsensical. Stars are born, they live, they die, there are various generations of them. They consume and produce energy. There is more justification in regarding them as living as there is in regarding viruses as living. According to current understanding all the matter in our bodies was produced in stars.

    Above you claimed that life makes matter (or something to the effect), and then that because of such belief, that there’s life in the Earth should be expected. I cannot make sense of such a thing. There’s no evidence of life on the moon, or in meteorites, or on the sun. If most of what we see around are exceptions to your rule that “it should be expected.” and since the “exceptions” seem to be more abundant than the “rule.” Then why should we expect life in Earth from believing that life makes matter?

    In the white cliffs of Dover or in a coal seam you will find much more lifeless matter than living substance. But we all know that these are the product of living beings.

    Then, are you saying that life was floating around and then decided to make a planet for itself to dwell in and feed from? What was it eating before doing that? Why eat if we can make the matter ourselves instead?

    Why bring decision making into it? We consider a tree to be a living being although most of its bulk consists of dead matter. Why should not the same logic be applied to the solar system? It is an intrinsically active, dynamic, cyclical entity which consumes and expels energy. It had a beginning, an existence, and it will one day expire. To say that it cannot be living because it is not like us in its makeup is narrow-minded anthropocentricism.

    I can think of many more things that would be pretty hard to reconcile with your belief. So, I doubt it’s a conclusion. I suspect it’s belief-first/convoluted-post-facto-justifications-as-needed-later. I suspect you fix one and that the one contradict another, but you fail to notice because the post-facto justifications are so messy that you’re lost in the details, unable to put them together and notice the many problems.

    I’s expect nothing but twists and retwists as “answers”, besides some quotes to “Serlin,” or whatever his name, or Goethe, and such. What I don’t expect is coherence.

    Your suspicions and expectations are your affair.

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  33. Corneel:

    CharlieM: To attribute the death of the dinosaurs to the results of the meteor impact is like putting the cause of death as Covid-19 on the death certificate of someone who was already in the latter stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In my opinion with or without that particular impact, it was only a matter of time.

    I guess that to blindly accept that narrative one does require some measure of belief. But with all respect Charlie, this is your story, not that of the practitioners of “historical sciences”, however defined.

    Why do you say blindly? Have you had a good look at any dinosaur? The brontosaurus, so massive that if it fell over chances are that it wouldn’t be able to get back up and any fall could result in serious damage because of the inertia. Or tyrannosaurus rex, with forelimbs so stunted that the males could not even scratch their own bollocks. Again falling over would be a big problem for them. There is a reason why animals are restricted in the size they can attain and these dinosaurs were at one of the extremes. It pays to be average.

    What is your opinion on why the ancestors of modern birds survived and prospered while these dinosaurs went extinct?

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  34. DNA_Jock:

    Alan Fox: “Biologists” would suffice.

    Ninja’d!

    So there are no creationist biologists whatsoever? You might disagree with everything they stand for but aren’t they at least allowed to exist?

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  35. CharlieM:
    If we hold the anthropocentric view that life can only exist in the form we judge to be life then the point I am making will appear nonsensical. Stars are born, they live, they die, there are various generations of them. They consume and produce energy. There is more justification in regarding them as living as there is in regarding viruses as living. According to current understanding all the matter in our bodies was produced in stars.

    I see. So this is more of a definitions thing than anything else. While, much to my surprise it’s interesting and salvageable to think of dynamic systems as “life”, stars do not make matter Charlie, they transform it.

    CharlieM:
    In the white cliffs of Dover or in a coal seam you will find much more lifeless matter than living substance. But we all know that these are the product of living beings.

    Living beings acting on existing matter Charlie, not creating matter. Not making the matter.

    CharlieM:
    Why bring decision making into it?

    No such thing. I’m asking why would we have a need to get matter rather than make it. If life made matter, then there should be no need for life to take it from somewhere else.

    CharlieM:
    We consider a tree to be a living being although most of its bulk consists of dead matter. Why should not the same logic be applied to the solar system? It is an intrinsically active, dynamic, cyclical entity which consumes and expels energy.

    If you define life as any dynamic system (again, I’m ok with that), then life is everything as long as there’s energy imbalances acting up in combination to the physical/chemical properties of matter. I would still not expect life-as-we-know-it to be expected on Earth given that foundation. I’d expect almost everything to be called life as long as we agree that it’s any dynamic system. But life-as-we-know-it would be just one manifestation of life, but not necessarily the one to be expected.

    CharlieM:
    It had a beginning, an existence, and it will one day expire. To say that it cannot be living because it is not like us in its makeup is narrow-minded anthropocentricism.

    Sure, but then our-kind-of-life is not necessarily to be expected, right?

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  36. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: He wrote that the origin of life “was so unlikely that the chances of it happening more than once are infinitesimal”

    I confess! I wrote that. If life got going on Earth more than once, the other occurrences failed to keep a foothold against the version that won out, the version that is us. If origin-of-life events are rare, this is what we would expect to see and what we do see.

    It doesn’t matter how many times it happened, the chances that organic life occurred on earth are one.

    Sure, what would be neat is if we had more evidence to support the many hypotheses. That could be more experiments after the fashion of Miller and Urey, finding unrelated life somewhere on Earth would contradict my “infinitesimal” supposition as would finding evidence of unrelated life on Mars (or elsewhere in the universe), if that were to happen. What would finding related life on Mars indicate? An origin elsewhere that seeded Mars and Earth or one seeding the other.

    Speculation is fun but idle without more evidence

    The various properties of matter are extremely suitable for the appearance and growth of organic life. The probability of all the constituent parts of a Boing 747 self assembling into a functional aircraft are as near zero as to make no difference. The probability of these parts assembling into a functional aircraft when there are specialist minds involved is approaching one. We can even witness it happening. (I know everyone loves the ‘Jumbo’ argument 🙂 )

    So I would go further than you and say that the probability of dead matter self-assembling into living substance even once is infinitesimal.

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  37. Entropy:

    CharlieM: No Alan did when he used the word, “chances”.

    No, you did, because “chances are infinitesimal” doesn’t mean “it’s infinitesimal because it happened by chance.”

    The word “chances” doesn’t make it unlikely. Someone could have written “chances are high” instead, and that is also intelligible. The word “chances” doesn’t imply any magnitude.

    So do you regard the origin of life occurring because the right conditions and the right ingredients just happened to coincide at the right time? Or do you think there is more to it than that?

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  38. Alan Fox:

    Well I can see a lot of parallelisms between entrenched believers in ‘evolution’ and fundamental creationists.

    There you go again! 😱
    Evolutionary theory is central to biology because it fits the facts. There is no competing theory.

    I have a competing theory that fits the facts but very few want to take it on. Maybe I should start another thread 🙂

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  39. newton:

    CharlieM: The lesson is that if you want to continue on this evolutionary journey, stay on the middle road and do not veer off down some narrow side road.

    The saying around here is is the middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.

    I think the best bet is to have a great diversity of life, sometimes side roads go to the best places.

    I said ‘middle road’ not ‘middle of the road’. It pays to keep in the right lane.

    It’s a bit like a relay. Some go a short way and remain where they are in support of those who continue, Some help along the way and then veer off as they run out of options. And some tread on a section that hasn’t been trod on until they have come along.

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  40. newton:

    CharlieM: To attribute the death of the dinosaurs to the results of the meteor impact is like putting the cause of death as Covid-19 on the death certificate of someone who was already in the latter stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In my opinion with or without that particular impact, it was only a matter of time.

    That is ,of course, true of us all, it is only a matter of time. Generally, it is the first thing that kills you that gets the credit.

    Except that unlike the dinosaurs, we can foresee what’s coming.

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  41. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM:

    “Biologists” would suffice.

    I don’t think so.

    Why do you say that? Are you suggesting there is a significant (or even infinitesimal) number of biologists working today who reject evolution? That there are competing paradigms? Other theories with scientific merit?

    If you do, I suggest you are mistaken.

    Majority rules 🙂

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  42. CharlieM: I know everyone loves the ‘Jumbo’ argument

    KN made an insightful remark at the beginning of this thread that makes a lot of sense of why some people find that argument persuasive.

    Kantian Naturalist:
    The actual William Paley has an argument here — not that one would know it from the OP. It depends on two premises:

    1. living things display an intricate contrivance similar to that of advanced tools;
    2. intricate contrivance cannot arise through self-organization

    The argument for (2) depends on this idea that “matter”, left to itself, is passive or inert; it can’t do anything unless acted upon. So the passive mechanisms of mere matter can’t do anything that would give rise to anything with the intricacy and precision of, say, a vertebrate eye. Anything like that would require that passive matter be acted upon by some intentional agent.

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  43. CharlieM: . Or tyrannosaurus rex, with forelimbs so stunted that the males could not even scratch their own bollocks.

    I guess the designer had a mischievous side.

    Again falling over would be a big problem for them

    Apparently not, maybe the tail was helpful.

    There is a reason why animals are restricted in the size they can attain and these dinosaurs were at one of the extremes. It pays to be average.

    Not if one is being chased by a faster ,bigger , smarter predator.

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  44. Alan Fox,

    Sight and flight have both evolved multiple times. Flight in insects, flight in pterosaurs, flight in birds, flight in bats, flight in fish*…

    Or alternatively it has different design strategies depending on the organism.

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  45. DNA_Jock,

    So, clearly, when you write things like “Theobald’s paper was highly criticized for very good reasons.” you are just parroting something you heard somewhere. You have no clue as to the quality of any criticisms.

    You can google criticisms of Theobald’s 2010 paper. This post is about Paley’s argument let’s stay on topic.

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  46. Entropy,

    The next step is figuring out if there’s data supporting either the single or the few. Whether we know the specific evolutionary histories for each and every life form, or each and every feature of each and every life form doesn’t matter. What matters is whether there’s data supporting UCD. Guess what? There is data supporting UCD. That’s life.

    What you need is a mechanistic explanation to support your claim. The observed data screams as to a minds involvement in the process.

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