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. Kantian Naturalist: Paley is often read as expressing a mere intuition. I don’t think that’s right. I think he’s doing something quite important: he’s presenting us with abductive reasoning.

    The way I heard it, Paley was illustrating an ancient argument, which was formalized previously by Thomas Aquinas, among others. As I understand it, its roots were much older, so I don’t think I was far off calling it an intuition. However, I will concede that calling Paley’s version an intuition may not do it full justice.

    Kantian Naturalist: Starting with the observation that biological systems are similar to artifacts — in both cases we observe functional wholes constituted by complex interdependence of parts — the simplest explanation is that the ultimate cause of complex interdependence is the same in both cases: an intelligent designer. Peirce described abduction as (paraphrasing): “fact A is surprising. But if B were the case, A would follow as a matter of course.” That’s what Paley is doing in his version of the argument from design: he is developing the argument from design as abductive reasoning.

    Is that argument going in the right direction? Was Paley’s goal explaining the complexity and purpose of organisms or was it proving the existence, omnipotence and benevolence of God? The way it was always presented to me, Paley intended it to be the latter. He was doing theology, not biology.

    Kantian Naturalist: Put otherwise, evolutionary biology can explain, for any specific organism, why it has the specific goals that it has and how it strives to satisfy those goals as a result of the constraints of its phylogenetic history — but it can’t explain the sheer fact of biological teleology.

    This is outside of my comfy zone and I don’t understand. What teleology remains besides the specific goals of specific organisms?

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  2. Erik:
    With whom? What did you gather from the discussion?

    With Corneel. I gathered …

    If the discussion occurred here, I assume you gathered nothing.

    Oh, you ask a question then answer it. Righty-ho.

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  3. Corneel: The way I heard it, Paley was illustrating an ancient argument, which was formalized previously by Thomas Aquinas, among others. As I understand it, its roots were much older, so I don’t think I was far off calling it an intuition. However, I will concede that calling Paley’s version an intuition may not do it full justice.

    Aquinas does have a teleological argument for the existence of God, but it doesn’t depend on the idea that organisms are similar to artifacts. Aquinas, as a careful reader of Aristotle, would have understood what is wrong with that idea and rightly rejected it. By Paley’s time, the widespread use of mechanistic thinking in biology made the argument from design seem obviously true. There are arguments from design in ancient philosophers — explicitly in the Stoics, who deploy them in opposition to Aristotelians and Epicureans. I’m afraid I don’t know much about how the argument from design really changes from antiquity to modernity!

    Is that argument going in the right direction? Was Paley’s goal explaining the complexity and purpose of organisms or was it proving the existence, omnipotence and benevolence of God? The way it was always presented to me, Paley intended it to be the latter. He was doing theology, not biology.

    Insofar as he was doing “natural theology,” Paley took himself to be explaining biological facts in terms of theology — in effect saying that belief in a intelligent designer is reasonable because it is an inference to the best explanation of observable biological facts (the complexity and interdependent functioning of biological systems).

    This is outside of my comfy zone and I don’t understand. What teleology remains besides the specific goals of specific organisms?

    Let me put my main point in a different way. Critics of evolutionary theory sometimes complain that evolution doesn’t explain abiogenesis. In response we always tell them, “so what? That’s not it’s job!” And that response is right — as far as it goes. But it doesn’t address the fact that there does seem to be something that needs explaining: why it is that all life displays purposiveness? Why is all life teleological? Evolutionary histories can tell us why, in any specific case, that organism has the specific goals that it does — but it can’t explain why all life is purposive, or how teleological organization can be explained in naturalistic terms.

    I don’t think that one is forced to conclude that teleology is magic just by virtue of thinking that there is an interesting question here & that evolutionary theory per se can’t address it.

    +1
  4. It has always struck me a little odd that Paley is impressed by his imagined watch, but not by the surrounding heath. Never mind all that biology crap, look at this imaginary watch!

    +1
  5. Kantian Naturalist,

    I think that my preference of defining life fundamentally in terms of nucleic acid replication addresses teleology well enough for my limited purposes. Obviously, I did not come up with this notion myself, but I think the ‘goal’ of maximising survival in the currency of reproductive success explains much of the apparent striving that goes on.

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  6. Kantian Naturalist: Insofar as he was doing “natural theology,” Paley took himself to be explaining biological facts in terms of theology — in effect saying that belief in a intelligent designer is reasonable because it is an inference to the best explanation of observable biological facts (the complexity and interdependent functioning of biological systems).

    Fair enough. But didn’t it cease to be an “inference to the best explanation” for the biological facts when Charles Darwin presented his theory of natural selection?

    Kantian Naturalist: But it doesn’t address the fact that there does seem to be something that needs explaining: why it is that all life displays purposiveness? Why is all life teleological? Evolutionary histories can tell us why, in any specific case, that organism has the specific goals that it does — but it can’t explain why all life is purposive, or how teleological organization can be explained in naturalistic terms.

    So your claim is that William Paley presented his argument in order to explain this teleological aspect of life, and that Darwin’s theory never addressed this particular aspect? Is that about right?

    Kantian Naturalist: I don’t think that one is forced to conclude that teleology is magic just by virtue of thinking that there is an interesting question here & that evolutionary theory per se can’t address it.

    Perhaps not, but I have trouble grasping this teleology divorced from conscious agents. What exactly does that mean? At the risk of sounding blunt: can we measure it?

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  7. Kantian Naturalist:
    But it doesn’t address the fact that there does seem to be something that needs explaining: why it is that all life displays purposiveness?

    Does it? Really? Isn’t it more like you imagine it to display “purposiveness”?

    Kantian Naturalist:
    Why is all life teleological? Evolutionary histories can tell us why, in any specific case, that organism has the specific goals that it does — but it can’t explain why all life is purposive, or how teleological organization can be explained in naturalistic terms.

    Shouldn’t the question be “why does KN imagine that all life is “purposive”?

    Kantian Naturalist:
    I don’t think that one is forced to conclude that teleology is magic just by virtue of thinking that there is an interesting question here & that evolutionary theory per se can’t address it.

    Evolutionary theory can explain why it looks as if life is “purposive”, but it’s philosophy that would be helpful in getting to terms with whether it is or is not “purposive”? We’d have to start by defining what you mean, then determining if isn’t it just the case that by some definitions it would be appropriate to call it so, and whether that truly needs some explanation. After that, if “purposiveness” survived the analysis, we could determine if it’s evolutionary theory’s role to explain such “purposiveness” or not.

    I might be going too far with too little information, but I think that you’re putting the teleology into it, rather than it being something that life “is”.

    +1
  8. Schizophora: It is on Paley. And so is my question, for those intelligently inclined.

    Nope. No link to Paley.

    Schizophora: And those 1 mil alternatives, should they all exist within actual living organisms, will add up to 100%.

    False. Done explaining for the n-th time.

    Schizophora: Everyone who disagrees with nonlin is stupid and an atheist.

    False.

    Allan Miller: You are counting the actual variants at that location in the population.

    I’m done explaining to you for the n-th time.

    Corneel: But the primary purpose of all organisms is to survive and procreate, which makes them self-perpetuate.

    How would you know “the primary purpose of all organisms”?

    Corneel: Charles Darwin realised how winnowing down the surplus of descendants in combination with naturally occurring variation gives rise to complex adaptations

    “Gives rise” doesn’t follow “winnowing” and/or “variation”. Furthermore, it doesn’t follow anything. And even more, what the fuck does “gives rise” even mean? Are you a titan or not? If so, you will agree with me it’s all pure bullshit.

    Corneel: Yes, it works. That’s why it gave rise to an entire discipline within biology. You need to deal with it.

    We examined a few aspects and NONE works. I know you disagree, but I also know you can’t produce your fitness function and/or any other proof.

    Of all counterarguments to Paley (cited or not), is this the only one you rely on?

    Erik: As Paley’s argument gleefully conflates mechanical design with living beings

    It does not. This is Dawkins argument 3.c, to which I reply: “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.”

    Kantian Naturalist: I think he’s doing something quite important: he’s presenting us with abductive reasoning.

    Starting with the observation that biological systems are similar to artifacts — in both cases we observe functional wholes constituted by complex interdependence of parts — the simplest explanation is that the ultimate cause of complex interdependence is the same in both cases: an intelligent designer.

    False and false. I already explain in Counter-objection 3.c quoted above.

    Kantian Naturalist: In other words, the response to Paley isn’t going to come from Darwin — it’s going to come from Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, John von Neumann, Ludwig von Bertalanfy, Heinz von Foester, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, and other first- and second-generation cyberneticists.

    Last I checked, there is no such thing as “self-organizing blah blah blah” .

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  9. Nonlin.org: How would you know “the primary purpose of all organisms”?

    Never watched a nature documentary?

    Nonlin.org: I know you disagree, but I also know you can’t produce your fitness function and/or any other proof.

    It’s called death.

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  10. Corneel: Was Paley’s goal explaining the complexity and purpose of organisms or was it proving the existence, omnipotence and benevolence of God? The way it was always presented to me, Paley intended it to be the latter. He was doing theology, not biology.

    Neither. He was answering the simple question: “designed or not?” His answer is “yes”. That’s all.

    Corneel: What teleology remains besides the specific goals of specific organisms?

    If you know your “evolution”, you know that “there is no teleology”. Hence organisms have “no goals”. Because where would those goals come from? Not from atoms, molecules and the laws of physics.

    Kantian Naturalist: Let me put my main point in a different way. Critics of evolutionary theory sometimes complain that evolution doesn’t explain abiogenesis. In response we always tell them, “so what? That’s not it’s job!” And that response is right — as far as it goes.

    False. Your myth (story) starts in the middle which is stupid. And it still doesn’t make any sense.

    Allan Miller: It has always struck me a little odd that Paley is impressed by his imagined watch, but not by the surrounding heath. Never mind all that biology crap, look at this imaginary watch!

    This quote denotes zero understanding of the argument. A re-read is in order.

    Entropy: I might be going too far with too little information,

    Understatement of the year. Same winner again if not mistaken.

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  11. Corneel: Fair enough. But didn’t it cease to be an “inference to the best explanation” for the biological facts when Charles Darwin presented his theory of natural selection?

    To a considerable degree, yes. Natural selection doesn’t naturalize teleology but it does a lot of the work necessary for explaining adaptation. And Darwin’s theory is also an inference to the best explanation — and more importantly, it is one that is testable. That’s why Darwin meets Paley on his own turf and beats him at his own game, whereas Hume does not.

    So your claim is that William Paley presented his argument in order to explain this teleological aspect of life, and that Darwin’s theory never addressed this particular aspect? Is that about right?

    I think that’s what I’m saying, yes.

    I might be mistaken about this, of course. But yes, that’s my contention.

    Perhaps not, but I have trouble grasping this teleology divorced from conscious agents. What exactly does that mean? At the risk of sounding blunt: can we measure it?

    Teleology (in the sense I mean) can be operationalized in terms of what organisms are trying to do. But they needn’t have any ability to understand what it is that they are trying to do. A starfish trying to feed on algae and avoid being eaten by an otter will not have the cognitive capacity to conceptualize its place in the ecology and understand itself as having goals — which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have them.

    +1
  12. Nonlin.org,

    Me: You are counting the actual variants at that location in the population.

    Nonlin: I’m done explaining to you for the n-th time.

    You’ve explained nothing. All the explanation has come from me. I’m sure ‘the onlookers’ are bored stiff with this, but equally I am confident that they will be left in no doubt that you haven’t got the faintest idea about genetics, and are uneducable on the subject.

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  13. Nonlin.org: Are you a titan or not? If so, you will agree with me it’s all pure bullshit.

    Ah, the No True Titan fallacy.

    +3
  14. Nonlin.org: If you know your “evolution”, you know that “there is no teleology”. Hence organisms have “no goals”.

    One has to wonder why they are still around then, if reproduction is not a goal.

    What drives organisms to reproduce when it would be easier not to?

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  15. Corneel: Organisms have complexity and purpose, which suggests they were designed. But the primary purpose of all organisms is to survive and procreate, which makes them self-perpetuate. Charles Darwin realised how winnowing down the surplus of descendants in combination with naturally occurring variation gives rise to complex adaptations. Since this explains both the complexity and the perceived “purpose”, he thereby defeated Paley’s argument.

    One more thing: Once your stupid boy, Darwin comes along, if his story made any sense (it doesn’t), then we would worst case have two competing explanations still on the table. How do you get the idea that any newcomer automatically invalidates the older common sense explanation to the point where this is banned from schools and public life?

    On a positive note, we’re finally talking about Paley. Call me the catboy.

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  16. Nonlin.org,

    This quote denotes zero understanding of the argument. A re-read is in order.

    I’d have to read it once first.

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  17. Kantian Naturalist: Natural selection doesn’t naturalize teleology but it does a lot of the work necessary for explaining adaptation.

    Actually, none whatsoever. As proved.

    Kantian Naturalist: And Darwin’s theory is also an inference to the best explanation — and more importantly, it is one that is testable.

    Only if “hocus-pocus” is an explanation. Testable? I agree for once: http://nonlin.org/evotest/. Too bad it fails.

    Kantian Naturalist: I could write a book about what you don’t know.

    I didn’t say “don’t know”. I said “checked”. And guys, cut it out with fucking youtube. It’s mostly unedited stupidity.

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  18. Nonlin.org: How do you get the idea that any newcomer automatically invalidates the older common sense explanation to the point where this is banned from schools and public life?

    What is that older common sense explanation?

    If it’s that a deity did it, what’s the common sense explanation for that deities origin?

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  19. Nonlin.org: Understatement of the year. Same winner again if not mistaken.

    Look kid, you already lost the argument with me. You failed at understanding very simple, straightforward, sentences, and, frustrated, you left. Now grow up.

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  20. Nonlin.org: Nope. No link to Paley.

    False. There is a link, as demonstrated.

    Nonlin.org: False. Done explaining for the n-th time.

    True. Still extremely basic math. Luckily for you, we’re patient.

    Nonlin.org: Schizophora: Everyone who disagrees with nonlin is stupid and an atheist.

    False.

    It’s quite clear that you believe this. You can attempt to obfuscate, but you will fail.

    Nonlin.org: re you a titan or not? If so, you will agree with me it’s all pure bullshit.

    This serves as evidence of above. Either he is a titan and he agrees with you, or he is not for disagreeing.

    Nonlin.org: If you know your “evolution”, you know that “there is no teleology”.

    You clearly don’t know your “evolution,” as that is not a contention of it. However, we already knew that you were unaware of any facts about evolution.

    Nonlin.org: Actually, none whatsoever. As proved.

    Ah, if you state it then it must be true.

    Nonlin.org: http://nonlin.org/evotest/.

    You sure you want to link to your blog again? Did you have the perception that went well for you last time?

    +1
  21. Allan Miller: I am confident that they will be left in no doubt that you haven’t got the faintest idea about genetics, and are uneducable on the subject.

    I am confident in the same.

    Entropy: Now grow up.

    Quite a demand to make, but it seems to me unlikely. Growing up takes at least time, if not also a humbling event such as taking care of oneself. It could be years at least. For some, it never comes.

    +1
  22. Erik:
    As Paley’s argument gleefully conflates mechanical design with living beings…

    Actually, it does’t. Paley made a clear distinction between the watch and the heath where he found it. He thought the watch was remarkable but the heather plants not so much.

    Still works against Darwinian evolution though.

    It doesn’t work against Darwinian evolution, because watches are assembled by an external agent, whereas organisms are not.

    As we have seen, evolutionists do not even think it relevant to define life or to distinguish biological beings from inert matter, so Paley’s analogy is pretty much unanswerable to them.

    Life can be defined, but only within fuzzy boundaries. Very similar to defining ‘day’ and ‘night’ without being able to pinpoint the exact time when the one becomes the other. Seeing this as a weakness is a symptom of black-and-white thinking, which has limitations in a world where many things grade into each other.

    +1
  23. faded_Glory,

    Quite so. It’s similar to the argument of “if you can’t define species then they don’t exist.” It’s only natural that one should be unable to define exactly what a species is, given evolution. That is what one would expect when observing millions of different lineages at different stages in the gradient of speciation, especially when different lineages possess different modes of reproduction and therefore one single species concept is difficult to apply to all life. It’s also important to remember that such ideas as “species” and “life” aren’t hard and fast truths of the universe, but merely our human attempt to categorize. Obviously a leopard is different from a fruit fly, but two species of fruit fly are less obviously distinct, and at some point the line between them has to be drawn by us.

    To me, questions like this are similar to the question: How much dirt does one need to add to water before it stops being dirty water and starts being mud?

    +1
  24. Schizophora,

    Yeah. These discussions are about how we humans view the world and the language in which we express those views. They are prime examples of how to confuse the map with the territory.

    Likewise:

    Didn’t you know that geologists can’t study the Earth because they can’t clearly demarcate mountains and hills?

    /s

    +2
  25. Kantian Naturalist: Teleology (in the sense I mean) can be operationalized in terms of what organisms are trying to do. But they needn’t have any ability to understand what it is that they are trying to do. A starfish trying to feed on algae and avoid being eaten by an otter will not have the cognitive capacity to conceptualize its place in the ecology and understand itself as having goals — which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have them.

    I think I can see what you mean. Living things appear to strive. Still, I don’t think I agree that there is something here that isn’t explained yet. I have two concerns:

    1) I cannot see any purpose or goal beyond the specific goals of specific organisms. The starfish eating or fleeing is still serving the central theme of the whole show: optimizing the transmission of its heritable information. That part is well described by evolutionary theory, and we usually cash it out in terms of fitness. Your impression of life’s encompassing purposiveness may simply be the amalgam of all those individual beings optimizing their fitness.

    Hey, what did you expect? I am a reductionist 😉

    2) I share Entropy’s concern that purpose may be in the eye of the beholder. For conscious beings things are relatively clear: there is a desire or wanting. A hungry sheep wants to eat, a frightened rabbit wants to flee. Starfish, mmmm, not seeing it. Sure, we can project our interpretation of its behaviour onto the starfish (and we do), but this is our interpretation. Is it reasonable to claim that now there is something new in want of an explanation?

    +1
  26. Nonlin.org: How would you know “the primary purpose of all organisms”?

    All organisms have adaptations that help them survive and reproduce. Why is that?

    Nonlin.org: We examined a few aspects and NONE works.

    Evolution by natural selection explains why organisms have adaptations. Do you know how? Can you reproduce the theory that you are so vigorously opposing?

    Nonlin.org: Me: Was Paley’s goal explaining the complexity and purpose of organisms or was it proving the existence, omnipotence and benevolence of God?

    Nonlin: Neither. He was answering the simple question: “designed or not?” His answer is “yes”. That’s all.

    Then I suppose he titled his book “Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity” just for laughs

    Nonlin.org: Once your stupid boy, Darwin comes along, if his story made any sense (it doesn’t), then we would worst case have two competing explanations still on the table. How do you get the idea that any newcomer automatically invalidates the older common sense explanation to the point where this is banned from schools and public life?

    I don’t think the creation account was banned from schools and public life. It’s just unconstitutional to be presented as a scientific theory in public schools in the US.

    As to why Darwin’s theory prevailed: KN already answered that. Darwin’s theory is testable, has been tested and has been found to be correct.

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  27. Nonlin.org: Kantian Naturalist: And Darwin’s theory is also an inference to the best explanation — and more importantly, it is one that is testable.

    Nonlin: Only if “hocus-pocus” is an explanation.

    You may need a bit more self awareness here.

    +1
  28. Corneel to Kantian Naturalist: For conscious beings things are relatively clear: there is a desire or wanting. A hungry sheep wants to eat, a frightened rabbit wants to flee.

    And here is the difference between humans and other animals with a higher individual form of consciousness. The desires of these animals have no forethought beyond the immediate future. On the other hand human desires very often involve the hope of satisfaction weeks, months and even years into the future.

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  29. Note: if you don’t see a reply to your comment, I might be passing on extreme stupidity today.

    Corneel: 2) I share Entropy’s concern that purpose may be in the eye of the beholder. For conscious beings things are relatively clear: there is a desire or wanting. A hungry sheep wants to eat, a frightened rabbit wants to flee. Starfish, mmmm, not seeing it.

    And what about Corneel? Does Corneel have a purpose, or is he aimless like the starfish or the dumb sheep? And how would that purpose ever “arise” in Corneel when it’s not “arising” in the starfish?

    Corneel: Sure, we can project our interpretation of its behaviour onto the starfish (and we do), but this is our interpretation.

    Wait. Is Corneel just a spectator, or is he a star[fish] in this movie of life?

    Corneel: All organisms have adaptations that help them survive and reproduce.

    See? You’re doing it again. Answering the wrong question while ignoring the question asked.

    Corneel: Evolution by natural selection explains why organisms have adaptations.

    Haha! Sure it does in your imagination.

    Corneel: Then I suppose he titled his book “Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity” just for laughs

    We’re not debating his obsolete book. No one cares about that (believe me, I tried to read it). We’re only debating his still standing argument for design. Which is what this OP discusses. Precisely and limited.

    Corneel: I don’t think the creation account was banned from schools and public life. It’s just unconstitutional to be presented as a scientific theory in public schools in the US.

    The irony is thick with this one. At least add a neutral sentence between the one and its opposite. Who knows? You might fool some people.

    Corneel: Darwin’s theory is testable, has been tested and has been found to be correct.

    Then why do we debate it at TSZ and everywhere else? Obviously, some think it’s bogus while others cannot produce their “fitness” function or any other proof for it.

    0
  30. CharlieM: And here is the difference between humans and other animals with a higher individual form of consciousness. The desires of these animals have no forethought beyond the immediate future. On the other hand human desires very often involve the hope of satisfaction weeks, months and even years into the future.

    Yet quite a few animals construct things that end up being used repeatedly or continuously, sometimes for many years. The question you seem to be assuming away is whether these animals intend long-term use, or whether their particular instincts just happen to produce stuff like that.

    Sure, we can presume instinct and coincidence. But imagine some vastly more intelligent and technological alien observing humans. Could that alien be absolutely sure he’s seeing humans build stuff out of sheer instinct, or would the alien suspect humans did so out of a “higher consciousness” lacking in birds, termites, etc.? How could it tell?

    0
  31. Nonlin.org:

    The irony is thick with this one. At least add a neutral sentence between the one and its opposite. Who knows? You might fool some people.

    I think you fail to appreciate the difference between some notion being scientific and being correct. There are certainly plenty of statements that can be made which are correct but not scientific. There are also statements that are scientific but not correct – indeed, all testable hypotheses are scientific statements, but most of them prove to be false when tested.

    You own faith is entirely unscientific, but this says nothing about whether or not it’s correct.

    0
  32. Nonlin.org: I might be passing on extreme stupidity today.

    What! It’s infectious? Holy shit, that’s problematic!
    OTOH, it would explain that whole Tea Party & Trump thing.

    +2
  33. DNA_Jock: What! It’s infectious? Holy shit, that’s problematic!

    Snurk! He had to make it explicitly a matter of disdain, of course. Just in case anyone thought he’d run out of steam, and his opponents had ‘won’ under his own Last Word Rules.

    0
  34. Allan Miller,

    I’m still counting it. I’ve had the last word at this point, and therefore I have won.

    Also, the last word criterion seems unfair. If one were significantly younger than all their interlocutors (hypothetically), they could hold out until the rest died.

    0
  35. Nonlin.org:
    We’re not debating his obsolete book. No one cares about that (believe me, I tried to read it). We’re only debating his still standing argument for design. Which is what this OP discusses. Precisely and limited.

    Sure, because taking a poorly read sentence from a poorly read wikipedia entry is the right, non-obsolete, approach to discussing Paley’s arguments, objections against it, and Paley’s answers. 🤣😂

    +2
  36. Flint:

    CharlieM: And here is the difference between humans and other animals with a higher individual form of consciousness. The desires of these animals have no forethought beyond the immediate future. On the other hand human desires very often involve the hope of satisfaction weeks, months and even years into the future.

    Yet quite a few animals construct things that end up being used repeatedly or continuously, sometimes for many years. The question you seem to be assuming away is whether these animals intend long-term use, or whether their particular instincts just happen to produce stuff like that.

    Even plants do this. A tree is an organism in which the living substance exists on a structure made up of dead matter which it lays down over the years and will continue to exist and be added to well into the future barring external interference.

    Beaver dams and lodges, and termite mounds are examples of animal architectural structures. These building skills are instinctive behaviours. I don’t think that any individual creature has the completed structure in mind.

    Sure, we can presume instinct and coincidence. But imagine some vastly more intelligent and technological alien observing humans. Could that alien be absolutely sure he’s seeing humans build stuff out of sheer instinct, or would the alien suspect humans did so out of a “higher consciousness” lacking in birds, termites, etc.? How could it tell?

    One obvious piece of evidence that humans were using conscious forethought in their constructions would be the existence of plans and instructions to accompany the actual constructions. Plans, instruction manuals, charts and maps are all signs of human forethought.

    0
  37. Lesson: Reading for comprehension 1.
    Level: Kindergarten
    Grade of difficulty for Nonlin: Extremely high

    Reading material:

    Corneel:
    I don’t think the creation account was banned from schools and public life. It’s just unconstitutional to be presented as a scientific theory in public schools in the US.

    Example of poor reading for comprehension:

    Nonlin.org:
    The irony is thick with this one. At least add a neutral sentence between the one and its opposite. Who knows? You might fool some people.

    From this we gather that Nonlin thinks that the two sentences: “banned from schools and public life” and “unconstitutional to be presented as a scientific theory in public schools in the US” have the very same meaning.

    Exercise: Try and list the differences in meaning between the two sentences. For example, ask yourself if “public school” is the same as “school and public life”; or if “present as a scientific theory” is the one and only way to talk about “creation accounts”.

    If not enough to picture the differences, ask yourself what it would be like if Nonlin’s reading was right: Would churches even exist? Would we be able to find religious books at all?

    0
  38. CharlieM:
    One obvious piece of evidence that humans were using conscious forethought in their constructions would be the existence of plans and instructions to accompany the actual constructions. Plans, instruction manuals, charts and maps are all signs of human forethought.

    Are you sure this would be so obvious to the alien? Such mnemonics aren’t always used, nor always necessary. And where they are used, the alien would then have to be able to relate them to activities not immediately corresponding, so they’d have to interpret them as their authors intended, meaning the alien would have to know human intent a priori. Just as we must somehow ‘know’ that the birds and beavers have no concept of the final structure, they’re just running on instinct.

    And those instincts are remarkably adaptable, allowing birds and beavers and termites and trees to do their thing in such a way as to be effective in a variety of environments. This LOOKS like planning and forethought just as surely as life LOOKS like the result of planning and forethought. Hey, if we were designed by some god, do you suppose that god had purpose and intent, or was it simply acting on instinct? Are appearances deceiving us, are we projecting our own natures into areas they don’t apply to?

    0
  39. Nonlin.org: And what about Corneel? Does Corneel have a purpose, or is he aimless like the starfish or the dumb sheep? And how would that purpose ever “arise” in Corneel when it’s not “arising” in the starfish?

    From a biological point of view, my “purpose” (if you can call it that) is no different from that of a starfish or a sheep. But your question was not about biology was it? The purpose that prevents me from being aimless in my life is of my own making.

    Nonlin.org: Is Corneel just a spectator, or is he a star[fish] in this movie of life?

    Both, I think. That’s a perk of being human.

    Nonlin.org: See? You’re doing it again. Answering the wrong question while ignoring the question asked.

    It’s easy to see where you are going with your questions, Nonlin. Sometimes I just get ahead a bit.

    Nonlin.org: We’re not debating his obsolete book. No one cares about that (believe me, I tried to read it). We’re only debating his still standing argument for design. Which is what this OP discusses. Precisely and limited.

    No, KN and me were discussing what Paley was trying to establish with his argument by analogy. You replied to my comment by substituting the motivation of the modern US Intelligent Design movement for Paley’s original motivation. But Paley made his argument in more honest times, when there was no need for creationists to hide every mention of God for legal reasons.

    Nonlin.org: Then why do we debate it at TSZ and everywhere else?

    YOU debate it “everywhere else”. I don’t. It certainly never came up professionally when I was still working as an evolutionary geneticist. Evolution is accepted science, like it or not.

    +1
  40. Nonlin.org: Does Corneel have a purpose, or is he aimless like the starfish or the dumb sheep? And how would that purpose ever “arise” in Corneel when it’s not “arising” in the starfish?

    My turn. If starfish and sheep lack a purpose, as you seem to suggest, doesn’t that mean that they were not Designed?

    0
  41. Entropy: From this we gather that Nonlin thinks that the two sentences: “banned from schools and public life” and “unconstitutional to be presented as a scientific theory in public schools in the US” have the very same meaning.

    I fear that these are symptoms of something much more worrisome than lack of reading comprehension: Nonlin believes that every instance where christians are denied a privileged position is a demonstration of their persecution.

    0
  42. Schizophora:
    CharlieM,

    Can you clarify the relevance of this statement to the current discussion?

    Discussing conscious desires is relevant because they are inextricably linked to design. Watches exist because of prior ideas in the minds of their creators. Human inventions exist by way of human desires. We cannot say the same for beaver dams or termite mounds. There is no evidence linking termite mounds with any idea held by an individual termite.

    I do not believe that the individual consciousness of these creatures is on a par with human consciousness. I believe that they have a group consciousness that is in some way equivalent to human consciousness.

    For Darwin the underlying cause of the existence of both the termites and their mounds was via natural selection acting on variations. For Paley the underlying cause was the mind of God. Although both of these positions seem to be diametrically opposed, they do have one thing in common. They both share the Newtonian outlook in which any effect must have an external cause.

    I think this is an outdated position that we should be moving beyond. Those who side with Paley here are in great danger of making their God in the image of the human. What they end up with is the god of their imagination.

    0
  43. Flint:

    CharlieM:
    One obvious piece of evidence that humans were using conscious forethought in their constructions would be the existence of plans and instructions to accompany the actual constructions. Plans, instruction manuals, charts and maps are all signs of human forethought.

    Are you sure this would be so obvious to the alien? Such mnemonics aren’t always used, nor always necessary. And where they are used, the alien would then have to be able to relate them to activities not immediately corresponding, so they’d have to interpret them as their authors intended, meaning the alien would have to know human intent a priori. Just as we must somehow ‘know’ that the birds and beavers have no concept of the final structure, they’re just running on instinct.

    It was you who proposed that this alien observing us was vastly more intelligent. Do you not think that ‘he’ would be able to see the relationship between maps and territory, or plans and constructions? Or would you prefer that the alien did not observe too closely?

    And those instincts are remarkably adaptable, allowing birds and beavers and termites and trees to do their thing in such a way as to be effective in a variety of environments. This LOOKS like planning and forethought just as surely as life LOOKS like the result of planning and forethought. Hey, if we were designed by some god, do you suppose that god had purpose and intent, or was it simply acting on instinct? Are appearances deceiving us, are we projecting our own natures into areas they don’t apply to?

    It would be hard not to see the wisdom that has gone into the design of these structures. In my opinion the question to be asked is, if not in the individual and not in a supreme being, where then? I don’t think that saying it just emerged from blind evolutionary forces is a satisfactory answer. To me this just gives us an excuse to cease from enquiring any further just as surely as saying God did it.

    I believe the wisdom lies at the group level and it is actually a higher wisdom than any displays of individual human wisdom.

    0
  44. Corneel:
    YOU debate it “everywhere else”. I don’t. It certainly never came up professionally when I was still working as an evolutionary geneticist. Evolution is accepted science, like it or not.

    Evolutionary geneticist? That’s against Nonlin’s divine commands you blasphemer!

    0

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