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: As dazz noted, even the focus on “looks” is anthropocentric; humans have poor senses of smell and hearing, so we devalue those.

    They all look so different that maybe they smell or hear them to recognize.

    Brilliant.

    You are so self aware.

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  2. phoodoo: They all look so different that maybe they smell or hear them to recognize.

    Brilliant.

    You are so self aware.

    That’s not the argument. But keep doing your thing, phoodoo.
    I kind of like you now that I know you hate Trump though. It makes up big time for all the stupid crap you say

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  3. DNA_Jock: CharlieM: So for individuality and individual learning would you say that snails are on a par with squirrels?

    I don’t know. Neither do you. Which is the point you resolutely keep missing.

    The easiest way to find out if an animal is capable of learning is to try to train it. Dogs are wonderful in this regard, molluscs not so much. Same goes for dolphins compared to sharks as I mentioned above. I’m surprised that you don’t know this.

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  4. phoodoo: In between making fun of the Al(l)ans you could do it.

    Why would I do work to support your proposition?

    Typical IDer, always waiting for others to do the work they claim will prove them right.

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  5. phoodoo: Maybe Meryl Streep and Kim Jong Un are the same person. We better measure to find out.

    My wife rides horses. Will you believe she is able to tell them apart without measuring their skulls?

    Amazing!

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  6. DNA_Jock: Because if he thinks that a chimp can tell the difference, yet humans cannot, he is making our point for us.

    And chimps are social animals that have no problem whatsoever identifying the individual members of their group. Sure, it’s easy to identify poor arguments once you acknowledge there is a bias. But as long as the anthropocentric gang refuses to leave their human privileged viewpoint, it will continue to be an is-not / is-too style of argument.

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  7. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: You think that the difference between you and your mother; likes, dislikes, physical appearance, habits and travels, etc., are on a par with the difference between the next snail you come across and its mother?

    Yes. I think that from a snail’s perspective the differences between snails might be more glaringly varied. Speaking “objectively”, I have no idea. And neither do you. Hilariously, you don’t even know for your cherry-picked anthropocentric attributes: “habits and travels” anyone?

    Can you tell the difference between instinctive behaviour and learned behaviour? Do snail parents tend to their offspring and teach them essential skills they will need as they make their own way in life? If you can understand this you will be on the way to understanding individuality.

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  8. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: Pick an expert on snails who has studied them very closely, and knows them intimately. Can you give any examples of the writings of these experts that stress individual attributes. Do they write about the snails as individuals or do they write about them as a group? You cannot say that to these experts the snails all look alike because they are unfamiliar to them.

    Oh dear. The same article that you were quoting also noted this very important distinction

    Field naturalists and the born lovers of animals know by intimate acquaintance that important individual differences exist in many species of organism, but experimentalists are less generally aware of this fact, for their attention tends to be monopolized by problems of species characteristics and of general organic functions or reactive capacity.

    The “writings of experts on snails” that are available from the past 100 years are pretty much exclusively the writings of experimentalists, not field naturalists.
    Experimentalists go to great lengths to reduce the individual variation between animals. It’s a perennial problem.

    Experts on snails can be experimentalists, field naturalists, experimentalists who are also field naturalist and field naturalists who are also experimentalists.

    You do not know the difference in learning abilities of various molluscs and mammals but you do know the proportions of the experts who write about snails. how do you know this?

    This is not a case of either/or. All individuals no matter what the species will have individual differences at some level. This is not the same as observing differences that come about through individual learning. It’s one thing to regard everything as being equal but we should not be blind to the obvious differences.

    CharlieM:

    Oh dear. The same article that you were quoting also noted this very important distinction

    The “writings of experts on snails” that are available from the past 100 years are pretty much exclusively the writings of experimentalists, not field naturalists.Experimentalists go to great lengths to reduce the individual variation between animals. It’s a perennial problem.

    Experts on snails can be experimentalists, field naturalists, experimentalists who are also field naturalist and field naturalists who are also experimentalists.

    You do not know the difference in learning abilities of various molluscs and mammals but you do know the proportions of the experts who write about snails. how do you know this?

    This is not a case of either/or. All individuals no matter what the species will have individual differences at some level. This is not the same as observing differences that come about through individual learning. It’s one thing to regard everything as being equal but we should not be blind to the obvious differences.

    Precisely. The question then becomes: are they aware of this failing of theirs, or do they blithely rabbit on about how Caucasians show much more individual variation than the Chinese do?

    I’ve spoken about this in a recent post so I’m not going to say more about it here.

    CharlieM: Anyone who thinks that all Chinese people look alike are just showing that they are not very observant in general

    Precisely. The question then becomes: are they aware of this failing of theirs, or do they blithely rabbit on about how Caucasians show much more individual variation than the Chinese do?

    I’ve spoken about this in a recent post so I’m not going to say more about it here.

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  9. Flint:

    dazz:
    Simply asking how would we look to them seems anthropocentric to me. Some animals may say we all smell the same to them, or sound the same

    Yeah, anthropocentric figure of speech. I suppose we should refer to how we are perceived.

    If Charlie is correct and humans have more intraspecies variation than most, one might expect we would be most ripe for some branching event(s), necessarily of the sympatric variety. Except humans show not the slightest inclination toward breeding isolation – we’ll cheerfully fuck anything that moves.

    In my opinion each individual human is equivalent to a species of lower animal. The various species of snails are isolated into their narrow niches and so have crawled into a cul-de-sac so to speak. With humans any fertile male/female pair can have offspring, but each offspring will be as unique as each species of snail is unique.

    With human culture evolution has moved on to a new level. Just as it moved to a new level with the arrival of multicellularity. That is the dynamic nature of evolution.

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  10. DNA_Jock: Charlie is retreating from the awesome argument that humans are omnivores to the even more awesome argument that humans frequent hairdressers. What’s next, “no other animal performs cosmetic surgery”.

    It’s much more than being omnivores. The point is that we are not all omnivores. You have just upset all the vegans i the world. At the species level snails can be very choosy about what they eat. The same can be said for human individuals.

    And yes of course we can include cosmetic surgery, organ transplants and prosthetic limbs, all of which are uniquely human inventions. No other animal interferes with what nature has provided for them than humans.

    In my garden, there’s a morbidly obese squirrel, and a squirrel with ADHD.

    Have you actually weighed the squirrel to make that judgement? How do you know that it isn’t just a particularly fluffy individual? Can you post a photo of this obese creature to back up your claim? From my experience all squirrels have ADHD.

    As dazz noted, even the focus on “looks” is anthropocentric; humans have poor senses of smell and hearing, so we devalue those.

    On average we don’t have poor senses of smell and hearing. We have adequate but not exceptional senses. And here we have yet another uniquely human attribute. We have the technology to enhance our senses to levels way beyond the greatest of animal senses.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to advance my case 🙂

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  11. OMagain:

    CharlieM: molluscs not so much.

    oh? https://www.n, I cbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4700596

    I said not so much, I didn’t say not at all.

    These slugs can be trained to display a temporary conditioned response, but can they be trained to fetch your slippers?

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  12. Corneel: But as long as the anthropocentric gang refuses to leave their human privileged viewpoint, it will continue to be an is-not / is-too style of argument.

    But unlike your typical “is-not / is-too” badinage, in this case the anthropocentric gang keeps shooting themselves in the foot.

    CharlieM: The easiest way to find out if an animal is capable of learning is to try to train it. Dogs are wonderful in this regard, molluscs not so much. Same goes for dolphins compared to sharks as I mentioned above. I’m surprised that you don’t know this

    This is hilarious. I am reminded of the old joke about making spider deaf by removing all his legs.
    Based on Charlie’s metric, then I can rank various beasts on their “learning capability”, based off my personal experience.

    Pigeons
    Dogs
    Rats
    Nematodes
    Cats
    .
    .
    .
    My college-age daughters.
    😉

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  13. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: The easiest way to find out if an animal is capable of learning is to try to train it. Dogs are wonderful in this regard, molluscs not so much. Same goes for dolphins compared to sharks as I mentioned above. I’m surprised that you don’t know this

    This is hilarious. I am reminded of the old joke about making spider deaf by removing all his legs.
    Based on Charlie’s metric, then I can rank various beasts on their “learning capability”, based off my personal experience.

    Pigeons
    Dogs
    Rats
    Nematodes
    Cats
    .
    .
    .
    My college-age daughters.

    So your personal experience doesn’t include lion taming then? 🙂

    And regarding domestic cats, there is this

    When we consider training, we automatically think of dogs. Dogs are trained for obedience, for work on farms or to detect drugs, illegally imported items, even cancers. Training does not generally bring up a vision of a cat obeying your every word. Yet, cats can be trained.

    What commands can cats learn?

    Cats can learn all sorts of commands – to sit, to roll over, to shake a paw

    Don’t forget I’m not talking about willingness to learn, I am talking about ability. Are you saying that your daughters do not have the ability to learn?

    I’d be interested to read about your experiences in training nematode worms. What have you taught them to do. What commands are they given? Are these skills permanent or do they lose it after a while? Can all the worms acquire the same skills? How much training do they need? That sort of thing.

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  14. OMagain: So, given the lack of proposed alternatives to even untestable “evolution” we’re just stuck with it!

    This is plain dumb.

    OMagain: I mean, you convinced me 14 posts ago. You made me a convert. I now know evolution is wrong. But what’s right and where to send my money has not yet been revealed!

    Also plain dumb. Also, “evolution” cretinism doesn’t operate on “money sent” but on money stolen.

    Corneel: LOL. You are really reaching here. No, I have admitted no such thing.

    Yes you did and now you’re backtracking. Exactly as expected.

    Corneel: Sure, I cannot disprove the existence of God nor do I have any inclination to do so.

    At least you’re somewhat honest.

    Corneel: Disproving special creation is a walk in the park. As a scientific hypothesis it’s dead, Nonlin.

    Don’t know what you’re talking about. Not something I ever mentioned. And anyway, why should anyone just take your word for it or for anything else? Why the arrogance?

    Corneel: Why don’t you admit to yourself that evolution by natural selection is generally accepted, and not just by the mentally impaired, but by many people much smarter than you.

    Of course it “is generally accepted”, no doubt. But since when is VOTING a tool in science and philosophy? I’d very much dispute “much smarter than you”. But i’ll look into your proofs if any.

    Corneel: So your “simple and unbeatable logic” must be lacking. What it’s lacking is substance.

    Lacking how? If above your intelligence level, go check with those “much smarter than you” and bring back their coherent counterargument… if any… WTF does “lacking is substance” even mean in this context?

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  15. Allan Miller: I wonder if people who think selection can’t be quantified have a similar opinion on the R0 metric used by epidemiologists? 🤔

    And the link is? And the [minor] mistake is that “fitness” is not quantifiable, not “selection”. Because there is no “fitness”, hence logically, no “selection” either.

    Not that selection without someone selecting make any sense either.

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  16. Snail people have invaded this thread. Does anyone have any snail-icide?

    Can we return to Paley and his most excellent argument?

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  17. Nonlin.org: And the link is? And the [minor] mistake is that “fitness” is not quantifiable, not “selection”. Because there is no “fitness”, hence logically, no “selection” either.

    Not that selection without someone selecting make any sense either.

    R0 is a measure of fitness.

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  18. Nonlin.org:
    Snail people have invaded this thread. Does anyone have any snail-icide?

    Can we return to Paley and his most excellent argument?

    I’ll have you know that snails are very accomplished architects specialising in gastropod accommodation. Their designs are renowned for being both aesthetically pleasing and very functional. Besides they are creatures of regular habits. Paley used to set his watch by them when he was out walking in the heath 🙂

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  19. CharlieM: Don’t forget I’m not talking about willingness to learn, I am talking about ability.

    But that is not what you wrote. Your metric was simply “The easiest way to find out if an animal is capable of learning is to try to train it”. Which, with the benefit of hindsight, you have realized is utterly inadequate.

    Are you saying that your daughters do not have the ability to learn?

    Nope. That was your metric. I was just highlighting the inadequacy: ability to motivate the animal matters.
    Also, the ability of the animal to perform the task matters. I cannot train a slug to fetch slippers, but that’s not really informative re slug intelligence, is it now? Hence my allusion to the deaf spider joke.
    Also, the predilection of the animal to perform the task: pigeons love pecking buttons; gets them to the top of my list.

    I’d be interested to read about your experiences in training nematode worms. What have you taught them to do. What commands are they given? Are these skills permanent or do they lose it after a while? Can all the worms acquire the same skills? How much training do they need? That sort of thing.

    Really?
    I only did a little nematode work — I spent more time training pigeons, dogs, rats, and cats. You are correct that there is no lion-taming on my resume, however. If you are in fact interested in the nematode work, here’s a review.

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  20. Corneel: My wife rides horses. Will you believe she is able to tell them apart without measuring their skulls?

    In a crowd of 5000 horses, or do you mean out in the barn where there are three?

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  21. phoodoo: In a crowd of 5000 horses, or do you mean out in the barn where there are three?

    I actually don’t think it would make that much difference. Someone familiar with horses could easily identify a given individual horse from a large crowd. One simple way might be to call it. Horses are easily capable of distinguishing one human VOICE from another, while the human gets to look at size, shape, color, behavior, etc. Jane Woodall had not the slightest difficulty identifying every individual member of each troupe of chimps.

    And I would be amazed if Corneel’s wife would be unable to determine if her own horse were NOT one of the 5000, if that should be the case. It’s not being done by process of elimination, in other words.

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  22. Flint,

    Interestingly, this is sort of how I tell Kim Jong Un from Meryl Streep. I say cry! , and if it’s Meryl you can see real tears.

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  23. phoodoo: In a crowd of 5000 horses, or do you mean out in the barn where there are three?

    Do you really believe that will pose a problem? Don’t you own pets?

    Hey, I see numbers. Does that mean you agree with me we need to measure stuff? I am pretty confident that the variation in skull morphology between Shetland ponies, Icelandic horses, Belgian horses, Friesian horses, Mustangs, and the hundreds of others breeds will be way larger than between humans, but I may be wrong. Who knows?

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  24. Flint: Jane Woodall had not the slightest difficulty identifying every individual member of each troupe of chimps.

    I once attended a lecture by Jane Goodall when she was invited by Jan van Hooff, who was lecturing ethology at my university at the time I was an undergraduate . Your remark reminded me of a story about Jan van Hooff that may be relevant here:

    Mama, a former matriarch of a colony of chimps at Royal Burgers Zoo in Holland, was refusing food from keepers until being visited by professor Jan van Hooff, whom she had known since 1972.

    The 59-year-old ape, who had been unresponsive and curled up in a ball, reacted with joy after recognising the professor. Appearing to smile, she touched his face, held the back of his neck and brought his head down to hers.

    @Charlie There is a video embedded. I recommend to watch it.

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  25. Nonlin.org: Don’t know what you’re talking about. Not something I ever mentioned.

    Then what do you mean when you equate belief in God with creationism?

    Nonlin.org: Why the arrogance?

    Apologies. I forgot my place. Obviously you are better than me.

    Nonlin.org: Of course it “is generally accepted”, no doubt. But since when is VOTING a tool in science and philosophy?

    Since when is calling names a tool in science and philosophy? or did you forget you were referring to people accepting natural selection as mentally impaired?

    Nonlin.org: Lacking how?

    You have been told a dozen times, but here goes again:

    1. You don’t argue but assert.
    2. You attack strawmen because you are unfamiliar with the actual theory.
    3. You are unable to present an alternative explanation.

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  26. DNA_Jock: But unlike your typical “is-not / is-too” badinage, in this case the anthropocentric gang keeps shooting themselves in the foot.

    There is the amusement value for sure, but it is somewhat unsatisfying that they don’t appear to notice.

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  27. Corneel,

    You are talking about introducing artificial breeding programs and saying those have added variation. Yea…

    Well, then let me show you a whole series of photos of Golden Retrievers and tell me if you can see which ones are the same and which ones are different, agreed?

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  28. phoodoo: You are talking about introducing artificial breeding programs and saying those have added variation. Yea…

    Added variation?? Oh nononono. Selection doesn’t add variation. It removes variation, right?

    phoodoo: Well, then let me show you a whole series of photos of Golden Retrievers and tell me if you can see which ones are the same and which ones are different, agreed?

    So after Charlie had to retreat from the position that all snails look alike, to the position that all snails within species look alike, now you retreat from the position that all horses look alike, to the position that all horses within a breed look alike.

    And where does all that variation among breeds, but within species, ultimately come from, pray?

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  29. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: Don’t forget I’m not talking about willingness to learn, I am talking about ability.

    But that is not what you wrote. Your metric was simply “The easiest way to find out if an animal is capable of learning is to try to train it”. Which, with the benefit of hindsight, you have realized is utterly inadequate.

    It shouldn’t be inadequate. The act of trying to train the animal entails getting to know it. I mean really trying to know and understand the creature. Studying the animal in its natural environment and not in the artificial setting of some experimental lab would be a good start. If the experimenters are not also field naturalists then that puts them at an immediate disadvantage in understanding the animal they are dealing with.

    The late dog breeder, trainer and British celebrity Barbara Woodhouse was so successful at training dogs due to the fact that she had an all encompassing knowledge and deep love of them. She could get into the minds of the dogs by closely observing their actions and gestures. Through observation she knew what they were thinking.

    It should be patently obvious that there are different levels of learning. Computer software is capable of learning but this is vastly different from a chimpanzee learning sign language or a human learning various foreign languages and becoming multilingual.

    There are levels of learning far above habituation, sensitisation and conditioning. Higher animals learn by mimicking and humans quite often learn for no other reason than we like to know things over and above that which is essential for our survival.

    Are you saying that your daughters do not have the ability to learn?

    Nope. That was your metric. I was just highlighting the inadequacy: ability to motivate the animal matters.
    Also, the ability of the animal to perform the task matters. I cannot train a slug to fetch slippers, but that’s not really informative re slug intelligence, is it now? Hence my allusion to the deaf spider joke.
    Also, the predilection of the animal to perform the task: pigeons love pecking buttons; gets them to the top of my list.

    So you put pigeons pecking above dogs acting as guides for the blind, ears for the deaf, sniffer dogs, sheepdogs, sled pullers and all the other tasks that dogs can be trained to do?

    At least you can now see the difference in the abilities and limitations of slugs compared to dogs.

    I’d be interested to read about your experiences in training nematode worms. What have you taught them to do. What commands are they given? Are these skills permanent or do they lose it after a while? Can all the worms acquire the same skills? How much training do they need? That sort of thing.

    Really?
    I only did a little nematode work — I spent more time training pigeons, dogs, rats, and cats. You are correct that there is no lion-taming on my resume, however. If you are in fact interested in the nematode work, here’s a review.

    So you will understand that there is vastly more interactions between the observable actions and expressions of higher animals than in nematode worms? The body language of a nematode might give a few sensory clues to those around it but this is nothing compared to the communications and hierarchies within a group of chimpanzees.

    It;s not that we are so much more different from nematodes and so we find it more difficult to know what is going on in their minds. It is due to the objective fact that their nervous systems and hence their minds are so basic compared to the higher animals. Their communication and learning skills are very limited.

    Primates have arguably the highest number of facial muscles of any animal group. And these muscles are used to great effect.

    An interesting fact is that dogs have developed the ability to use muscles round their eyes in a particularly human way. Wolves do not have this ability.

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  30. Corneel: There is the amusement value for sure, but it is somewhat unsatisfying that they don’t appear to notice.

    That’s this place all over.

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  31. phoodoo: Well, then let me show you a whole series of photos of Golden Retrievers and tell me if you can see which ones are the same and which ones are different, agreed?

    Almost sounds like science. Bet we’ll never see those pictures.

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  32. Corneel: @Charlie There is a video embedded. I recommend to watch it.

    I’ve already watched it. I can’t recall if you were involved when Alan brought up the subject and recommended the book, “Mama’s Last Hug”? I don’t remember what thread it was in.

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  33. Corneel: There is the amusement value for sure, but it is somewhat unsatisfying that they don’t appear to notice.

    What are we, some sort of Borg?

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  34. Nonlin.org: Can we return to Paley and his most excellent argument?

    Yes.

    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:

    I’ve copied the six counterarguments with Paley’s replies and interspersed them with comments from a Goethean perspective as I see it.

    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.

    To imagine life as a watch and thus having the cause of its existence coming from an external source is an unjustified borrowing from physics where it is legitimate to consider cause and effect as separate in this way.

    Objection: The watch (universe) is not perfect. Paley: Perfection is not required.

    Again perfection is seen in terms of mechanical efficiency. But living beings are not machines and as Paley said this type of perfection is not required.

    Objection: Some parts of the watch (universe) seem to have no function. Paley: We just don’t know those functions yet.

    To look for the functions of separate parts is the result of reductionist thinking which does not recognise that life is a unity and the reality is in its wholeness.

    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.

    The possible forms are not just many, they are infinite in the same way that there are an infinite number of points on the circumference of a circle. Each individual organism is the physical expression of the archetype in which reality lies. Biology, while conforming to the laws of physics, has its own laws over and above the laws of physics.

    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.

    The watch is certainly made in accordance with physical laws, but it had its source in the mind of its inventor before it became a physical reality. Mind precedes matter in this construction. And mind has its own laws at a higher level than the laws of biology.

    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.

    Only those who do not take the time to study the watch because of a lack of interest or whatever, would know nothing about the matter.

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  35. CharlieM: So you put pigeons pecking above dogs acting as guides for the blind, ears for the deaf, sniffer dogs, sheepdogs, sled pullers and all the other tasks that dogs can be trained to do?

    Do try to remember that your metric is “The easiest way to find out if an animal is capable of learning is to try to train it”, which is inadequate, although you assert that it shouldn’t be. I was simply highlighting the inadequacy; you seem to concede the point, responding in effect, oh, there’s more to it than that. D’oh.

    I have trained pigeons, and I have trained dogs. It is far easier to train the pigeon, therefore, according to Charlie’s inadequate metric, pigeons are above dogs in their “learning capability”, and my daughters are non-starters.
    The fun bit is then training the pigeon to NOT peck at a button that predicts reward. They get quite upset. In neither case were they being trained to mix concrete or fill out complicated insurance forms, although I did hear that the late great Jurgen Wigg enjoyed some success on these tasks.

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  36. DNA_Jock: Do try to remember that your metric is “The easiest way to find out if an animal is capable of learning is to try to train it”, which is inadequate, although you assert that it shouldn’t be. I was simply highlighting the inadequacy; you seem to concede the point, responding in effect, oh, there’s more to it than that. D’oh.

    I have trained pigeons, and I have trained dogs. It is far easier to train the pigeon, therefore, according to Charlie’s inadequate metric, pigeons are above dogs in their “learning capability”, and my daughters are non-starters.
    The fun bit is then training the pigeon to NOT peck at a button that predicts reward. They get quite upset. In neither case were they being trained to mix concrete or fill out complicated insurance forms, although I did hear that the late great Jurgen Wigg enjoyed some success on these tasks.

    Nowhere have I said that ease of training accords with learning ability. You have trained dogs and pigeons so you know that the’re capable of learning. This doesn’t make any comparisons between them, only that they are capable of being trained. I admit that I wasn’t being very clear in what I was getting at.

    Do you agree with what I said here?

    It should be patently obvious that there are different levels of learning. Computer software is capable of learning but this is vastly different from a chimpanzee learning sign language or a human learning various foreign languages and becoming multilingual.

    There are levels of learning far above habituation, sensitisation and conditioning. Higher animals learn by mimicking and humans quite often learn for no other reason than we like to know things over and above that which is essential for our survival.

    Surely you agree that dogs and pigeons are much more aware and responsive than nematodes?

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  37. CharlieM,
    I do agree that there are different “levels” of learning, although I hesitate to proclaim things “vastly” different. For instance, I note that there was a theory in experimental psychology that everything is conditioning. It’s wrong, but it was quite tenable for a while…
    Are dogs and pigeons more “aware” and “responsive” than nematodes, you ask.
    That very much depends on what baggage you are loading onto those two words. It is quite clear that dogs and pigeons are capable of a greater repertoire of actions, just as a spider with legs is more capable than one without legs. Dogs and pigeons have more complex nervous systems, too. But I suspect that you are weighting the importance of different forms of awareness and responsiveness to what you, as a human, value.

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  38. Alan Fox: There’s no off-topic rule here.

    Courtesy then? Never mind.

    Allan Miller: R0 is a measure of fitness

    Why do you make up ridiculous stuff?
    The basic reproduction number, R nought (R0), is defined as the average number of secondary cases of an infectious disease arising from a typical case in a totally susceptible population, and can be estimated in populations if pre-existing immunity can be accounted for in the calculation. R0 determines the herd immunity threshold and therefore the immunisation coverage required to achieve elimination of an infectious disease.
    See? Absolutely no link to “fitness”.

    Corneel: Then what do you mean when you equate belief in God with creationism?

    When in a corner, ask random questions.

    Corneel: Apologies. I forgot my place. Obviously you are better than me.

    Unlike you, I’m not in the habit of spewing unsupported claims. Be on the lookout anyway.

    Corneel: Since when is calling names a tool in science and philosophy? or did you forget you were referring to people accepting natural selection as mentally impaired?

    That’s just for fun (and because of their stupid arrogance – see above). Doesn’t interfere with the separate scientific claims and proofs.

    Corneel: You have been told a dozen times, but here goes again:

    1. You don’t argue but assert.
    2. You attack strawmen because you are unfamiliar with the actual theory.
    3. You are unable to present an alternative explanation.

    I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that.
    1. Those aren’t antonyms – go check. How would you argue differently?
    2. It’s not rocket science when you indoctrinate young kids, so “unfamiliar” fails miserably. I’ve attacked “gradualism”, “natural selection”, “fitness”, “descent with modification”, etc. etc. You mean to tell me all those are “strawmen”?!?
    3. Ridiculous. Your hypothesis is good or bad (and it’s very bad). It is not dependent on competing hypotheses. Also ridiculous when this very essay is about “an alternative explanation”.

    Overall, I don’t even know how to address nonsense like what’s being sampled here. At this point, I’m just having fun observing the endless human stupidity.

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  39. Thanks for returning (even briefly) to the main topic.

    CharlieM: I’ve copied the six counterarguments with Paley’s replies and interspersed them with comments from a Goethean perspective as I see it.

    I think you might have. Didn’t ring a bell, sorry. Did I (and others) miss something very important?

    CharlieM: To imagine life as a watch and thus having the cause of its existence coming from an external source is an unjustified borrowing from physics where it is legitimate to consider cause and effect as separate in this way.

    I explained, Paley did not see life as a watch. Instead, (see 3.c) “Paley is aware of the differences between the living and the inert and is not trying to cast life into a watch. “
    And what do you mean “borrow from physics”? Doesn’t physics apply to both the living and the inert?

    CharlieM: Again perfection is seen in terms of mechanical efficiency. But living beings are not machines and as Paley said this type of perfection is not required.

    I am not sure what position you take. Living beings DO contain machines. It’s just that people criticizing the design are in no position to do so. First off because no one promised them “perfection”.

    CharlieM: To look for the functions of separate parts is the result of reductionist thinking which does not recognise that life is a unity and the reality is in its wholeness.

    Ok. This makes sense and it’s different than Paley’s reply. At the same time, you’re deferring too far. A simpler point is that not everything designed must have a function. Sometimes it’s just art (see long debate at UD with gpuccio).

    CharlieM: Biology, while conforming to the laws of physics, has its own laws over and above the laws of physics.

    Yes. Great point. And these laws are not “emergent” since we see nothing “emerge” or “arise”.

    CharlieM: Mind precedes matter in this construction. And mind has its own laws at a higher level than the laws of biology.

    Well, I’m not sure there’s a separation between biology and mind. Same as with the totally arbitrary natural/”supernatural” distinction.

    CharlieM: Only those who do not take the time to study the watch because of a lack of interest or whatever, would know nothing about the matter.

    Oh, but they DO study “the watch” when it hurts. And then conveniently “forget” when “the watch” disagrees with their beloved “evolution”.

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  40. Nonlin.org,

    See? Absolutely no link to “fitness”.

    If you had the faintest idea what you were talking about, rather than just Googling something that happens not to use the word, you would appreciate that R0 is precisely a quantification of fitness, in exactly the same way as the term is used in evolutionary biology: the net reproductive ratio of a variant in a population. Any criticism you levelled at quantification of – ahem – “fitness” would apply in exactly the same way to epidemiologists’ R0.

    3+
  41. Nonlin.org: Those aren’t antonyms

    They are three simple statements of fact supported by the evidence of your comments in this thread. Your odd use of “antonym” (makes no sense to me) suggests English is not you first language.

    Corneel, addressing non-lin:

    1. You don’t argue but assert.
    2. You attack strawmen because you are unfamiliar with the actual theory.
    3. You are unable to present an alternative explanation.

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  42. Allan Miller,

    Here we go again, the fitness measurement merry go round. I know how this one goes.

    The fittest organisms will tend to produce the most organisms over time.

    Well, perhaps that is not really true, maybe it’s just random which organisms reproduce the most.

    No it’s not actually, we can even measure it.

    Oh, well how do you measure it?

    We have a special formula. Don’t worry about the details, it’s complicated. The important thing is we measure what produces the most offspring over time. Then we know that the fittest reproduce the most.

    But what if the fittest don’t actually reproduce the most, what would that look like?

    If that happened then they wouldn’t be the fittest, something else would be! Foolproof!

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  43. phoodoo,

    So why don’t your criticisms apply to epidemiologists’ R0? I know how your song goes, which you’ll warble at the drop of a hat; I was asking that question.

    Substitute R0 for fitness in your song, then you can sing it to those epidemiologists, tell them what’s what. “The viruses with the highest R0 transmit the most, it’s a meaningless tau-tol-o-geeeeee!”

    1+
  44. Allan Miller,

    Are you calling viruses life now?

    What makes you think that covid 19 is the fittest virus, because it exists? Maybe many more fit viruses just disappeared? Maybe Sars was more fit, but it is gone.

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  45. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM,
    I do agree that there are different “levels” of learning, although I hesitate to proclaim things “vastly” different. For instance, I note that there was a theory in experimental psychology that everything is conditioning. It’s wrong, but it was quite tenable for a while…
    Are dogs and pigeons more “aware” and “responsive” than nematodes, you ask.
    That very much depends on what baggage you are loading onto those two words. It is quite clear that dogs and pigeons are capable of a greater repertoire of actions, just as a spider with legs is more capable than one without legs. Dogs and pigeons have more complex nervous systems, too. But I suspect that you are weighting the importance of different forms of awareness and responsiveness to what you, as a human, value.

    Well we can get some idea about awareness and responsiveness by thinking about our own experiences. In my opinion the awareness and responsiveness of a nematode would be equivalent to our awareness and responsiveness at some point while we are still in the womb. Perhaps when we had just a few hundred neurons. But while they remain at this level we continue to increase our level of awareness and responsiveness as we grow to maturity.

    Of course this does not mean that we are highly aware by any means. We are totally oblivious to most of the nerve activity going on in our bodies. We are unaware even of most of what we receive through our senses. It;s not that these things aren’t picked up by our senses, it is just that they don’t get as far as being conscious experiences. But we are still vastly more aware than nematodes. The worms in my compost heap are unaware of the lawn where the grass cuttings have come from let alone fields and rivers, continents and oceans, planets, stars and galaxies; all of which the average human have some conscious knowledge of through our sense perceptions and thinking. If a nematode has any awareness to speak of it is confined to its immediate vicinity and time of very little duration.

    Finding a watch half buried in the soil would stimulate all sorts of thinking and memories in the human looking down on it, but it would be just a meaningless obstruction to the nematode that encountered it. (do you like the way that I slipped in a tenuous link to the topic 🙂 )

    I hope you don’t think that the long term memory attributed to nematodes is equivalent to the long term memory of humans. The former is an unconscious response while the latter concerns bringing a memory of the past into ones consciousness. Our equivalent to the long term memory of nematodes would be performing an action such as walking, although this is extremely more complex than any action performed by a nematode. We have forgotten the process where by we learned to walk and all that it entailed, but we can still walk without even thinking about it. We have no need of conscious memory in this case.

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  46. Nonlin.org:
    Thanks for returning (even briefly) to the main topic.

    It’s the least I could do 🙂

    CharlieM: I’ve copied the six counterarguments with Paley’s replies and interspersed them with comments from a Goethean perspective as I see it.

    I think you might have. Didn’t ring a bell, sorry. Did I (and others) miss something very important?

    I was just explaining what I was about to do. And then I subsequently wrote below that statement my comments relating to the first six arguments from the op.

    CharlieM: To imagine life as a watch and thus having the cause of its existence coming from an external source is an unjustified borrowing from physics where it is legitimate to consider cause and effect as separate in this way.

    I explained, Paley did not see life as a watch. Instead, (see 3.c) “Paley is aware of the differences between the living and the inert and is not trying to cast life into a watch. “

    Yes I know that. I am saying that it is a mistake to imagine life as being designed by an external designer. I do not see God as separate from nature.

    And what do you mean “borrow from physics”? Doesn’t physics apply to both the living and the inert?

    Yes it does. But it wasn’t physics that inspired you to participate here. It came from your mind. And because I believe mind is more primal than matter and physics is a science of matter, the law of cause and effect does not apply in the same way with mind as it does to the material world.

    CharlieM: Again perfection is seen in terms of mechanical efficiency. But living beings are not machines and as Paley said this type of perfection is not required.

    I am not sure what position you take. Living beings DO contain machines. It’s just that people criticizing the design are in no position to do so. First off because no one promised them “perfection”.

    Living beings contain structures and processes that use the laws of physics and chemistry but that does not make them machines. Although they have qualities that are similar to machines they are so much more than mere machines.

    CharlieM: To look for the functions of separate parts is the result of reductionist thinking which does not recognise that life is a unity and the reality is in its wholeness.

    Ok. This makes sense and it’s different than Paley’s reply. At the same time, you’re deferring too far. A simpler point is that not everything designed must have a function. Sometimes it’s just art (see long debate at UD with gpuccio).

    Living substances cannot be seen purely as they appear at one time or another. They have to be viewed in the context of the space and time in which they grow, develop, change and decay. The limb buds of an embryo do not have a function when viewed in the moment. The’re functions only become apparent once they are developed.

    CharlieM: Biology, while conforming to the laws of physics, has its own laws over and above the laws of physics.

    Yes. Great point. And these laws are not “emergent” since we see nothing “emerge” or “arise”.

    Yes rather than thinking of biological systems emerging out of matter, we should be thinking that biological systems rearrange matter. Look at a chalk cliff and you will see matter that has been rearranged by life. ( Think snails 🙂 )

    CharlieM: Mind precedes matter in this construction. And mind has its own laws at a higher level than the laws of biology.

    Well, I’m not sure there’s a separation between biology and mind. Same as with the totally arbitrary natural/”supernatural” distinction.

    Good point. The separation is due to the way we see things. The way our senses perceive gives us the sense of separation where in fact there is unity. We perceive thunder and lightning as separate but in reality they are one event.

    CharlieM: Only those who do not take the time to study the watch because of a lack of interest or whatever, would know nothing about the matter.

    Oh, but they DO study “the watch” when it hurts. And then conveniently “forget” when “the watch” disagrees with their beloved “evolution”.

    In studying a watch we begin to understand the thoughts of the designer. By studying nature I am always amazed by the intricate designs and wisdom that I come across.

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