Re: Randomness from full disclosure--Paley's watch notoriginal

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Fri Jan 30 2004 - 11:55:24 EST

On Thu, 29 Jan 2004 07:12:00 -0500, "Ted Davis"
<> said:
> >>> Rich Blinne <> 01/28/04 20:15 PM >>>wrote:
> We need to go back to the arguments concerning theistic proofs in late
> 18th and early 19th Centuries. David Hume wanted to deny causality
> because of its link to the so-called teleological and cosmological
> proofs for the existence of God. William Paley picked up on this in
> his 1802 work, Natural Theology. This is the origin of the now-famous
> watch analogy.
> Ted writes: These final two sentences are "common knowledge," but a few
> years ago I found evidence that strongly suggests this is wrong. I
> have not published this evidence as yet, although I did mention it in a
> paper I gave at a conference on ID a few years ago, a paper that I
> might perhaps publish in PSCF. True enough, Paley is famous for using
> the analogy of the watch found lying on the landscape. But almost
> certainly he took it from someplace else that we don't yet know about,
> someplace more than a century older. Consider this passage from
> Boyle's unpublished manuscripts:

Another possibility is that Paley is reacting to David Hume. Here's a
couple of clips from his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
published in 1779.

Hume's character, Philo, makes a tu quoque argument concerning design. He
accedes that a watch implies design but that the similarities between the
watch and creation differ too much. Namely, that the creation is more
animal or vegetation than mechanical. This precedes the later argument
that atheistic evolutionists will make.


Now, according to this method of reasoning, DEMEA, it follows, (and is,
indeed, tacitly allowed by CLEANTHES himself,) that order, arrangement,
or the adjustment of final causes, is not of itself any proof of design;
but only so far as it has been experienced to proceed from that
principle. For aught we can know a priori, matter may contain the source
or spring of order originally within itself, as well as mind does; and
there is no more difficulty in conceiving, that the several elements,
from an internal unknown cause, may fall into the most exquisite
arrangement, than to conceive that their ideas, in the great universal
mind, from a like internal unknown cause, fall into that arrangement. The
equal possibility of both these suppositions is allowed. But, by
experience, we find, (according to CLEANTHES), that there is a difference
between them. Throw several pieces of steel together, without shape or
form; they will never arrange themselves so as to compose a watch. Stone,
and mortar, and wood, without an architect, never erect a house. But the
ideas in a human mind, we see, by an unknown, inexplicable economy,
arrange themselves so as to form the plan of a watch or house.
Experience, therefore, proves, that there is an original principle of
order in mind, not in matter. From similar effects we infer similar
causes. The adjustment of means to ends is alike in the universe, as in a
machine of human contrivance. The causes, therefore, must be resembling.

I was from the beginning scandalised, I must own, with this resemblance,
which is asserted, between the Deity and human creatures; and must
conceive it to imply such a degradation of the Supreme Being as no sound
Theist could endure. With your assistance, therefore, DEMEA, I shall
endeavour to defend what you justly call the adorable mysteriousness of
the Divine Nature, and shall refute this reasoning of CLEANTHES, provided
he allows that I have made a fair representation of it.


Our friend CLEANTHES, replied PHILO, as you have heard, asserts, that
since no question of fact can be proved otherwise than by experience, the
existence of a Deity admits not of proof from any other medium. The
world, says he, resembles the works of human contrivance; therefore its
cause must also resemble that of the other. Here we may remark, that the
operation of one very small part of nature, to wit man, upon another very
small part, to wit that inanimate matter lying within his reach, is the
rule by which CLEANTHES judges of the origin of the whole; and he
measures objects, so widely disproportioned, by the same individual
standard. But to waive all objections drawn from this topic, I affirm,
that there are other parts of the universe (besides the machines of human
invention) which bear still a greater resemblance to the fabric of the
world, and which, therefore, afford a better conjecture concerning the
universal origin of this system. These parts are animals and vegetables.
The world plainly resembles more an animal or a vegetable, than it does a
watch or a knitting-loom. Its cause, therefore, it is more probable,
resembles the cause of the former. The cause of the former is generation
or vegetation. The cause, therefore, of the world, we may infer to be
something similar or analogous to generation or vegetation.
Received on Fri Jan 30 11:56:09 2004

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