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Paleys Argument from Design

Evolution and the Argument from

Ifyou find a stone in a field, what do you
think about how it got there?
If the universe (esp. organisms) is like a stone,
then you should think the same thing about it.
Ifyou find a watch in a field, what do you
think about how it got there?
If the universe (esp. organisms) is like a watch,
then you should think the same thing about it.
The universe is like the watch.
1. The universe is like a watch.
2. A watch requires a designer.
3. The universe requires a designer.

Reasons for 1:
Order and complexity in universe
organisms and ecosystems
Organs function for survival of organism.
Ecosystems balanced for survival of organisms.
1. A has property P.
2. B is like A. (A and B share properties R, S, T
3. B has property P.
Inductive argument evaluation:
Strong analogyno relevant difference
between items
Whatever is true of one thing is likely to be true of
the other.
Weak analogyrelevant difference between
Whatever is true of one thing is not significantly
more likely to be true of the other.
Similarity of universe to watch:
Complex structures exist to fulfill apparent
functions necessary for survival of organism
Moving parts organized to interact precisely with
each other.
Each part contributes to function of whole.
Primary example: the Eye
Differences between watch and universe.
I. We have never seen a universe made.
II. Universe is not perfect.
III. Universe is not completely understood.
VIII. We do not understand why the universe
Do these differences weaken Paleys analogy?
Imagine the watch also didnt have the given property.
I. Never seen one made:
Imagine weve never seen a watchor anything else
mechanicalmade, would you still think it had a designer?

II. Universe not perfect:

Watches are not perfect. Would you still think they have
Perhaps designer is imperfectPaleys response?

III. Not completely understood:

Suppose we do not completely understand working of
watch. Would you still think it had a designer?

VIII. No known function of universe:

Suppose you do not know what a watch is for or you find a
strange mechanism with no known function. Would you
still think it had a designer?
as alternative explanation of
appearance of design.
If there is a better explanation for order and
complexity of organisms, then design inference is
Evolution is such an explanation.

Goulds evidence for evolution vs. design:

Imperfectly functioning organs that are similar to
structures in similar speciesapparently adapted
imperfectly to new function.
Evolutionary explanation of complexity:
Differential survival, reproduction and heredity
explain fitting of organisms to their environment:
Organisms better suited to environment more likely to
survive and reproduce.
These organisms pass on characteristics to their offspring.
Species changes over time to better fit environment.
Evolution of organisms is relevant difference
between organisms and watch.
Watches do not evolve.
Evolution weakens design argument but does not
disprove the existence of God (without additional
Evolution as tinkerer:
Organisms show signs of modification of existing
structures for new ends, not perfect (or even
competent) design for existing ends.

Goulds example:
The Pandas Thumb
Vestigial structures:
Whales with legs
Vestigial organs:
Cave salamanders/fish with eyes
Why does the
panda have five
fingers and a
Thumb is really
enlarged wrist bone
similar to those of
other bears.
Ifprimate thumbs
work better, why not
give the panda one?
Whale ancestor

Modern whale
Vestigial eye in blind
cave salamander

Vestigial eye in blind

cave fish
Descent with adaptation by natural selection
explains origin and nature of organisms.
Argument from adaptation:
1. Organismse.g. pandas, whales, etc.have
characteristics of similar (ancestor) species that
have been adapted to new functions.
2. A perfect God would not directly design
organisms that use such imperfect means to
3. Organisms were not directly designed by a
perfect God.
God might have used evolution to construct organisms.
Accept micro-scale evolution.
Deny that evolution occurs on macro-scale.

Argue that chemical precursors of life (e.g. RNA)
could not have occurred naturally.

Argue that physical laws/constants of the universe
are so perfectly balanced that only a designer could
have created them.
Response to evolution:
Dispute evidence for evolution.
Distinguish micro/macro-evolution and deny
large-scale evolutionary change.

Arbitrary: Allowing micro-evolution but not
macro is inconsistent with gradual change
between species.
Mountain of evidence for evolution useful
Response to evolution:
Evolution is not relevant to origin of life.
Argue that molecular precursors of life are
too complex to exist without design.

Advance of science makes this response less
Response to evolution:
Argue for design of laws and physical
constants of the universe that allow for
If constants/laws of nature were slightly
different, life would be impossible.
Physicists might find explanation in Theory of
No clear probability that laws/constants
could be different.
Evolution need not contradict or conflict
with religion:
Accommodation of religion and evolution:
God may have created universe using natural laws
and evolution to achieve Gods ends.
Abandons design argument but allows religion
to be consistent with evolution (absent further
Readings on Problem of Evil:
B.C. Johnson, the Problem of Evil
John Hick, the Problem of Evil