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The Blind Watchmaker-Maker - Comments

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 1 by Alan4discussion

When looking at the evolution of the universe, watchmakers, watch-maker's skills, or anything else, time as a property of the universe is important.

This is a nice brief argument which kills the silly creationist analogy between mechanical devices like watches and the universe, by tracking watch-making back in history.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 00:17:10 UTC | #908064

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 2 by Premiseless

With more sophisticated reason seems to come more sophisticated emotions:

An interesting component of the de-coupled cognition humans employ is the emotional bias it proposes as critical and inclusive of the mechanics of what it witnesses. De coupled cognition tends to assume a speculative self preservation and self sensory mapping, independent of the empirical information alternatives that actually exist. Feelings promote pseudo fact, as opposed to suspending, adjusting or awaiting information inputs to establish them. The human tends to seem impatient to establish emotions minus, or with limited information. We seem hungry for emotions that are poorly adapted to respond to factual adjustments. I find this an fascinating area for in depth study. Possibly in our early evolution emotional attachments needed to form quickly and without compromise to aid survival and group cohesion? Today, due our massive diversity of education, they are greatly compromised. Emotion seems disabled since it is subjective-fact reliant. New information can become emotionally costly. We seem poorly adapted, amongst the normal range, to such a rapid reform. Furthermore, a counter adaptive colonization of emotionally sophisticated thought procedure seems to have performed a limiting symbiosis upon such progress. Interesting stuff!

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 00:36:44 UTC | #908069

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat

As far as I can see, all the argument does is allow for an evolved creator. Pantheists and many deists would have no problem with this. One can even find corollaries with that notion in the ideas of Lee Smolin.....the 'fecund universe' being an evolving system. Indeed....almost any 'top down' cosmological model, and that includes Hawking and Davies with model dependent reality, has the capacity to evolve 'intelligence'....which is precisely why we are here. Nothing in this excludes intelligence evolving at multiple levels.

I've long since found the whole 'did God create the universe ?' line of reasoning as silly as the argument of whether the chicken or the egg came first. The whole level of argument and counter-argument is absurdly superficial.

Consider what Hawking is actually saying.....many don't.......and it's really quite shocking. The universe did not start out with a single set of conditions or parameters. Rather, it started with all possible conditions and parameters. It has, especially in the Davies variant of MDR, been retrospectively honed by our existence. I had for some time thought this was just a peculiar variant Davies devised and Hawking would have nothing to do with such 'woo'. But in fact.....in article after article it turns out that Hawking is actually saying the same thing.

The existence of top-down forces within the universe changes everything. It may all be a million miles from a rational, thinking, conscious creator......but it's no longer at that totally zero influence 'blind' stage.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 01:56:21 UTC | #908090

78rpm's Avatar Comment 4 by 78rpm

I hadn't thought to put it that way. Very good, Steve Zara.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 02:42:40 UTC | #908096

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 5 by susanlatimer

This is a good angle on it but I never made it past the first problem with the argument. The human-designed watch is compared to the undesigned rock and somehow that's supposed to be an argument that nature is designed. If the universe is the watch, then what's the rock to which it can be compared?

Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat

As far as I can see, all the argument does is allow for an evolved creator. Pantheists and many deists would have no problem with this.

Possibly not but I've only ever heard the argument used by theists who are trying to argue for an unevolved, eternal creator. That isn't to say it hasn't been used by deists as well. I haven't heard many arguments from deists, so I have to plea ignorance.

It has, especially in the Davies variant of MDR, been retrospectively honed by our existence.

What does that mean exactly, "retrospectively honed by our existence?"

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 03:18:44 UTC | #908105

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 6 by Steve Zara

Comment 5 by susanlatimer

This is a good angle on it but I never made it past the first problem with the argument. The human-designed watch is compared to the undesigned rock and somehow that's supposed to be an argument that nature is designed. If the universe is the watch, then what's the rock to which it can be compared?

That's a good point, but I don't think my argument here is just one angle, I think it's the direct consequence of Paley's argument. Paley's argument is about where design comes from, and he says that it has to come from mind. What I hope I have shown is that even if we concede Paley's point, it still doesn't get us to conventional theism, because a designed object such as a watch implies far, far more than just a single designer. It implies the existence of beings which a long culture of technology, because that is how the ability to design comes into the world.

Even if it were true that the appearance of design in the universe does imply the existence of an Intelligent Designer, it doesn't lead us to belief in the God of Abraham, just as the finding of a watch doesn't imply the existence of an immortal self-taught watchmaker!

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 09:28:40 UTC | #908146

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 7 by DocWebster

Even if it were true that the appearance of design in the universe does imply the existence of an Intelligent Designer, it doesn't lead us to belief in the God of Abraham, just as the finding of a watch doesn't imply the existence of an immortal self-taught watchmaker!

It also completely passes over the one chink I spotted in the designer argument before I even worried over the silliness of comparing everything that is to the simplicity of a watch. How fortunate was it for us that a designer happened to come along that particularly had a creature, who could wonder about the designer, in mind when he set about to designing.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 10:23:25 UTC | #908159

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 8 by Alan4discussion

As far as I can see, all the argument does is allow for an evolved creator. Pantheists and many deists would have no problem with this.

Of course this leads straight to the infinite regression of - who designed the designer, of the designer, of the designer? - regardless of if the designer/creator was evolved or not!

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 10:52:19 UTC | #908167

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 9 by Steve Zara

Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat

As far as I can see, all the argument does is allow for an evolved creator. Pantheists and many deists would have no problem with this.

What Paley was unintentionally showing was not that a creator needed to be evolved, but that if there is intelligent design, it has to be from a being who has learned to design. Paley's watch (if there is indeed a watch) doesn't just point to a designer, but the craft of watch-making.

Because of this it demolishes deism and patheism too, as no-one who saw a watch would conclude the existence of some magic essence of watch-creation. That's quite absurd.

In fact, if we really go into detail with the watchmaker argument, things get ever worse for the theist/deist. A watch is clearly mechanical, and its construction reveals the nature of the tools used. It's a work of technology, not magic.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 13:22:56 UTC | #908196

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 10 by susanlatimer

Comment 6 by Steve Zara

That's a good point, but I don't think my argument here is just one angle, I think it's the direct consequence of Paley's argument.

What I hope I have shown is that even if we concede Paley's point, it still doesn't get us to conventional theism, because a designed object such as a watch implies far, far more than just a single designer.

I agree that you've shown that. In this sense, you've thorougly demolished Paley's argument for a conventional god. When I said "angle", I just meant that the argument never gets off the ground in the first place. Every way I've ever looked at it, it appears to be so obviously flawed. To compare something that naturally occurs to something human-made and to use that as an argument that nature is designed.... I'm not sure how anyone could accept that as an argument. It makes no sense.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 15:05:15 UTC | #908225

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 11 by Anaximander

Steve Zara: What Paley was unintentionally showing was not that a creator needed to be evolved, but that if there is intelligent design, it has to be from a being who has learned to design.

But how do you know that the creator wanted it to be a watch? Is it necessary for the creator to know what we use it for?

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 15:11:26 UTC | #908228

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 12 by Anaximander

susanlatimer: I'm not sure how anyone could accept that as an argument. It makes no sense.

Are you sure that making sense has any effect on acceptance?

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 15:15:11 UTC | #908230

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 13 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 9 by Steve Zara

Because of this it demolishes deism and patheism too, as no-one who saw a watch would conclude the existence of some magic essence of watch-creation. That's quite absurd.

If there's no magic involved in human level intelligence and creation...why should one evoke the notion of magic on any other scale ?

The whole 'argument from design' is, as you say, a nonsense issue. But that is largely because it is founded upon a nonsense seperation of things into 'natural' and 'man made' and there is no such genuine distinction because all things are natural.

However, at the heart of all the nonsense there is a genuine issue.......something to which one can at least apply a logical argument. And that is that we already know that intelligence does exist and can result from the laws of nature.....as we have an example of it. Unless there is some physical reason to suppose that intelligence can only exist at the scale of humans, it is not unreasonable to speculate that a 'larger scale' intelligence may exist.

An atom sized scientist looking at a human brain would have no reason to suppose that anything other than the laws of physics were operating. His colleagues would study the brain and see no sign of any 'being'. And there would be nothing on their scale of existence that would hint at hugely large scale interactions over what, to them, would be immense time scales. Every structure around them would be fully explicable via the laws of physics.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 15:42:45 UTC | #908238

Finch's Avatar Comment 14 by Finch

Comment 10 by susanlatimer :

Comment 6 by Steve Zara

That's a good point, but I don't think my argument here is just one angle, I think it's the direct consequence of Paley's argument.

What I hope I have shown is that even if we concede Paley's point, it still doesn't get us to conventional theism, because a designed object such as a watch implies far, far more than just a single designer.

I agree that you've shown that. In this sense, you've thorougly demolished Paley's argument for a conventional god. When I said "angle", I just meant that the argument never gets off the ground in the first place. Every way I've ever looked at it, it appears to be so obviously flawed. To compare something that naturally occurs to something human-made and to use that as an argument that nature is designed.... I'm not sure how anyone could accept that as an argument. It makes no sense.

Exactly.

Paley's argument, for a designer, only "makes sense," if one is preaching to the choir that already presumes that everything that we observe in nature...necessitates a designer. You still end up with a theological way of explaining the origin of the universe that is blatantly absent of the, supposed, main attraction: YHWH.

Typical circular argument.

Inject science and tangible evidence for evolution and the example is blown to hell.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 17:30:09 UTC | #908255

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 15 by Steve Zara

Comment 10 by susanlatimer

I agree that you've shown that. In this sense, you've thorougly demolished Paley's argument for a conventional god. When I said "angle", I just meant that the argument never gets off the ground in the first place. Every way I've ever looked at it, it appears to be so obviously flawed. To compare something that naturally occurs to something human-made and to use that as an argument that nature is designed.... I'm not sure how anyone could accept that as an argument. It makes no sense.

The thing is, though, that it seems to make sense to so many. That's why I think it is useful to show that it makes no sense even if we concede that first step.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 17:35:42 UTC | #908259

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 16 by The Jersey Devil

Comment 9 Steve Zara

Because of this it demolishes deism and patheism (sic) too, as no-one who saw a watch would conclude the existence of some magic essence of watch-creation.

I have yet to see where pantheism has been crushed, not by this argument or any other argument of which I am aware. In fact, I think pantheism is a logical position to take because:

A) It can be an emotional halfway house for those who have trouble completely letting go of the God idea. Granted, this doesn’t by itself make pantheism accurate but if it has utility why should I care about accuracy?

B) The universe has an apparently non-random character, as expressed by the so-called fine tuning problem.

To clarify, I would define the pantheistic God as a hitherto undiscovered ‘force’ that favors the existence of life, probably tied to the observer-dependent nature of certain aspects of quantum mechanics combined with the EPR paradox knocking down the principle of locality. (Oh boy, I probably stepped in shit with that comment!)

Now this doesn’t get you the God of Abraham or creation or a God that makes decisions or listens to prayers or any other personal God. Also, I would say that the non-random character of the universe may not actually exist at all – it may be an illusion. It’s an open question as far as I know.

But with all that said, I don’t see how the watch analogy demolishes my Pantheistic God.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 18:41:47 UTC | #908278

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 17 by Steve Zara

Jump to comment 16 by The Jersey Devil

To clarify, I would define the pantheistic God as a hitherto undiscovered ‘force’ that favors the existence of life, probably tied to the observer-dependent nature of certain aspects of quantum mechanics combined with the EPR paradox knocking down the principle of locality. (Oh boy, I probably stepped in shit with that comment!)

I wish this 'observer dependent' business could be put to rest. It's not observer-dependence, it's measurement-dependence, and the measurer is undefined, it could even be a single atom.

The idea of 'observing' having influence is pure magic, nothing else.

But with all that said, I don’t see how the watch analogy demolishes my Pantheistic God.

The idea of a pantheistic God is that there is some sort of 'creative essence' that explains the order in the universe. But the watch business shows that we can't get to 'creative essence' from design, because the more design we see, the more it points to craft, not magic. You would not pick up a lost watch and conclude that a magician had been at work, you would instead picture some engineer in a room with lots of fine tools. Design does not get to supernaturalism in any way. Instead it points at highly complex naturalism.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 18:48:22 UTC | #908280

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 18 by ccw95005

One thing that gets lost in these discussions is that even if there was an intelligent creator of the universe - something I consider very unlikely but not 100% impossible - that says nothing about whether he would be involved in our day-to-day existence. The assumption of most religious people is that if you could show that there was likely an intelligent creator of the universe, then it follows that he is watching over each of us, judging our actions, and offering eternal life to those who pass muster. Or whatever the flavor of that person's religion is. But those are two entirely separate issues. One doesn't imply the other. And unless God is involved with our existence either here below or up in heaven, then He is irrelevant to us, even if He exists.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 19:02:06 UTC | #908281

Anthroponym's Avatar Comment 19 by Anthroponym

Even more importantly than the origin of the watchmaker is the origin of matter. Where did the matter to make a rock, spacecraft, or cell come from.

For Creationists, God has ultimate power and therefore can just zap matter into existance. However they are left over with circlular reasoning. Who created God, (In other words, what is more powerful than God) Nothing did, they would reply. Therefore God is their Ultimate presumpition of their world-view. Even God, in the Bible, swears by the authority of himself.

However, circlular reasoning is not invalid, it is a restatement of what is already assumed.

Evolution, must assume that matter is self existant. Once again circlular reasoning.

So the creator of the watch-maker is a question for both Evolutionists and Creationists.

And since science is repeatable data, how can matter be manifested?

So being the worst devil's advocate I can be, Origin of matter can't be explained by Evolution science, but Evolution religion.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 19:22:59 UTC | #908290

ShinobiYaka's Avatar Comment 20 by ShinobiYaka

Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat

“Consider what Hawking is actually saying.....many don't.......”

“The universe did not start out with a single set of conditions or parameters. Rather, it started with all possible conditions and parameters.”

I think this one did, I thought he subscribed to the Multi-verse? In his book the Grand Design he used that particular point to address the fine tuning argument, my interpretation may be wrong, but what I thought him to mean was that in an infinite number of universes, the set of universes that had fundamental natural parameters similar to ours would be quite large, so that implies that our universe is not that special, he seems to have merged the weak and strong anthropic arguments and disposed of the requirement for any “tuning” at all, we simply find ourselves in a universe that supports our type of existence, at least for now.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 19:57:08 UTC | #908297

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 21 by Stonyground

I have two problems with Paley's argument. Firstly, if he is going to compare a watchmaker with the biblical creator god, he is going to have to posit a watchmaker who plies his trade by saying 'let there be watches' and behold, there were watches and the watchmaker saw that they were good. secondly, he seems to be implying that organic beings are manufactured by someone bolting together seperate, manufactured, parts in the same way that machines are constructed. His analogy breaks down the second one contemplates the difference between the way that organisms replicate and the way that machines are constructed.

The OP adds yet another argument against Paley that I had not thought of.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 20:06:00 UTC | #908299

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 22 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 19 by Anthroponym

For Creationists, God has ultimate power and therefore can just zap matter into existance. However they are left over with circlular reasoning. Who created God, (In other words, what is more powerful than God) Nothing did, they would reply. Therefore God is their Ultimate presumpition of their world-view. Even God, in the Bible, swears by the authority of himself.

However, circlular reasoning is not invalid, it is a restatement of what is already assumed.

Evolution, must assume that matter is self existant. Once again circlular reasoning.

So the creator of the watch-maker is a question for both Evolutionists and Creationists.

And since science is repeatable data, how can matter be manifested?

So being the worst devil's advocate I can be, Origin of matter can't be explained by Evolution science, but Evolution religion.

It's more fruitful to boil it down not to a chicken and egg style who or what made this or that.....but to what is more fundamental.

I do not think there is any god who can make 2 + 2 = 5, or make pi equal something other than 3.1415926...

These are basic constraints within which all gods have to work. And the problem is, these very constraints make the absolutist omnipotent, omniscient, etc etc type gods impossible. God cannot be 'all powerful' because there are certain things that not even an 'all powerful' god can do !

The minute you impose the laws of maths and geometry upon god, you are restraining god and asserting a framework within which he can exist. It is thus inescapable that that framework comes first. This is logically essential, because even a god has to be 'made of' something and operate by a set of logical rules.

It is therefore logically impossible for 'the creator' to precede creation. Without pre-existent rules such as maths and geometry, there is simply nothing for any god to get a toe-hold on. This argument is actually precisely the thing theists claim science cannot do........a proof that their 'prime mover' god does not exist.

It also means that all gods must be products of change.....evolution......from whatever incredibly simple initial state existed. This line of reasoning allows gods to exist, but it equally as well argues that we can have reached the universe as it is now without the need for any god at all.

I kinda like this argument. Let god exist...but in the process show that he is utterly redudant and superfluous as far as our own evolution is concerned.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 20:33:31 UTC | #908304

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 23 by ZenDruid

Anthroponym,

Even more importantly than the origin of the watchmaker is the origin of matter. Where did the matter to make a rock, spacecraft, or cell come from.

For Creationists, God has ultimate power and therefore can just zap matter into existance. However they are left over with circlular reasoning. Who created God, (In other words, what is more powerful than God) Nothing did, they would reply. Therefore God is their Ultimate presumpition of their world-view. Even God, in the Bible, swears by the authority of himself.

However, circlular reasoning is not invalid, it is a restatement of what is already assumed.

Evolution, must assume that matter is self existant. Once again circlular reasoning.

So the creator of the watch-maker is a question for both Evolutionists and Creationists.

And since science is repeatable data, how can matter be manifested?

So being the worst devil's advocate I can be, Origin of matter can't be explained by Evolution science, but Evolution religion.

The origin of matter isn't an Evolution question, but rather a Cosmology question. The truth is, nobody has a factual answer, so indeed the best we rationalists can do is speculate, i.e tell stories back and forth, all the while acknowledging that the specific mechanism may never be known.

So yeah, seeing that religion is nothing more than storytelling, I can see how you conflate rational inquiry with religion to make your point.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 20:50:36 UTC | #908307

Starcrash's Avatar Comment 24 by Starcrash

I love this answer to the "watchmaker theory", Steve. It's a fantastic follow-up, and I think I may use it myself.

I have responded in a somewhat similar fashion when I was asked "You see the design in a building? Do you think such a thing could have come about by chance?" I replied, "Of course not. If you are referring to a skyscraper, then I'd say the fellow who designed that used blueprints from a similar but less complex design, which was designed by someone who looked at a similar but less complex design, ad nauseum back to the first building which was probably not designed - a cave. The cave did come about by chance, and was built on by intelligent minds. So while this building may have been design, the "design" evolved. Everything with complexity - from language to math to computers - came about through an evolution of design. It would be silly to presume that, even when created by an intelligence, such complexity just sprang into being."

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 21:02:50 UTC | #908310

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 25 by The Jersey Devil

To clarify, I would define the pantheistic God as a hitherto undiscovered ‘force’ that favors the existence of life, probably tied to the observer-dependent nature of certain aspects of quantum mechanics combined with the EPR paradox knocking down the principle of locality. (Oh boy, I probably stepped in shit with that comment!)

I wish this 'observer dependent' business could be put to rest. It's not observer-dependence, it's measurement-dependence, and the measurer is undefined, it could even be a single atom.

The idea of 'observing' having influence is pure magic, nothing else

Oh, I know that 'the observer (or consciousness) causes collapse' theory is controversial and I’m really no expert at QM anyway. That is why I threw in that stepped in shit comment.

No matter. If the EPR paradox knocks down the principle of locality then I can imagine a ‘force’ working backwards in time. Starting at a point in time in which life exists, life itself collapses historical wave functions in reverse order back to the big bang.

Do I believe that BS? Not really. But I don’t think pantheism is destroyed by evolution or design and this is do to the EPR paradox.

Design does not get to supernaturalism in any way. Instead it points at highly complex naturalism.

I believe Einstein described the EPR paradox as ‘spooky action at a distance’ but that doesn’t make it supernatural.

Also, the fine tuning problem is still out there.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 21:25:53 UTC | #908316

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 26 by susanlatimer

Comment 17 by Steve Zara

The thing is, though, that it seems to make sense to so many. That's why I think it is useful to show that it makes no sense even if we concede that first step.

It IS useful to show that it makes no sense even if we concede that first step. It's just that it's difficult to concede that first step because the argument on its face is so absurd. This argument for design relies on nature's lack of design to demonstrate that nature is designed.

I understand it's necessary to examine an argument for every flaw it might contain or just to see where the argument leads but it's baffling to me that the argument carries any weight with anyone. That's all I meant to say.

The KCA for instance appears to make some kind of sense superficially, though it's flawed throughout.

But "a watch is not a rock, therefore nature is designed"?

I know I'm beating a dead horse. I did enjoy reading your investigation of where the argument leads. It is very useful. And as with all your examinations, quite fun.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 21:39:55 UTC | #908321

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 27 by Anaximander

The origin of matter isn't an Evolution question, but rather a Cosmology question.

The origin of matter has been explained by inflationary model. And the fine point is that it does not need to start with huge amounts of energy. Even less than 1 gram is needed at the beginning of the inflation.

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 21:41:55 UTC | #908323

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 28 by Anaximander

susanlatimer: But "a watch is not a rock, therefore nature is designed"?

What if we make a sundial from a rock?

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 21:44:53 UTC | #908324

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 29 by susanlatimer

Comment 28 by Anaximander

What if we make a sundial from a rock?

And put a strap on it and wear it around your wrist? :-)

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 22:39:46 UTC | #908338

Quine's Avatar Comment 30 by Quine

Steve's extension to Paley's argument is a great intuition pump. It causes me to visualize Paley transforming into an anthropologist and staring to dig under the found watch to find all the generations of previous watch design and then all the artifacts of yet more previous human design going all the way back to the Acheulian hand-axe. That is going down; going to the side, at each level, I see all the people who were the makers of all those things, and as Steve indicated, all the training experiences of all their lives that enabled them to do so. If only we could see all the memes that were riding all those minds for all that time. What memes would be riding and mutating in the mind of a purported creator deity, and how could that happen for one that is envisioned to be unchanging over infinite "outside of time"?

Sat, 14 Jan 2012 22:47:04 UTC | #908342