The watchmaker

Arguments from design often refer to a watch found in nature, on a beach, in a wood or some such. The observer knows the watch to be designed as opposed to its surroundings. The argument is then extrapolated to deduce a divine architect for the universe.

Arguments from design often refer to a watch found in nature, on a beach, in a wood or some such. The observer knows the watch to be designed as opposed to its surroundings. The argument is then extrapolated to deduce a divine architect for the universe.


The argument is absurd for two reasons:

The first is that the watch is recognised as designed in contrast to its surroundings. We know that the watch is designed because we distinguish it from the rocks or soil around it which, in the example, we know not to be designed. To go on and suggest that everything is designed including the ground that the watch rests on is to lose the concept of the designed as being a distinct category of object. If everything is designed how do we recognised the designed in contrast to the non-designed?

The second reason is that the understanding of what is meant by design is glossed over. The only type and method of design we are familiar with is human design. This is very much an evolutionary process. People play with the material world; we no doubt started off banging rocks together. A person once noticed that a candle burned down fairly regularly compared to other events and marked intervals on it. From there men utilised other regular processes, water leaking from a container, the periodicity of a pendulum and eventually the release of energy from a coiled spring. In this way time measuring devices developed into the watch. No one sat down with nothing and came up with the concept of a watch and built it out of nothing. Our only understanding of design is as a developmental process, manipulate materials create, adjust, make prototypes and see how they work, build on what is observed in nature and created by others. The creationists view of a god or gods is that they can create from nothing with no precedent. This has no relationship to what we understand design to be and hence cannot be deduced from analogy to human design. This is why evolution is a much more appealing comparator to human design. Trial, error and development is how we design, just like evolution.

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