William Paley published Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature in 1802. In 1801, Abraham Louis Breguet, called the “watchmaker of kings and the king of watchmakers,” patented a watch mechanism called the Tourbillon, which is French for “whirlwind,” revolutionizing watchmaking. The tourbillon has approximately 100 parts, and weighs only 0.296 grams.
Among the many Breguet clients have been folks such as Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sir Winston Churchill, and George Washington.
William Paley considered the conclusion of Design appropriate if one had stumbled upon a watch in the woods and wondered of its origin:
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there…Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.
And of course he was right. Microbiology has confirmed that the cell is much, much more complicated than even the tourbillon, and on a much smaller, nano-technological scale. A modern formulation of the argument, given what we know of microbiology and the complexity of the cell, could be:
But suppose I had found a cell upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the cell happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the cell might have always been there.
Paley also claimed that something might come to be known about the intentionality of the Watchmaker by his design:
. .when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive. . . that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it. . . . the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker — that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.
The watchmaker theme is also put forward by Richard Dawkins with his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker. The concept of a “blind watchmaker” is intended to illustrate how complexity is brought about from a step-wise evolutionary process that didn’t have the complexity as a goal. Those familiar with the complexity of watches will not believe that they can be brought about blindly, as, hopefully, this video illustrates. This watch has a tourbillon escapement. Who would like to venture the inference that this watch was constructed blindly?