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Paley’s argument from design: Did Hume refute it, and is it an argument from analogy?


There are many modern-day skeptics who apparently still subscribe to the myth that the Scottish empiricist philosopher David Hume soundly refuted Rev. William Paley’s argument from design on philosophical grounds, even before Darwin supposedly refuted it on scientific grounds (see here, here and here for examples). The supposition is absurdly anachronistic: Hume died in 1776, and his posthumous Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion were published in 1779, but Paley’s Natural Theology was not published until 1802, three years before Paley’s death in 1805. Some of the more intelligent skeptics, such as Julian Baggini, are aware of this fact, but still make the risibly absurd claim (see here) that Hume anticipated and refuted Paley’s argument from design. The truth, however, is the complete reverse.

It turns out that Rev. Paley had already read Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; indeed, he even refers in passing to “Mr. Hume, in his posthumous dialogues” on page 512 of Chapter XXVI of his Natural Theology! Moreover, a careful examination of Paley’s design argument shows that he had anticipated and responded to all of Hume’s criticisms.

I’d like to begin by drawing attention to one major difference between the design argument put forward by the character Cleanthes (and subsequently refuted by Philo) in David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and the design argument formulated by William Paley. As Professor John Wright has pointed out in some online remarks on Hume’s Dialogues, Cleanthes’ design argument was an inductive argument based on an analogy between human artifacts (which we observe being produced by intelligent agents) and the machines we find in Nature, whereas Paley argued that we could immediately infer Intelligent Design from any machine we happen to find:

Paley thinks we infer the existence of an intelligent cause immediately from the observation of the machine itself. According to the argument which Cleanthes puts forward, the only reason we ascribe an intelligent cause to machines like watches, is because we discover from observation that they are created by beings with thought, wisdom and intelligence. (Paley had read Hume and was obviously aware of this difference in their arguments: see his answer to his first Objection.)

For Paley the inference from watch to intelligent watchmaker is no different from the inference from complex natural organisms to an intelligent designer. He is just trying to show you can make the same inference in both cases. For Cleanthes, on the other hand, it is important that we observe the maker in the case of the human productions and we do not in the case of the productions of nature. We observe the effects in both cases and that they are somewhat similar to each other. But we never observe the cause in the case of natural machines: it is only inferred through the scientific principle “like effects, like causes.” Cleanthes draws the conclusion that the cause of natural machines something like a human mind, but very much greater.

Cleanthes’ argument is a genuine inductive argument, based on observation of the relation of cause and effect in the case of human production; Paley’s is not.

I should add that Dr. Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, made the same point in an online lecture he gave at Cambridge University in July 2012, entitled, Intelligent Design: The Most Credible Idea?. At about (52:30), Meyer addresses Hume’s objections to the design argument, as follows:

The other case against the design argument came from Hume, which was the claim that the design argument was a failed analogy. And what he did was, he said, “Look. You’ve got the structure of the analogical argument is that you’ve got two similar effects with a known cause, allowing us to infer a similar cause for the other effect.” That’s the logical structure of the analogical argument. Hume attempted to defeat that by showing that the similarity between effect E1 – human artifacts – and effect E2 – living systems – was much less than had been previously indicated. The structure of the argument that I’ve developed – and that other people in the ID research community are developing – is not an analogical argument, properly speaking. We’re not arguing from similarities of effects; rather, what we’re doing is picking out identical effects in both living systems and artifactual systems – in particular, specified complexity, which can be very rigorously defined – and saying, “OK, we’re looking at identical effects. Now what is the best causal explanation of that effect given our knowledge of cause and effect? So the argument does not have the logical structure of an analogical argument of the kind that Hume critiqued, but rather, of an inference to the best explanation – a standard scientific form of argumentation – and so the case I made is that Cause 4 – Intelligence – provides a better explanation, because it’s the only cause which is consistent with our knowledge of cause and effect as we observe it in the world around us, as we observe the causes now in operation.

Dr. Meyer is of course perfectly correct. In this post, what I propose to do is examine Hume’s criticisms of the design argument in detail, and show how Paley’s version of the design argument was specifically tailored to address those criticisms head-on.


Twelve myths about Paley’s design argument, or: Why everything you thought you knew about Paley’s Natural Theology is wrong

If you’ve read anything about Paley’s “design argument” for the existence of God, then you’ve probably heard it expressed in the following garbled form:

Rev. William Paley argued that there were strong similarities between complex structures that we find in Nature (such as the eye) and human artifacts, such as a watch. The human eye is like a machine, he claimed. So are the other organs of the body. But we already know from observation that mechanical artifacts, such as watches, are invariably designed by intelligent beings – namely, human beings. Operating on the principle, “like effects, like causes,” we can infer by analogy that complex organs, such as the eye, were probably made by an Intelligent Designer, Who is like a human being, but much, much smarter. Since this inference is based on an inductive argument (rather than a deductive one) which makes use of an analogy, its conclusion is not absolutely certain. Nevertheless, maintained Paley, it is extremely probable that an Intelligent Designer exists. Paley then went on to argue that since the whole world is rather like a giant watch, we may legitimately conclude that the universe was made by a Designer – a Cosmic Watchmaker, if you like.

You’ve probably also read about Hume’s allegedly devastating rebuttal of the Design argument, which basically goes like this:

First, Paley’s “watch analogy” for complex natural systems was never a very good one in the first place. The eye isn’t a watch, and neither is the universe. The numerous disanalogies between complex natural structures (such as the eye) and a human artifact, undermine the inference that these natural structures were designed. The design inference is even weaker when we examine the universe as a whole: in reality, it is nothing like a watch.

Second, the numerous defects that we find in the organs of living things constitute powerful evidence against the hypothesis that they were designed by an Intelligent Creator.

Third, even if we had good evidence for an Intelligent Designer of Nature, our experience tells us that intelligent designers are invariably complex entities, so we would then have to ask: who designed the Designer? And who designed the Designer’s Designer? And so on, ad infinitum. Wouldn’t it be more rational, then, to simply say that Nature is self-ordering, instead of opening the door to an infinite regress of designers, which in the end, explains nothing?

Fourth, even if we could establish the existence of a Designer of Nature who can somehow avoid this infinite regress, we would still faced with another question: how can the Designer of Nature be a bodiless agent, as theists maintain? Our experience tells us that intelligent agents are always embodied beings, and nobody has ever seen a disembodied agent making anything. There is no good evidence for spooks. The notion of a spiritual Designer is therefore both absurd and unsupported by any credible evidence.

Fifth, even if could make sense of the notion of a spiritual Designer, how can we be sure that there’s only one Designer of Nature? Might there not be many designers, as polytheism supposes?

Sixth, even if we could establish the unity of the Cosmic Watchmaker, such a Being would not need to be continually involved with the cosmos; maybe He created its complex systems at some point in the past, but He no longer interacts with the cosmos. So how do we know that the Designer of the cosmos is still alive?

Seventh, even if He still exists, we have no way of knowing whether the Cosmic Designer is a personal Being; for all we know, the Designer might be an impersonal force, like Spinoza’s Deity.

Finally, even if we could establish that the Designer is a personal Being, there is no way of demonstrating that He is infinitely powerful, wise or good. The effects we see in Nature are finite, and from a finite effect, it is illicit to infer the existence of an Infinite Cause.

We can only conclude, then, that Rev. William Paley’s identification of the Designer of Nature with the God of Judaism and Christianity in his Natural Theology is utterly unwarranted: it is a gigantic leap of faith which defies the laws of logic.

The above exposition of Paley’s design argument contains several errors, which I’ve collected together under the heading of twelve myths, which are commonly found in discussions of Paley’s argument for God’s existence. My refutation of these myths will enable readers to see clearly how Paley met and rebutted every one of the eight Humean criticisms listed above.

The biggest myth of them all: Paley failed to take biological reproduction into account, in his argument

Perhaps the biggest myth – especially among younger skeptics – is that Rev. Paley failed to take into account the rather obvious fact that organisms reproduce (and are therefore capable of refining and improving upon their internal bodily design with each generation), whereas artifacts typically don’t reproduce – which is why design inferences that work for watches don’t work for living things. At the end of my post, I’ll prove that Paley anticipated this very objection and rebutted it decisively, before going on to discuss briefly whether Darwin’s Origin of Species successfully refutes the logic of Paley’s argument.

Without further ado, allow me to present “Twelve myths about Paley’s design argument.”


Myth One: Paley likens the world to a giant watch in his Natural Theology.

A Russian mechanical watch. Image courtesy of Kristoferb and Wikipedia.

Fact: Paley explicitly rejected the analogy between the world and a watch, in his Natural Theology. He points out that when making design inferences, “we deduce design from relation, aptitude, and correspondence of parts.” However, “the heavenly bodies do not, except perhaps in the instance of Saturn’s ring, present themselves to our observation as compounded of parts at all,” since they appear to be quite simple and undifferentiated in their internal structure (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXII, p. 379). When discussing the movements of the heavenly bodies, he writes: “Even those things which are made to imitate and represent them, such as orreries, planetaria, celestial globes, &c. bear no affinity to them, in the cause and principle by which their motions are actuated” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXII, p. 379) – the reason being that the mechanism of a watch requires that its parts be in physical contact with one another, whereas the gravitational influence exerted by one heavenly body on another is action at a distance.

Indeed, nowhere in his Natural Theology does Paley declare that the world is like a watch. The closest statement I can find is his declaration, “The universe itself is a system; each part either depending upon other parts, or being connected with other parts by some common law of motion, or by the presence of some common substance” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXV, pp. 449-450). To be sure, Paley does argue that “In the works of nature we trace mechanism” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, pp. 416-418), but he never declares that Nature itself is one giant mechanism. Rather, Paley’s proof of God was based on the existence of mechanisms (plural) occurring in the natural world.

What Paley does liken to watches are the biological structures (such as the eye) that we find in the natural world. For example, he writes that “very 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 and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation,” and in the same passage he adds that “here is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision, as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter III, pp. 17-18).

NOTE: I should like to point out here that when Paley speaks of contrivances, he simply means: systems whose parts are intricately arranged and co-ordinated to serve some common end, or as he puts it, a system possessing the following three features: “relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose.” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 413.) For the purposes of Paley’s argument, it is utterly irrelevant whether this end is intrinsic to the parts in question, as in a living organism, or extrinsic, as in an artifact.

Elsewhere, when discussing the example of the eye and other organs, he writes: “If there were but one watch in the world, it would not be less certain that it had a maker… Of this point, each machine is a proof, independently of all the rest. So it is with the evidences of a Divine agency… The eye proves it without the ear; the ear without the eye.” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter VI, pages 76-77).


Myth Two: Paley’s argument for a Designer in his Natural Theology is an argument from analogy.

Fact: Paley’s argument is not based on any analogy. He doesn’t say that the complex organs found in living things are like artifacts; he says that they are the same as artifacts in certain vital respects. In particular, these complex organs share several common properties with artifacts: “properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 413), or as he puts it elsewhere, “[a]rrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, [and] relation of instruments to a use” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter II, p. 11). Paley refers to the organs of the body as “contrivances,” precisely because they share these vital properties with man-made artifacts. (For the benefit of Thomist readers who may be wondering, I should point out that Paley is fully aware of the intrinsic teleology of living things, and that he repeatedly refers to “final causes” in his Natural Theology.)

Next, Paley argues that intelligence is the only known adequate cause of objects possessing the combination of properties found in artifacts and complex organs. Our experience tells us that that no other cause, apart from intelligence, is capable of producing effects possessing these properties. Paley concludes that the complex organs of living creatures (such as the eye) must therefore have had an Intelligent Designer. In his own words:

Wherever we see marks of contrivance, we are led for its cause to an intelligent author. And this transition of the understanding is founded upon uniform experience. We see intelligence constantly contriving, that is, we see intelligence constantly producing effects, marked and distinguished by certain properties; not certain particular properties, but by a kind and class of properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose. We see, wherever we are witnesses to the actual formation of things, nothing except intelligence producing effects so marked and distinguished. Furnished with this experience, we view the productions of nature. We observe them also marked and distinguished in the same manner. We wish to account for their origin. Our experience suggests a cause perfectly adequate to this account. No experience, no single instance or example, can be offered in favour of any other. In this cause therefore we ought to rest… Men are not deceived by this reasoning: for whenever it happens, as it sometimes does happen, that the truth comes to be known by direct information, it turns out to be what was expected. In like manner, and upon the same foundation (which in truth is that of experience), we conclude that the works of nature proceed from intelligence and design, because, in the properties of relation to a purpose, subserviency to a use, they resemble what intelligence and design are constantly producing, and what nothing except intelligence and design ever produce at all. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 413-414).

For Paley, the inference to design, upon seeing a contrivance, is immediate:

This mechanism being observed (it requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood), the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker…

Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclusion, that we had never seen a watch made; that we had never known an artist capable of making one; that we were altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding in what manner it was performed…

Ignorance of this kind exalts our opinion of the unseen and unknown artist’s skill, if he be unseen and unknown, but raises no doubt in our minds of the existence and agency of such an artist, at some former time, and in some place or other. (Chapter I, pp. 3-4)


Myth Three: Paley put forward an inductive argument for a Designer: because there are complex systems in Nature which resemble human artifacts, which are made by intelligent agents, we can infer that an Intelligent Designer made Nature’s complex systems.

Sherlock Holmes, a fictional detective who was renowned for his powers of deductive logic, and his companion Dr. Watson. Holmes’ most famous remark was one he made to Dr. Watson in chapter 6 of The Sign of the Four: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Illustration by Sidney Paget from the Sherlock Holmes story The Greek Interpreter.
William Paley put forward what he claimed was a deductive proof of the existence of an Intelligent Designer of Nature. For example, in his Natural Theology, he refers to “the marks of contrivance discoverable in animal bodies, and to the argument deduced from them, in proof of design, and of a designing Creator.” (Natural Theology, 12th edition, J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter IV, p. 67.)

Fact: Paley himself declares on several occasions that his argument for a Designer of Nature is a deductive argument. Paley refers to his argument as a deductive argument in the following passages in his Natural Theology:

…the marks of contrivance discoverable in animal bodies, and to the argument deduced from them, in proof of design, and of a designing Creator
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter IV, p. 67)

Now we deduce design from relation, aptitude, and correspondence of parts.

(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXII, p. 379)

… the universality which enters into the idea of God, as deduced from the views of nature.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIV, p. 443)

Nowhere in his Natural Theology does Paley ever describe his argument as an inductive one.

The premises and conclusion of Paley’s deductive design argument

The premises of Paley’s deductive argument are as follows. First, we know that intelligent agents are capable of producing effects marked by the three properties of (i) relation to an end, (ii) relation of the parts to one another, and (iii) possession of a common purpose.

Second, no other cause has ever been observed to produce effects possessing these three properties.

We are therefore entitled to conclude that if there are systems in Nature possessing these same three properties, then the only cause that is adequate to account for these natural effects is an Intelligent Agent.

The view that Paley’s argument is deductive has scholarly support

I would like to add that Thomist scholar Del Ratzsch, in his article on Teleological Arguments for God’s Existence in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, also acknowledges that Paley’s argument is a deductive one. In his article, he writes:

Although Paley’s argument is routinely construed as analogical, it in fact contains an informal statement of the above variant argument type. Paley goes on for two chapters discussing the watch, discussing the properties in it which evince design, destroying potential objections to concluding design in the watch, and discussing what can and cannot be concluded about the watch’s designer. It is only then that entities in nature – e.g., the eye – come onto the horizon at all. Obviously, Paley isn’t making such heavy weather to persuade his readers to concede that the watch really is designed and has a designer. He is, in fact, teasing out the bases and procedures from and by which we should and should not reason about design and designers. Thus Paley’s use of the term “inference” in connection with the watch’s designer.

Once having acquired the relevant principles, then in Chapter 3 of Natural Theology – “Application of the Argument” – Paley applies the same argument (vs. presenting us with the other half of the analogical argument) to things in nature. The cases of human artifacts and nature represent two separate inference instances:

up to the limit, the reasoning is as clear and certain in the one case as in the other. (Paley 1802 [1963], 14)

But the instances are instances of the same inferential move:

there is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it. (Paley 1802 [1963], 13)

The watch does play an obvious and crucial role – but as a paradigmatic instance of design inferences rather than as the analogical foundation for an inferential comparison.

… Indeed, it has been argued that Paley was aware of Hume’s earlier attacks on analogical design arguments, and deliberately structured his argument to avoid the relevant pitfalls. Paley’s own characterization of his argument would support this deductive classification


Myth Four: Paley’s argument for God in his Natural Theology is a merely probabilistic argument, rather than a demonstrative proof.

Left hip-joint, opened by removing the floor of the acetabulum from within the pelvis. Image courtesy of Gray’s Anatomy and Wikipedia.
For William Paley, the ligament of the ball-and-socket joint proved the existence of a Designer beyond all shadow of a doubt.

Fact: Paley explicitly states, over and over again, in his Natural Theology, that he views his argument for a Designer not as a merely probabilistic argument, but as a proof, whose conclusion was certain and indubitable. For example, in his discussion of the ligament of the ball-and-socket joint of the thigh (illustrated above), Paley declares that it provides us with unequivocal proof of a Creator:

If I had been permitted to frame a proof of contrivance, such as might satisfy the most distrustful inquirer, I know not whether I could have chosen an example of mechanism more unequivocal, or more free from objection, than this ligament. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter VIII, pp. 112-113).

Referring to the human eye, Paley wrote:

Were there no example in the world, of contrivance, except that of the eye, it would be alone sufficient to support the conclusion which we draw from it, as to the necessity of an intelligent Creator. It could never be got rid of; because it could not be accounted for by any other supposition, which did not contradict all the principles we possess of knowledge; the principles, according to which, things do, as often as they can be brought to the test of experience, turn out to be true or false.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter VI, p. 75)

After describing the circulation of the blood, he writes: “Can any one doubt of contrivance here; or is it possible to shut our eyes against the proof of it?” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter X, p. 161).

Finally, in summing up his case, Paley wrote:

For my part, I take my stand in human anatomy: and the examples of mechanism I should be apt to draw out from the copious catalogue, which it supplies, are the pivot upon which the head turns, the ligament within the socket of the hip-joint, the pulley or trochlear muscles of the eye, the epiglottis, the bandages which tie down the tendons of the wrist and instep, the slit or perforated muscles at the hands and feet, the knitting of the intestines to the mesentery, the course of the chyle into the blood, and the constitution of the sexes as extended throughout the whole of the animal creation. To these instances, the reader’s memory will go back, as they are severally set forth in their places; there is not one of the number which I do not think decisive; not one which is not strictly mechanical; nor have I read or heard of any solution of these appearances, which, in the smallest degree, shakes the conclusion that we build upon them.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXVII, p. 536).

Paley’s clinching argument: if the design skeptics are right, then all design inferences are invalid, which is absurd

Paley puts forward one final argument to convince diehard skeptics in his day, who were still inclined doubt the legitimacy of any inference from the numerous contrivances that we find in the natural world to the existence of a Designer of Nature. He offers a reductio ad absurdum: if the skeptics are right, he says, an absurd consequence follows: it would mean that no matter how perfectly ordered the universe was, we could still never be sure that it had an Intelligent Creator. No sane person would accept such a ridiculous conclusion, he says:

Of every argument, which would raise a question as to the safety of this reasoning, it may be observed, that if such argument be listened to, it leads to the inference, not only that the present order of nature is insufficient to prove the existence of an intelligent Creator, but that no imaginable order would be sufficient to prove it; that no contrivance, were it ever so mechanical, ever so precise, ever so clear, ever so perfectly like those which we ourselves employ, would support this conclusion. A doctrine, to which, I conceive, no sound mind can assent.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, pp. 414-415)

Paley’s probable conclusions as to the functions of various bodily organs, contrasted with his certainty that they were designed

It is true that in Paley’s Natural Theology, the term “probable” is used when Paley is speculating as to the possible purposes of the various contrivances that we find in Nature – especially, the organs of the human body. Thus he considers it probable (but not certain) that the purpose of the blood circulation is to “distribute nourishment to the different parts of the body”. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter X, p. 164.)

At the same time, however, Paley is quite emphatic that our lack of certainty regarding the precise purpose for which the various contrivances occurring in organisms were designed does not weaken the certainty of the inference that they were designed. Thus Paley is absolutely certain that the valves which regulate the flow of blood were designed by an intelligent agent. “Can any one doubt of contrivance here?” he asks rhetorically. He even wonders how it is possible “to shut our eyes against the proof of it.” Thus in the same passage, Paley expresses his absolute certainty on the question of whether the valves of the blood vessels were designed, while acknowledging that he is uncertain as to what the blood circulation is designed for. The term “probably” is only used in connection with the latter question, not the former.

So long as the blood proceeds in its proper course, the membranes which compose the valve, are pressed close to the side of the vessel, and occasion no impediment to the circulation: when the blood would regurgitate, they are raised from the side of the vessel, and, meeting in the middle of its cavity, shut up the channel. Can any one doubt of contrivance here; or is it possible to shut our eyes against the proof of it?
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter X, p. 161)

A Red Pierrot butterfly, feeding at the M.E.S. Abasaheb Garware College campus in Pune, India. Image courtesy of Akshay Rao and Wikipedia.

Finally, Paley regarded the existence of beauty in the plant and animal kingdoms as a most remarkable fact, and he considered it probable, but not certain, that the beauty we observe in living creatures was the product of design. The reader may be wondering why Paley hesitated to draw the design inference here. Of the complexity of “parts and materials” there could be no doubt: Paley writes admiringly of “the painted wings of butterflies and beetles,” and “the rich colours and spotted lustre of many tribes of insects.” However, we need to recall that for Paley, a contrivance (which for Paley, necessarily requires a Designer) is more than a complex arrangement of parts. The parts have to serve a common end. Now, with the body’s internal organs, the end is usually (but not always) readily discernible, because it is a biological end. A biological function, once established, leaves no room for argument. However, the beauty of the external coloring of a plant or animal often does not appear to serve any biological function, leaving Paley somewhat perplexed. Perhaps, he suggests, animal beauty is meant to attract other animals. Perhaps the beauty of flowers serves the same purpose. Now that would qualify as a bona fide end, if it were confirmed. At the same time, Paley was troubled by the existence of complex systems of parts which seemed to serve no other purpose than ornamentation.

A third general property of animal forms is beauty. I do not mean relative beauty, or that of one individual above another of the same species, or of one species compared with another species; but I mean, generally, the provision which is made in the body of almost every animal, to adapt its appearance to the perception of the animals with which it converses. In our own species, for example, only consider what the parts and materials are, of which the fairest body is composed; and no further observation will be necessary to show, how well these things are wrapped up, so as to form a mass, which shall be capable of symmetry in its proportion, and of beauty in its aspect…

All which seems to be a strong indication of design, and of a design studiously directed to this purpose. And it being once allowed, that such a purpose existed with respect to any of the productions of nature, we may refer, with a considerable degree of probability, other particulars to the same intention; such as the teints of flowers, the plumage of birds, the furs of beasts, the bright scales of fishes, the painted wings of butterflies and beetles, the rich colours and spotted lustre of many tribes of insects.

In plants, especially in the flowers of plants, the principle of beauty holds a still more considerable place in their composition; is still more confessed than in animals. Why, for one instance out of a thousand, does the corolla of the tulip, when advanced to its size and maturity, change its colour? … It seems a lame account to call it, as it has been called, a disease of the plant. Is it not more probable, that this property, which is independent, as it should seem, of the wants and utilities of the plant, was calculated for beauty, intended for display?
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XI, pp. 197-199)

Here, then, Paley’s cautious assertion that the beauty observed in animals and plants gives “a strong indication of design” with “a considerable degree of probability” reflects his lack of certainty as to whether beauty actually serves a legitimate biological purpose in the organisms in which it is found.

The point that Paley is making here is that we need to be absolutely certain that there is a purpose served by a complex arrangement of parts, before we can impute design to it. Once we have ascertained that the parts do indeed serve a common purpose, the inference to an Intelligent Designer is absolutely certain.


Myth Five: Paley overlooked the numerous disanalogies between complex natural structures (such as the eye) and a human artifact, such as a watch. Additionally, his watch analogy for the cosmos was a very poor one.

The human eye. According to William Paley, “Were there no example in the world, of contrivance, except that of the eye, it would be alone sufficient to support the conclusion which we draw from it, as to the necessity of an intelligent Creator.
Parts of the eye: 1. vitreous body 2. ora serrata 3. ciliary muscle 4. ciliary zonules 5. canal of Schlemm 6. pupil 7. anterior chamber 8. cornea 9. iris 10. lens cortex 11. lens nucleus 12. ciliary process 13. conjunctiva 14. inferior oblique muscle 15. inferior rectus muscle 16. medial rectus muscle 17. retinal arteries and veins 18. optic disc 19. dura mater 20. central retinal artery 21. central retinal vein 22. optic nerve 23. vorticose vein 24. bulbar sheath 25. macula 26. fovea 27. sclera 28. choroid 29. superior rectus muscle 30. retina. Image courtesy of Chabacano and Wikipedia.

Fact: As I demonstrated in my reply to Myth One above, Paley never likened the universe to a watch, so the objection against his watch analogy for the cosmos rests on a false premise.

As regards the organs of living things, Paley did indeed compare them to watches, but as I pointed out in my response to Myth Two above, Paley did not declare that the complex organs found in living things are like artifacts; rather, he says that they are the same as artifacts in certain vital respects. In particular, these complex organs share several common properties with artifacts: “properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 413).

In a telling passage, Paley compares the eye to a telescope, and argues that despite the evident dissimilarities between the two, their common possession of the three properties described above, which characterize what he calls contrivances, warrants the inference that they were both intelligently designed:

As far as the examination of the instrument goes, there is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision, as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it…

To some it may appear a difference sufficient to destroy all similitude between the eye and the telescope, that the one is a perceiving organ, the other an unperceiving instrument. The fact is, that they are both instruments. And, as to the mechanism, at least as to mechanism being employed, and even as to the kind of it, this circumstance varies not the analogy at all. For observe, what the constitution of the eye is. It is necessary, in order to produce distinct vision, that an image or picture of the object be formed at the bottom of the eye. Whence this necessity arises, or how the picture is connected with the sensation, or contributes to it, it may be difficult, nay we will confess, if you please, impossible for us to search out. But the present question is not concerned in the inquiry…

In the example before us, it is a matter of certainty, because it is a matter which experience and observation demonstrate, that the formation of an image at the bottom of the eye is necessary to perfect vision… The formation then of such an image being necessary (no matter how) to the sense of sight, and to the exercise of that sense, the apparatus by which it is formed is constructed and put together, not only with infinitely more art, but upon the self-same principles of art, as in the telescope or the camera obscura. The perception arising from the image may be laid out of the question; for the production of the image, these are instruments of the same kind. The end is the same; the means are the same. The purpose in both is alike; the contrivance for accomplishing that purpose is in both alike. The lenses of the telescope, and the humours of the eye, bear a complete resemblance to one another, in their figure, their position, and in their power over the rays of light, viz. in bringing each pencil to a point at the right distance from the lens; namely, in the eye, at the exact place where the membrane is spread to receive it. How is it possible, under circumstances of such close affinity, and under the operation of equal evidence, to exclude contrivance from the one; yet to acknowledge the proof of contrivance having been employed, as the plainest and clearest of all propositions, in the other?
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter III, pp. 18-21)


Myth Six: Paley failed to address the argument that the numerous defects that we find in the organs of living things constitute powerful evidence against the hypothesis that they were designed by an Intelligent Creator.

Fact: Paley addressed this objection in the very first chapter of his Natural Theology, where he argued that someone who came across a watch lying in a field would still infer that it was designed, even if it contained defects. A badly designed object is still a designed object. In Chapter V, he returned to the objection, and allowed that imperfections might call God’s skill, power or benevolence into question, but even so, countervailing evidence that convincingly attests to God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence could outweigh the evidence against God’s wisdom, power and goodness from the natural evils we observe in the world:

Neither, secondly, would it invalidate our conclusion, that the watch sometimes went wrong, or that it seldom went exactly right. The purpose of the machinery, the design, and the designer, might be evident, and in the case supposed would be evident, in whatever way we accounted for the irregularity of the movement, or whether we could account for it or not. It is not necessary that a machine be perfect, in order to show with what design it was made: still less necessary, where the only question is, whether it were made with any design at all.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter I, pp. 4-5)

When we are inquiring simply after the existence of an intelligent Creator, imperfection, inaccuracy, liability to disorder, occasional irregularities, may subsist in a considerable degree, without inducing any doubt into the question: just as a watch may frequently go wrong, seldom perhaps exactly right, may be faulty in some parts, defective in some, without the smallest ground of suspicion from thence arising that it was not a watch; not made; or not made for the purpose ascribed to it…

Irregularities and imperfections are of little or no weight in the consideration, when that consideration relates simply to the existence of a Creator. When the argument respects his attributes, they are of weight; but are then to be taken in conjunction … with the unexceptionable evidences which we possess, of skill, power, and benevolence, displayed in other instances; which evidences may, in strength; number, and variety, be such, and may so overpower apparent blemishes, as to induce us, upon the most reasonable ground, to believe, that these last ought to be referred to some cause, though we be ignorant of it, other than defect of knowledge or of benevolence in the author.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter V, pp. 56-58)


Myth Seven: Paley’s Intelligent Designer would still have to be complex, which means that on Paley’s own logic, He would need to be designed, too.

Fact: Paley was well-aware of Hume’s “infinite regress” objection, which has been popularized in our own day by Professor Richard Dawkins. He refuted it by denying its initial premise: he contended that the Designer must be immaterial and could not be composed of any complex contrivance of parts. Thus Paley’s Designer is an immaterial, simple Being:

Of this however we are certain, that whatever the Deity be, neither the universe, nor any part of it which we see, can be He. The universe itself is merely a collective name: its parts are all which are real; or which are things. Now inert matter is out of the question: and organized substances include marks of contrivance. But whatever includes marks of contrivance, whatever, in its constitution, testifies design, necessarily carries us to something beyond itself, to some other being, to a designer prior to, and out of, itself. No animal, for instance, can have contrived its own limbs and senses; can have been the author to itself of the design with which they were constructed. That supposition involves all the absurdity of self-creation, i. e. of acting without existing. Nothing can be God, which is ordered by a wisdom and a will, which itself is void of; which is indebted for any of its properties to contrivance ab extra. The not having that in his nature which requires the exertion of another prior being (which property is sometimes called self-sufficiency, and sometimes self-comprehension), appertains to the Deity, as his essential distinction, and removes his nature from that of all things which we see. Which consideration contains the answer to a question that has sometimes been asked, namely, Why, since something or other must have existed from eternity, may not the present universe be that something? The contrivance perceived in it, proves that to be impossible. Nothing contrived, can, in a strict and proper sense, be eternal, forasmuch as the contriver must have existed before the contrivance.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 412).


Myth Eight: Paley fails to address Hume’s objection that in our experience, intelligent designers are always embodied beings, so the Intelligent Designer of Nature would need to be one, too.

Fact: Paley put forward two arguments for God’s spirituality in his Natural Theology. First, he argued (following the opinion of most scientists of his day), that matter is essentially inert, in the sense that it is unable to make something move, unless something else first moves it. It follows that the ultimate source of motion in the cosmos must be something immaterial, or spiritual:

“Spirituality” expresses an idea, made up of a negative part, and of a positive part. The negative part consists in the exclusion of some of the known properties of matter, especially of solidity, of the vis inertiae, and of gravitation. The positive part comprises perception, thought, will, power, action, by which last term is meant, the origination of motion; the quality, perhaps, in which resides the essential superiority of spirit over matter, “which cannot move, unless it be moved; and cannot but move, when impelled by another (Note: Bishop Wilkins’s Principles of Natural Religion, p. 106.).” I apprehend that there can be no difficulty in applying to the Deity both parts of this idea.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 448).

Second, Paley contended that the Designer of Nature could not be composed of any matter that was organized into contrivances made up of interacting parts, because then He would have to have been designed by some entity outside Himself, which would mean that He would no longer be self-existent:

Of this however we are certain, that whatever the Deity be, neither the universe, nor any part of it which we see, can be He. The universe itself is merely a collective name: its parts are all which are real; or which are things. Now inert matter is out of the question: and organized substances include marks of contrivance. But whatever includes marks of contrivance, whatever, in its constitution, testifies design, necessarily carries us to something beyond itself, to some other being, to a designer prior to, and out of, itself. No animal, for instance, can have contrived its own limbs and senses; can have been the author to itself of the design with which they were constructed. That supposition involves all the absurdity of self-creation, i. e. of acting without existing. Nothing can be God, which is ordered by a wisdom and a will, which itself is void of; which is indebted for any of its properties to contrivance ab extra. The not having that in his nature which requires the exertion of another prior being (which property is sometimes called self-sufficiency, and sometimes self-comprehension), appertains to the Deity, as his essential distinction, and removes his nature from that of all things which we see.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 412).


Myth Nine: Paley’s Design argument fails to establish that there’s only one designer of Nature.

Fact: In his Natural Theology, Paley argued that the uniformity of the laws of Nature constituted the best evidence of the Creator’s unity. The laws of physics are uniform throughout the entire cosmos, while the laws of biology are the same everywhere, within the Earth’s biosphere:

Of the “Unity of the Deity,” the proof is, the uniformity of plan observable in the universe. The universe itself is a system; each part either depending upon other parts, or being connected with other parts by some common law of motion, or by the presence of some common substance. One principle of gravitation causes a stone to drop towards the earth, and the moon to wheel round it. One law of attraction carries all the different planets about the sun. This philosophers demonstrate. There are also other points of agreement amongst them, which may be considered as marks of the identity of their origin, and of their intelligent author. In all are found the conveniency and stability derived from gravitation…

In our own globe, the case is clearer. New countries are continually discovered, but the old laws of nature are always found in them: new plants perhaps, or animals, but always in company with plants and animals which we already know; and always possessing many of the same general properties. We never get amongst such original, or totally different, modes of existence, as to indicate, that we are come into the province of a different Creator, or under the direction of a different will. In truth, the same order of things attend us, wherever we go.

(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXV, pp. 449-450)

The works of nature want only to be contemplated… We have proof, not only of both these works proceeding from an intelligent agent, but of their proceeding from the same agent; for, in the first place, we can trace an identity of plan, a connexion of system, from Saturn to our own globe: and when arrived upon our globe, we can, in the second place, pursue the connexion through all the organized, especially the animated, bodies which it supports. We can observe marks of a common relation, as well to one another, as to the elements of which their habitation is composed. Therefore one mind hath planned, or at least hath prescribed, a general plan for all these productions. One Being has been concerned in all.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXVII, pp. 540-541)

To sum up: Paley believed he had refuted Hume’s argument that for all we know, there might be many designers, as polytheism supposes.


Myth Ten: Paley’s God in his Natural Theology was only required to wind up the clockmaker universe at the beginning; after that, He is redundant, so we can’t be sure if He still exists or not.

Fact: This is a commonly repeated criticism of Paley’s watchmaker argument. However, what many people do not realize is that Paley anticipated this very criticism in his Natural Theology, and vigorously rebutted it.

For Paley, laws and mechanisms are incapable of explaining anything, in the absence of an agent

The first flaw in the critic’s argument is that it assumes that a law or mechanism, once established, suffices to explain how things work, and require no further explanation. As Paley pointed out, laws and mechanisms are incapable of explaining anything, in the absence of agency:

A law presupposes an agent, for it is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is the order according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the “law” does nothing; is nothing.

What has been said concerning “law,” holds true of mechanism. Mechanism is not itself power. Mechanism, without power, can do nothing.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 416)

Neither mechanism, therefore, in the works of nature, nor the intervention of what are called second causes (for I think that they are the same thing), excuses the necessity of an agent distinct from both.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 419)

The watch and the hand mill: two analogies used by Paley to illustrate the world’s continual dependence on God

A human-powered treadmill, used for grinding wheat or corn. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

In his book, Natural Theology, William Paley used the image of a human-powered grinding mill as an analogy for the continual dependence of the universe on the power of God, who upholds it. Paley’s analogy of the grinding mill is clearer than his watch analogy, because it is obvious that it requires the continual activity of an intelligent agent to keep it moving.

Paley used two analogies to illustrate his claim that the cosmos requires the continual activity of a living God to keep it functioning: that of a watch and that of a grinding mill (illustrated above).

Let a watch be contrived and constructed ever so ingeniously; be its parts ever so many, ever so complicated, ever so finely wrought or artificially put together, it cannot go without a weight or spring, i.e. without a force independent of, and ulterior to, its mechanism… By inspecting the watch, even when standing still, we get a proof of contrivance, and of a contriving mind, having been employed about it. In the form and obvious relation of its parts, we see enough to convince us of this… But, when we see the watch going, we see proof of another point, viz. that there is a power somewhere, and somehow or other, applied to it; a power in action;–that there is more in the subject than the mere wheels of the machine;–that there is a secret spring, or a gravitating plummet;–in a word, that there is force, and energy, as well as mechanism.

So then, the watch in motion establishes to the observer two conclusions: One; that thought, contrivance, and design, have been employed in the forming, proportioning, and arranging of its parts; and that whoever or wherever he be, or were, such a contriver there is, or was: The other; that force or power, distinct from mechanism, is, at this present time, acting upon it. If I saw a hand-mill even at rest, I should see contrivance: but if I saw it grinding, I should be assured that a hand was at the windlass, though in another room. It is the same in nature. In the works of nature we trace mechanism; and this alone proves contrivance: but living, active, moving, productive nature, proves also the exertion of a power at the centre: for, wherever the power resides, may be denominated the centre.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, pages 416-418.)

First, Paley appeals to the illustration of a watch to argue that the Designer of Nature must still be alive and active in the cosmos. The contrivances that we see in Nature tell us that it had a Designer, but it is the movement of the cosmos that tells us that the Designer must still be alive and active in the world.

Second, Paley’s analogy of the human-powered grinding mill illustrates the way in which the cosmos requires the continual activity of an intelligent agent (God) to keep it moving.

Why Paley believed that God was needed to keep the cosmos moving

To the modern reader, it may appear that Paley’s watch analogy overlooks a rather obvious objection: watches, when wound up, can continue running for a very long time without further intervention from their maker, and a hypothetical perfect watch, once constructed, might continue running throughout the duration of the cosmos. Thus it seems that Paley’s argument fails to establish the existence of a God Who is still living; all it shows is that the cosmos once had a Designer, Who may or may not still be alive.

The answer to this objection is that Paley and his contemporaries shared a common belief about matter that no longer strikes us as self-evident: namely, that a material object is incapable of making another object move unless something else moves it. Thus in Chapter XXIV of his Natural Theology, entitled, Of the Natural Attributes of the Deity, Paley refers (on page 448) to “the origination of motion; the quality, perhaps, in which resides the essential superiority of spirit over matter, ‘which cannot move, unless it be moved; and cannot but move, when impelled by another (Note: Bishop Wilkins’s Principles of Natural Religion, p. 106.).'” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIV, p. 448).

Again, in Chapter XXIII, Of the Personality of the Deity, when discussing the nature of the Deity, Paley writes that whatever the Deity may be, “inert matter is out of the question” (Paley, W. Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 412).

We can now trace the logic of Paley’s argument for a preserving Cause of the cosmos’ motion. Since bodies are incapable of initiating motion, Paley concludes that the bodies in the cosmos can only act upon each other if something immaterial is continually acting on them. We also find that bodies throughout the natural world whose parts are arranged in a complex manner, enabling them to work together for a common end. Experience tells us that intelligent agency is the only cause which is capable of producing systems with this combination of properties. From this, we may deduce that the Immaterial Agent that keeps the world moving is also an Intelligent Agent. In Paley’s words: “In the works of nature we trace mechanism; and this alone proves contrivance: but living, active, moving, productive nature, proves also the exertion of a power at the centre: for, wherever the power resides, may be denominated the centre” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 418).

Paley thought his design argument worked perfectly well, even if the universe had no beginning (and hence, no initial “wind-up”)

A final problem with the objection that all Paley’s argument establishes is the existence of an Divine Watchmaker Who wound up the cosmos at the beginning (and Who may no longer be alive) is that it assumes Paley thought he could prove the universe had a beginning. In fact, he argued that even if it were eternal, it would still require a Designer:

Nor is any thing gained by running the difficulty farther back, i. e. by supposing the watch before us to have been produced from another watch, that from a former, and so on indefinitely. Our going back ever so far, brings us no nearer to the least degree of satisfaction upon the subject. Contrivance is still unaccounted for. We still want a contriver. A chain, composed of an infinite number of links, can no more support itself, than a chain composed of a finite number of links. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter II, pp. 12-13.)

The machine which we are inspecting, demonstrates, by its construction, contrivance and design. Contrivance must have had a contriver; design, a designer; whether the machine immediately proceeded from another machine or not. That circumstance alters not the case. That other machine may, in like manner, have proceeded from a former machine: nor does that alter the case; contrivance must have had a contriver. That former one from one preceding it: no alteration still; a contriver is still necessary. No tendency is perceived, no approach towards a diminution of this necessity. It is the same with any and every succession of these machines; a succession of ten, of a hundred, of a thousand; with one series, as with another; a series which is finite, as with a series which is infinite. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter II, pp. 13-14.)

Our observer would further also reflect, that the maker of the watch before him, was, in truth and reality, the maker of every watch produced from it; there being no difference (except that the latter manifests a more exquisite skill) between the making of another watch with his own hands, by the mediation of files, lathes, chisels, &c. and the disposing, fixing, and inserting of these instruments, or of others equivalent to them, in the body of the watch already made in such a manner, as to form a new watch in the course of the movements which he had given to the old one. It is only working by one set of tools, instead of another. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XII, p. 16.)

For Paley, the Designer of Nature is the Cause of existence of everything in Nature

The final and decisive refutation of the claim that Rev. William Paley only argued for a Deity that wound up the universe at the beginning is that there are passages in his Natural Theology, where he explicitly declares God to be the cause of existence of everything in Nature:

… I shall not, I believe, be contradicted when I say, that, if one train of thinking be more desirable than another, it is that which regards the phenomena of nature with a constant reference to a supreme intelligent Author. To have made this the ruling, the habitual sentiment of our minds, is to have laid the foundation of every thing which is religious. The world thenceforth becomes a temple, and life itself one continued act of adoration. The change is no less than this, that, whereas formerly God was seldom in our thoughts, we can now scarcely look upon any thing without perceiving its relation to him. Every organized natural body, in the provisions which it contains for its sustentation and propagation, testifies a care, on the part of the Creator, expressly directed to these purposes. We are on all sides surrounded by such bodies; examined in their parts, wonderfully curious; compared with one another, no less wonderfully diversified.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXVII, p. 539)

Against not only the cold, but the want of food, which the approach of winter induces, the Preserver of the world has provided in many animals by migration, in many others by torpor.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XVII, p. 298)

Under this stupendous Being we live. Our happiness, our existence, is in his hands. All we expect must come from him.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXVII, p. 541)


Myth Eleven: Paley’s God in his Natural Theology is an impersonal Designer, and not the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Fact: Paley’s work was entitled Natural Theology, so it is hardly surprising that he does not explicitly argue for the existence of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Nevertheless, Paley argued that God must be a personal Being, because He is capable of designing things. As he put it: “that which can contrive, which can design, must be a person” (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, p. 408). A designer, by definition, possesses consciousness and thought, and must be capable of perceiving a goal or end, and adapting and directing means to achieve this goal. Such a being, Paley argued, must be a person (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, pp. 408, 441).

In addition to being personal, Paley argued in his Natural Theology that the Designer of Nature must be:

(a) transcendent, because “contrivances” [systems composed of parts working together for a common end] are found at all levels throughout Nature, so their Author must lie beyond Nature;

(b) uncaused, or self-existent, because His existence does not have any preceding cause;

(c) the cause not only of the origin of things, but of their continuation in existence, because the physical laws which define their very natures, could only have been chosen by an intelligent agent, and because these laws only continue to hold by virtue of the ongoing activity of this intelligent agent;

(d) one, because the uniformity of His plan can be seen throughout Nature;

(e) spiritual, because He is a personal agent capable of thought and will, and capable (unlike matter) of moving things without needing anyone to move Him;

(f) good, because the contrivances He has placed in living things are designed for the good of those creatures, and not for their harm;

(g) omnipresent, because His power extends throughout Nature;

(h) omnipotent, because everything is His handiwork, so there is nothing to limit His power over Nature;

(i) omniscient, because the knowledge required for the formation of created nature is infinite, since He selected the laws of the cosmos from an infinite range of possible options;

(j) simple, because complex beings require an external cause for the skillful contrivance of their parts, whereas God has no cause;

(k) beyond space and time, since He is their Author, and has no limits. (One could draw the conclusion, though Paley himself does not explicitly say so, that God is therefore timeless and immutable.)

In all these respects, Paley’s God is identical with the God of classical theism. On two points, however, Paley differs from most classical theists.

First, Paley equates the necessity of God with the possibility of our demonstrating His existence, whereas for classical theists, God’s necessity is usually grounded in the notion that God is Pure Existence, and hence incapable of non-existence.

Second, Paley appears to believe that God is capable of perceiving the world in some way. Even if this perception occurs timelessly in the mind of God, it would still mean that He is passible, or capable of being affected by the world. Classical theism, however, traditionally holds that God is impassible. However, neither the necessity nor the impassibility of God forms part of the defined teachings of Judaism, Christianity or Islam. None of these religions teach that God is Pure Existence. Nor do they teach that God is impassible, or incapable of being affected by His creatures; rather, what they teach is that God does not have passions, or bodily feelings.

I conclude that Paley falls within the broad tradition of classical theism, albeit of a very pragmatic variety, insofar as he endeavors to explain the Divine attributes in terms of how they affect us, rather than describing them in terms of God’s inner being – a subject about which Paley prefers not to speculate.


Myth Twelve: At most, Paley’s design argument establishes only the existence of a finite, limited Deity, which falls short of the Infinite God of classical theism.

Fact: A careful examination of Paley’s writings shows that he put forward no less than four arguments for God’s infinity, in his Natural Theology. Some of these arguments are better than others, but they certainly show that Paley was well aware of Hume’s objection that the design argument could only establish the existence of a finite God, and that he vigorously endeavored to refute it.

First, using the example of the eye, Paley argued that God’s designs are infinitely more skillful than our own (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter III, p. 21).

We can also discern a second argument for God’s infinite intelligence in Paley’s observation that when God selected the laws of Nature, He had to make a choice from among an infinite number of alternatives, only an infinitesimal proportion of which were compatible with the formation of a stable cosmos (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXII, p. 393).

Third, Paley argued that God must be infinitely powerful, because He is able to control an indefinitely large region of space by His volitions: His power extends everywhere.

Fourth, Paley considered that God must be infinitely wise, because He is apparently capable of manifesting His wisdom and benevolence in an unlimited number of ways, and upon an unlimited number of objects (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXVI, p. 492; Chapter XXVII, p. 548).


Did Paley’s argument take into account the fact that organisms reproduce?

Left: Hoverflies mating in midair flight. Image courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos and Wikipedia.
Right: The sexual cycle. Image courtesy of UserStannered and Wikipedia.

Perhaps the silliest myth about Paley’s Natural Theology is that he overlooked a rather obvious dissimilarity between living things and artifacts: that living things reproduce and are therefore capable of gradually improving or refining their design, whereas artifacts such as watches don’t reproduce, which is why they are utterly incapable of improving their design on a step-by-step basis. The fact is that Paley spent four whole pages refuting this argument in Chapter II of his book, where he imagines what a person would rationally infer, if he found a watch that was capable of making a copy of itself:

Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch, should, after some time, discover that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing, in the course of its movement, another watch like itself (the thing is conceivable); that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts, a mould for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, files, and other tools, evidently and separately calculated for this purpose; let us inquire, what effect ought such a discovery to have upon his former conclusion.

I. The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism, by which it was carried on, he would perceive, in this new observation, nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done, — for referring the construction of the watch to design, and to supreme art. If that construction without this property, or which is the same thing, before this property had been noticed, proved intention and art to have been employed about it; still more strong would the proof appear, when he came to the knowledge of this further property, the crown and perfection of all the rest.

II. He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense, the maker of the watch, which was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that, in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair; the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use. With respect to these, the first watch was no cause at all to the second: in no such sense as this was it the author of the constitution and order, either of the parts which the new watch contained, or of the parts by the aid and instrumentality of which it was produced. We might possibly say, but with great latitude of expression, that a stream of water ground corn: but no latitude of expression would allow us to say, no stretch of conjecture could lead us to think, that the stream of water built the mill, though it were too ancient for us to know who the builder was. What the stream of water does in the affair, is neither more nor less than this; by the application of an unintelligent impulse to a mechanism previously arranged, arranged independently of it, and arranged by intelligence, an effect is produced, viz. the corn is ground. But the effect results from the arrangement. The force of the stream cannot be said to be the cause or author of the effect, still less of the arrangement. Understanding and plan in the formation of the mill were not the less necessary, for any share which the water has in grinding the corn: yet is this share the same, as that which the watch would have contributed to the production of the new watch, upon the supposition assumed in the last section. Therefore,

III. Though it be now no longer probable, that the individual watch, which our observer had found, was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth not this alteration in anywise affect the inference, that an artificer had been originally employed and concerned in the production. The argument from design remains as it was. Marks of design and contrivance are no more accounted for now, than they were before. In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties. We may ask for the cause of the colour of a body, of its hardness, of its head; and these causes may be all different. We are now asking for the cause of that subserviency to a use, that relation to an end, which we have remarked in the watch before us. No answer is given to this question, by telling us that a preceding watch produced it. There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office, in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter II, pp. 8-11)

Later on in his book, Paley fleshed out his argument that reproduction, while teleological, is also a mechanical process, which still requires the existence of an Intelligent Designer:

The generation of the animal no more accounts for the contrivance of the eye or ear, than, upon the supposition stated in a preceding chapter, the production of a watch by the motion and mechanism of a former watch, would account for the skill and intention evidenced in the watch, so produced; than it would account for the disposition of the wheels, the catching of their teeth, the relation of the several parts of the works to one another, and to their common end, for the suitableness of their forms and places to their offices, for their connexion, their operation, and the useful result of that operation. I do insist most strenuously upon the correctness of this comparison; that it holds as to every mode of specific propagation; and that whatever was true of the watch, under the hypothesis above-mentioned, is true of plants and animals… Has the plant which produced the seed any thing more to do with that organization, than the watch would have had to do with the structure of the watch which was produced in the course of its mechanical movement? I mean, Has it any thing at all to do with the contrivance? The maker and contriver of one watch, when he inserted within it a mechanism suited to the production of another watch, was, in truth, the maker and contriver of that other watch. All the properties of the new watch were to be referred to his agency: the design manifested in it, to his intention: the art, to him as the artist: the collocation of each part to his placing: the action, effect, and use, to his counsel, intelligence, and workmanship. In producing it by the intervention of a former watch, he was only working by one set of tools instead of another. So it is with the plant, and the seed produced by it.

Can any distinction be assigned between the two cases; between the producing watch, and the producing plant; both passive, unconscious substances; both by the organization which was given to them, producing their like, without understanding or design; both, that is, instruments?

From plants we may proceed to oviparous animals; from seeds to eggs. Now I say, that the bird has the same concern in the formation of the egg which she lays, as the plant has in that of the seed which it drops; and no other, nor greater. The internal constitution of the egg is as much a secret to the hen, as if the hen were inanimate… Although, therefore, there be the difference of life and perceptivity between the animal and the plant, it is a difference which enters not into the account. It is a foreign circumstance. It is a difference of properties not employed. The animal function and the vegetable function are alike destitute of any design which can operate upon the form of the thing produced. The plant has no design in producing the seed, no comprehension of the nature or use of what it produces: the bird with respect to its egg, is not above the plant with respect to its seed. Neither the one nor the other bears that sort of relation to what proceeds from them, which a joiner does to the chair which he makes.
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter IV, pp. 49-52)

Finally, Paley denounced the intellectual laziness of skeptical philosophers in his day, who were fond of invoking self-replication as an explanation for biological complexity, while failing to advert to the obvious fact that an organism’s reproductive system is itself a contrivance of parts working together towards a common end, and that such a contrivance must have had an Intelligent Designer:

The minds of most men are fond of what they call a principle, and of the appearance of simplicity, in accounting for phenomena. Yet this principle, this simplicity, resides merely in the name; which name, after all, comprises, perhaps, under it a diversified, multifarious, or progressive operation, distinguishable into parts. The power in organized bodies, of producing bodies like themselves, is one of these principles. Give a philosopher this, and he can get on. But he does not reflect, what this mode of production, this principle (if such he choose to call it) requires; how much it presupposes; what an apparatus of instruments, some of which are strictly mechanical, is necessary to its success; what a train it includes of operations and changes, one succeeding another, one related to another, one ministering to another; all advancing, by intermediate, and, frequently, by sensible steps, to their ultimate result!
(Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter XXIII, pp. 420-421)

While we’re on the subject of reproduction, I’d strongly recommend that readers take a look at Kairosfocus’ excellent post, The ghost of William Paley speaks — Stephen Meyer’s minimalist case for intelligent design in the face of claims that Hume and Darwin had refuted it, which discusses the mechanics of reproduction in great detail from an origin-of-life perspective.


Did Darwin refute Paley’s argument?

Portrait of Charles Darwin, by George Richmond. Late 1830s. Image courtesy of Richard Leakey, Roger Lewin and Wikipedia.

Neo-Darwinists often claim that Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, published in 1859, decisively refuted Paley’s argument for a Designer, once and for all. For my part, I think Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection made a relatively minor dent in Paley’s case.

In a nutshell, Paley’s argument is that intelligent agency is the only process adequate to account for the origin of what he calls contrivances – that is, systems whose parts are intricately arranged and co-ordinated to subserve some common end. (For the purposes of Paley’s argument, it is utterly irrelevant whether this end is intrinsic to the parts in question, as in a living organism, or extrinsic, as in an artifact.) What Charles Darwin did was to put forward a mechanism (natural selection) which is capable (in principle) of explaining how one complex, highly co-ordinated system of parts which assists an organism’s survival could, over millions of years, gradually evolve into another complex system serving an altogether different purpose, through an undirected (“blind”) process. (Of course, such an evolutionary transformation can only occur if there is a viable pathway between the two systems, which blind processes are capable of traversing without any intelligent guidance.) What Darwin did not show, however, is how the fundamental biochemical systems upon which all organisms rely for their survival, could have came into existence, in the first place. We might refer to these fundamental systems in Nature as Paley’s original contrivances. These contrivances cannot be explained away as modifications of pre-existing biological systems, since by definition, anything that preceded them was not viable.

I conclude that in the absence of a Darwinian explanation for the origin of life, Paley’s argument remains perfectly valid, for biochemical systems which are universal to living things, and which go back to the dawn of life on Earth. These “original systems” are “contrivances” in Paley’s sense of the word, and as they were not modified from other systems found in living things, Paley’s argument would still apply to them.

In order to successfully rebut Paley’s argument, then, Darwinists therefore need to explain the emergence of life itself – something which they have so far signally failed to do.

'Is there any move within Catholic theology to recover the “Biblical” emphasis to balance out the heavy “Greek” emphasis of historical Thomism? Such a move could only be salutary.' I believe the virtues were defined on the basis of a Greek classification, but to my mind, I find it much more to the point that the so-to-speak 'active ingredient' (or perhaps, 'catalyst') of all the virtues is charity; all the virtues being said to have their counterfeits. Axel
Since you are a Catholic StephenB, if you are not already familiar with La Croix International, I think you (and other readers, here) might find it as fascinatingly to the point, as I do. 'https://godevidence.com/2019/08/detective-work/#comment-160635' is also interesting. Axel
When I read the mere heading, while ignorant of the 'to-ing and fro-ing' of the formal controversy, I had to LOL, simpy on the pellucidly common-sense gound that Paley stated. How Hume could ever have been taken seriously... well, we know how imbecilically, frightened atheists can respond to the most elementary truths, but the humour those responses give rise to never seems to diminish. Then again, why would our sense of houmour ever become so jaded as to fail to laugh at the naked emperor in one of his more ordnary, invisible suits, especially, while the sartorial elegance of His Royal Nibs is being flattered by his hireling courtiers? Axel
When talking about the term "designer" (god) I have mixed feeling on the topic because I do not know what to believe. For instance, it seems reasonable when naturally made objects could have been created by god, but when Paley talks about the watch, I seem to be skeptical. However, I see where Paley is coming from though because the watch he was referring to had many precise features and skills, such as the "eye" of the watch relating to the universe, which made it seem very hard to actually be created by an average person. That being said, the only other option would be god, because it was stated that he is known as a "perfectionist". sstefanovski
Hi, Barry. Thomas Aquinas would not have been a "Thomist" in any case. Thomism is the school of thought built upon the thought of Aquinas, but Thomas's own thought was not built upon the thought of Aquinas; it was built upon the thought of Albert the Great, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, Peter the Lombard, etc. -- and of course the Creeds and the Bible. I was not suggesting that we should travel back in time and alter the life of Thomas Aquinas! Nor was I criticizing Thomas Aquinas himself. I was criticizing certain features of modern neo-Thomism. My suggestion is that the overemphasis on systematics, and underemphasis on the Biblical text, that is so characteristic of neo-Thomism, would probably undergo a natural adjustment if theologians had to become Biblical theologians before becoming systematic theologians. Aquinas himself of course spent an immense amount of time studying the systematic theologians of his era and earlier eras, but he also wrote commentaries on several Biblical books -- something that a modern neo-Thomist philosopher or theologian would very rarely do. So his theology was better balanced between the systematic/philosophical and the textual/Biblical. Of course, I don't blame Aquinas for not being able to read Greek or Hebrew. Very few Western Europeans could read Greek in his era, and I don't know of any medieval theologian (other than Jewish ones) who read Hebrew. The educational infrastructure just was not there. It wouldn't be until the Renaissance that such a thing was possible again (as it had been in ancient times). Nonetheless, the lack of knowledge of Greek and Hebrew in the Middle Ages was a very serious problem for any adequately Biblical theology -- as was the lack of understanding of the ancient milieu of the Bible, and the lack of understanding of Biblical genres, some of which were quite different from the characteristic genres mastered in Medieval education: dialogue, disputation, philosophical commentary, jurisprudence, etc. Aquinas, brilliant though he was in philosophy and theology, was crippled for Biblical theology by the training characteristic of his age. So even Aquinas would have benefited by the training I have suggested. But my target was not Aquinas; it was people like Feser, whose notion of "classical theism" seems often a bloodless and cerebral professor's abstraction in comparison with, say, the God of Calvin, the God of Luther, etc. -- a God whose portrait emerges not out of playing around with concepts like unity, infinity, omnipotence, ubiquity, etc., but out of Biblical exegesis. Timaeus
Timaeus @66 , I can readily identify with your comments and questions. Many neo-Thomists do, indeed, lose their sense of perspective when they presume to speak for their master in such uncompromising terms. The Angelic Doctor was not that way at all. If there was an element of truth in a competing point of view, he would recognize it. Indeed, he characterized his opponents’ views and objections so fairly and accurately that anti-Christian partisans would appropriate those same arguments and ignore what followed as if he hadn’t provided the refutation. Yes, Sacred Scripture shaped his thought and his systematic approach. As you point out, many neo-Thomists (not all) who speak in his name, fail to use the Bible as a guard rail to protect themselves (and those under their influence) from excess and rigidity. On the contrary, they often misrepresent Thomism in the name of Thomism, an outrage that I find hard to forgive. Not only do they ignore the relevant Biblical quotes, they usually fail to cite St. Thomas himself. Notice, for example, how often Ed Feser and Francis Beckwith insist that a Thomistic philosophy of nature is incompatible with the prospect that God may, on occasion, “tweak” or fine tune his creation. In their minds, God must design life solely by working through secondary causes and that’s all there is to it. Never mind the fact that, for Aquinas, God created man’s body and soul directly and in finished form. Obviously, that one fact alone completely dismantles their main argument and lays bare their fierce determination to militate against ID at all costs, even at the cost of compromising the good name of their master. One of the few times that they do quote Aquinas is to do violence to him, twisting his carefully qualified comments about “contingency” into the outrageous claim that he would have supported Neo-Darwinian evolution. I do agree with the Catholic idea that faith and reason are eminently compatible. That is why Augustine and Aquinas did not hesitate to use Plato and Aristotle as reason’s mouthpieces for illuminating revealed truths when appropriate. In this sense, though, Scripture lead and philosophy followed, just as you indicated. Since, in some contexts (not all), Scripture supports univocal predication, then Catholic philosophy should reflect that view. The real value of harmonizing systematic theology with the relevant Biblical passages is to understand when univocal predication is appropriate and when it is not. [“Come let is reason together” vs. “My thoughts are not your thoughts”]. There is a reason for the difference. The Thomist who doesn’t read the Bible and take it seriously will end up misunderstanding both Thomism and Scripture. Taking it one step further, the Bible indicates that philosophy is useful for testing the reasonableness of any belief system. Only after that belief system passes the test of reason should we submit to its higher truths, which in turn, inform our reason. Many neo-Thomists like to test Scripture, but they don’t want to submit to it after the test has been passed. Having said that, I think Thomism, properly understood, is essential to the faith/reason synthesis or, if you like, the Hellenic and Hebraic synthesis. My beef is with pseudo Thomists posing as Thomists. Fortunately, not all neo-Thomists are that way. Sad to say, the Catholic Church, my church, is in a very sorry state at this moment in history. To be sure, I believe that it is the bulwark of truth and I accept all of its magisterial teachings without exception. I also believe that I have the best chance of saving my soul by following those teachings and availing myself of the sacraments. However, the Catholic culture in the West has failed miserably to uphold its own traditions and teachings. In the United States, for example, all the major Catholic universities have become secularized. With a few glorious exceptions, the bishops have been absent without leave for decades. It is in this corrupted environment that all these nominal Thomists have emerged. When the Catholic culture changes, there will be fewer nominal Thomists and more real Thomists. StephenB
Timaeus,writes, "I wonder what would happen if no one were allowed to become a Thomist theologian without a prior ten-year apprenticeship in Biblical studies, during which time the prospective Thomist would master Greek . . ." Thomas would not have been a Thomist under that criterion. He could not read Greek. Barry Arrington
StephenB: Your final Biblical quotation -- which is very relevant -- reminds me of something about some neo-Thomists that I tend to dislike. While Aquinas himself quoted the Bible frequently and based his thoughts to a large extent upon it, modern neo-Thomists appear to base their thoughts less on the Bible and much more on Thomas himself, plus the systematic conclusions of the neo-Thomist tradition. That is, their theology tends to be more philosophical, and less Biblical. Very rarely do we find a neo-Thomist philosopher/theologian who is *also* a competent Biblical scholar. The problem with the systematic theologian is that he/she is always trying to hammer the Bible into shape, to fit into a systematic theology (Thomist, Calvinist, etc.). So if the systematic theology bans "univocal predication," then all Bible passages which seem to sustain univocal predication will be either ignored or explained away by any means necessary, no matter how forced those means are from a literary, historical and philological point of view. I get the strong sense that many modern Thomists see the Bible as a lower-level form of theological writing, containing a lot of popular, inaccurate phrasing and crude picture-thinking, and that the true theology is found only in abstract, systematic metaphysical thinking (about unity, infinity, form, entelechy, etc.) There is something very "Continental" (dare I say "Teutonic"?) about this -- something alien to the Anglo-American Protestant form of Christianity, in which the Bible is taken, not as the uneducated man's poor substitute for systematic theology, but as the standard to which systematic theology must conform. In neo-Thomism, one often gets the sense that the philosophical dominates over the Biblical emphasis. This may make it simply impossible for people like Feser ever to treat seriously passages in the Bible which point to detectable design, or passages in the Bible which endorse univocal predication. The cast of much neo-Thomist thought is (to put it in dangerously crude terms, which can easily be misunderstood) much more "Hellenic" than "Biblical." It tends to treat theology as something a-historical, and hence something radically different from the contextual interpretation of historically-rooted literary texts. That's why, frankly, though I regard Thomas as one of the great theologians of all time, and a great teacher and scholar of Aristotle, I don't regard Thomism as the be-all and end-all of Christian theology. It's certainly a legitimate approach to Christian theology, within its limits; but when its practitioners virtually ignore the Bible because they have no "feel" for literature of that kind, there is a problem. I wonder what would happen if no one were allowed to become a Thomist theologian without a prior ten-year apprenticeship in Biblical studies, during which time the prospective Thomist would master Greek and Hebrew, the ancient historical background of the Bible, and spend thousands of hours reading and interpreting the Biblical stories *as* stories, not as a quarry for concepts of systematic theology. The Thomist who then took up his Latin and his medieval theological studies would approach theology from quite a different perspective. I think that the Thomist theology that would result (call it neo-neo-Thomism for the sake of a label) would provide a better balance between the Hellenic and Hebraic elements of the tradition than does much modern neo-Thomism. Is there any move within Catholic theology to recover the "Biblical" emphasis to balance out the heavy "Greek" emphasis of historical Thomism? Such a move could only be salutary. If it seems odd for me, of all people, to be calling for a de-emphasizing of Greek ideas within Christianity, I would remind everyone that in the 17th century you had the Cambridge Platonists who retained their love of all things Greek while giving new emphasis to the Hebrew side of Christianity. I don't think it's a zero-sum game between Greek and Hebraic aspects. We don't have to trash the philosophical side of Christian theology to put more emphasis on the Hebraic/Biblical side. Just thinking out loud here. If it's off-topic, everyone can just let it go. But it does take off from your Biblical passage. Timaeus
Random thoughts: It is, indeed, very odd that Gregory, who reminds us daily that we are made in God's image, cannot bear the thought that human design patterns might resemble Divine design patterns. I look forward to one of two responses: [a] Gregory will ignore the point, or [b] he will write a thousand words around the irony without addressing it. Moving forward, I find the discussion about ID and analogy fascinating, especially since ID does not argue from analogy. Oh, well, why worry about facts or relevant arguments. From a moral perspective, God has already weighed in in the problem of univocal application: "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." StephenB
Timaeus, Thanks very much for your kind words in my defense. vjtorley
Gregory, A quick response to your questions. Regarding my Ph.D.: I obtained it from the University of Melbourne, Australia, which is listed at #36 on the QS World University Rankings (see here). Normally, Ph.D. students are required to give an oral defense of their thesis; this requirement was waived in my case, because I was living overseas and working full-time to support my family. At no stage was I asked to publish an article in a journal before obtaining my Ph.D., although I would have been quite happy to do so. In any case, my Ph.D. can be viewed online in its entirety, on my Web page. If you read it, I think you will agree that it is of satisfactory quality. You claim that Intelligent Design theory “conflicts with the Thomistic doctrine of analogy” ask me to provide something on the subject of univocal predication. There are some facts which you need to keep in mind, however. First, the Thomistic doctrine of analogy isn't defined Catholic doctrine. Scotists (who follow the philosophical teachings of Blessed John Duns Scotus) famously reject the Thomist doctrine of analogy. Second, the Thomistic doctrine of analogy has been criticized for its lack of coherence. The handout by Dr. Tobias Hoffmann, which you linked to, states that the words we use to describe God are analogical rather than univocal, "because all perfections are found eminently in God, who is their cause in creatures." But that begs the question: how do you define "cause"? And if you say that it means something like what we mean when we use the term of creatures, then that only invites the further question: how do you define "like"? At some point, I would argue, there have to be some words which we can apply to God and creatures univocally. Third, Scotus faced up to this problem and addressed it. Scotus held that since intelligence and goodness were pure perfections, not limited by their very nature to a finite mode of realization, they could be predicated univocally of God and human beings. To be sure, God's way of knowing and loving is altogether different from ours: it belongs to God's very essence to know and love perfectly, whereas we can only know and love by participating in God's knowledge and love. Also, God's knowledge and goodness are essentially infinite, while our knowledge and goodness are finite. However, what it means for God to know and love is exactly the same as what it means for human beings to know and love. As Dr. Thomas Williams puts it in his article on Duns Scotus in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
The doctrine of univocity rests in part on the claim that "[t]he difference between God and creatures, at least with regard to God's possession of the pure perfections, is ultimately one of degree" (Cross [1999], 39)... If we are to follow Anselm in ascribing to God every pure perfection, we have to affirm that we are ascribing to God the very same thing that we ascribe to creatures: God has it infinitely, creatures in a limited way. One could hardly ask for a more harmonious cooperation between ontology (what God is) and semantics (how we can think and talk about him).
Fourth, the Catholic Church has never condemned Duns Scotus' views. As The Catholic Encyclopedia notes in its article on Scotism, there have even been bishops, cardinals, popes, and saints who were followers of Duns Scotus' philosophy. Fifth, Duns Scotus, in formulating his account of how we can apply human language to God, intended it to be a refutation of the views put forward by Henry of Ghent, rather than St. Thomas Aquinas. Sixth, Aquinas says some things about God's intelligence which sound very close to Scotus' own position, in his Summa Contra Gentiles Book 2, chapter 46, paragraphs 3 and 4:
That the Perfection of the Universe Requires the Existence of Some Intellectual Creatures [3] ...Now, just as the act of being and the nature of a thing are considered as belonging to its first perfection, so operation is referred to its second perfection. Hence, the complete perfection of the universe required the existence of some creatures which return to God not only as regards likeness of nature, but also by their action. And such a return to God cannot be made except by the act of the intellect and will, because God Himself has no other operation in His own regard than these. The greatest perfection of the universe therefore demanded the existence of some intellectual creatures. [4] Moreover, in order that creatures might perfectly represent the divine goodness, it was necessary, as we have shown, not only that good things should be made, but also that they should by their actions contribute to the goodness of other things. But a thing is perfectly likened to another in its operation when not only the action is of the same specific nature, but also the mode of acting is the same. Consequently, the highest perfection of things required the existence of some creatures that act in the same way as God. But it has already been shown that God acts by intellect and will. It was therefore necessary for some creatures to have intellect and will.
"Same specific nature," "same mode of acting," "act in the same way as God"? Hmmm. Sounds like Scotus and Aquinas weren't so far apart after all. Seventh, Scotus' views on the univocity of being have also been exaggerated in popular accounts of his philosophy, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on John Duns Scotus:
It has been asserted, too, that according to Scotus, being can be attributed univocally to God and creatures; but this again is false. Scotus maintains that God is the ens per essentiam, creatures are entia per participationem - they have being only in an analogical sense. But from the being of God and the being of creatures, a universal idea of being can be abstracted and predicated univocally of both the finite and the infinite; otherwise we could not infer from the existence of finite things the existence of God, we should have no proof of God's existence, as every syllogism would contain a quaternio terminorum.
Scotus acknowledges, with Aquinas, that God exists by virtue of His essence, while creatures merely participate in His Being. My impression is that Thomists and Scotists do not differ significantly in their views on God's Being. What I find it more philosophically interesting that Scotus explicitly considered intelligence to be a pure perfection, which we could attribute univocally to God and human beings. But even here, as I've shown, Aquinas and Scotus were not so far apart. I'll close by saying a little more about Thomism and ID. Some Thomists (such as Feser) take the view that Intelligent Design and Thomism are totally incompatible; others insist that they are not. Del Ratzsch, Marie George and Alexander Pruss are a few names that come to mind. Feser is entitled to his views, but they are his views. He does not speak for all Thomists. vjtorley
Timaeus is correct with regards to Ph.D. standards in the U.S. It is highly advisable for people to publish articles while in grad school, and in the humanities, a professor's first book is usually a heavily revised version of his or her dissertation. But that's part of the tenure process; it's not a requirement for receiving the doctorate. One can receive a doctorate and never publish anything, ever, if one has no interest in an academic career. (But, if one wants to have an academic career, especially these days, one should start publishing while in grad school and keep it up continually for the rest of one's life.)
It is my understanding that in some Continental universities, it is standard to get a small book published first, and then defend that book as one’s Ph.D. or D.Phil. or Th.D. dissertation. I do not believe that this is universal for Continental universities, but it may well be common.
In Germany, one has to write what are basically two dissertations -- one in order to receive the Ph.D., and another in order to have the right to teach at a university. (This second document is called the Habilitationschrift, because it is a piece of writing (schrift, cognate with English "scribe") which demonstrates one's ability (habilitation, cognate with English "habile", "ability").) I believe there's a similar system in France, or at least used to be, but I'm not sure of that. Kantian Naturalist
Ah Timaeus. :) Mung
Thanks for another informative article, VJT! Optimus
Gregory: Regarding Ph.D.s, publications, and defenses, I think you have been in Europe too long! There has *never* been a requirement in any North American university known to me that one must have published one's dissertation, or anything else, in order to graduate with a Ph.D. Certainly not in theology or the humanities, anyway, and not, to my knowledge, in the natural sciences, either. And I've known many a Ph.D. in social sciences with no publications upon graduation as well. One graduates when one has completed the university's requirements, whatever they may be (usually courses, comprehensive exams, and dissertation, and quite often, in the humanities and theology, with two, three, or four ancient and/or modern language qualifications as well). Of course, a university *might* make prior publication one of its requirements. It is my understanding that in some Continental universities, it is standard to get a small book published first, and then defend that book as one's Ph.D. or D.Phil. or Th.D. dissertation. I do not believe that this is universal for Continental universities, but it may well be common. I do not think that this is the case in the British Isles, but I will defer to anyone who knows the British case better. I am sympathetic with Vincent's situation. From what I understand, he is earning his living teaching English in East Asia. It is very hard to do academic research if one has to work at a full-time job to earn one's living, and it is even harder if one has no access to a first-rate university library -- no private scholar can afford to pay $30 a pop for the articles necessary to be read in order to keep up with the field, whereas those associated with a university, as grad students, teachers, or temporary researchers, can read and print all the articles they need online from the major journals. And while it is possible to buy annual memberships to certain groups of academic journals and access them at home, the lion's share of journals are accessible only through institutional channels. This means that one is often limited in research material to what is available on the internet -- which is by no means sufficient for serious post-doctoral work -- or what books one can buy, new or used -- and crucial works are often out of print, hard to get, or ridiculously expensive. I think Vincent is using his time very constructively by making use of such print and online primary sources as he can, and writing about them here, and I salute him. As for Feser, I acknowledge that he is a bright fellow, with knowledge in certain areas, and I probably agree with him on most of his critique of modernity, i.e., I am probably against most of the things he is against. However, I find Feser's online persona (I don't know him personally) to be sometimes arrogant and frequently dismissive, as if he sees himself as talking down to slow thinkers who are not really capable of serious philosophy (as he of course deems himself to be). I also find his Thomism-Aristotelianism and his understanding of "classical theism" to be doctrinaire and programmatic. So I wouldn't automatically assume that he is right and Vincent is wrong. Vincent, too, has a Ph.D. in philosophy. I'm quite impressed with Vincent's detailed spadework on Paley here. I would be surprised if Feser has read Paley so closely. I'm now getting inspired to read Paley myself. The fact that Fuller went to schools run by Jesuits does not mean that he knows much Catholic theology. One can study mathematics, chemistry, geography, music and many other subjects in schools run by Jesuits. It does not automatically follow that one was taught much theology. And further, the Jesuits of the last 30 or 40 years are not the Jesuits of yesteryear. The journal *First Things*, when it was run by a Catholic priest editor, regularly pointed out the shortcomings of Catholic theological education in the USA, including education in Jesuit schools. And there was a journal, *Compass*, back in the 1980s, run by Jesuits, and all the articles (at least in the first few years) were left-liberal political and social tripe, showing no understanding of Catholic tradition at all -- and indeed the prevailing secular humanist tone of the journal was the very opposite of the classical Jesuit tradition from the era of the Catholic Reformation. I'm not saying that Fuller never learned any Catholic theology; I'm saying that the mere fact that he attended schools (whether high schools or colleges) run by Jesuits doesn't tell us anything at all about his knowledge of Catholic theology. One would have to look at his transcripts to see what courses he actually took, and who taught them. One thing is certain: neither the tone nor the contents of Fuller's current thought are Jesuit or even Catholic. And to the extent that Fuller believes in God at all (and his notion of God is rather nebulous, beyond saying that God is like man in some respects), his God appears to be a sort of liberal Unitarian God. So while I agree with Fuller against Feser on the issue of "the image of God" and its implications for design detection, I certainly would not expect to find Fuller's understanding of medieval theology to be equal to Feser's overall. It's a little odd for you, Gregory, after so fiercely defending Fuller's vision of ID, to then argue that Vincent has been defeated by statements like: “To think of God as man writ large is surely to produce an idol.” After all, it is *Fuller's* position that God is, *in certain respects* (he says so in his Cambridge talk), a more powerful and wiser version of man. So if Feser's one-liner has devastated Vincent's position, it has devastated Fuller's as well. But you don't seem to agree that Feser has demolished Fuller. Notice, Gregory, that I am focusing on a *theological* issue here -- whether or not Feser has demolished Fuller and/or Vincent. To deal with this objection you must speak the language of theology. Not the language of cultural politics, but the language of theology. You must tell us how Feser can be dead right against Vincent but dead wrong against Fuller, when both Vincent and Fuller accept a certain crucial likeness of man to God. And that means you must analyze texts of Aquinas etc. and tell us how you decided who was right about what, and give us your reasons. I'm not saying that Vincent's account of these matters is entirely correct, but I doubt very much whether Fuller or Feser is entirely correct, either. And the discussion is made more difficult by the fact that both Fuller and Feser are young-middle-agish male academics who have the typical confidence of such people that they are right, and tend to write as if speaking from the mountain, rather than as conversation partners. If they would both write in the more humble and exploratory tone of Vincent, the discussion would get much further, because all three are bright men who are capable of learning from discussion -- if only the tenured faculty could learn to rein in their professional egos a bit. Timaeus
vjtorley, Thanks for your message. I'll respond in the other over-lapping thread as these threads move too quickly for my pace and responsibilities. To do justice to Edward Feser's critique of your Big-ID position re: analogy and Feser's claim that Big-ID "conflicts with the Thomistic doctrine of analogy" (addressed here and in the other Paley thread), it would seem you need to include something about 'univocal predication' (linked from Feser). Leaving this out is bound to provide only a partial rebuttal to Feser. Both Feser and Steve Fuller argue that Big-ID is incompatible with A-T science, philosophy, theology discourse due to Big-ID's univocal predication (designer/Designer - which is why I keep harping on this). But Meyer doesn't seem to speak their language, perhaps from having been raised in a Presbyterian Protestant tradition, rather than educated by Jesuits (Fuller) or being a practicing Catholic (Feser). Personally, I think Feser thoroughly debunked your IDist defence on his blog (his 'failed miserably' speaks stronger), so I'm not sure if it makes sense to go further, especially if it's just a Catholic vs. evangelical difference of opinions. “To think of God as man writ large is surely to produce an idol.” [Also, just a curiosity, how did you defend a PhD without publications? Have things changed that must in the past 2 decades? This is one of the requirements for defence of dissertation nowadays, at least I had thought that was a global standard. Didn't you have to publish in peer-reviewed Journal(s) to graduate? Please don't feel compelled to answer if you consider it a distraction to the thread.] Gregory
Semi OT: OT: Epigenetics in 3-D Large-Scale Functional Organization of Long-Range Chromatin Interaction Networks - 25 October 2012 Excerpt Introduction: Long-range chromatin interactions are pervasive in the human genome and serve to regulate gene expression.,, Proximity ligation in combination with next-generation sequencing has recently enabled us to explore genome-wide spatial crosstalk in the chromatin.,,, The observation of most interest was that interacting promoters not only correlate with gene coexpression, but can also regulate each other’s transcriptional states, which blurs the traditional definitions of gene-regulatory elements in the genome. These observations support the notion of a chromatin interactome encompassing a dense repertoire of regulatory elements for transcriptional regulation. http://www.cell.com/cell-reports/abstract/S2211-1247%2812%2900326-9?switch=standard Comment from crev.info on the preceding article: News from Epigenetics - Dec. 21, 2012 Excerpt: They are organized into “nonrandom spatial clustering” the authors dub“rich clubs,” communities and spokes. This large-scale organization helps repress mutations among vital genes, and “shapes functionally compartmentalized and error-tolerant transcriptional regulation of human genome in three dimensions.” http://crev.info/2012/12/news-from-epigenetics/ bornagain77
Collin: KN should note that the sort of thresholds that are of interest start at 500 bits, and so even just one reasonable sized 200 - 300 AA protein is of interest, esp at 3 DNA bases per AA. KF kairosfocus
Kantian, I disagree with you about your statement that the rise of epigentics weakens ID. In my opinion, even if DNA were to account for 1% of what we are, the case for ID would not be any weaker if it were proven that DNA was designed. That would prove that there was a designer and presumably he designed other things that do not exhibit FCSI or irreducible complexity or other possible hallmarks of design. Collin
KF, your relevant points @51 are duly noted. Happy new year to you as well---and to everyone! StephenB
OT: Dr. Jay Richards has a good audio interview up on CS Lewis's argument from reason: C.S. Lewis, Reason, and Naturalism: An Interview with Dr. Jay Richards - audio http://www.idthefuture.com/2012/12/cs_lewis_reason_and_naturalism.html note: “One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute, all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.” —C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry (aka the Argument from Reason) bornagain77
Happy New Year - Steven Curtis Chapman - music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKPrgRQnU2A bornagain77
SB: Happy new year. I think I would like to share a thought or two. Interdisciplinary dialogue is indeed quite different from an attempt to create a global trans-disciplinary "method." There isn't even any one cookie-cutter one size fits all scientific method. And, if we were to assign a method to philosophy, it is comparative difficulties in addressing hard questions. Phil does provide a context for interdisciplinary dialogue [mostly, focussed on meta issues], but that is different from investigatory/exploratory patterns for discovery in research, then patterns for warrant and reporting in the context of peer review. As for theology, if one looks for method, one runs into the issues of whose theology in what religious tradition and school of thought, multiplied by underlying issues of authenticity, warrant and the trends of secularism in our civilisation over the past several centuries, which speeded up to critical mass over the past generation or two. Boiled down, the design inference issue is best focussed on empirical warrant for reliable claims and the logic of inductive argument per inference on signs. Which is exactly what Meyer and Dembski are saying, and which is evidently what G does not want. Like it or lump it, FSCO/I is a widely seen, and patently reliable sign of design, artifice or contrivance or whatever language you want to use. The sheer mass of positive observation and absence of counter examples is sufficient to ground that as a raw induction. Such is then multiplied by the implications of atomic resources on the gamut of our solar system or the cosmos across the conventional timelines to date, and the result that even devoting the whole resources of the solar system [500 bits] or the observed cosmos [1,000 bits] for the timeline to date, would not be able to search a fraction appreciably different from no search of the config spaces. Needle in a haystack, on steroids. The real problem is that this leads to a conclusion that is unpalatable to deeply entrenched interests and dominant elites, including in institutions of science, media and education. Namely, such want evolutionary materialism and associated views -- presented as "science" -- to be seen as practically certain truth warranted by the most prestigious institution of our time. But the actual state of play is very different, as can be seen from Hoyle's remarks in light of cosmological fine tuning and the needle in the haystack challenge implicit in what it would take to build enzymes blind from scratch -- THIRTY YEARS AGO. That's a career-length, mon. And, the essential point has been underscored since; never mind the talking points that try to obfuscate it. G would be well advised to actually look at the issues on the merits of warrant per fact and logic [the core stuff does not require more than a second level course in science and/or engineering and/or math in a good College -- say about a semester or year past A level standard . . . accessible to someone who has the equivalent of your Advanced Placement courses (and that is to access the info theory and/or basic thermodynamics and/or the sort of biochem and molecular biology discussions that may be enetertained)], and to focus his sociological expertise on asking why it is that institutions allegedly founded on the premise of knowledge can be so resistant to what is increasingly obvious. My own semi-layman level analysis (I do have some organisation behaviour under my belt and I have some related understanding of institutional and community dynamics with some history tossed in for good measure) is that we are seeing entrenched power centres that reap rich rewards of prestige and personal benefits, coming up against an incipient scientific revolution tied to a wider worldview reformation. Entrenched highly ideological orthodoxies -- and this includes successful revolutionaries, whether on institutional or community scale -- that control resource flows to their benefit and which exert enormous power in institutions and society, tend to be very resistant to what is new and unsettling to their comfort zones and interests. Where there has been indoctrination and polarisation, we can see this multiplied by the problem of lack of logical thinking ability and sheer lack of awareness of the true state of the balance of warrant on the merits of facts and evidence. The perceived heretic, then is a threat to be fought off, marginalised, discredited and if necessary destroyed. By any and all means, fair or foul. (I find the obsession with suggestions of a threat of religious subversion of institutions long since subverted by radical secularists slightly amusing but quite sad in the end. The key threat is unaccountable, out of control power in the hands of elites prone to corruption, not that this once happened with religious elites. In the past 100 years, we saw major secularist movements and neopagan movements of political messianism that did much the same to horrific cost. And the welfare state of the past generation has not been a whole lot better.) Where is there a solution? Frankly, at this stage, I think things are going to have to crash so badly and some elites are going to have to be so discredited by the associated spreading failure, that media propaganda tactics cannot cover it up anymore. My model for that comes from one of the red-flag sources that will give some of the objectors the vapours. Acts 27. What, how dare you cite that, that that textbook for theocratic tyranny by the ignorant, insane, stupid and/or wicked followers of that bronze age misogynistic homophobic genocidal racist war god! (Do you hear how your agit-prop talking points are enmeshing you in the classic trap of believing your own propaganda?) Let's start with, Paul of Tarsus, c. AD 59, was not in the Bronze Age but was an appellate prisoner in chains on early Imperial era grain ships having a hard time making way from the Levant and Asia Minor to Rome, in the second case ending up in a bay on Crete. What followed is a classic exercise in the follies of manipulated democracy, a case study that will well repay study in our time. It was late in the sailing season, and the merchant-owner was worried about his ship in an open bay at Fair Havens, given what winter storms can do. The passengers were not too impressed by the nearby settlements as a wintering place. (Sailing stopped in Autumn and opened back up in Spring.) The key technico, the kubernete -- steersman, more or less like a pilot of an airliner -- knew where his bread was buttered, and by whom. In the middle was a Centurion of the elite messenger corps. We are at ship's council, and Paul, in chains, is suggesting that the suggestion to venture our with a favourable wind to try to make it to a more commodious port down-coast was excessively risky not only to boat but life. The financial and technical talking heads and the appeal of comfort allowed him to be easily marginalised and dismissed. Then we saw a gentle south breeze, that would have allowed a reach down the coast. (The technico's probably knew this could be a precursor to a storm, but were not going to cut across the dominant view.) They sailed out. Bang, an early winter noreaster hit them and sprang the boat's timbers (why they tried to hold together with ropes) so the ship was in a sinking condition from the beginning. Worse, they were heading for sandbars off the coast of today's Libya. For two weeks all they could do was use a sea anchor to control drift and try to steer vaguely WNW. Forget, eating. That is when Paul stood forth as a good man in a storm, and encouraged them with a vision from God. By this time, hope was to be shipwrecked on a coast. (Turned out, north coast of Malta.) While the ship was driven aground, the sailors tried to abandon the passengers on a ruse, spotted by Paul and/or Luke his travelling companion. By this time, the Centurion knew who to take seriously and the ship's boat was cut away. He then took the decision to save Paul and refused the soldiers' request to kill the prisoners to prevent escape (for which their lives would have been forfeit). So, they made it to a beach on Malta, having lost the ship in any case AND nearly their own lives. All of which is full of lessons from history for us in our own decaying democratic polities today, and in the face of polarised voices and all sorts of hidden agenda half truth at best counsels. It is going to take a noreaster to sort out the mess, and there is going to be a lot of serious loss to those beguiled by the bewitching counsels of those inclined to tickle itching ears with what hey calculate we want to hear. Sorry if that does not sound upbeat for a new year day, but frankly things are beyond that stage with our civilisation. Our job now is to be the voice of sense before the storm, and to prepare ourselves to be a good man in a storm. Right now, I think VJT's reassessment of Paley is a part of that. One we should chew on slowly instead of being deistracted from -- and notice how little of the thread above is on the actual issues he raised. A telling sign. KF kairosfocus
VJ @48: I had a specific reason for asking about Gregory’s familiarity with science. On another occasion, he had chided ID proponents for their short-sighted approach, insisting in grandiose fashion, that science’s systematic methods of observation, measurement, and hypothesis testing can be merged with the specialized methods of philosophy and theology and amalgamated into a singular analytic process. Based on my formal training in science and philosophy, I had good reason to challenge such a dubious proposition. As I tried to explain, there is a difference between interdisciplinary dialogue and interdisciplinary methodology. Rather than make his case, though, Gregory dismissed my objection on the grounds that I am not a professional scientist-- as if I need a special set of credentials over and above my relevant education and training to challenge his unarticulated vision of what ID should be. I had always realized, of course, that when he first asked me if I did science for a living that it was a strategic ploy. In that same spirit, then, it seemed fair to turn the tables and ask him if he has any formal training in science. It appears that he does not. The take home message is this: Gregory needs to focus more on the substance of the arguments being made and less on his perception of the worthiness of those making them. StephenB
Folks: Happy new year to all! As a quick note, I saw KN above:
But is there FCSI [--> i.e. functionally defined complex specified information (accor. to Dembski, in biology CSI is about function)], a variant on functionally specific complex information]? Is that still a useful concept?
I'd say, FSCI is about as useful as the fact that the above cited string is functionally specific as a sequence of ASCII characters forming a string data structure constrained by the rules of meaningful English text and making a specific assertion in that language reflecting the intentions of its author. In the case of D/RNA, similar string structures are used to express the particular sequences of AA's to be chained to make functional proteins, that will fold to energetically acceptable shapes relevant to key-lock interlocking towards biological function. Such strings also evidently code regulatory information that directs the expression of such genes. Without proteins and their proper expression dispatch etc, cellular life as we know it would not exist, and neither would we. I guess that is fairly important. Even, on new year's day! KF kairosfocus
Gregory (#15) A happy New Year to you, too. You ask:
...have you ever published in a professional Journal or submitted for publication anything on this topic? The CV that follows from clicking on your name doesn't have a single academic publication listed on it, even though you hold a PhD.
I've never published anything in a journal. In fact, I wouldn't even know how to get something published in one. I'm a busy man, and I normally work seven days a week. Producing a journal-quality article takes a certain amount of time and intensive research. It also helps if you have access to a library with lots of journals in English. There are no such libraries where I live. However, I may publish something in the next year or two. One lady who works in academia read my article on Mencken a while ago and emailed me to say that with a little polishing, it might merit publication. Anyway, we'll see. Regarding my definition of intelligent design, I'll repeat what I wrote to you on an earlier thread:
Re intelligent design, three definitions are possible: (i) the modern movement, associated with the Discovery Institute, which holds that there are patterns in Nature (i.e. the natural world) which scientists are capable of identifying as the product of some intelligence; (ii) any argument (empirical, but not necessarily rigorously scientific) which infers the existence of a designing intelligence from some fact of Nature, regardless of whether it was formulated 2,500 years ago or today; and (iii) any claim that some pattern or object in Nature (or for that matter, Nature itself) is the product of an intelligence which designed it, whether or not there are visible signs of that design which we can detect. Timaeus uses the term "Intelligent Design" for (i) and "intelligent design" for (ii), whereas I've been using "Intelligent Design" for (i) and (ii), and "intelligent design" for (iii). Maybe we need something in between upper and lower case!
Regarding capitalization of "intelligent," the following rules apply: (1) When I'm using the word "intelligent" on its own, I don't normally capitalize it, as it's an adjective; (ii) When I'm using the word "intelligent" in front of "designer," I normally capitalize both ("Intelligent Designer") to make it clear that I'm referring to the Designer of Nature - a Being Whom I believe to be God (although I cannot demonstrate this on scientific grounds, as science can only tell us so much about the Designer); (iii) When I'm using the word "intelligent" in front of "creator," I normally capitalize both ("Intelligent Creator"), as "Creator" is one of God's titles; (iv) When I'm using the word "intelligent" in front of "agent," I normally capitalize both ("Intelligent Agent") to make it clear that I'm referring to the Designer of Nature - a Being Whom I believe to be God; (v) Notwithstanding conventions (ii) and (iv), when I'm pluralizing, I always use lower case (e.g. "intelligent designers," "intelligent agents") as I am not referring to a unique being; (vi) When using the word "intelligence," I keep it in lower case if I am referring to an attribute of intelligent beings, but I use capital letters (e.g. "an Intelligence") when I am referring to the Designer of Nature - a Being Whom I believe to be God; (vii) When I'm quoting other authors, I use whatever capital letter conventions they use, as I'm citing their work; (viii) To those who may object that I am being overly theological in using caps in cases (ii) to (iv) to denote a Being Whose existence I am arguing for on scientific grounds, I can only respond that: (a) I would consider as my ally any non-religious scientist who argued on purely scientific grounds, as Hoyle did, that "superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature" (Fred Hoyle, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections." Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12); and (b) I use capitals out of respect for my Creator, Who is also the judge of the quick and the dead; (ix) On the subject of perfect consistency, let me leave you with a quote from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself Part 51:
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
(x) In answer to Stephen B.'s and Timaeus' query about Gregory's qualifications: Dr. Gregory (I won't reveal his last name, but he's kindly provided links to his Web page on UD previously) has a B.A.(Hons.) in sociology, an M.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in sociology. And now I'd better get back to my New Year's celebrations. Ciao! vjtorley
The implications of finding 'non-local', beyond space and time, quantum information/entanglement in our body on a massive scale are fairly self evident:
Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012) Excerpt: The remaining option is to accept that (quantum) influences must be infinitely fast,,, “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121028142217.htm Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? – Stuart Hameroff – video (notes in description) http://vimeo.com/29895068
It is also important to note that consciousness is now found to be 'quantumly entangled' in a fairly different way than the rest of the body:
Quantum Entangled Consciousness (Permanence/Conservation of Quantum Information) - Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video https://vimeo.com/39982578 Brain ‘entanglement’ could explain memories - January 2010 Excerpt: In both cases, the researchers noticed that the voltage of the electrical signal in groups of neurons separated by up to 10 millimetres sometimes rose and fell with exactly the same rhythm. These patterns of activity, dubbed “coherence potentials”, often started in one set of neurons, only to be mimicked or “cloned” by others milliseconds later. They were also much more complicated than the simple phase-locked oscillations and always matched each other in amplitude as well as in frequency. (Perfect clones) “The precision with which these new sites pick up on the activity of the initiating group is quite astounding – they are perfect clones,” says Plen http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18371-brain-entanglement-could-explain-memories.html
Moreover quantum information/entanglement is found to be conserved
Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time – March 2011 Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. http://phys.org/news/2011-03-quantum-no-hiding-theorem-experimentally.html Quantum no-deleting theorem Excerpt: A stronger version of the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem provide permanence to quantum information. To create a copy one must import the information from some part of the universe and to delete a state one needs to export it to another part of the universe where it will continue to exist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_no-deleting_theorem#Consequence
Additionally, encoded ‘classical’ information such as what we find encoded in computer programs, and yes, as we find encoded in DNA, is found to be a subset of conserved ‘non-local' (beyond space and time) quantum entanglement/information by the following method:
Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011 Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect; In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy. Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110601134300.htm
Music and verse:
The Police – Spirits In The Material World – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq0KW-_48Cc Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
There are of course many more details I could add, but that is the basic structure of reality and the human body as best as I can make it out from the science. bornagain77
It is also very interesting to note that the quantum state of a photon is actually defined as 'infinite information' in its uncollapsed quantum wave state:
Quantum Computing - Stanford Encyclopedia Excerpt: Theoretically, a single qubit can store an infinite amount of information, yet when measured (and thus collapsing the Quantum Wave state) it yields only the classical result (0 or 1),,, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-quantcomp/#2.1 Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1) --- Concept 2. is used by Bennett, et al. Recall that they infer that since an infinite amount of information is required to specify a (photon) qubit, an infinite amount of information must be transferred to teleport. http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/faculty/duwell/DuwellPSA2K.pdf
As a side light to this, leading quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger has followed in John Archibald Wheeler's footsteps (1911-2008) by insisting reality, at its most foundational level, is 'information'.
"It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom - at a very deep bottom, in most instances - an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that things physical are information-theoretic in origin." John Archibald Wheeler Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe? Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: "In the beginning was the Word." Anton Zeilinger - a leading expert in quantum teleportation: http://www.metanexus.net/archive/ultimate_reality/zeilinger.pdf
Here are my references for the claim that "information reduces to consciousness":
The argument for God from consciousness can be framed like this: 1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a 'epi-phenomena' of material reality. 2. If consciousness is a 'epi-phenomena' of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality. 3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality. 4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality. Three intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Leggett’s Inequalities, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice; Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries; ) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G_Fi50ljF5w_XyJHfmSIZsOcPFhgoAZ3PRc_ktY8cFo/edit The Galileo Affair and the true “Center of the Universe” https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BHAcvrc913SgnPcDohwkPnN4kMJ9EDX-JJSkjc4AXmA/edit
Of related note: The following site is very interesting to the subject of consciousness preceding 'material' reality:
The Scale of The Universe - Part 2 - interactive graph (recently updated in 2012 with cool features) http://htwins.net/scale2/scale2.swf?bordercolor=white
The preceding interactive graph points out that the smallest scale visible to the human eye (as well as a human egg) is at 10^-4 meters, which 'just so happens' to be directly in the exponential center of all possible sizes of our physical reality (not just ‘nearly’ in the exponential center!). i.e. 10^-4 is, exponentially, right in the middle of 10^-35 meters, which is the smallest possible unit of length, which is Planck length, and 10^27 meters, which is the largest possible unit of 'observable' length since space-time was created in the Big Bang, which is the diameter of the universe. This is very interesting for, as far as I can tell, the limits to human vision (as well as the size of the human egg) could have, theoretically, been at very different positions than directly in the exponential middle; Moreover, the correct ‘top down’ structure for how reality is found to be constructed is closely reflected in how our bodies are constructed ‘top down’.
1.The lowest level of our bodies are the material atoms of our body. 2.The next higher level of our bodies is the energy of our bodies (biophotons). 3.The next higher level of our bodies is the quantum entanglement/information of our bodies (of which the classical information that is encoded on our DNA is found to be a subset of that quantum information). 4. The highest level of our bodies is the consciousness of our mind.
References: Light is found to be directing the chemical reactions of the material particles in the body by the following:
Are humans really beings of light? Excerpt: “We now know, today, that man is essentially a being of light.”,,, “There are about 100,000 chemical reactions happening in every cell each second. The chemical reaction can only happen if the molecule which is reacting is excited by a photon… Once the photon has excited a reaction it returns to the field and is available for more reactions… We are swimming in an ocean of light.” http://viewzone2.com/dna.html
Quantum entanglement/information is now found in our body on a massive scale:
Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight – 2009 Excerpt: DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn’t be able to.,,, The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible. http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/04/does-dna-have-t.html Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – Elisabeth Rieper – short video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/ Physicists Discover Quantum Law of Protein Folding – February 22, 2011 Quantum mechanics finally explains why protein folding depends on temperature in such a strange way. Excerpt: First, a little background on protein folding. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that become biologically active only when they fold into specific, highly complex shapes. The puzzle is how proteins do this so quickly when they have so many possible configurations to choose from. To put this in perspective, a relatively small protein of only 100 amino acids can take some 10^100 different configurations. If it tried these shapes at the rate of 100 billion a second, it would take longer than the age of the universe to find the correct one. Just how these molecules do the job in nanoseconds, nobody knows.,,, Their astonishing result is that this quantum transition model fits the folding curves of 15 different proteins and even explains the difference in folding and unfolding rates of the same proteins. That’s a significant breakthrough. Luo and Lo’s equations amount to the first universal laws of protein folding. That’s the equivalent in biology to something like the thermodynamic laws in physics.
Whereas to convert energy to matter is a much more difficult proposition: First off, it is important to note that a simple atom is certainly not 'simple':
Delayed time zero in photoemission: New record in time measurement accuracy - June 2010 Excerpt: Although they could confirm the effect qualitatively using complicated computations, they came up with a time offset of only five attoseconds. The cause of this discrepancy may lie in the complexity of the neon atom, which consists, in addition to the nucleus, of ten electrons. "The computational effort required to model such a many-electron system exceeds the computational capacity of today's supercomputers," explains Yakovlev. http://www.physorg.com/news196606514.html
And constructing a new atom from raw energy is far more difficult than just adding enough energy to the mix:
Why is it impossible, at this point in time, to convert energy into matter? Excerpt: "Particle accelerators convert energy into subatomic particles, for example by colliding electrons and positrons. Some of the kinetic energy in the collision goes into creating new particles. It’s not possible, however, to collect these newly created particles and assemble them into atoms, molecules and bigger (less microscopic) structures that we associate with ‘matter’ in our daily life. This is partly because in a technical sense, you cannot just create matter out of energy: there are various ‘conservation laws’ of electric charges, the number of leptons (electron-like particles) etc., which means that you can only create matter/anti-matter pairs out of energy. Anti-matter, however, has the unfortunate tendency to combine with matter and turn itself back into energy. Even though physicists have managed to safely trap a small amount of anti-matter using magnetic fields, this is not easy to do. Also, Einstein’s equation, Energy = Mass x the square of the velocity of light, tells you that it takes a huge amount of energy to create matter in this way. The big accelerator at Fermilab can be a significant drain on the electricity grid in and around the city of Chicago, and it has produced very little matter. http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970724a.html
Yet somehow, serendipitously, shortly after the big bang, and in the nucleosynthesis of stars, all the pieces of the puzzle spontaneously fell together to get these complex atoms to form spontaneously from energy (at least according to atheists it was spontaneous):
Big Bang After its (The Big Bangs) initial expansion from a singularity, the Universe cooled sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang The Elements: Forged in Stars – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4003861 “Dr. Michael Denton on Evidence of Fine-Tuning in the Universe” (Remarkable balance of various key elements for life) – podcast http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/entry/2012-08-21T14_43_59-07_00
Here are my references for the claim that "energy and mass both reduce to information":
Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,, http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2004/October/beammeup.asp Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009 Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,, “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2171769/posts How Teleportation Will Work - Excerpt: In 1993, the idea of teleportation moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the world of theoretical possibility. It was then that physicist Charles Bennett and a team of researchers at IBM confirmed that quantum teleportation was possible, but only if the original object being teleported was destroyed. — As predicted, the original photon no longer existed once the replica was made. http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/teleportation1.htm Quantum Teleportation – IBM Research Page Excerpt: “it would destroy the original (photon) in the process,,” Unconditional Quantum Teleportation – abstract Excerpt: This is the first realization of unconditional quantum teleportation where every state entering the device is actually teleported,, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/282/5389/706.abstract
But is there FCSI (functional information)? Is that still a useful concept? Yes! Because there is functional information in biology and material processes have dramatically failed to produce any, yet we know for a fact that we can.,,, I don't know all your fancy philosophical terminology for what we find in life but, to repeat what I recently posted before (I don't mean to be boring but you kind of put me on the spot), I have the structure for the universe and for life breaking down as follows: The 'Top Down' Theistic Structure Of The Universe and Of The Human Body It is important to note that higher dimensions are invisible to our physical 3 Dimensional sight. The reason why ‘higher dimensions’ are invisible to our 3D vision is best illustrated by ‘Flatland’:
Dr. Quantum in Flatland - 3D in a 2D world – video http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/9395/Dr_Quantum_Flatland_Explanation_3D_in_a_2D_world/
Perhaps some may think that we have no scientific evidence to support the view that higher ‘invisible’ dimensions are above this 3 Dimensional world, but a person would be wrong in that presumption. Higher invisible dimensions are corroborated by Special Relativity when considering the optical effects for traveling at the speed of light. Please note the optical effect, noted at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape around the direction of travel as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light:
Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5733303/
The preceding video was made by two Australian University physics professors. Here is the interactive website, with link to the relativistic math at the bottom of the page, related to the preceding video;
Seeing Relativity http://www.anu.edu.au/Physics/Searle/
As well, as with the scientifically verified tunnel for special relativity to a higher dimension, we also have scientific confirmation of extreme ‘tunnel curvature’, within space-time, to a eternal ‘event horizon’ at black holes;
Space-Time of a Black hole http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0VOn9r4dq8
It is also interesting to point out that a ‘tunnel’ to a higher dimension is also a common feature of Near Death Experiences:
Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/
What’s more is that special relativity (and general relativity) also confirm the ‘eternity’ for this higher dimension. i.e. Time, as we understand it temporally, would come to a complete stop at the speed of light. To grasp the whole ‘time coming to a complete stop at the speed of light’ concept a little more easily, imagine moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light. Would not the hands on the clock stay stationary as you moved away from the face of the clock at the speed of light? Moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light happens to be the same ‘thought experiment’ that gave Einstein his breakthrough insight into e=mc2.
Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight Into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ video http://www.metacafe.com/w/6545941/ “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.” Albert Einstein – The Einstein Factor – Reader’s Digest “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.” Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12
It is also interesting to point out that this 'eternal' framework for time at the speed of light is also witnessed in Near Death Experience testimonies:
'In the 'spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it's going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.' Mickey Robinson - Near Death Experience testimony 'When you die, you enter eternity. It feels like you were always there, and you will always be there. You realize that existence on Earth is only just a brief instant.' Dr. Ken Ring - has extensively studied Near Death Experiences 'Earthly time has no meaning in the spirit realm. There is no concept of before or after. Everything - past, present, future - exists simultaneously.' - Kimberly Clark Sharp - NDE testimony
‘Time dilation’, i.e. eternity, is confirmed by many lines of scientific evidence but basically the simplest way to understand this 'eternal framework' is to realize that this higher dimensional, ‘eternal’, inference for the time framework of light is warranted because light is not ‘frozen within time’ yet it is also shown that time, as we understand it, does not pass for light. This paradox is only possible for time at the speed of light if temporal time is a lower dimensional time that was created from a higher dimension that ‘contains all temporal time’,,,Yet, even though light has this ‘eternal’ attribute in regards to our temporal framework of time, for us to hypothetically travel at the speed of light, in this universe, will still only get us to first base as far as the eternal framework of quantum entanglement, and/or quantum teleportation, is concerned.
Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182
i.e. Hypothetically traveling at the speed of light in this universe would be, because of time dilation, instantaneous travel for the person going at the speed of light. This is because time does not pass for them at the speed of light, yet, and this is a very big ‘yet’ to take note of, this ‘timeless’ travel is still not instantaneous and transcendent of our temporal framework of time as quantum teleportation and entanglement are, i.e. Speed of light travel, to our temporal frame of reference of time, is still not completely transcendent of our temporal time framework since light appears to take time to travel from our temporal perspective. Yet, in quantum teleportation of information, the ‘time not passing’, i.e. ‘eternal’, framework is not only achieved in the speed of light framework/dimension, but is also ‘instantaneously’ achieved in our lower temporal framework. That is to say, the instantaneous teleportation/travel of quantum information is instantaneous to both the temporal and speed of light frameworks, not just the speed of light framework. Information teleportation/travel is not limited by time, nor space, in any way, shape or form, in any frame of reference, as light is seemingly limited to us in this temporal framework. Thus ‘pure transcendent information’ (in quantum teleportaion experiments) is shown to be timeless (eternal) and completely transcendent of all material frameworks. Moreover, concluding from all lines of evidence we now have (many of which I have not specifically listed here); transcendent, eternal, infinite information is indeed real and the framework in which ‘It’ resides is the primary reality (highest dimension) that can exist, (in so far as our limited perception of a primary reality, highest dimension, can be discerned).
“An illusion can never go faster than the speed limit of reality” Akiane Kramarik – Child Prodigy -
To further elucidate this 'top down' Theistic structure for the universe, materialism had postulated for centuries that everything reduced to, and/or, given enough time and chance, emerged 'bottom up' from material atoms and/or particles, yet the correct structure of reality is now found by modern science to be as follows:
1. material particles/atoms (mass) normally reduce to energy (e=mc^2) 2. energy and mass both reduce to information (A. Zeilinger, quantum teleportation; Wheeler and Zeilinger’s ‘It from Bit") 3. information reduces to consciousness (geometric centrality of conscious observation in universe dictates that consciousness must precede quantum wave collapse to its single bit state) (Leggett’s Inequalities, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice; Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries)
Here are my references for the claim that mass “normally reduces” to energy: The reduction of matter to energy is comparatively easy to accomplish as is demonstrated by nuclear/atomic bombs:
Atomic Bomb Explosion – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-22tna7KHzI *6.4 mg of mass converted to energy in Hiroshima A-bomb *4,400,000 Hiroshima A-bombs equivalent to one ounce of mass *1 drop of water equivalent to 10 Hiroshima A-bombs
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