Saturday, September 09, 2006


Paley II

Continuing my trawl through the first edition of William Paley's Natural Theology (1802)...

In addition to noting the irreducible complexity of the watch (although he doesn't use this terminology), Paley notes that it exhibits what young earth creationist Dr. Stuart Burgess - reader in engineering design at the university of Bristol - calles 'added beauty.'

Paley writes that: 'the wheels are made of brass, in order to keep them from rust; the springs of steel, no other metal being so elastic; that over the face of the watch there is placed a glass...'

That is, the watch exhibits a design that more than 'scrapes by', which seems to exceed the natural design filter of 'doing the job well enough to be an advantage with the minimum expense' and which seems to include design aspects which have no utilitarian necesity to them (this means that the watch has an 'irreducibly complex' core). As Burgess explains:

'An object can have two types of beauty: inherent beauty and added beauty. Inherent beauty is a beauty that exists as a by-product of mechanical design. In contrast, added beauty is a type of beauty which has the sole purpose of providing a beautiful display. The two types of beauty can be seen in man-made products like buildings and bridges... A suspension bridge' has a curved cable structure because this is an efficient way of supporting a roadway. However, the end result can be a very elegant and beautiful design. An example of added beauty can be seen in the decoration of a classical column... There is no mechanical reason for a classical column to be any more than a plain cylinder... yet the designers embellish the column with elaborate patterns just for the sake of adding beauty... added beauty... represents very strong evidence for design because there is no mechanical reason for the beautiful appearance.' (Stuart Burgess, Hallmarks of Design, revised edition, Day One, 2002, p. 73-74.)

Discovering 'added beauty' in nature would likewise be evidence of intelligent (and aesthetically aware) design. Dr. Burgess argues that nature does indeed contain 'added beauty' and that this is indeed evidence for design (it is not, of course, evidence that supports Burgess' own young earth creationism over other design theories). You can read his fascinating paper on '
The beauty of the peacock tail and the problems with the theory of sexual selection'

An Islamic creationist article on the same topic is 'The physical basis of the beauty in Peacock feathers revealed'

My own papers on the link between aesthetics, intelligent design theory and the design argument in natural theology (the latter are, of course, not the same thing) can be found at the Apollos website here.

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