Saturday, September 30, 2006


Paley IV

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

Having laid out his design detection criteria with reference to the watch example, and having discussed the limited nature of the conclusion supported by the design inference, Paley proceeds
to the rebuttal of several objections to the design inference:

1a) 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: all this being no more than what is true of some exquisite remains of ancient art, of some lost arts, and, to the generality of mankind, of the more curious productions of modern manufacture.

That is, the inference to design from the application of design detection criteria such as irreducible complexity to some object or event such as a watch would not be weakened by the fact that we had never seen a watch made, did not know how the design was implimented, and/or could not duplicate the design ourselves. The hallmarks of design would still justify the design inference. Likewise, a design inference from the bacterial flagellum or from RNA is not weakened if we cannot reproduce the design ourselves (our nano-technology isn't advanced enough yet), didn't know how the design was implimented and had never seen such designs before or seen them implimented before. Once one has a rational design detection criteria, and once one has an object or event that passes that criteria, one has a sound syllogistic argument for the conclusion of design and our ignorance elsewise is neither here nor there.

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