Monday, October 02, 2006


Paley VII

Continuing my trawl through the first edition of William Paley's Natural Theology (1802) Paley continues to rebutt several objections to the design inference...

3) Nor, thirdly, would it bring any uncertainty into the argument, if there were a few parts of the watch, concerning which we could not discover, or had not yet discovered, in what manner they conducted to the general effect; or even some parts concerning which we could not ascertain, whether they conducted to that effect in any manner whatsoever.

Consider, for example, the now largely defunct arguments from 'junk DNA' and 'vestigial organs' beloved of Darwinists. Even were it to be the case that organisms contain 'junk DNA' and organs which seem to serve no purpose, this would not 'bring any uncertainty into the argument' from structures which did serve functional requirements.

Paley goes on to observe that in such a system: 'if, by the loss, or disorder, or decay of the parts in question, the movement of the watch were found in fact to be stopped, or disturbed, or retarded, no doubt would remain in our minds as to the utility or intention of these parts.' Thus Paley pointed the way forward to an experimental aspect of intelligent design theory, represented today by gene knock-out experiments on such structures as the bacterial flagellum. Using gene knock-out experiments it is possible to determine which protein parts of a molecular machine are parts of its irreducibly complex (IC) core, being essential to its functioning. The existence of parts above and beyond the IC core does not, as Paley observes, give us grounds to doubt the design inference from such a core (indeed, non-core, superfluous parts may be candidates for design detection by the criteria of 'added beauty' examined earlier): 'supposed, namely, that there were parts, which might be spared without prejudice to the movement of the watch, and that we had proved this by experiment, - these superfluous parts, even if we were completely assured that they were such, would not vacate the reasoning which we had insituted concerning other parts.' Hence, not only did Paley pre-figure Behe's concept of irreducible complexity, but also the concept of a system having an irreducible 'core' and the idea that this distinction could be made experimentally.

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