Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Let's Rebut the Watchmaker Analogy Once and for All

This will consist of two parts.

First, we can use the "who cares?" argument. Remember my post on the mass revelation argument? Its the same thing. Something that may or may not have happened a long time ago-- what relevance does it have for us? If life got here from evolution, so be it, and, perhaps we can learn from the biological principles how to possible better our lives now. And if life got here suddenly, when one day, the uncreated Yahweh went "poof!", so what? Who gives a flying f**k? Do the animals have to bow and express gratitude to their creater? Why should we? Since this Yahweh no longer seems to exist, perhaps he died or went to sleep, or moved on to something more fun. Who cares?

With regard to the watchmaker argument itself:

1. It is an analogy, the weakest form of argument. Since we know non-organic machines are man made, by analogy, life forms, with their apparent complexity and purposefulness, must have been created. But non-organic machines are different than life forms (we see that they replicate,, grow, change, evolve, which machines can't), therefore the analogy is invalid.

2. The analogy is powerful psychologically, because our brains are wired to see purpose and cause. When we see a watch, a priori we know it is a man made object. So we tend to attribute these elements of cause and purpose to all other entities that we see. By example, when ancient man saw lightening or thunder, he could easily argue that they were coming from the gods' anger, a very logical extrapolation from other human experiences. Loud noises and bright lights come from people or animals doing things. Yet when we learned that there is an alternate, non-creator explanation, we abandoned the gods explanation.

Can you guys come up with other powerful, succinct rebuttals?

[Bloggers note: sorry about the previous typos, I have made corrections to the post.]


G*3 said...

Incidentally, there are still people who believe that lightning is a sign of God’s wrath, just like rainbows. Also, when Benjamin Franklin invented the lightening rod after determining that lightning is electricity there were people who objected to its use because it was thwarting God’s will. In the mid-eighteenth century, people still believed that God used lightning to punish sinners, and lightning rods were subverting His will.

As you say, the analogy is powerful because it speaks to our experience. But that in itself can be used as a rebuttal. We expect that watches are made by watchmakers because in our experience all watches come stamped with a manufacturer’s brand name. Before mass production a person could go to a watchmaker’s shop and see him put the watch together. In our experience watches are manufactured objects, so if we come across a watch we assume it is like all other watches we have seen up till that point.

On the other hand, we have no experience with universes being created. It doesn’t have any obvious manufacturer’s mark, and we weren’t around to witness it come into existence. The findings of our investigations into the origin of the universe, while they don’t rule out the existence of a Creator as the Prime Motivator, also don’t make such an assumption necessary.

So while assuming watches have creators based on our experience makes good sense, we have no similar reason to say the same for universes.

DrJ said...

Good clarification, G3.

In any case its good fun to read JP's posts and comments, and rebut them. After his last post there were alot of comments about the watchmaker priniciple, so I decided to take it on in a post by itself, as a response to the idiot's circular arguments.

Its also kind of interesting to watch others go through what many of us have gone through with him, as the discussion evolves from polite interest, to intense debate, to exasperation, to personal insults, then blocked comments.

With converts like him, I understand why we Jews don't encourage conversion...this guy undermines Judaism.

Rich said...

One other thing that i think a lot of people miss regarding the Watchmaker Proof is that, even if true, it doesn't prove any specific religion nor does it prove that God is still around now. All it "proves" is that some supernatural power was there at the beginning to get the ball rolling.

Of course, the people who use this "proof" never seem to have a problem that this God just appeared. If you can bend the rules for God and say that He is beyond time and our rules, then why not just say the rules of nature as we know them where also bent and the world came to be from a few atoms and evolved from there?

Anonymous said...

I made a brief post on this to JP, which I'll add below. But after having some time to reflect, I would add that biological systems can repair themselves, while machines cannot. If you or I get a scratch, the skin will heal. Some organisms can replace whole limbs. But machines always need an external force to repair them, even if it's another machine.

Here's what I had posted to JP -

"Watches don't reproduce. Without a watchmaker for every single watch, there is no watch. Living things such as people reproduce.

Watches don't grow and develop to maturity. In living things, their systems (skeletal, neurological, etc.) are not static but change and mature over time. Living things are able to grow and adapt to a new environment. Watches and other machines are static. When they've been built, that's the way they'll stay.

Watches can't die. Unlike living things, watches are not in competition with other watches and other machines for limited resources. Watches cannot know, intuit, or otherwise sense threats to their survival."